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Article 11 – 2019 (December)

person aiming shotgun at target range

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 11 – 2019 (December)


Question: I am curious why all over and under shotguns fire the bottom barrel first. To my way of think the top barrel is closer to your eye so using this first would make the firearm more accurate. Can you explain why this is the case?

Sam Grech, Camden, NSW


Answer: The answer lies within the laws of physics more so than accuracy. You will find over and under barrels are designed to shoot pretty much in the same place or same point of aim at around twenty-five metres so it really is irrelevant which barrel you use first in relation to accuracy.

The higher the barrel lies above the central balance point of the firearm the greater the chance the barrel will have of flipping up when the shot is fired. The bottom barrel of your shotgun is more in line with the central balance point of your firearm which you will find is generally located around the hinge pin that connects the barrels to the mechanism of the shotgun. By firing the bottom barrel first the recoil will be “perceived” to be softer because it is being projected in a straight line back through the mechanism of the shotgun.

If you exaggerated having the top barrel of your shotgun another thirty centimetres above the bottom barrel then the muzzle flip with this example would be far greater because the central balance point of the shotgun would be way below the point where the shot leaves the barrel thus causing the barrel to move upwards more.

You will notice that I used the word perceived instead of actual when explaining this as the amount of mathematical recoil is exactly the same through both barrels it just will feel softer on your shoulder and face when it is being forced back parallel through the centre of the shotgun.

There are of course circumstances where it can be advantageous to fire the top barrel first if your barrels are constricted with a tighter choke in the top tube as opposed to the bottom. If you are shooting at targets or game that is being driven towards you, therefore the first shot is further away, then I would advise using the top barrel first if you have the luxury of a barrel selector that gives you this option. If your shotgun has adjustable chokes and this is the type of target you will be consistently shooting at then I would advice changing your chokes around and once again shooting the bottom barrel first for the simple reason of perceived recoil and barrel control. The less muzzle flip you have on the first shot can only help your accuracy, not to mention your comfort, for the second shot.


Question: I am reasonably new to the sport of sporting clays, but one thing I have noticed is how often some of the better shooters complain and often bully referees when they miss and on many occasions I see them getting the opportunity to “reshoot” targets that should be scored as “lost”. Is this a culture in the sport and what can I do?

(Name supplied)


Answer: Well I wouldn’t say bullying and cheating is a “culture” in any of the shooting sports. Without being there and knowing all the facts I would not like to comment specifically. Independent referees is a possible solution, but this takes manpower and money to sustain and in a sport where the culture really is about honesty, like golf, this really shouldn’t be needed. I wouldn’t be truthful if I told you that your case was isolated. Sadly it isn’t. At a recent World Sporting competition a competitor was disqualified for tampering with a score sheet.

I would suggest what you should do is make the club officials aware of the situation so if there is a consistent pattern of complaints appearing against a group of shooters then some action can be taken.

Questions to:

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