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Shotgun shooting myths you should probably ignore

Home » Shotgun shooting myths you should probably ignore

Shotgun shooting comes with a lot of advice, “facts” and titbits of knowledge to absorb. However, if you took in all the information you were offered you’d likely own 20 guns and twice as many chokes and outfits to go with them. Some of the advice is circumstance specific while other bits are things that catch on along the way. With that said, some of this advice isn’t found in many facts and may be another one of shootings myths. Here we look to work out if any of these myths ring true.

Smaller calibres recoil less than larger ones

The conversation around which guns recoil more or less than another is often misleading. While you may think a smaller bore may help with recoil there’s much more to it than that. Newton’s third law of physics says every for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So an equal shot in both a 12 bore and 20 will offer the same amount of force back to the shooter. In terms of reducing felt recoil to the user, saying you should go down a bore size is just another one of those myths.

If we keep the force exerted by the cartridge the same then a heavier gun will pass on less felt recoil. This is because that energy will have to move a heavier object in all directions. A heavy trap gun at almost 4.5kg will recoil a lot less than some of the sub 3kg 20 bore “ladies guns” for sale. However, if a lighter cartridge is used in combination with a lighter gun the benefits are profound. The problem with myths like this is that it’s oversimplified. Reduced bores can recoil less but only if using a smaller cartridge as well.

The other thing to consider is the operating system of the shotgun. As Newton mentioned, there will be an opposite reaction to every action. So when the shot moves forward out of the barrel the opposite force goes into the action. With a semi auto, the action provides a lot of resistance to all of this force. Firstly, the force is used to move the bolt back to eject and then collect the new cartridge. With this in mind, a larger bore semi auto will offer less perceived recoil than a smaller bore over and under.

You need more lead

Lead is often touted as the major factor in why people miss their shots. While lead is important there are other factors that we believe are more important. Gun speed and line play a bigger role in making sure your shot meets your target. While lead will get you in the ballpark you’ll more than likely miss without gun speed and line. As myths go, just adding more lead to help you hit your shots just doesn’t add up. In fact, listening to myths like this can make shooting even more frustrating.

We’ve all been shooting clays and pulled the trigger and known that the line was off. On targets where the clay dips off last minute or only briefly apexes it’s easy to just drift off line. Equally, when you just start out shooting you may have built a habit of lifting your head off the stock. Before getting more experienced, the instinct after you pull the trigger you want to see if you hit it or not. By lifting your head off the stock you alter both the line and eliminate the gun speed. More often than not this will result in a miss.

I’ve often found just by adjusting gun speed alone I can hit more targets. Especially when shooting game where birds can be deceptively fast you can get yourself into that sweet spot without doing much else. Equally, the line your barrels follow plays a huge role in making sure you hit your target. While lead is clearly important, perfect lead is nothing without gun speed and line.

You must have multichokes and use them too

Chokes play a critical role in determining what your shot pattern looks like when it gets to the target. There are certainly optimal chokes for certain circumstances but it is rarely this clear cut. While you don’t want to be under choked you equally don’t want to be over choked. The reality is that you find a balance where your chokes line up with what type of shooting you do the most.

For shooting clays you can risk picking a more open choke as you only need to hit the clay with one pellet to accrue a score. For game shooting the number of pellets needed to make a clean shot is closer to three or four. With that in mind, you need to make sure that whatever distance you are shooting at that there aren’t target sized holes in your pattern. The only way to do this is to test your pattern with your preferred cartridge and see which choke performs the best.

Once you’ve picked some then stick with them and then test for what happens outside of your standard range. The last thing you want to do is take a speculative pop shot at a live bird just to see what happens. While multichokes are great to have you shouldn’t concern yourself with changing them all the time. This will lead to mind games and confusion while regular practice with the same chokes builds confidence. Remember, there are plenty of people who shoot guns with permanently fixed chokes.

An Over and under is better than a Side by Side

As shotguns developed there became a time when the market was saturated with side by side shotguns. To offer up something new, John Browning developed the over and under configuration. Now we’ve all seen enough marketing to imagine how this played out but by 1930 the world had been introduced to the over and under. The action was very solid and heavier than the side by side but this gave it inherent advantages.

If you were to ask people to point with two fingers from the same hand they’d likely do it with one finger above the other. Equally, the forend of an over and under is bigger allowing for a solid grip without the risk of burning your fingers on the barrels. For beginners in particular, this makes the over and under more user friendly. However, only myths will tell you that an over and under is objectively better than a side by side.

The great thing about side by sides are how nimble and comfortable they are to shoot. For most types of shooting, they more than hold their own against an over and under. They’re lighter and more slender which makes an undoubtedly prettier shape. In reality, both styles are very different from one another and are suited to different people. Claiming one is better than the other is counterproductive when both can be just as effective. Equally, those looking for a bargain can pick up a fantastic second hand over and under for much less than an over and under.

Beads are there for aiming

The bead at the end of a shotgun rib can come in a whole host of designs. Bright luminous tips, bronze bumps to long fluorescent rails. Whichever one works for you is a personal point but they certainly aren’t for aiming. By focusing on the bead your eyes will lose sight of the target and then struggle to pick it up again. This can prove very frustrating, particularly for those who shut an eye. The key here is that the bead is a reference point and not something to aim with.

By trying to aim with the bead you will inadvertently stop the gun as you pull the trigger. Much like rifle shooting once you pull the trigger you want to see if you hit your mark. Aiming can become much worse if you choose a bead that commands too much attention from your eye. If you have a glistening red bead perched at the barrel this will be a stark contrast to any sky backdrop. For a blued shotgun we think a small bronze bead provides enough contrast compared to the sky and barrels.

Longer Barrels are better than shorter barrels

Over time the length of shotgun barrels have been slowly getting longer and longer. Touted as better for high bird shooting and being more stable in your swing the longer barrels caught on. Now it’s not hard to find barrels as long as 34″. In the hands, this feels like your barrels are locked on line and will track your line smoothly.

However, we know that clays and birds rarely fly in a perfectly straight line. While it may not feel like it, we all make micro adjustments during parts of our swing. With all this weight out front, this can feel much harder than when using a gun with shorter barrels. Equally, if you shoot one target and have to move to another this can feel like much more of a concerted effort with a longer gun.

Traditional side by sides came with barrels as short as 24 inches. These guns are much more pointable and agile especially from shot to shot. The key is finding something that feels both nimble and stable. Typical lengths start from about 28″ and go to 32″. Unless your body shape suggests you need something outside of these standards then try something in this range. We like a 30″ barrel as this provides both nimbleness and enough weight up front.


These sorts of shooting myths are commonplace in all realms of shooting. The consistency in all of them is to try things for yourself and make your own decisions. Just because someone likes full and full chokes doesn’t mean it will suit your shooting style. Equally, just because someone likes a long gun doesn’t mean this will work for you. Before you commit to anything permanent you should take steps to give things a go yourself. The real benchmark should always be your confidence and your scores. The old saying if it ain’t broken don’t fix it rings particularly true when it comes to shooting myths.

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