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Article 1 – 2017

people posing and smiling with shotguns

Question: I am very keen to give my 14-year-old son a chance to try and shoot some clay targets. He is slightly built and still has a lot of growing to do. I was very curious about your comments in a recent magazine about the inability of using a 20-gauge shotgun to be competitive in trap shooting. I was going to give him a lighter shotgun and some 24-gram trap target loads to try. Is the lighter 12 gauge a better starting shotgun than a 20 gauge to do this? I would be happy to buy him a bigger shotgun when he gets older and wants to start shooting competition. Your advice would be appreciated.

Martin Campbell, Mildura VIC


Answer: My previous comments about the inability of a 20-gauge shotgun to be competitive in trap shooting drew plenty of response. Let me once again state that my comments are based simply on personal experience and observations. Whilst it is perfectly legal for competitive shooters to use a 20 gauge shotgun in any trap shooting tournament where a 12 gauge is allowed, nobody on the podium ever opts for the smaller gauge despite being able to use the same amount of shot payload at the target. The reason? The 12 gauges are more effective for the longer distances required to shoot trap targets. Your question is a little more specific and you need to be careful how you read my response.

Typically a 12 gauge trap gun will weigh around eight pounds (sorry for the imperial measurements here, but in the shotgun world this is the norm). I will make the assumption that the lighter 12 gauge that you have access to will weigh six and a half pounds. If your son was to use a commonly available 1200 feet per second 1 ounce (28 gram) target load through the heavier shotgun then the recoil measured in foot pounds of recoil energy is a factor of 16.7. If you use a typical 1350 feet per second, seven eighth of an ounce (24 gram) shot shell through the six and a half pound shotgun then the recoil factor increases significantly to 19.3. The heavier shotgun will kick far less even with the larger payload of shot. This is of the assumption that the weight of the wad and the grains of gunpowder in each load are similar which means the weight of the shotgun and the velocity of the shot shell are the two killer components of recoil in this particular equation. The answer to your specific question on this occasion would be “no” the lighter shotgun will not help him in terms of less recoil even though you are using what is generally perceived as a “lighter” shot shell.

If you are going to introduce your son to the world of target shooting over a hand trap on a private property somewhere and the targets you are busting are generally in the twenty to twenty-five metre range then a light weight 20 gauge coupled together with low velocity three quarter ounce shot load would be a great way to start him off. By the sounds of it your son is quite small and a lighter shotgun may very well be the only way that he can learn the correct technique of holding a shotgun appropriately. An eight-pound 12 gauge trap gun will almost certainly be a hindrance to start him on his clay target-shooting journey if he indeed cannot muster the strength to mount the gun to his shoulder confidently, but be under no illusions if he is to take the next step and wants to become a competitive trap shooter or sporting clay competitor where breaking targets at distances of over 40 metres is required then you will be upgrading him to a heavier 12 gauge shotgun and he will need to be using the maximum amount of shot allowed under the rules for that event.

You may argue that you can break clays with the smaller light weight shotgun, but if physical strength stops becoming a factor then you will shatter more clays with a larger gauge shotgun with more shot in your shot shells. You can certainly have fun with the smaller gauges, but if you want your son to be a participant at the trophy presentations instead of a spectator then accept you may be purchasing at least two shotguns as he starts his shooting career.

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