Why Smaller bores?
I realize perfectly well that this could boomerang on me, but that's OK.
If someone can shoot a 20 with a satisfying degree of accuracy, why would one then go to a 24, a 28, or something even smaller?
At a guess, I'd say it's due to the desire to prove one is accurate enough to shoot them capably...but is that the real reason?
Let me say upfront - other than shooting a Holland 28 at one of their gatherings, a gun that I'm pretty sure didn't fit me properly, and in doing so, I never hit a single clay, I've never lifted a 28 or anything smaller.
So, crudely put, is it a matter of ego? Proving you can do it? Or, will someone say, in the case of ruffed grouse or woodcock, it's to give the target a better chance of surviving? I find it very difficult to accept the latter - if you want to give the bird a chance to survive, then don't shoot at it.
Just thought - with a lighter load, isn’t there a better chance of wounding the bird?
So, have at it...
All best -
I started bird hunting in the early '60s, bird hunting being quail and grouse, all wild. Most used 12 gauge, there were a few 20's around, never saw a 28 gauge until much later. My gun was a Win Model 59, which was just about perfect for quail in the brush and grouse in the ivy on the side of mountains. We had a lot of birds and killed a lot of birds. Much of the hunting was on large small grain farms, in cutover owned by the big paper companies, or national forests.
When the paper companies stopped selling individual permits and only leased hunting rights to the large clubs from the cities, much of the wild bird hunting disappeared. ( And timber cutting was stopped in the national forests, and small grain farms got turned into cow pastures and fescue.) Still having dogs, started hunting preserve birds in the 80's. I then started using a 28 gauge since at least the birds we had available could be easily killed with 28 gauge.
In the 90's I started shooting sporting clays. I spent about 15 years off and on in Houston which happens to have a great shooting facility and friends and I would typically shoot 200 rounds sporting clays at least twice a week. We walked the courses, and carrying 4 boxes of 28 gauge was certainly much easier compared to 20 and certainly 12 gauge.
I don't do any bird hunting any more, legs can not do the job, but still do a lot of shooting. Our group shoot trap at least once per week and I shoot a 12 gauge trap gun, mainly because some of the guys always want to shoot at the 20 - 25 yard line. I also try to shoot wobble trap at least once per week and may go thru 4-8 boxes of shells, all 28 gauge. I would not be able to shoot this number of rounds with a 12 gauge.
Looking back, with the type of cover we had to hunt in and as wild as the birds were, even if I had a 28 gauge in the 60's, I don't think I would have used it, I would not want to risk a cripple on a bird I shot at.
So bottom line is I went to 28 gauge (for sporting clays) because I did not want to carry around the heavier shells.
Thanks for your thoughts. Carrying less weight makes eminently good sense; I never really considered that because I've never had the opportunity and still don't, to shoot anywhere near that frequently.
What I've seen most often are comments on how expensive 28 loads are, relatively speaking. I'd say that didn't enter into your shooting.
Then, the main point that triggered my query was the stated intention to use small gauges shooting at ruffed grouse, quail, or woodcock, not sporting clays, skeet, or trap, etc.
Things vary so much from shooter to shooter. I never fired a shotgun until at a Long Island club tower shoot in 1992, at the age of 60. Later got into preserve quail, where we mostly rode in a pickup from point to point, and sporting clays...there at first I walked but several years ago, maybe at 83 or 84, I couldn't walk the walk anymore. Nor can I when I'm driven shooting in the UK - have to have a ride to at least the peg area if not the peg itself. And, I use a minder friend to carry the gun and cartridges - he loads as well as spotting birds as they head my way.
Two years ago, I did switch from a 12 to a 20, to save weight primarily in lifting the gun 100 times at clays, or a couple hundred on a driven day which due to location and prices seldom ever now exceeds four days a year. To give you an idea, this coming October, our group of 7-8 Guns will have four 220 bird days. In round numbers, that's 25 - 30 birds per Gun per day. Typically for us. that'll mean 100 - 150 shots fired per Gun per day.
So this all adds up to a completely different start and continuation to shooting than yours, and, I'm sure, to that of many others.
Once again, thanks for your point of view.
...If someone can shoot a 20 with a satisfying degree of accuracy, why would one then go to a 24, a 28, or something even smaller?...
Actually, that is an interesting question tho I don't consider "accuracy" a term to use with shotguns and game birds.
So no, nothing about accuracy or the oddly termed sporting chance seems a reason for use of the oddball gauges, or even the 28 gauge, imo. Tho those small bore shotguns are often challenging to shoot consistently well and some folks do look to a challenge re shooting or hunting game birds, as that can make the shooter appear.....better, perhaps? Hard to say, challenge doesn't ring much of a bell for me.
I believe that what is really involved, beyond free choice, is a desire driven by boredom with the same old and also wanting to be "that guy" who owns something....different.
To "wounding"...more of a chance of? Eh, not really as most will apply ethics that character develops and limits of when to shoot and when to not shoot immediately follow. However, we all miss/wound and we all can make poor decisions to trigger, even with a 12 bore so I reckon the less or the fewer opportunities for the fanciful golden BB, the possibility for wounding may well increase. Maybe, I just choose to think the folks who pick any gauge to set against a wild bird, do that with the best of ethics involved. I could be wrong.
I had a 28 gauge for a spell and saw nothing either magical or off-putting and have, as yet, little reason to need a shotgun lighter than 6# so.....maybe all the truly small bore choice for others means is a greater chance of my finding 16 gauge shotshells....or 12.
