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20 vs. 12 gauge for hunting

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Feltwad

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Heavy charges in different bore sizes is just a waste of powder and shot the standard killing range for any bore size with sporting shot from a 12 bore and smaller is a maximum of 35 to 40 yards . Increasing the charge to kill further does not work it gripple more than it kills for the big bores for wildfowling with there long barrels will take a large charge which has a killing range at 50 to 60 yards
Has I have said before I also do a lot of pest control for example yesterday I was decoying in a field adjoining a newly sown barley field which was damaged by crows and jackdaws I began at 8 am and finished at 12.30 the gun I was using was sxs 16 bore percussion gun when shooting over decoys most birds are killed at 20 to 35 yards the load I used was 2. 1/2 drm of medium grade powder to 1 oz no 5 shot and finished with a bag of 74 crows, this is a standard load for a 16 bore so why go for heavy loads they are not needed
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I tried to figure out the stamp on the barrels when I bought my Pedersoli. Even Pedersoli themselves could not tell me what the maximum load was. As best as I can tell, the load stamped on the barrels is a recommended load. The 12 gauge 1 1/4 ounce, and 10 gauge 1 1/2 ounce, which are traditional standard loads for each. It doesn't much matter, as the Pedersoli SXS's are so light, they are brutal with heavier loads.

The reason why bigger bores can handle more payload is rather simple. If the pressure is the same, the larger the bore diameter, the more force is applied to the payload. The result is either higher velocity with the same shot charge verses a smaller bore, or you can send more shot at the same velocity. The principle is no different than a piston in an engine. There ain't no replacement for displacement.

@Feltwad, there is no need to waste more shot in YOUR circumstance. Not everyone is always hunting birds at close range over decoys. Crows especially are one thing that can turn into long shots easily. A 16 can handle a larger charge than that if desired, and to good effect.

Back to safe pressures, blackpowder is generally low, but it is possible to become dangerous. A 2 ounce load in a 20 gauge comes to mind. There is nothing stopping you from using a very thick barreled 20 gauge, and putting a real heavy powder charge behind it. My guess is it won't pattern for squat. Assuming it does pattern even half decent, then you are starting to get into the problem of shot stringing. Put 2 ounces in a 12 or 10 gauge, and you can get by with far less powder, it can pattern very well, and the shot string is not too long. A 10 you can push that even a little farther.

There is more to it that than for practical purposes. Nobody is going to be wing shooting with 2 ounces of shot in a Pedersoli, you would have what little sense you have knocked right out of you. Put that in a nice 12 pound gun like some 10 gauge guns are, and you hardly even notice it.
 

Feltwad

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I tried to figure out the stamp on the barrels when I bought my Pedersoli. Even Pedersoli themselves could not tell me what the maximum load was. As best as I can tell, the load stamped on the barrels is a recommended load. The 12 gauge 1 1/4 ounce, and 10 gauge 1 1/2 ounce, which are traditional standard loads for each. It doesn't much matter, as the Pedersoli SXS's are so light, they are brutal with heavier loads.

The reason why bigger bores can handle more payload is rather simple. If the pressure is the same, the larger the bore diameter, the more force is applied to the payload. The result is either higher velocity with the same shot charge verses a smaller bore, or you can send more shot at the same velocity. The principle is no different than a piston in an engine. There ain't no replacement for displacement.

@Feltwad, there is no need to waste more shot in YOUR circumstance. Not everyone is always hunting birds at close range over decoys. Crows especially are one thing that can turn into long shots easily. A 16 can handle a larger charge than that if desired, and to good effect.

Back to safe pressures, blackpowder is generally low, but it is possible to become dangerous. A 2 ounce load in a 20 gauge comes to mind. There is nothing stopping you from using a very thick barreled 20 gauge, and putting a real heavy powder charge behind it. My guess is it won't pattern for squat. Assuming it does pattern even half decent, then you are starting to get into the problem of shot stringing. Put 2 ounces in a 12 or 10 gauge, and you can get by with far less powder, it can pattern very well, and the shot string is not too long. A 10 you can push that even a little farther.

