Okay gentlemen, I have a multi-part question for you:
I’m a 31 year old, life long hunter and shooter who has just been married to a control-freak wife. She has no appreciation for the cost of the shooting sports so, obviously, I’m on a budget here. To her credit, she does recognize that I have a knack for breaking clays (I’ve scored way above average in several amateur clays shoots over the last year). She will go along with ammo and tournament expenditures, but won’t hear of any new gun purchases. My questions are as follows:
1) I shoot a 24″ Browning Gold 3″ field gun. I do very well on all but the longest clays shots. I feel that I’m missing a few of the longer shots do to the usual problems with short barrels: lack of lead caused by a short sight plain, whippiness, and swing-stopping. I have seen several models of aftermarket, weighted choke tubes that extend about two to three inches beyond the muzzle, and come in a variety of constrictions. Do you feel that this type of tube would provide enough muzzle weight to correct my problem?
2) The gun mentioned above is my all purpose shooter for field and range use. It has around 4,000 rounds through it over the last two years. It has never once malfunctioned and does not show any signs of excessive wear at all. I mentioned above that I really shoot well with this gun and don’t have the desire, or the budget, to get a specialty clays gun. Is it reasonable to expect this gun to last for the next couple of years with all the rounds I’m going to have to put through it? I expect to greatly increase my clays shooting this coming season. A guess would be 4,000 rounds total over the next year, hunting and clays usage.
3) In summary, my question is this: Given my dilemma with the short barrel mentioned in part 1 above, and the great increase in the usage of this gun over the next year as mentioned in part two, is it financially wise to attempt to go amateur at this point? If I’m going to lose points on some of the longer range birds at the tournaments, and if my gun is only going to wear out or cost me on repairs, am I better off just fooling around with the idea until I can afford a specialty clays gun and retire the one I have, then get serious about competing or should I just go for it now?
Tough situation I know, but I love shooting and I want to start improving myself and competing as quickly as I can reasonably afford to do so.
Thanks for any advice you can offer,
1) Are you thinking about those looooong Browning chokes used in the 802 Browning? Yes, I suppose that they would add length and weight to your 24″ bbl, but I’m not sure that they are really going to feel the same as a proper barrel. I also believe that the chokes are of different length based on constriction, like the Fabarms is. I could be wrong on this. I was wrong once back in 1963. At any rate, the Browning 802 with the different length chokes certainly hasn’t been jumping off the shelves.
Just about everyone shooting serious sporting clays with an auto uses a 30″ barrel. There’s a reason. The length gives stability and the narrow sighting plane lends precision. I don’t think that having your rib end 4″ before the end of your gun is going to give you the best possible sight picture if you set you gun up just a touch high the way most of the best shooters do.
I recommend that you get another barrel, probably 30″. Considering what it costs to compete in the larger sporting clays shoots, adding in travel, motels, meals, ammo and such, a new barrel is peanuts. It’s a false economy to spend money and time competing with jury-rigged equipment. You don’t need an expensive gun to win, but you do need one that is properly set up.
2) 4,000 rounds a year for a Browning Gold? No problem. That’s nothing. You may break a firing pin or two, but that’s easy to fix. The Browning Gold autos are not as durable as the Berettas, but they are more so than the Remingtons. Your gun is just fine for sporting competition. A while ago, Andy Duffy put a whole bunch of rounds through his Gold, though it did get a fair amount of attention too.
3) Competition? Go for it now! Just remember that sporting clays is a GAME. You are supposed to have fun when you compete. Trust me when I say that competing for the top is not fun. It’s a job. Unless you have prodigious talent and/or own your own sporting clays range, the pros are going to beat you. You have a family to support and a real job in the real world that will take up the bulk of your time. You aren’t going to be able to fly to a different shoot every weekend. There is no way that a “civilian” can ever see the same variety of targets as the traveling pro does. It just ain’t gonna happen. That’s the big advantage trap and skeet have over sporting. The courses don’t change so you don’t have to travel to build up a good target “book”.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t be competitive at local shoots against others who have the same restrictions that you do. Just be realistic in your goals. Be the best you can be given the amount of time and money you can devote to the sport. Definitely try competing with, or without, that new barrel. This really isn’t an equipment sport (regardless of what people like me write). It’s a practice sport. By watching others, you’ll learn quickly enough whether you want to get into it further. If you decide to go for it, a new barrel will be the least of your worries.
Remember, if you shoot to win, you usually lose. If you shoot for fun, you always win.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)