Rule Of 96

Dear Technoid,

I love the pump gun and have used an 870 for years. More recently I’ve fallen in love with the M1 Super 90 for most of my duck hunting. A Benelli pump sounds like a marriage made in heaven.


Dear Craig,

Benelli has always built their guns light weight for convenient field use. A light fixed breech gun shooting those 3-1/2″ Roman candles is going to be a thriller to shoot.

Long ago the English came up with a gun weight to shot weight formula of 96:1. This meant that in order to be comfortable to shoot, the gun should weigh 96 times the weight of the shot in the shell it was designed to shoot. A six pound gun (6 lb x 16 oz = 96) should be designed to handle a one ounce shell. Any larger shell would be uncomfortable and “out of proportion” to the gun weight.

Each extra 1/8 oz of shot would add 3/4# to the recommended minimum weight of the gun. A 1-1/8 oz shell would be best in a gun no lighter than 6-3/4#, 1-1/4 oz would require a gun no less than 7-1/2# to shoot in comfort. The big 3-1/2″ Winchester steel load holds 1-3/8 oz of steel shot, so the gun should be around 8-1/4#. BUT if you get into the 3-1/2″ LEAD turkey load of 2-1/4 oz, in order to adhere to the rule of 96, your gun should weigh 13-1/2# ! That is a serious gun.

I’m not saying that the 96:1 rule is written in stone, but it is a guideline which has been around for years. The point is that any light fixed breech gun is going to be a handful with a huge shell. This doesn’t mean it isn’t safe to shoot it. I am sure that Benelli does their homework. It does mean that you will be exceeding the comfort level if you shoot very many shells. The nice thing about a pump, though, is that you can always use a lighter load when conditions permit it.

After owning a bunch of Model 12 Winchesters, I have become a big fan of the Remington 870. The 870 is MUCH easier to strip and clean when you drop it overboard in salt water when trying to haul the dog over the gunwale.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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