There is more to it that than for practical purposes. Nobody is going to be wing shooting with 2 ounces of shot in a Pedersoli, you would have what little sense you have knocked right out of you. Put that in a nice 12 pound gun like some 10 gauge guns are, and you hardly even notice it.
Has I said most shotguns from a 12 to the smaller bores using shot having a regulated killing range of 35 to 40 yards.to kill those high birds using a heavy load just does not work there are more birds go away wounded because it is not sportsman like to shoot at them in the first place. Shooting at high birds with a 12 bore and smaller is a waste of powder and shot it does not matter what kind of load you use if I wanted to shoot high birds then I would go for a 10 or 8 bore with a standard load and regulated that will kill at 50 to 60 yards but the quantity of powder and shot needed to kill a high crow is not worth it . It is better too use your skill at decoying and shoot them over decoys using a standard load especially if a days decoying produced a reasonable bag.
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If I had thousands of acres of land, and decoys for everything I hunted, then it would be no problem. It didn't work out that way. I don't hunt crows, but the few times I have, they were always somewhere where I couldn't get them. The only way was to get in their path, a fence row usually, and shots could be long.

I hear the decoy argument all the time. Nobody is more hostile than snow goose hunters. The only way to decoy hunt them is to have 2000 decoys, which is an obscene amount of money, plus the truck, trailer, and man power to set those out. I don't have any of that. So am I just not allowed to hunt then?

The original poster mentioned turkeys. That is a very specific circumstance of standing shots, in the head. The head and neck is a small target, and shot large enough for body shots are usually not allowed. 1 ounce of shot won't give you much range, especially with a shot size of #4 or #5. A tight choke would help, but choke is a post-civil war invention. From a cylinder bore, you would be looking at a range of about 15 yards with such a load, maybe 20 yards if you really worked at perfecting it. I might even consider a smaller than normal size like #7.5 for such a load just to get pellet count up. While about half the turkeys I've shot have been 10-15 yards shots, that is pretty dang close. There is only so much you can do with a cylinder bore. You can get the pattern as even as possible, but nothing traditional is going to significantly tighten it overall. I've even tried plastic wads, and paper wraps, and I've never found them to do anything at all. So to increase range, all you can do is use more shot, and make that pattern as well. This is one area where a 12 gauge is a big advantage. You can throw way more shot. You won't have an insane range, but you can push it out to an honest 25 yards, which doesn't sound like much, but is a big advantage over only 15.
 

Feltwad

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Turkeys that is a hostile point for me in these forums so I will not comment on them has I have never shot them has we have none in the UK , but I have my opinions .
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One of my specialties is collecting BP shotguns. I have several ranging from 11 gauge doubles to .32 ga single fowlers (aprox 50 cal). Most of those being original are cylinder bore. The only choked black powder shotguns I have are the bit later "BP cartridge" ones of the later 1800's. Being chronologically gifted as I am, what usually dictates the shotgun I choose for any given hunt is the question, "how far am I going to pack it?" that being said, I've used 20, 16, 14, 12 and 11 gauge almost interchangeably. Seems like the larger bores take a bit more powder and shot to accomplish what the smaller ones do. Overall, I like my 16. Below are just a fewView attachment 43488
WHAT a beautiful assemblage old SXS DBL'S.!!! KUDDOS, to you!
 

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Not to be a wet blanket here, but way back in post #26, the OP asked some pretty good questions that somebody with a lot more experience with BP Smoothbores than me (none yet) should answer. While I have learned a ton from this thread, it went pretty far afield
 

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The original poster mentioned turkeys. That is a very specific circumstance of standing shots, in the head. The head and neck is a small target, and shot large enough for body shots are usually not allowed. 1 ounce of shot won't give you much range, especially with a shot size of #4 or #5. A tight choke would help, but choke is a post-civil war invention. From a cylinder bore, you would be looking at a range of about 15 yards with such a load, maybe 20 yards if you really worked at perfecting it. I might even consider a smaller than normal size like #7.5 for such a load just to get pellet count up. While about half the turkeys I've shot have been 10-15 yards shots, that is pretty dang close. There is only so much you can do with a cylinder bore. You can get the pattern as even as possible, but nothing traditional is going to significantly tighten it overall. I've even tried plastic wads, and paper wraps, and I've never found them to do anything at all. So to increase range, all you can do is use more shot, and make that pattern as well. This is one area where a 12 gauge is a big advantage. You can throw way more shot. You won't have an insane range, but you can push it out to an honest 25 yards, which doesn't sound like much, but is a big advantage over only 15.
Makes a lot of sense. However, I am reminded of the fact that for two centuries, our ancestors harvested wild turkeys with cylinder bore guns. Were they using larger caliber bores, or were they more capable of getting closer to their quarry?


