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Article 4 – 2019 (May)

person aiming shotgun at target range

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 4 – 2019 (May)


Question: My thirteen-year old son is keen to take up clay shooting as his high school competes in an annual trap competition. My 12-gauge shotgun is way too heavy and long in the stock for him, but I am happy to spend some money and get him his own shotgun. He is small for his age and I have been advised to get him a 20-gauge trap gun. What are your thoughts?

Barty Smith, Ballarat, VIC


Answer: Ironically I am in the same boat as my twelve year old, who is quite small, is faced with the same dilemma. I was keen to get my son into shooting clays as soon as possible and I had set him up with a seventy three centimetre (28 ¾ inch) barrel 12 gauge, but the overall weight of the firearm was just too heavy. I ended up getting him a 28-gauge variable choke shotgun, which weighs next to nothing. I chopped the stock down to suit him and with 21-gram loads it really is easy for him to hold and shoot. I thought it was very important that he got to understand the basic fundamentals first, but was pleasantly surprised that any clays out to about 30 metres were quite easy to break with number 7 shot.

A 20-gauge shotgun will be heavier than a 28-gauge and the weight of the payload of shot can be greater. More shot means more recoil, but this of course will be offset with the extra weight of the firearm. High velocity 28 gram loads through a lightweight 20 gauge shotgun will often have more actual recoil than a lower velocity 24 gram 12 gauge load fired through a heavier framed gun. The trade off occurs if the firearm becomes too heavy for him to actually hold correctly and therefore learn the correct techniques.

If he is shooting standard domestic trap targets from the 15-metre mark then the targets are normally getting broken at around thirty to thirty-five metres from the firing line. This is well within the boundaries of any reasonably choked shotgun with 24 grams of shot. Remember that Olympic discipline clay target events have a maximum load of only 24 grams. I would see no reason why learning the art of trap shooting from 15 metres can’t be accomplished with a 20 gauge with 24 grams of shot travelling at around 400 metres a second. 20 gauge guns really only vary in weight, everything else is pretty much the same at the distances most trap targets are shot.

The obvious question leading on from this is why don’t all trap shooters shoot a 20 gauge? The answer becomes simply one of distance. The further you are pushed away from the target the more shot is required to break it. Higher velocity 28 grams loads through a lighter weight 20-gauge trap gun become a recoil nightmare. For those that shoot competition handicap events from the 25 metre starting position and can use 32 grams of shot a 20 gauge becomes a difficult shotgun to handle.

Many American discipline Skeet shooters use one gun and insert smaller gauge inserts in their 12 gauge barrels, but this of course means they are using a reasonably heavy frame shotgun which wont be suitable for your small son.

If money isn’t an issue consider buying your boy a 71cm barrel 20-gauge trap gun. That length of barrel may be a problem to find so you may have to go to a 75cm barrel. If the overall weight of the gun isn’t too much for him then this length will be fine. Try to be cautious about the loads you give him to use. There is a great variety of 20 gauge ammunition available, but don’t go past 24 grams of shot. Once he gets bigger then if he wants to keep shooting trap trade up to a 12 gauge.

Good luck with it. I am sure you will get just as much pleasure watching him progress than you will from your own shooting.

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