I’m currently shopping for an O/U field gun (upland bird shooting, especially grouse). I’m a long way from my final decision but I have a general question.
What’s the advantage/disadvantage to the English stock? I’ve been told that the faster gun mount is a plus but wonder if this is really the case. I’m leaning toward the Red Label 20 guage but am open to any suggestions.
I’d appreciate anything you’d have to say in the matter.
Geez, I wouldn’t dream of telling you what kind of woman to marry or painting to buy, but you are going to trust me in this far more important matter? Well, good on you, brave soul. Here goes, but remember that it is just one other grouse hunter’s opinion.
I have hunted ruffed grouse with everything from a Cutts compensated Model 12, Ithaca model 51, Belgian Superlight, Beretta O/U and Webley&Scott SxS. I got some grouse with all of them, but not many with any- grouse hunting being what it is.
I really do not like to use pumps and autos for upland. There is far too much loading and unloading around fences and streams where I hunt. Still, I have a pal who gets far more grouse than I do with a 20 gauge Beretta auto.
The O/U I have used mostly is a Belgian Browning 12 gauge Superlight model. This gun has an English stock and weighs about 6.75#. It handles and points well and has a nice safety. The Japanese Superlights weigh a bit too much up front for me due to the factory screw chokes. Speed and light weight really count in grouse hunting.
I have also used a 20 gauge Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon. This gun has a conventional pistol grip and is really beautifully balanced. The English grip allows the wrist to take a more natural angle when the gun is held down at the waist. The pistol grip cramps the wrist slightly when the gun is held there. Try it and you will see. Once the gun is mounted, the pistol grip gives more control over the shotgun than the English grip does. That is why you will never see an English grip on a serious clay target gun. Frankly, I find it more a matter of aesthetics than practicality. Modern manufacturers to tend to make their English grip guns a bit lighter, knowing that they will only be used for the field.
My favorite grouse gun is my 28″ Webley and Scott SxS with an English grip. I weighs 6.25#. It is a 12 gauge. The English knew how to make their field guns light, but then again, I never shoot shells heavier than 1 1/16 oz in it. It has a excellent safety and I prefer double triggers in the field. It is bored .000″ (cylinder bore) and .018″ (modified), just perfect for my #7 1/2s in the open barrel and the #6s in the choke barrel. For ME (not necessarily for someone else), this is about the most perfect grouse gun I could imagine.
Although I prefer the SxS in the field, I also enjoy hunting with my Superlight. I kill just as many grouse (or just as few), but the SxS just “feels” better. It may not to you. If you aren’t used to double triggers (and NEVER buy an English SxS with a single trigger- they don’t work reliably) I would stick with an O/U.
In the O/U area, the Ruger 20 seems to me to be priced right, but it seeems to me to be too heavy and clunky for a 20 gauge gun. If you are going to limit yourself to a 20 gauge, the only reason that you would do so would be to have a lighter, handier gun. The Ruger 20 has the disadvantage of the smaller and less efficient cartridge and also the disadvantage of the heavy weight of the 12. I know that they are popular, but I don’t like them. They also are not as reliable as some other guns.
I would recommend that you take a long hard look at the Beretta O/Us. The 686 Silver Pigeon model in 20 gauge would be a real delight. It is light (about 6.25#), responsive and very well made. It uses an pistol grip, but feels very comfortable to me. It is REALLY a nice gun. I bought one in 28 gauge five years ago for my wife and it has served her well. The newer versions are even prettier. Naturally, for grouse hunting, I would prefer the 20 over the 28. I would also prefer the 12 over the 20, but the guns start to get a bit heavy in 12. The 20 686 really is a dream.
Beretta also makes the 686 Onyx which is the same gun as the 686 Silver Pigeon but a bit plainer cosmetically. It will be less expensive and a bit less flashy. You may prefer it.
One last thought in the Beretta line, the 12 gauge “Ultralight”. This is a standard 12 gauge Beretta field gun, BUT with a titanium and aluminum receiver. It weighs just about what the 20 does, maybe a touch less, but has the load capacity of the 12. It is well balanced for an alloy receivered gun too. It is worth a look if your dealer has one in stock (fat chance). I was pleasantly surprised by it.
The Japanese Brownings also come in a wide variety of field models. While I prefer the Citoris for clay target shooting, I really prefer the Berettas in the field. They are generally lighter and more responsive.
Bottom line: skip the Ruger 20 and get the Beretta 20 686 Silver Pigeon. Don’t worry about the pistol grip.
Anyway, those are my opinions. Reasonable men may differ, but what do they know!
Shotgun Report’s Technoid