Not to be a wet blanket here, but way back in post #26, the OP asked some pretty good questions that somebody with a lot more experience with BP Smoothbores than me (none yet) should answer. While I have learned a ton from this thread, it went pretty far afield

:ThankYou:
 
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Makes a lot of sense. However, I am reminded of the fact that for two centuries, our ancestors harvested wild turkeys with cylinder bore guns. Were they using larger caliber bores, or were they more capable of getting closer to their quarry?





:ThankYou:
My best guess is that they used bigger shot, and any hit was a kill. I would also think they were willing to accept some wounded birds, as it was a hunt to eat proposition. Today it is sport hunting, shot is limited to smaller sizes not very capable of body shots, and anything short of a sure kill is frowned upon.
 

tenngun

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If I had thousands of acres of land, and decoys for everything I hunted, then it would be no problem. It didn't work out that way. I don't hunt crows, but the few times I have, they were always somewhere where I couldn't get them. The only way was to get in their path, a fence row usually, and shots could be long.

I hear the decoy argument all the time. Nobody is more hostile than snow goose hunters. The only way to decoy hunt them is to have 2000 decoys, which is an obscene amount of money, plus the truck, trailer, and man power to set those out. I don't have any of that. So am I just not allowed to hunt then?

The original poster mentioned turkeys. That is a very specific circumstance of standing shots, in the head. The head and neck is a small target, and shot large enough for body shots are usually not allowed. 1 ounce of shot won't give you much range, especially with a shot size of #4 or #5. A tight choke would help, but choke is a post-civil war invention. From a cylinder bore, you would be looking at a range of about 15 yards with such a load, maybe 20 yards if you really worked at perfecting it. I might even consider a smaller than normal size like #7.5 for such a load just to get pellet count up. While about half the turkeys I've shot have been 10-15 yards shots, that is pretty dang close. There is only so much you can do with a cylinder bore. You can get the pattern as even as possible, but nothing traditional is going to significantly tighten it overall. I've even tried plastic wads, and paper wraps, and I've never found them to do anything at all. So to increase range, all you can do is use more shot, and make that pattern as well. This is one area where a 12 gauge is a big advantage. You can throw way more shot. You won't have an insane range, but you can push it out to an honest 25 yards, which doesn't sound like much, but is a big advantage over only 15.
Try a turkey head sized target, or a bunny sized target. Load an oz of lead and shoot at twenty five yards. How many pellets to you get in the vitals?
Turkey heads are pretty specific, you can get a cripple on a rabbit over a larger area, but count your hits.
Go to thirty, shoot several, do you have consistent kills. Do you put more on target at that range because you used the load.... consistently
Shooting test targets I’ve gotten ‘kills’ on turkey at forty yards. But nine shots in ten I don’t get a kill. Uping shot doesn’t help.
I shot a cut off bess, a little bigger then 12 bore but couldn’t put shot consistently on target past twenty five maybe thirty yards.
Bunnies, tree rats, turkeys, woodchuck and raccoon all go down in front of my 20 bore.... as long as I don’t push twenty five yards.
 
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Try a turkey head sized target, or a bunny sized target. Load an oz of lead and shoot at twenty five yards. How many pellets to you get in the vitals?
Turkey heads are pretty specific, you can get a cripple on a rabbit over a larger area, but count your hits.
Go to thirty, shoot several, do you have consistent kills. Do you put more on target at that range because you used the load.... consistently
Shooting test targets I’ve gotten ‘kills’ on turkey at forty yards. But nine shots in ten I don’t get a kill. Uping shot doesn’t help.
I shot a cut off bess, a little bigger then 12 bore but couldn’t put shot consistently on target past twenty five maybe thirty yards.
Bunnies, tree rats, turkeys, woodchuck and raccoon all go down in front of my 20 bore.... as long as I don’t push twenty five yards.
Everyone has a different criteria, and wing shooting is a farcry from turkey head shots. My criteria for turkeys is very simple and specific, as the pattern distribution, or evenness does not matter. All that matters is shots in the head and spine. My minimum is 100 pellets inside of a 10" circle. I've found this number to put on average 4-5 pellets in the brain and spine of a turkey. I'm willing to fudge a little bit, but 80 pellets is a little too thin for my likes.

