I am a recreational target shooter who doesn’t shoot exclusively within one discipline – sometimes I enjoy shooting trap, sometimes skeet, sometimes 5-stand, and sometimes sporting clays. I rarely keep track of my scores, but I’ve recently wanted to improve my shooting skills and techniques, so I began to work with a Level III NSCA-certified coach, which has yielded significant improvements in my shooting. But my coach has sternly scolded me for my unwillingness (so far) to shoot with “just one gun” when shooting/practicing. I am blessed with an abundance of 12ga shotgun riches: a Beretta Teknys Target Gold (30” bbls), a Gamba Daytona Black & Gold (30” bbls), a Guerini Summit Limited (30” bbls), a Browning 625 Golden Clays (30” bbls), a Browning Cynergy Euro Sporting (32” bbls), and a vintage Browning Superposed Lightning (28” bbls). All of these guns (save the Lightning) have adjustable combs, and two of them have adjustable butt plates. I didn’t purchase these guns programatically; rather, I simply bought them because they were available, they looked interesting, and I hoped that I would enjoy shooting with them. When I shoot with my coach, I oftentimes just grab a gun and go, because, honestly, shooting with one of these guns is (to me) more-or-less like shooting with any of the other guns. (Whenever I say that to my shooting coach, he lowers his head and shakes it with dismay and disappointment.) All of these guns are different, but all of them make me smile when I hold them and shoot them. (My instructor, by the way, has been shooting with the same custom-made Perazzi for a kajillion years.)
As noted, my instructor tells me that I will see greater improvements in the quality of my shooting if I will practice and shoot with the same gun. But I came to the shotgun sports only three years ago, so I lack the experience and the expertise to determine which gun is “best.” I shoot all of them comfortably and with equal measures of satisfaction and mediocrity. All of them have different handling characteristics, but all of them have been fitted to me, so all of them feel good when I’m shooting them. For whatever reason, my instructor has declined to nudge me towards one gun or the other (although he has admitted that the Gamba – the heaviest and most “tunable” gun — is his personal favorite). He just repeatedly fusses that I should “pick a gun and stick with it.”
I have read (and enjoyed) your column often enough to know that you are not bashful in sharing your opinions. So … what say ye? In an era in which so many good, almost-great, and great off-the-rack target shotguns are available to the non-competitive, novice shooter – one who is mostly unschooled in the vagaries of “trigger feel,” rib height, ported vs. unported barrels, Schnabel forearms, and so forth (and who has little more than a passing interest in these things) – what philosophical guidance for choosing “the right gun” are you able to provide? (BTW, my convoluted question is intended to be posed with zen-like abstraction, without necessarily referring to any of the guns that I own. But if you have an opinion about which of my guns may be “the right gun,” I’d be grateful to hear it. If these things matter, I am a 51-year-old right-handed shooter with an average build. I’m 5’11” tall, and I have no vision problems.)
Your instructor is correct. Over time you probably will shoot more consistently if you stick to just one gun and one discipline. Frankly, it almost doesn’t matter (within reason) which gun you pick. If you shoot it enough you will get used to it. If you shoot it a lot, it will become “transparent”. You will be able to fully concentrate on the flight of the target and not even think about the gun.
But what kind of fun is that? You aren’t intending to devote your life to making a US Olympic team. You want to enjoy yourself in your spare time. If part of that enjoyment comes from shooting different guns, so be it. Maybe you would shoot a little better over time if you stuck to just one gun. But that’s so booooooring! For many of us (I definitely include myself in this group), playing with different guns is half the fun of shooting.
For sixteen years I tried to make the US International Skeet Olympic Team. I never made it because I was beaten by better shooters. During that time, I didn’t switch guns very often. When I started shooting sporting clays in 1987, I felt that it was a pleasant break from IntSk and decided to have fun instead of work so hard. So I started to shoot sporting with a lot of different guns. We all did because we were trying to figure out this new game. About this time I began to write gun reviews for magazines so I got my hands on all sorts of new guns. I loved it and still do. I’m certainly no better than an average sporting clays shot now, but I’m just as happy shooting the game with a Perazzi 28 gauge O/U, Winchester Model 42 pump, Webley & Scott SxS or Beretta 303 auto. Since I hunt birds a great deal, I often shoot sporting with one of my bird guns to get ready. Would I shoot better clays if I just picked one gun? Yes. Would I have as much fun? No.
Remember the 14th Technoid Truism: “If you shoot to win, you usually lose. If you shoot for fun, you always win.”
Shotgun Report’s Technoid