The Best Field Shotgun
The best field shotgun, for you, is going to be the shotgun that fits you the best. Not me or your buddy, but you. One size never has fit all, not in clothing or any other personal items and a hunting shotgun absolutely is a personal item.
Fit isn't just a matter of stock dimensions, for how a gun shoulders and points also is contingent on the hunting conditions. If you are dove hunting on an 85 degree day, or in the goose pit at 5 degrees, you'll likely be dressed quite differently. The gun that you thought fit you so well on the dove field might well be a shouldering / handling nightmare with heavy clothes and gloved hands. The safety that you didn't pay much attention to when breaking clays might be difficult to find when a late-season rooster crashes out of the snow. The trendy long barrel that your friend told you to get can be ponderous sea-slug when a pheasant hits the air 40 yards away, and you've got about one second to shoulder your gun and put a pattern in the right place.
THE BEST GAUGE
The best gauge is largely a matter of the payload it throws more than any other factor. In stark contrast to the “when all else fails, invent a caliber” hyperbole of rifle-land, the wingshooter has comparatively little choice. There are comparatively few ammunition and payload choices in .410 bore, 28 gauge, 16 gauge, and 10 gauge, and 28 gauge and .410 bore ammunition in particular are ridiculously over-priced for the dinky payloads they throw.
Rightly or wrongly, it leaves 20 gauge and 12 gauge as the only two reasonably versatile and affordable to use hunting gauges. For everything except steel (iron) shot applications, the 20 gauge is generally my choice, although those who claim no one ever made a mistake by getting a 12 gauge are probably right. If you want to spin doves at 60 yards, throwing 1-1/8 oz. out of a 12 gauge is a better tool than 1 oz. out of a 20 gauge.
Repeaters are the best hunting guns for the have the best capacity and can be reloaded without breaking them open. Autoloaders have a better rate of fire than pumps and also can attenuate recoil. Unless you are convinced you'll never have need of a third shot, autoloaders are the best choice. A triple on doves is easier with an autoloader.
Every year, the topic of reliability rears its head. Yet, autoloaders have been more than reliable enough for military and law-enforcement applications since prior to World War One. The problems come in most often when using incorrect or poorly made ammunition, and the invariable lack of maintenance. That is presuming that the firearm is properly manufactured and assembled in the first place: many are not.
That said, autoloaders are essentially slide-actions that close themselves, and as shell intensity has less to do with its function, there is no action system to maintain, a well-built pump is a bit more reliable, although the shooter himself or herself may not be as reliable at cycling the action as the action is at doing what it is designed to do.
Over the years, I've hunted pheasants (for example) with heavy 12 gauge Citori 12 gauges, Citori 725s, Beretta 303's, Browning B-80s (including the heavier steel receiver models), Browning Automatic-Fives, Ithaca M37s, Remington 870s, Beretta 686 / 687 models, Beretta 390s, Beretta 391s, Browning B-2000s, the Fabarm ELOS 20 gauge, various Browning Cynergy models, Benelli M2 20 gauges, a Mossberg .410 bolt-action, a Crescent .410 SxS, a High Standard Supermatic Trophy, the Benelli Vinci, Browning Golds, Browning Silvers, and countless other models.
Shotguns invariably weigh more than claimed when you use them, for it is loaded weight that you are carrying, not the mysterious catalog weight. Even though shotguns might weigh the same, they can carry vastly differently based on balance, stock design, and width of carrying surfaces. Although lots of models work, the 6 to 6 ¾ lb area is the sweet spot, though it doesn't make a lot of sense wasting time in debating fractions of an ounce either way.
FAVORITES (out of production)
Browning Automatic-Five Magnum Twenty, Browning B-80 20 gauge alloy, Browning B2000 20 gauge.
FAVORITES (current production)
Fabarm L4S 12 gauge, Remington 870 20 gauge, Ithaca M37 20 gauge, Fabarm Elos Deluxe 20 gauge, Cynergy Field 20 gauge, Benelli M2 20 gauge.
FAVORITES (steel shot required)
Browning B-80 12 gauge alloy, Benelli Vinci 12 gauge, Fabarm L4S 12 gauge
Winchester SX3 / Browning Silver / Maxus, Remington V3, Franchi Affinity
Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.