Mighty 28?

Hey Bruce,

I have wondered why I have seen articles about the 28 gauge claiming that it patterns better than other gauges. This doesn’t seem possible to me in light of what I have read in your site and other books on the subject. Taller shot column,more deformation of pellets ,that sort of thing. Is there something “magical” about this gauge that I cannot see?


Dear Rich,

I see this 28 gauge claim all the time. I’m a sucker for it too as I just love the 28. Usually you hear it in the form of the statement that the 28 is just as good as the 20. Frankly, I’ve never been fully comfortable with the 20 and, like many people, I’m in love with the 28. But love is blind.

When I tested it all, the lights turned on. A number of years ago I had a gun project. I called the gun “The Answer”. It’s somewhere in the archives or old Technoid stuff. I took a perfectly good 30″ FN Super Trap #6, had Briley backbore 11 ounces out of the barrels and then drop in their 11 oz skeet tubes set in all three gauges. The idea was to have a three gauge tube set that weighed, handled and shot exactly like the gun had as a 12.

There is nothing new about this carrier barrel concept, but most people don’t go quite as far as I did in pulling all the weight out. In retrospect, I should only have pulled 8 oz from the barrels to accommodate 11 oz tubes, because the tubes add 3 oz of their weight in the chambers where there is no backboring. I should have accepted the extra 3 oz of weight in order to get identical balance. As it came out, the gun was a touch muzzle light.

Still, it shot very well. It gave me the chance to directly and positively compare 20, 28 and 410 on sporting clays, not just skeet. I used that tube set on some tough courses. I was particularly interested in comparing the 20 to the 28. What I quickly learned was just what you would have thought. I felt confident with the 20 (7/8 oz load) out to 40 yards, but felt secure with the 28 only out to about 35 yards. You could break longer targets with either, but after hundreds (actually, thousands) of shots, the pattern that emerged was that the 7/8 oz 20 was good for about 5 yards more on average than the 3/4 oz 28. That is just exactly what you would expect from the extra 1/8 of shot.

This really opened my eyes. Everyone praises the magic of the 28. Me too. It seems to shoot better than it should. On the other hand, I’ve never really been satisfied with the performance of the 20s I’ve had. Maybe I just expect too much from the 20 and I cut the 28 more slack. In reality, I found nothing magical about either shell. They both do just about what you would expect.

While I feel that sporting clays distance targets are a better test of a cartridge than pure skeet shooting, it is interesting to note that many of the top skeet shooters use 20 gauge tube sets in the 12 gauge event. None of the best shooters that I can think of use 28 gauge tube sets in the 12 gauge event. They obviously feel that 28 doesn’t equal 20.

Best regards,

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

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