Subgauging


Dear Great One,

Thanks for your opinion of tubing my 682 gold 12 gauge sporter. I’m also considering subgauging the 12 with a 30″ 20 gauge barrel. I find that the cost for a barrel is a little more than the tube ($700) but I think the benefits from another barrel ($1000) justifies the added cost.

Question, in your opinion, is there a downside to having a 20 gauge barrel fitted instead of getting a tube? Geez this game is fun but getting expensive.

Thanks again………

RTM

Dear RTM,

Expensive game indeed. Still, you only go around once.

Sub-gauge tubes or sub-gauge barrel? Depends on what you want to do with it. If you want to shoot skeet, the tubes are by far the most popular way to go. In fact, about half the skeet shooters used 12s with the 20 gauge tubes installed in the 12 gauge events. The other half went to 12 gauge gas guns. Almost no one who counted shot “naked” 12 gauge O/Us in major 12 gauge skeet events.

Skeeters like the tubes because they can match weight the three sub-gauges so that the gauges are shot with completely identical feeling guns. This is a big plus. Of course, the guns balance like the proverbial dead possum on a rake, but skeet shooters seem to like that. The target is predictable and the gun is premounted. Nose heavy is good.

The rub comes when the skeet shooters want to shoot 12 gauge. Those tubes weigh at least 11 oz (trust the Technoid, not what you read) in a 30″ gun. When you go from a “naked” 12 to the same gun with the 20 gauge tubes in place, there is a DRASTIC change in balance. If you don’t belive me, string out 11 ounces of fishing weights in your barrels. Put 3 oz in the chambers and the other 8 along the barrels. See how different it is.

Separate barrels have some pluses and minuses. They cost more. They don’t “look” the same when you sight down the rib. Even if they use the same rib, the barrels aren’t as wide and they don’t give the same sight picture. They don’t weigh the same as the 12s or swing the same either. But they are much closer to the 12 than the tubes are. Winning skeet shooters don’t use barrel sets any more as they all prefer the massive foreweight of the tube sets. The extra barrel option is a good choice for sporting clays where the better balance of the barrel set pays off.

You do have some options in between full length tubes and a barrel set. Short tubes. You really only need tubes of about 16″ in length. Modern powders burn quickly and short tubes extract just about normal velocity. Those tubes might weigh under 8 ounces with 3 ounces of that in the chambers. Though they add half a pound to the gun, that weight is pretty much in the center and really isn’t too noticeable to the dynamics of the gun.

Some tube makers don’t like to sell short tubes because if you shoot them a lot and then shoot the 12 gauge barrels without cleaning them, you may bulge the 12 gauge barrels due to the ring of carbon built up just in front of where the tubes end. You have to remember to clean your barrels after using the tubes, that’s all. Browning sold some “Super Tubes” years ago. They were short tubes and worked quite well. You barely knew they were in the gun. If you want the tube set for sporting clays, this is a very good option.

There was “The Answer.” A tube set and carrier barrel deal I made up some years ago. Well, I hoped it would be the answer to sub-gauge sporting clays. I bought a pair of identical 12 gauge O/Us. I had the barrels on one backbored to remove the weight of a tube set (eleven point something ounces). My goal was to end up with two identical guns, one a 12 and the other a carrier barrel for the tube set.

“The Answer” almost worked. Briley did marvelous work. The only problem was that I removed 11 ounces from the barrels whereas the tubes added eight ounces to the barrels and three ounces to the chambers. I should have just removed eight ounces from the barrels. That way the guns might not have weighed the same, but they would have felt the same. The Answer ended up being a bit muzzle light for my taste so I sold it to someone who just loved it. Live and learn.

Of course, buying second gun, having it drastically backbored and then buying a complete set of tubes is not the cheapest solution to the problem you mentioned.

For someone with some fiscal sanity, the extra barrel or a gauge tube is the way to go. I’d probably go with the short tube set if it were me. Just get the lightest one they make and the shortest one that will burn the powder you intend to use. The price you pay in a little extra cleaning is well worth the better balanced gun you end up with.

So, two gauges from one gun? Lots of choices. None of them perfect. All of them expensive. That’s life.

And now, as my crystal ball fogs over, I’m going to go get a beer.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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One Response to Subgauging

  1. Jeff Hunter says:

    The only problem with extra barrels is you get int a pattern. In other words, you buy the 20ga barrels and you like it so much you want 28s. OK, another grand and you have the 12/20/28. Then you want the 410s. Except now you can’t get 410s because Beretta just doesnt make enough and you have to go tubes anyway. Wanna know how I have so much knowlege on the subject? Don’t ask.

    Ask yourself how much subgauge sporting you really shoot. If it’s a lot, get a new gun with the 20/28/410 barrels. If its only a couple hundred a year, get the full length tubes and just know it’s different and you’ll have to adjust.

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