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Article 3 – 2012

person aiming shotgun at target range

Question:I am in the market for a shotgun to shoot clay targets with. I have an SKB field gun with a 28 inch (70cm) barrel, which was handed down to me from my grandfather. I want to keep this gun, but have been told it’s not ideal for clays because of its barrel length. What is the ideal length barrel in your opinion for clay target shooting?

John Hamilton Jnr Southport QLD


Answer:Barrel length for clay target shooting John is varied dependent on the type of event, body size, shape and an individual’s technique. What is perfect for one event may not be ideal for somebody else. I will give you an idea of what currently are the most popular barrel lengths for each of the clay target disciplines.

Sporting Clays: Traditionally this event was contested with 28 inch (I will talk in inches here as barrel lengths are still most commonly referred to around the world in this unit of measurement) barrels. Today 30 inch barrels are very common with an increasing trend to 32 inch barrels amongst many of the world best performers.

Trap (DTL): In Australia 30 inch barrels still are the barrel of choice, but 32 inch barrels are making great inroads in recent years since the angles and distance of targets have been reduced. In the United States where their version of DTL has even easier targets then the 32 inch barrel is considered normal with 34 inch and even 36 inch barrels being used.

Trap (Olympic / Double): 30 inch barrels have, and probably always will, be the barrels of choice. This is probably the reason why Australian shooters originally adopted 30 inch barrels for DTL shooting as most guns in the early years of trap shooting that were imported into Australia were from Europe. These were originally designed for the faster Olympic version of trap shooting. These guns were easily back then for DTL shooting in Australia which at one stage had angles of up to 45 degrees as opposed to todays 22.5 degrees and a further distance of 55 metres as compared to todays maximum of 46 metres.

Skeet (American): Many of the original skeet guns used here in Australia had barrels of 26 inches in length. 28 inches were then adopted, but there has been a trend to longer barrels with some 30 inch and now even 32 inches. For many beginners a 32 inch barrel skeet gun off stations two and six can be quite a hard length to master because of the fast swing that is required.

Skeet (International): Like Olympic Trap there has been little change from the traditional length, which for Olympic Skeet was 28 inches. Some have experimented with both longer and shorter barrels, but 28 inch is still the most popular length.

These are the most common barrel lengths for each event. As an all round length for a multiple discipline shotgun that has an adjustable stock and adjustable chokes then go with the 30 inch barrel as it is well suited for most events. If you could manage to get a set of 30 inch barrels with a barrel weight of around the 1.5kg plus or minus .05kg you will have a very versatile shotgun.

By far the biggest change we are seeing around the world is not a question of barrel length, but the height of the rib on top of the barrel. A basic flat rib barrel is fast becoming less than normal on many manufacturers shotguns in all disciplines. Some now do not even offer the flat rib as an option, which upsets the traditionalists in the sport, as the higher rib is distasteful in its appearance to many purists. I would argue time and time again to go with what ever set up hits you the most targets because as far as I am aware they don’t hand out medals based on how pretty your firearms look.

I am sure your SKB field gun is perfect for what it is designed for, but as you have been advised it is not ideal for all forms of clay target shooting. There are so many options available today so don’t be afraid to experiment outside the square, but remember that no shotgun or barrel length will be perfect for all events.

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