Article 9 – 2015
Question: I have been toying with the idea of buying a decent 20 gauge over and under shotgun to shoot sporting clays and maybe some trap and skeet with. I have owned a field 20 gauge for many years and have had great success shooting quail with it. I like the feel and balance of this type of shotgun, as most 12 gauges feel so heavy. Are they able to be legally used in competition? What are your thoughts?
Greg Anderson, Lara VIC
Answer: Greg one of the shortest books in the history of modern day literature is “World Trap Shooting Championships won with a 20 Gauge Shotgun”. The book has a front and back cover with no pages in between.
The 20 gauge shotgun has it’s place in the shooting world, but it is not ideally on trap and sporting ranges due mainly to the distance that some of these shots require. OK the first thing your going to tell me is that you can use 28 gram shot shells in your new 20 gauge, but as your shotgun will be somewhat lighter that the typical 12 gauge then the effects of recoil will become a problem. You will then say, but I can weight the barrels and stock up so it has the same overall weight as a 12 gauge and you can even balance the 20 gauge so the “feel” becomes the same as the larger gauge. I will then say to you “why not just go and buy a 12 gauge?”
Many American Skeet shooters have had tremendous success using their 20 gauge shotguns in events that allow them to use a 12 gauge variety. The short distances that skeet targets are shot at will not really disadvantage a 20 gauge at all as most of their targets are shot at no more than 25 metres. Once you start breaking the 30 metre barrier then any shot shell payload of less than 24 grams becomes questionable (certainly not impossible) and distances of 35 metres and beyond really require at least 28 grams of lead to work effectively. If you start shooting 28 gram high velocity 20 gram loads through a shotgun that weighs a little over three kilograms “out of the box” then you are on line for a very sore shoulder, cheek or both.
When you pick a light shotgun up it will always feel and point nice, but the downturn is that lighter shotguns require lighter shot shells that in turn effects performance at distance. There is no easier may to say it. Keep your lighter gauges for your field shooting or novelty clay target events. Historically the smaller gauges were made so that a lighter gun could be carried around the field all day without wearing the user out. Walking around endless paddocks quail shooting at close ranges is the ideal sport for the smaller gauges.
If you want to win sporting and trap shooting competitions then have a look around and see what the winners at the end of the day’s competition are using. They will all be 12 gauges.
A couple of years ago I wrote a similar article on the practicality of using a “side by side” configuration shotgun in big time clay shooting events. I made the statement that I was proud to have shot my entire career and never could I say a guy with a side by side beat me. I can say the same about my competitors that tried to defeat me by using a 20 gauge as opposed to a 12. I just didn’t happen! (I can hear the computer keypads firing up from my house as some people read this)