An APSE Column Exchange
ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) _ Over cups of coffee and sweet rolls, men - and more and more women - get together to brag and complain about standing around in wet duck blinds on weekends.
If you find yourself among this number, perhaps this is the year to buy yourself a good shotgun and bring home some birds rather than just stories.
To most, all shotguns look alike. But to the careful shopper, firearms are available in many different styles, sizes and gauges with different types of reloading mechanisms.
There is plenty of jargon to confuse the unfamiliar buyer. There are autoloaders, corn shellers, pump-action models, over-unders, side-by-sides, semi-automatics, etc. - and those are just the guns themselves.
The gun that’s best for you depends on what kind of birds you want to shoot and each gun should be fitted with one or more variety of chokes.
It’s probably a good idea to first get down the basics of buying a gun.
Shotguns break down into three basic categories - pump action models, autoloaders (usually called semi-automatics or automatics) and two-barrels.
According to shooting champ and bird hunting expert, Bob Brister, the pump- action may be the best shotgun for the average hunter because it’s strong, expensive and simple to use. It can also be fired very quickly and fires three or more shells. Pump shooters can keep firing as the birds go over while a two-barrel owner has to stop to reload.
The modern, gas-operated autoloader also shoots three or more shells, bleeding off some of the gas discharged by the detonating shell to pump a new one into the chamber.
A distinct advantage of the auto-loader is that it seems to have much less kick. Actually, it has as much recoil as any other gun, but it feels more like a shove than a smack because the kick is spread over a longer period of time.
Brister also points out the autoloaders are the winningest skeet gun in America and increasingly popular among trap shooters. Their reputation to break down, he said, has to do with the way they are maintained rather than any problem with the gun itself.
Owners should remember to clean the chamber, Brister said. Neglect can lead to jamming
Brister said two-barrel guns were designed to be a field shooter’s joy and have one very important practical advantage.
Two-barrels break down into two types - those with barrels mounted beside each other called ″double-barreled″ or ″side-by-sides,″ and those with barrels mounted one on top of the other, called ″over-unders.″
Although a two-barrel won’t have the multiple shot capacity of a pumpgun or an autoloader, it does offer a distinct advantage over the other designs in that it allows the shooter to use two different chokes.
Chokes are metal tubes about an inch and a half long which fit into the end of shotgun barrels and constrict the pellets of the shell as they leave the gun. The more constricting the choke, the tighter the pattern.
There are four basic sizes of chokes - the full choke, modified choke, improved choke and cylinder.
Many hunters using a two-barrel can be ready for any shot by fitting one barrel with a tight choke and the other with an open choke.
Two-barrels are generally shorter, even though they have the same barrel length. Because they are shorter, they’re easier to get around on the second target than a pumpgun and more reliable than an autoloader.
″Two-barrels don’t shoot slugs well,″ said Dale Greibenow of Dale’s Gun Shop. ″For shooting slugs you want an improved cylinder or open-bore shotgun with sights.″
″One (barrel) may be accurate,″ said Ralph Hettig of Wild Goose Sports, Inc. ″But the second shot may throw as much as five to six feet off.″
The basic pump shotgun is the most popular, Hettig said. He cites their reliability and the tendency of many hunters to neglect cleaning their autoloaders well enough to avoid jamming.
Griebenow said pumpguns aren’t really any better than other styles, ″but when you’re in the swamp, there (aren’t) too many guys that like to take an $800 to $8,000 gun and get it wet.″
You should expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $400 for a new gun - pump or autoloader - and from $75 on up for used models, Hettig said.