The Autoloading Shotgun is the Best Hunting Shotgun . . . or, Is It?

In general, yes, autoloaders are easily the best hunting shotguns for some very straight-forward reasons. They have one barrel, so barrel convengence is not an issue. They have better capacity, making it a lot easier to drop that third dove or duck. You don't have to break them open to load them, something that (to say the least) is inelegant in a blind, and you are not potentially drenching your barreled action with rain or filling it with snow every time you load or unload it in certain conditions. With a gas auto, you have a more comfortable shooting gun assuming the same gun weight. You also have half as many barrels to clean and half as many choke tubes to fuss with.

The selectable barrel in an O/U is of no advantage, for with a single trigger and flushing game barrel selecting doesn't happen. With double triggers it does makes some sense, with single triggers it doesn't. If you want to throw different patterns with an autoloader, you sure can, just by front-loading a different shell. It is often far more trouble than its dubious benefit: an unnecessary complication.

There are subtle differences that give the O/U appeal, however. There is no question that an O/U does provide for a technically faster second shot, though autoloaders are more than fast enough in terms of directed fire. For those that ignore the common-sense practice of wearing eye protection, you won't have gas and particulate matter touch your face with a vertical double. It is easier to check an O/U for bore obstructions, obviously. Though not a certainty, you can also find better triggers on O/U models, as they are built integral to steel frames not plastic blocks that are sometimes prone to stretching.

In terms of reliability, actually a pump tends to be the most reliable, as ammunition function is unimportant. Slide-actions can easily eject a bad shell, though that (today) is comparatively rare. Those who struggle with some of the ultra-wimpy “low recoil” shells, more correctly defined as “low performance” shells, have no issues with pumps.

Nevertheless, autoloading shotguns are the best hunting platform to work with, although anyone might prefer something else. Certainly, self-loading forearms are the de facto standard for law enforcement, the military, and private security firms as well. Since 1998, a gas-operated shotgun has been the choice as the combat service shotgun of the U.S. Joint Services as well.

Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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