Now take a normal shot size, say #5. 1 ounce of #5 shot only has around 170 pellets to begin with, so your range would be extremely short no matter how well you got it to pattern. Most would opt for #6, at 225 per ounce, but I would actually go right for #7.5. If you find the right wad stack, you might be able to meet that criteria to about 20 yards. Compare that to the load I used this year in my 10 gauge, 2 ounces of #6 shot, which had a whopping 450 pellets. Even then, it took me a month to find a single wad combo that patterned well enough. It puts about 105 pellets in a 10" circle at 25 yards. And beleive me, I tried all kinds of loads, wads, and payloads, 1 1/4 ounce all the way to 2 1/4 ounce. I really doubt that a person who puts the same amount of work in to a 20 gauge is going to get those kinds of results. If you have many years of experience with the same gun, then maybe you could do it, but you could be that much farther ahead with a 10 gauge too.

Wing shooting is a whole new ballgame. One thing I'd like to point out, is that range is not everything. For example, even if you had a great 20 gauge load that could kill a duck every time at 35 yards, and a poor pattern % 10 gauge load that did about the same, that extra shot isn't necessarily wasted. That stray shot also forms a larger buffer for our (my) less than perfect shooting.

After all, it it is always best to be out hunting, than worrying too much about such details.
 

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Everyone has a different criteria, and wing shooting is a farcry from turkey head shots. My criteria for turkeys is very simple and specific, as the pattern distribution, or evenness does not matter. All that matters is shots in the head and spine. My minimum is 100 pellets inside of a 10" circle. I've found this number to put on average 4-5 pellets in the brain and spine of a turkey. I'm willing to fudge a little bit, but 80 pellets is a little too thin for my likes.

Now take a normal shot size, say #5. 1 ounce of #5 shot only has around 170 pellets to begin with, so your range would be extremely short no matter how well you got it to pattern. Most would opt for #6, at 225 per ounce, but I would actually go right for #7.5. If you find the right wad stack, you might be able to meet that criteria to about 20 yards. Compare that to the load I used this year in my 10 gauge, 2 ounces of #6 shot, which had a whopping 450 pellets. Even then, it took me a month to find a single wad combo that patterned well enough. It puts about 105 pellets in a 10" circle at 25 yards. And beleive me, I tried all kinds of loads, wads, and payloads, 1 1/4 ounce all the way to 2 1/4 ounce. I really doubt that a person who puts the same amount of work in to a 20 gauge is going to get those kinds of results. If you have many years of experience with the same gun, then maybe you could do it, but you could be that much farther ahead with a 10 gauge too.

Wing shooting is a whole new ballgame. One thing I'd like to point out, is that range is not everything. For example, even if you had a great 20 gauge load that could kill a duck every time at 35 yards, and a poor pattern % 10 gauge load that did about the same, that extra shot isn't necessarily wasted. That stray shot also forms a larger buffer for our (my) less than perfect shooting.

After all, it it is always best to be out hunting, than worrying too much about such details.
A turkey head isn’t that tough, why not 7 1/2 shot?

I’ve never hunted turkey, but always thought one wanted the larger shot such as #4, until I became a little interested and talked to others, and many of those who shoot for the head seem to prefer smaller shot including 7 1/2, and the explanation of their head being no tougher than a rabbit made sense. You get pellet count for sure, the question being penetration at distance. Those who use square loads, do you find adequate penetration with smaller shot out to 25 yds? What of a denser pellet load to powder to tighten the pattern but slower velocity?
 

tenngun

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Just a random thought. There is another thread on going on the French and Indian war and Indian pick up of besses.
Besses tended to be a tad bit larger then twelve bore tad smaller then ten.
Plenty of twelve bore guns made in the old days. But back at a time when across the frontier and in to the Indian lands beyond, people who hunted for a living white and red, reached for guns closer to twenty then twelve bore.
 
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A turkey head isn’t that tough, why not 7 1/2 shot?

