Hunters Handbook

Know Your Equipment


A Shotgun is Just Like a Computer... Only Different

    My older brother has always enjoyed shooting. I have always preferred my computer. Now that I have expressed an interest in shooting, Big Brother is in his glory, preparing lesson plans in hopes of equaling my computer tutorial to him. I only hope I can shoot better than he computes. He says, "Think of a shotgun as a computer!" Yeah, right!


Gauge = Hard Drive

    "The versatile shotgun blankets the entire shooting spectrum, from clay birds to big game and everything in between. Shotguns come in various gauges," Big Brother begins, "like comparing a 386 to a 486 - it's how you determine its power." The smallest is the .410 (the only shotgun identified by bore diameter), followed by the 28 gauge, 20 ga., 16 ga., 12 ga., and 10 gauge. The .410 is best for small game or short range shooting.

    The 20 gauge is preferred as a starter shotgun for youngsters, but gains popularity every year with experienced shooters. While all shotguns have a place in the field, the 12 and 10 gauge offer long range, additional power for deer, wild turkeys and waterfowl. The 12 gauge is the most popular, which means a shooter will find far more barrel and accessory choices. Some 12 gauge shotguns have "CD ROM" capabilities; these can fire the new 3 1/2" 12 gauge ammunition that nearly duplicates the power of a 10 gauge, but still handles all 12 gauge standard loads.

Shotshells = Files

    Ammunition used for a shotgun is called a shotshell. Inside the shells are pellets, called shot. The shot size ranges from one single large projectile (slug) to several hundred packed into the shell casing. Each size shot has its own designated number: #2s are larger than #4s. Once the type of shooting is determined, the most efficient size of shot is selected. A standard shell is 23/4'' long, more powerful are 3" and 31/2" magnums. A stamping on each barrel tells the gauge and which length shell can be used. Only the unique shotgun offers ammunition choices to suit the shooting needs. "Get it geekster?" my almost-impressed-me brother asks. "Selecting ammunition is like pulling up your files!"

Chokes = Print Format


    As important as setting margins, chokes control the spread of shot exiting the barrel. By regulating the constriction at the muzzle, (pointy-end), the shot reacts by spreading apart or remaining together. Skeet shooters want a wide pattern within a short distance. Longer range targets require that the pellets stay together. Standard choke settings include: Improved Cylinder, for a wide pattern; Modified, for a medium pattern; and Full for tight patterns. Fixed-choke barrels have one choke setting machined into the barrel, fine for specific types of shooting, but offering limited use. More versatile and desirable are barrels equipped with screw-in choke tubes. Simply replace a tube to change the shot pattern. To quote the Camo-Crusader, "choke settings adjust the margins of a shotgun's print-out, but expect more audible reports."

Barrels = Programs

    Program your shooting system for today's and future opportunities, advises the Grizzly Adams wanna-be. Shotguns that offer interchangeable barrels are the best value. Simply change barrels to access a different shooting program. With many options available, the best barrel length is one that feels most comfortable to the shooter. Shotguns are fast becoming the firearm of choice for deer hunting. Hi-tech slug shooting equipment combines better ammo, fully rifled barrels, integral barrel scope mounts and Dual Comb¨ stock attachments for posting 3'' groups, or better, at 100 yards. Sighting systems for barrels include: front and mid-point beads, rifle sights, Ghost Ring¨ sights and the integral scope mount. The former Mr. Swamp-Gas concludes, "Choice of programs are the unique advantage to PC and shotgun systems."

    Comfortably riding shotgun on the internet highway, I foolishly asked, "But where did the word gauge come from?"

    The Mighty-Morphin-Orphan replied, "Way back when, it was agreed a 12 gauge bore is the same size as the diameter of one of 12 equally sized balls, cast from a pound of lead. One of 20 equally sized balls from a pound of lead, equals a 20 gauge bore diameter, etc."

    I hate it when that happens; he's putting me on... isn't he?

The Help Button

  • Combo-packs include a two-barrel set for immediate shotgun versatility.
  • Pump-action shotguns are manually operated and are maintenance-friendly.
  • Camouflage-finish shotguns reduce movement detection and glare.
  • Parkerized finishes offer best weather protection.
  • Every barrel and every choke tube patterns differently - even with the same ammunition.
  • Have confidence in your equipment-Mossberg includes a 10-year limited warranty.
  • Read and understand the firearms owner's manual, Mossberg offers free replacements.
  • Interchangeable barrels must be used within model and gauge, the barrel stamp states gauge, chamber length and choke.
  • Safety and safe firearms handling is everyone's responsibility - a free cablelock has been provided with each Mossberg since 1989.

O.F. Mossberg