Why We Bought the Wrong Shotgun

Most of us have done it. I've certainly done it, many times. We all buy the “wrong” shotgun, or at least a shotgun that leaves us less than satisfied soon after it finds a new home at “our place.” There are several reasons for this, many of which we can avoid or could have avoided by putting a little more thought into what we hoped for in the first place. We are all better off deciding what we really want rather than expecting a catalog or a fellow behind the counter to inform us what we are looking for. Here are few of the complaints that are far more common than you might think.

“I Don't Like the Safety.”

If you don't like it, you are probably right. Where was the safety when you bought the thing, has it moved? Of course it hasn't, but it is an easy thing to overlook-- I have. Personally, I have little use for low-profile, slippery tang safeties for hunting. Make that no use at all. It hardly matters on the clays field, but it can have the effect of saving pheasants' lives. Not a positive thing at all if “pheasant and wild rice under glass” is the goal. Some have strong preferences for safeties in front of the trigger guard, some in back of the trigger guard, Some have strong preferences for the size of the trigger guard. All this is well and good, as long as we remind ourselves of our strong preferences before we buy. The safety is unlikely to reconfigure itself after we bought the darn thing.

“I Hate the Trigger.”

Yet again, we all have preferences. It is easy enough to check the triggers before we buy, we just have to remind ourselves. Thinking that they are going to get better as time goes on is usually wishful thinking. Some trigger groups can be easily touched up, some have geometry that makes it nearly impossible to lighten without severely compromising stability. If triggers are important to you, then make sure you know what factory specification is, or if warranty applies to trigger pull. If you can count on the factory to give you a trigger that is to your liking, great. If not, you might want to avoid that model, or have a skilled gunsmith at the ready that is willing to improve your trigger. The cost of a trigger job is part of the purchase price of a shotgun, if needed or desired.

“I Don't Like the Way It Loads and Unloads.”

Easy enough to inform yourself about before you buy, but often overlooked. I can't stand the autoloader that requires a push on the bolt release button to load the magazine. It is just exactly what I don't need on the dove field, a clays course, or anywhere for that matter. If you don't like the way it loads, or your fingers are too fat to easily use the loading gate, or something about the shotgun makes it uncomfortable or clumsy for you to load or unload it you might as well learn about it before you buy it, not carp about it later.

“The Recoil Pad Stinks.”

Maybe it does, so you can take the cost of buying an aftermarket pad, grinding, and fitting it to your shotgun and add it to the purchase price. Conversely, a shotgun that already has a pad you prefer just saved you the time, hassle, and expense associated with a replacement.

“It Only Comes with One Choke Tube.”

Choke tubes are another area that are easy to forget about. If the gun comes with only one, then we need to add in the cost of the choke array we think we will need. Many O/U's come with three choke tubes, not suited for a round of skeet for example. Distinction should be made between a shotgun that comes with four or five tubes against the models that are supplied with one or three. It is easy enough to determine that going in. If another $100 is in the cards to get the gun usable for our applications, then that should also be factored in.

“The Darn Shotgun is a Pain to Clean.”

We all have our own theories on that one. If that is an area of concern, owner's manuals are free for the download for most models of shotguns. Beyond that, any pro shop will be happy to show you what normal stripping, cleaning, and reassembly entails. If the procedure is unduly burdensome, that's a really good time to consider another model.

“I Hate that Goofy Bead.”

You might as well check to see if other beads are available, or if it is a re-tap and aftermarket deal for you. Bead wrenches and pin vises don't always work well, so it is another forewarned is forearmed scenario.

“Warranty and Customer Service Suck.”

In my experience, Benelli, Browning, Caesar Guerini, Ithaca, and Ruger all have good customer service and stand behind their product. Many of the other brands do not. Before you bang your plastic pal or empty out your checking account on what's in the box, you might want to ask your pro shop what happens when your stock cracks, your gun doesn't shoot to point of aim, or your shotgun starts doubling. No brand produced by humans is completely immune from these bonus features, so you might as well apply a little bit of the Boy Scout's Motto before you leap.

“Resale Value Stinks.”

Regardless of what we would like to think, very few shotguns hold value once used or modified, as adjusted for inflation. “Book Values” don't mean much as they are not offers to buy, they are just a very rough guide that is outdated as soon as it is published. If you really want an idea of what a gun is worth, it isn't that tough. We can go to Gunbroker, for example, and look to see what a similar models in used condition have actually sold for, not what they are listed for. As the old saying goes, something is only worth what an individual will give you for it. We won't really know until we actually sell it. The rest is just theoretical.

A Common Example.

I want a new shotgun, I “hear” these Turkistan stackbarrels are good. They are on clearance for $699, how far wrong can I go? It has to be a bargain.

Trigger job: $125.
Recoil pad and stockwork: $80.
Decent choke tubes: $120.

Now, my bargain Junkistan O/U went from $700 to $1025, tax not included. They were on clearance, I later discovered, because they have been discontinued. There was a promise of a warranty, but that company has gone out of business. Four different outfits have handled some warranty work on and off, but who might have parts now is anyone's guess. The warranty is largely void, anyway, as I modified the stock and the trigger.

No worries, I'll just sell it. Nuts! It looks like 87 people are selling their Turkomatics too, most of them go for $239 or so. The thing doesn't shoot to point of aim anyway, so I guess getting something for it is better than nothing. At least 87 other people think the same way. I didn't like the safety, anyway, and at least I didn't get around to replacing that nasty front bead.

This little misadventure happens all the time. There is a good reason why there are tens of thousands of “lightly used” bargain Turkistan Golden Double Diamond Reserve shotguns for sale: people just don't want them. We are left with the nagging feeling that we could have saved the drama, been a little more cautious, and gone with a Benelli, a Browning, a Caesar Guerini, or an Ithaca instead or many other options. We are going to get there, sooner or later, as our tastes improve. Sometimes it is a far more convoluted, expensive, time-consuming path than it needs to be.


Copyright 2010 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.





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