“Actually, that is an interesting question tho I don't consider "accuracy" a term to use with shotguns and game birds.”
Well, I’m not going to play word games with you, sir. In the sense I used it, I think nearly every reader understands “accuracy” as effectively hitting that at which you shoot.
I started hunting in 1974, and I moved from a 12 to 20 to save weight. Most affordable 12s back then were 8 pounds or more, but with a little penny pinching I could find my way to a 6 lb. 20 gauge.
After that, it just became a preference: I like light weight guns, but I won't sacrifice a decent pattern for the sake of weight. I shoot a 6 lb. 16 at most game birds, and have for years. A 28 would be fun-ish for targets...but I've got other interests these days that I'd rather sink that kind of money into.
"Some people stand tall as great leaders because they elevate all the people around them, some seek to stand tall by pushing all around them down."
I hunted with an assortment of 12s, 16s and 20s for 30 years. I remember picking up a new 20 gauge Ruger Red Label in one of hardware stores that still sells guns in the early 80s. I liked the way it felt. Everything except the weight. I said to myself that if they ever got that gun down to 6 lbs, keeping the same balance and fit, I would buy one. In 1996, I discovered that they had accomplished that. I forgot to read the fine print. It was in 28 gauge. Our local gunshop got their first one in that spring. I bought it.
My first ever 28 and it was deadly at skeet. Also on woodcock. I was never comfortable with it on grouse. I tend to like two triggers, one tight barrel and tend to take longish shots. As much as I love the little Ruger, it stays in the safe except on occasional outings for clays. I like to hunt with a 20 or a 16. Just my tradition, I suppose. If I still owned a light 12, I would use it as well. I like having choices. My choices.
Most of us Grouse hunters do regard the 28 gauge gun as the height of sportsmanship, however my favorite Grouse gun is a 16 gauge L.C. Smith, with light SpredR shells. One of the other reasons to use the 28 gauge gun is having a physical problem carrying the heavier gun, and then the problems with actual recoil. My heart surgeon just advised me, after my recent open heart surgery this week, not to shoot anything bigger than my 28 gauge guns with light shells, for a couple years. He saw my Shooting Sportsman Magazines on my bed in the VA hospital. This same thing happened with my brother just after his eye surgery.
Many different logical reasons to use sub-gauge guns, from sportsmanship to health problems.
Now unless an older man is extremely good at gunning Grouse I would not recommend any gun smaller than a 20 gauge with light shells. Having learned to Grouse hunt as a boy with my Grandmothers 28 gauge Parker, I have always used one during part of the Grouse season, it's just part of our family history & tradition.
Would love to own an original 24 Gauge LeFever double gun some day, especially now after my open heart surgery.
Dave B - L.C. Smith Man
My 2nd most favorite Grouse gun, a 16 gauge 1880's J.P.Sauer Best Grouse gun, built on a 20 gauge frame.
Back in 87 I bought a Winchester 20 gauge 101, Pigeon grade gun. I rarely ever used my 12 gauge guns again other than for waterfowl and turkey. The 20 weighed 7 full pounds and just had a good feel to it as opposed to the 12s which then felt like I was holding a piece of lumber with a couple of pipes attached to it.
I used that Winchester 20 for Skeet, Trap and of course all forms of game birds. I never felt outgunned on the clay courses or out West and it worked just fine in the field.
About 10 years ago I bought a CZ Huglu Ringneck SxS 28 gauge gun. What a sweet gun. It was like holding one of my teenage girlfriends once again. I began to use it more and more frequently for gunning state stocked birds, Skeet and Sporting Clays. I didn't notice a whole lot of difference in my kills as opposed to using my Winchester 20. I liked it so much that when I retired rather than buy myself a gold watch I bought a $4K Fausti DEA 28 gauge SxS.
Compared to 12's, and 20's the 28 gauge gun has so much more finesse. It generally throws a 3/4 oz load and is more than enough to drop most game birds, especially here in the East; after all, shotgunning is a game of Time on Target. If your timing (swing) is good and you're on target the bird falls so long as the target is within range of your gun.
Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions.
I fell victim to the 28 gauge mystique. I owned half a dozen 28s in various configurations, reloaded for the gauge and used it for sporting clays and upland game. The enthusiasm abated when I took a hard look at the 28 gauge and concluded the differences between it and the 20 gauge were largely meaningless.
The differences in size and weight between guns in both two gauges are most often insignificant. Most 28 gauges are built on 20 gauge frames and when comparing scaled frames from the same maker the differences are practically indiscernible.
If you set aside the myth of "square loads" and count the pellets and pattern the 28 gauge and the 20 you'll find little difference between them. Being successful with a 28 gauge is no indication of shooting prowess. If you can't hit it with a 28 you won't hit it with a 20 either.
What I did enjoy was being able to impress shooters who mistakenly put the 28 gauge in the same category as the .410 and would stand amazed if you dropped a distant bird or clay. I did not however enjoy having to reload the gauge and pay exorbitant prices for a limited selection of often hard to find factory ammo. Meanwhile the 20 gauge is found everywhere, is less expensive and available in non-tox, buckshot, slugs, and 3" magnums.
It's been a few years since I parted ways with the 28 gauge and do not miss it one bit.
@PJR - well said and I completely agree with you. Mystique is the correct word. I have owned several 28s over the years and I do not really miss them. If with reloading, the ammo cost/availability issue was certainly a factor in letting them go. Now, I reload 20 gauge with 3/4oz and don't look back.