I conclude, then, that for upland shooting a 16-gauge should be cylinder-bored (forty per cent) in the right barrel, quarter-choked (fifty per cent) in the left; a 20-gauge, quarter-choked in the right, half-choked (sixty per cent) in the left; and that both should be charged with number seven and one-half shot for ruffed grouse, or number eight and one-half for quail and the smaller birds. So built and so loaded, the small-bores have all the spread and density and penetration that are needed for upland shooting. It follows that if they have, in addition, any peculiar merits which are lacking in the larger gauges, then these merits may well be determining factors in choice of weapon.
The advantages of light weight and handy grip they certainly do possess. Normal dimensions for upland guns of various gauges may be stated as follows.
2 5/8 in.
1 1/8 oz.
6 3/4 in.
2 9-16 in.
2 3/4 dr.
6 1/2 lbs.
2 9-16 in.
2 1/2 dr.
6 1/2 lbs.
2 7/8 in.
2 1/2 dr
6 1/4 lbs.
2 1/2 in.
2 1/4 dr.
(The guns starred (*) give a slightly higher velocity to the shot than standard).
In comparing weights, we should consider ammunition as well as weapon. Twenty-gauge cartridges weigh three pounds less per hundred than those of 12-gauge.
I do not advise using shorter barrels than twenty-eight inch, in any gauge. A good length of sighting plane is essential for true alignment, and a certain length is needed for steady swing.
If a pump gun or self-loader is preferred, then, for the uplands, let it be a 12-gauge cylinder, or a 16-gauge quarter-choke, or a 20-gauge half-choke.
Close patterns at long range are indispensable for ducks, geese, brant, and other waterfowl. Large shot must be used, and plenty of them. The powder charge should be as heavy as practicable, to drive the shot at good speed. The gun should be of large bore, full choke and heavy metal. It is true that smallbore guns of high velocity do good work on wildfowl under certain conditions, but only when handled by expert marksmen. Average duck hunters are badly handicapped by anything less than a heavy 12-gauge, say one of eight pounds, with thirty-two-inch barrels, using from three and one-half to three and three-fourths drams of powder, and one and one-fourth ounce of shot. Such a gun, charged with number 6 shot for inland ducks, or number 3s for geese, is a good killer up to fifty yards.
If greater range is desired, then choose a 10-gauge of nearly or quite ten pounds, thirty-two inch barrels, and taking shells long enough for five drams of powder, well wadded, and one and one-half ounce of 4s or 5s for ducks, Is or 2s for geese. Properly held, it will account for nearly everything within sixty yards.
On the coast, where long shots may be the rule, an 8-gauge of thirteen pounds, thirty-four inch barrels, chambered for seven drams of powder and two ounces of 3s or 4s for ducks, Is or BBs for geese, is eminently a proper arm for men who can wield it promptly. Its effective range is about seventy yards. A glance at the first table in this chapter will show the superiority of large charges and big shot, beyond per adventure. Still, it is likely that nearly all inland duck hunters will find a specially designed 12-gauge their most satisfactory arm, in the long run.
The standard trap gun of today, the world over, is a full-choked 12-gauge. Usually it is of seven and three-fourths to eight pounds weight, with thirty-two inch barrels, using three and one-fourth drams of powder, and one and one-fourth ounce of number seven and one-half shot. Both closeness and uniformity of pattern are indispensable.
The man who can own but one gun for all purposes, and whose shooting includes both upland game and waterfowl, should certainly buy a double-barrel for the sake of having two chokes, for short and long range respectively or else have two barrels for his auto. Since his weapon must be a compromise, he cannot lean toward any extreme, nor can he fairly expect to be a top-notcher in either form of sport. It is essential that his gun should throw large and small shot equally well. On this account more, perhaps, than on any other, a 12-gauge is pre-eminently the arm for him. Let it be quarter-choked (fifty per cent) in the right barrel, and full-choked (seventy per cent) in the left, chambered for two and five-eighths inch shells, so that either three, or three and one-eighth, or even three and one-fourth drams of powder may be used with one and one-eighth ounce of shot. Such a gun should weigh about seven and one-half pounds, and should have thirty-inch barrels.
If, however, the gunner's requirements never call for larger shot than number six; then a seven pound 16-gauge might answer every purpose.