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