I’ve never hunted turkey, but always thought one wanted the larger shot such as #4, until I became a little interested and talked to others, and many of those who shoot for the head seem to prefer smaller shot including 7 1/2, and the explanation of their head being no tougher than a rabbit made sense. You get pellet count for sure, the question being penetration at distance. Those who use square loads, do you find adequate penetration with smaller shot out to 25 yds? What of a denser pellet load to powder to tighten the pattern but slower velocity?
The most common shot sizes used today for turkey are #4,#5, and #6. The reason for this is that with a very tight choke, and the right load, along with modern things like buffer, you can really stretch it out. It's pretty common to get adequate patterns for turkey from a modern gun at 40-45 yards with lead shot. Even modern muzzleloaders, my TK2000 meets my criteria to 40 yards, and I barely did any load development with that at all.

Because of these longer ranges, those shot sizes are the usual picks. If shooting a cylinder bore, you won't ever get to those long ranges. Plenty of people have used #7.5 shot for turkeys. I don't know where to draw the line on what is too small a shot size. The skull is paper thin, that is no concern. I think the problem would be breaking the neck bones. #7.5 should be fine as short range. I would not use it for 40 yard shots. I would actually think a rabbit would be tougher than a turkey's head, but I could be wrong. I don't like small shot for rabbit, too much shot in the meat. #5 mostly passes through.
 

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Just a random thought. There is another thread on going on the French and Indian war and Indian pick up of besses.
Besses tended to be a tad bit larger then twelve bore tad smaller then ten.
Plenty of twelve bore guns made in the old days. But back at a time when across the frontier and in to the Indian lands beyond, people who hunted for a living white and red, reached for guns closer to twenty then twelve bore.
I've been hearing a lot lately that 20 gauge/bore (.62 caliber) was the most common size back then but I am going to challenge that premise a bit. Almost all of the British Fowlers in Grinslades book are > .70 caliber. Same of the Club Butts and Hudson Valleys. Some of the NE Fowlers are a little smaller in the .60s, but in flipping through the book, the only fowlers that consistently seem to have bore diameters in the 20 gauge neighborhood are the Kentucky/PA fowlers. Those didn't become popular in the later part of the 18th century, long after many parts in the east had been the frontier. It would seem to me that mid-18th century fowlers were more commonly found with larger bores in the 10-12 gauge range, with many even bigger.
 

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The most common shot sizes used today for turkey are #4,#5, and #6. The reason for this is that with a very tight choke, and the right load, along with modern things like buffer, you can really stretch it out. It's pretty common to get adequate patterns for turkey from a modern gun at 40-45 yards with lead shot. Even modern muzzleloaders, my TK2000 meets my criteria to 40 yards, and I barely did any load development with that at all.

Because of these longer ranges, those shot sizes are the usual picks. If shooting a cylinder bore, you won't ever get to those long ranges. Plenty of people have used #7.5 shot for turkeys. I don't know where to draw the line on what is too small a shot size. The skull is paper thin, that is no concern. I think the problem would be breaking the neck bones. #7.5 should be fine as short range. I would not use it for 40 yard shots. I would actually think a rabbit would be tougher than a turkey's head, but I could be wrong. I don't like small shot for rabbit, too much shot in the meat. #5 mostly passes through.
I’ve contemplated a 28ga and using screw-in chokes since nobody jug chokes anything smaller than a 20ga. But my thoughts were upping the shot size to #6 purely for velocity’s sake, using one shot size for all. But I’m also not looking for long range, just hoping to get a 28ga to work on turkey out to 25+ yds, both by larger than square loads (as tall as it is wide) essentially making it a 20ga, assuming it patterns.
 

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The only thing that kills is getting just them few or several pellets in the quarry. So large or small the result is the same.
Yes I've been taught that.

Correct me if I'm wrong, as you do a lot more practical shotgunning than I do..., when it comes to "sitting game" like squirrel, rabbit, turkey, since one is not swinging the gun at a moving target, it's all the same.

Now some think that IF you use the same amount of the same size shot in any of the three gauges below ..., since the size of the shot column is lengthened by reducing the diameter of the barrel, you get better results, as the pellets in the center are increased. So a 20 gauge would actually put more shot into the center and thus into the animal. The same folks however, point out that since the amount of shot is reduced as one reduces gauge, the less number of pellets then gives you the same results...,

3 Gauges with same weight of shot:
GAUGE AND SHOT columns .jpg

BUT..., when testing this, as I had heard of folks using very heavy amounts of shot..., I've never seen a dramatically larger number of shot in the game animal target, bird or small game, when using an identical amount of shot in all three of the gauges above.

