Beginning Hunter’s Gun

Dear Technoid,

I have a 70lb son that has been squirrel and rabbit hunting with a .22 for the past year. On my annual trip to Salt Lake City for duck and upland game hunting I decided to take him with me this year. I would like to know what would be his best bet for a shotgun. My findings have been that even a single shot .410 can be brutal to someone as light as he is and I can not find any steel shot for a .410 anyway. I have thought about getting a Saiga .410 because of the price ($240) but that still does not solve the steel shot problem. Any suggestions would be greatly welcomed.



Dear Warren,

Frankly, I don’t think that a .410 is appropriate for duck under any circumstances and for upland game only in the hands of an expert who has good dogs. Even in the hands of people who know what they are doing , the .410 on birds is a crippler and a wounder. None of us want that. I’ve used a .410 on preserve quail over excellent dogs. We didn’t lose any birds that went down, but I was appalled by the number of birds the dog brought back wounded, but alive. If those had been wild birds, it would have been heartbreaking. I’m sure that there are some guys who can handle the 410 well enough to reliably take upland birds under certain circumstances, but I’m equally sure that they are better shots than I am and they definitely know when to pass up a shot. They are not young boys just starting out.

It’s a problem. With someone the size of your son, recoil is an issue as is carry weight. By the same token, you absolutely have to give him a gun that can effectively and cleanly kill game. If he’s an inexperienced shot, he’s going to wound some game as he learns, just as we all did. The goal is to keep this to a minimum. Using an ineffective gun will simply prolong the learning process. An inadequate gun used at the expense of crippled game is simply not the sort of ethics you want to pass on to your boy. But you knew that yourself. I certainly don’t mean to lecture on ethics.

The smallest gauge I would use for upland birds is the 28 and the smallest I would use for duck is the 20 with bismuth or one of the high density tungstens, not steel. I would be reluctant to use the 20 with steel just to save a few dollars. I don’t much like steel period, even in the 12. Yes, steel shells have gotten better, but they still leave a lot to be desired. I’ve shot a lot of ducks with a 20 and 7/8 oz lead #5s in Argentina. It’s adequate, but you have to know what you are doing. 1? oz of lead #5s out of a 12 is much, much better. I used far fewer second shots with the 12 than with the 20.

A single shot 20 might be the way to go. It’s light enough for a young man to carry and swing. Yes, there will be recoil, but that’s part of the deal. Proper lessons in gun mount plus the use of a PAST strap-on pad under his shooting garment ought to cut the recoil down to bearable levels. I really have no other suggestions other than to have him bide his time until he can handle a gun capable of taking the game cleanly. Selecting an inadequate gun just because he can tolerate it now is not the best decision.

Best regards,

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

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3 Responses to Beginning Hunter’s Gun

  1. Bill says:

    I submit that a gas operated 20 gauge youth model by either Weatherby (SA-08) or TriStar would be ideal. The stocks are 12 1/2-13 inches in LOP with the weight being very manageable at 5 3/4 to 6 lbs. Regardless of what you may have heard, these two companies guns although made in Turkey, are very reliable. The Weatherby SA-08 has the advantage of a dual piston design that helps tailor the gun to the light or heavy types of ammo that may be used. Finally, both of these company’s Youth model gas autos are quite reasonably priced at less than $550. TriStar even has a youth model that comes with two stocks (short and full length) and a 4 inch screw on barrel extension so that as your kid grows he can keep the same gun by just switching out the stock and screwing on the barrel extension. I bought a youth model Tristar for my daughter and it has not missed a beat since taking it out of the box.


  2. Gunter says:

    My son weighed about 70lbs when he started shooting. The only gun I had was an old Miroku o/u 12br with fixed chokes f/f. We cut the stock off and got it to fit him pretty well. He out shoots most at the club at sporting and skeet, and everyone we have shot goose and ducks with. I have never heard him complain about any kick. Initially started with 24g loads but now he shoots 28g. He now weighs 100lbs and still uses the same gun.


  3. T.H. Milstead says:

    Started my daughter age 12 with Remington 1100 20 gauge Youth Model, short stock & 22″ barrel. It was a mistake, gun was too light. Switched to Beretta AL 390 20 gauge with 26″ barrel, no problem. Subsequently restocked Remington 1100 and changed out barrel to 28″. Changed out barrel on AL 390 to 28″. Guns have a bit of heft to them and do fine. However, if I had to do it again I would have bought a Browning Citori 28 gauge with a 28″ barrel. Not much recoil and only 2 shells. Know a lot of fellows who shoot 410’s…just bragging rights in the locker room. A bird cannot be too dead.


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