You have provided sage advise before, and have even addressed this particular matter to some degree in your prior pontifications. I am planning an Argentina wingshooting adventure; duck and dove combined over 5 days. I have embraced your prior edicts and now have in my possession two Beretta Urika 391’s in 12 gauge synthetic. Also, I am comparing notes with Cole Gunsmithing and Beretta in Accokeek, MD re: requisite parts lists (intent on only acquiring any likely to break parts which I actually might be able to replace with my limited gunsmithing skills).
My question relates to the configuration of the guns for their intended purpose, combined with my desire to minimize the felt recoil which they will generate. I recall a piece which you wrote about “the most experienced/prolific dove hunter in Argentina”, his gun, his choke, and his shell selection (#9’s for density of pattern). I vaguely recall his using a very heavy autoloader to minimize recoil. Can’t recall the chosen choke, only the desire to put a whole lot of small pellets into a circle since it requires several good hits (and not a tremendous knock down punch in terms of size of pellet or velocity) to consistently kill dove at range.
I am recoil sensitive; two mid-back surgeries does that to a guy. I have decided to go with the 12 gauge because
1) we are duck hunting and will want some knock down power and
2) while a 20 has reduced payload and velocity, the lighter factory gun weights seem to nearly offset these benefits so that the felt recoil equation is about equal in each scenario.
I purchased synthetic 391’s so I could trash them duck shooting, but also so I could put 1/2 lb. weight in the hollow of the butt stock to dampen recoil. I am considering a weighted forend cap from Cole to add additional weight and to help balance the gun; the factory Beretta is muzzle heavy and the stock weight improves upon this but overdoes it somewhat.
Is an 8 1/2 pound gun too heavy for high volume duck/dove shooting in Argentina? My concern is that with the volume of shooting, I will not be able to heft this much gun for a full day of shooting, given the number of opportunities I will be afforded. I have shot the guns consistently well for sporting clays and dove here in the States, absent only the for weight which adds a net 1/4 pound up front. Have recently practiced skeet with this extra weight in place, and shot some ducks as well. In a nutshell, the guns fit me, are reasonably well balanced despite having lead hidden all over the frames, and they both shoot (I patterned) pretty much where I point. I have installed Briley extended LM chokes in both guns.
Can you please discuss the matter of overall weight and associated fatigue, as well as the appropriateness of a LM choke (I know it depends on patterning) for high volume duck and dove hunting.
Thanks for having so much faith in my advice. I wish I could get my wife to follow it.
With your back surgeries in mind, here’s what I’d do.
First the 391s are excellent choices. They are clearly the most reliable gas auto on the market today. Unfortunately, they are not the lightest recoiling, but you can fix that.
#1- Makes absolutely, positively sure that the guns fit you perfectly. Now’s the time to do that. Proper fit goes a long way towards reducing felt recoil. Set the stocks up as long as you can and still shoot well. Long stocks always kick less than short ones because they bear more firmly against the shoulder. Don’t get them so long that you have trouble raising them, but keep adding length with uncut spacers until the stock is too long and then remove one spacer. Experiment, but err on the long side.
#2- Buy a PAST brand strap-on recoil pad for wear under your shooting garment. This will add a bit of length to the gun, but the Sorbothane that they make it from is miracle stuff and will reduce felt recoil more than you can imagine.
#3- Throw out the rock-hard Beretta recoil pad and get a standard, flat back Kickeez fitted. Don’t get the curved hook pad as they never set up right for overhead shots. The Kickeez pad will make a difference.
#4- Get one of Rich Cole’s front and back weight sets for the 391. Cole Gunsmithing, Rt. 123, Harpswell, ME 04079, Tel: 207-833-5027, http://www.colegun.com. Get all the weights so that you can experiment if you don’t have a complete weight set right now. You can always add and subtract weights as you like and can actually change in the field if you bring a couple of proper tools. One set of weights will do for two guns as you an easily swap them out. I’ve got Rich’s weight sets and recommend them highly. You can easily add a full pound of weight to the gun, evenly split between stock and forend. Starting with a 7-1/2# gun, this will reduce your recoil by about 12%. If it’s too much weight, you can always remove some. Try to get this experimentation done before you go, but you can make final changes there if you with. As to how much weight is too much, that’s an individual thing. If you practice with a heavy gun ahead of time, you’ll build up some muscles and get used to it. A little time with modest weights is never bad either. Just make sure that you practice at home so that you can get used to the different feel that the gun will have when it is weighted up.
#5- Find out ahead of time what shell your outfitter will be supplying. Most of these guys are smart enough not to saddle their customers with hot 12 gauge loads for the dove portion. Just check though and if you can have a choice, opt for the lighter loads. Changing a shell to a lower and/or slower payload will do more than anything to reduce recoil. You’ll be shooting lead on the ducks, so you don’t have to use steel.
As to your extra parts for the guns, don’t worry about it. With two complete guns, you’ve covered just about everything you can reasonably expect to go wrong. Just make sure that you break both guns in before you go. A dove field in Argentina isn’t the place to find that your new in the box backup gun is missing some part. You probably won’t be able to shoot much more than 1,000~1,500 rounds a day no matter what you do. The usual drill for a mixed duck/dove/partridge Argentina hunt that I’ve been on has been ducks in the AM, an hour’s walk for some partridge after lunch and then three hours of flight dove in the evening. Even if you shoot like mad at the dove in the afternoon, the duck and partridge are relatively low volume deals so you won’t be shooting mega numbers of shells.
I’ve been down to Argentina a few times on combo duck/partridge/dove hunts with Miguel Medus and Roger Anderson of Parana River Ltd company. They are absolutely first rate. The duck shooting was fantastic. We shot our dove coming in to evening roosts for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours each day. I intended to stay around a flat an hour, but often exceeded that. I shot just as much as I felt like.
As to chokes, that’s up to you. We were using #5 lead on duck and the Mod choke in 12 ga would be ideal. For dove, Mod isn’t a bad way to start. You’ll soon become bored taking the easy shots and start to stretch them out to go for the spectacular shots. Dove are easy kills, but hard to hit. The great dove hunter you refer to was someone I ran into in Colombia back when it was (relatively) safe to shoot in the Cauca Valley. He was a fearsome shot. He used a Beretta 302 with a lot of weight hung on it front and back and a Cutts Compensator with the Full choke tube permanently in place. He shot only #9s. His theory was that dove were “soft” and only took one little pellet in exactly the right place to bring them down. He liked #9s because of the higher pellet count and full choke because he knew where to put the shot.
I watched him (Dawson was his name) make some very, very long shots. I know that it’s easy to overestimate dove distance due to there size, but after a few days you get the hang of it. Dawson had a much higher percentage of “spinners” (dead in the air with locked wings) than I did when I used #7-1/2s. I had many more “gliders” with the large pellets. These are birds that are well hit and will be retrieved, but will go a hundred yards before coming down. When I switched to #9s, I too had a higher percentage of birds dead in the air. I won’t say that #9s are the be-all and end-all of dove shooting. Certainly most people have very good luck with #8s and I have no argument with that. I’m just reporting what I saw and did.
Best of luck on your trip. You are in for a great time.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)