I am considering buying a side by side (Weatherby Athena) mainly because I love the look of the double gun and have never owned one before. Currently I shoot sporting clays and alternate between my autoloader and an O/U. I have heard from many shooters that sxs’s are not good sporting clay guns because your focus is between the barrels as opposed to over the barrel. But that argument only holds true for an autoloader because with an O/U you’re only really looking directly over the top barrel. I would assume that I could learn to adjust lead for the sxs and eventually score just as well as I currently do. I do however have a couple of concerns about sxs’s:
1) due to there relative light weight they might have too much kick for sporting clays, and 2) because they don’t have the heft of a O/U or auto they may not stand up to the stress of high volume shooting. Why the bias against sxs’s for sporting clays and is it valid?
I’m as much of a SxS fan as anyone. But I’m also a realist. If you look at what wins in ANY of the clay target games, it’s either an O/U or an auto. It’s never a SxS. I believe the reason is that the broad sighting plane of the SxS does not permit the precise aiming that the very good shots use on many targets. Few shotgunners admit that they aim, but just about everyone does when the bird is distant. The very top skeet shooters positively, definitely aim as do the best trap shooters. You can be equally sure that the best sporting clays shooters are very precise in their muzzle placement on a 40 yard crosser or teal.
Recoil could be part of the issue, but I don’t think it’s a major one. All SxS aren’t lighter than all O/Us. Look at the heavy Winchester Model 21, for example. If the SxS were suitable for targets, someone like Krieghoff or Kolar would make a heavy target model. I see lots of fairly heavy SxS used in SxS-only clays events, but the owners don’t use them in “any gun” events.
Bottom line: the bias among sporting clays shooters against the SxS is perfectly sensible. It’s just plain not as good a tool for the job. True, a superlative shot with a SxS will still beat a duffer with an O/U, but at the top of the competitive heap, you never, ever see a SxS. The reason is, despite what you and I think, that they aren’t as efficient for that game.
That’s not to say that a weekend warrior won’t shoot a SxS as well or better than an O/U or auto. By definition, the WW doesn’t have cutting edge talent. He’s operating at half throttle, an area where equipment doesn’t matter all that much. The aiming errors tend to be gross, not subtle as they are with a national champion.
Now, for grouse and quail hunting, I’ll put a light SxS up against anything. But not for clays. Some decades ago, I cooked up a handicap system for the Connecticut Travelers, a once a month shooting and chowder society I belonged to. I gave the SxS a +5 bird handicap across the board (also the pump). In spite of that, we almost never have a winner with a SxS or pump.
I’m not saying that the SxS or pump can’t win. There is one very good sporting clays pump gun shooter I know of. I also watched Andy Duffy shoot the SxS at a Vintager’s shoot. I’m sure he could have won most regular regional shoots with that gun. He could probably win some shoots with a squirt gun. But he didn’t use the SxS when he won the Nationals or when he went to Europe all those times. He used either an O/U or gas gun.
The SxS is a great gun and I love shooting mine at clays every now and then. But I don’t kid myself. When I shoot for real, I need all the help I can get. It’s a horses for courses deal. My side by side does well in the field, my O/Us and gas guns do well on clays. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t prove everyone wrong and dominate the clays world with a SxS. I’d be cheering for you.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)