Another person, an incredibly good bird hunter, and a former Olympic skeet shooter, taught me that what the shot column does on a flying bird, is give you room for variation. In the below illustration, the optimal shot on the duck, is the top image, while the lower two are not optimal, but still result in harvesting the bird as the shot that is wasted in the optimal image..., instead hits the bird in the other two images. Bill (my teacher) also mentioned that with the bottom type of impact, although more of the bird is inside the circle representing the cone-of-shot, a lot of the body hits don't actually do more than sting the bird, as the feathers really mitigate the impact of the shot.

DUCK IN FLIGHT shot cones.jpg


So THEN the additional task for the shotgunner, is to choose the size of shot that would give good coverage and at the same time upon impact would harvest the animal with those few pellets that actually hit the game. So one might use #7 on dove at 30 yards, but would not use the same sized shot on a larger, tougher animal such as a goose, where #2 shot would be in order.

LD
 

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Yes I've been taught that.

Correct me if I'm wrong, as you do a lot more practical shotgunning than I do..., when it comes to "sitting game" like squirrel, rabbit, turkey, since one is not swinging the gun at a moving target, it's all the same.

Now some think that IF you use the same amount of the same size shot in any of the three gauges below ..., since the size of the shot column is lengthened by reducing the diameter of the barrel, you get better results, as the pellets in the center are increased. So a 20 gauge would actually put more shot into the center and thus into the animal. The same folks however, point out that since the amount of shot is reduced as one reduces gauge, the less number of pellets then gives you the same results...,

3 Gauges with same weight of shot:
View attachment 44688
BUT..., when testing this, as I had heard of folks using very heavy amounts of shot..., I've never seen a dramatically larger number of shot in the game animal target, bird or small game, when using an identical amount of shot in all three of the gauges above.

Another person, an incredibly good bird hunter, and a former Olympic skeet shooter, taught me that what the shot column does on a flying bird, is give you room for variation. In the below illustration, the optimal shot on the duck, is the top image, while the lower two are not optimal, but still result in harvesting the bird as the shot that is wasted in the optimal image..., instead hits the bird in the other two images. Bill (my teacher) also mentioned that with the bottom type of impact, although more of the bird is inside the circle representing the cone-of-shot, a lot of the body hits don't actually do more than sting the bird, as the feathers really mitigate the impact of the shot.

View attachment 44696

So THEN the additional task for the shotgunner, is to choose the size of shot that would give good coverage and at the same time upon impact would harvest the animal with those few pellets that actually hit the game. So one might use #7 on dove at 30 yards, but would not use the same sized shot on a larger, tougher animal such as a goose, where #2 shot would be in order.

LD
Dave I take on board all your comments and observations. The results between the three gauges in the field duplicate my findings.
Be it my .45, .63, 12g or my Bess, the number of holes in a critter to hand are about the same. Any missed or let's be honest, a wounded critter can be and is achieved by any gauge or bore! Hence my comment, none is better!

I'll even go as far as saying that for wing shooting with a less than perfect fitting gun the doughnut pattern may help(!).

I'm looking forward to taking pheasants again come October (season runs October to February 1st) and my choice of gun will be pure whim and not because one is " better" than the other!

B.
 
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If you shoot 1 ounce of shot from a 12 gauge, I doubt you are going to see much, if any difference shooting 1 ounce of shot from a 20 gauge. If you instead shoot 1 1/2 ounces of shot from a 12 gauge, then you will have the potential for more hits on the animal. You had mentioned shot sizes, and there is a whole can of worms there. Some choose very small sizes, and go for a headshot. I don't like this thinking, and I find it results in shot left in the meat. When talking about ducks or geese, I like to choose a shot size that will go all the way through the breast, and all the way through the organs at the maximum distance that my pattern will be effective.

@rodwha, if you use chokes, I would think you could get an acceptable pattern with #6 shot at 25-30 yards without too much trouble. I don't like screw in choke tubes, not even in modern guns. In a muzzleloader, you will have to unscrew it for every single shot. You might be able to get away with a more open choke like IC or modified, but a full, or extra full you certainly wont.
 

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