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Thread: The Shotgun Learning Curve

  1. #1
    Boolit Grand Master
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    The Shotgun Learning Curve

    This topic came up in another thread and I didn't want to hi-jack that thread. I'm not sure if this is the correct forum but here goes:

    When teaching shotgun skills to a new shooter, the choice of the type of shotgun is important. I'm talking about learning to shoot moving targets with a shotgun, not shooting slugs or buckshot at stationary targets.

    Verbally conveying the skills needed to shoot a shotgun is one of the most difficult tasks of any teacher. It's like riding a bicycle, you can tell them all of the theory and techniques but cannot inject that knowledge into their brain; they have to put it all together for themselves. They have to actually do it, not just hear you tell them how to do it.

    The choice of the gun used in that instruction is a critical choice. Most adult males will benefit from a full sized 12 gauge shotgun that throws a lot of pellets in a large pattern during those initial shotgun sessions. However, the gun must fit the shooter and smaller framed people (typically women and children) will benefit from a shotgun that fits them. That sometimes means a 20 gauge gun with a shorter stock and maybe a gun that is lighter overall. With all else being equal, the 20 gauge will reduce the amount of pellets thrown compared to a 12 gauge but that trade off may be necessary to get a gun that fits the new shooter.

    The 20 gauge is my absolute lower limit for teaching new shooters to connect with moving targets. The 28 gauge and the .410 are guns for experts, not beginners ! The reduction in payload with those smaller bores is a serious impediment.
    (not to mention the expense of those shells !)

    I have introduced dozens of people to shotguns and in full disclosure - I am not the greatest shooter when it comes to shotguns. However, I have had success with new shooters when those new shooters were frustrated with other instructors.
    I attribute part of that success to fitting the gun to the shooter.

    A shotgun that is too long, too heavy and doesn't fit the shooter will only add to the frustration of a new student. A gun that throws a minimal pattern (like a .410) will also be a source of frustration.
    I have found that a standard Remington 870 in 12 gauge will fit an amazing number of adult males. It will not always have the perfect length of pull or fit precisely BUT, it is more often than not, adequate for the average adult male.

    For woman and children I have a Beretta AL391 youth 20 gauge that works for most right handed woman & children. The lightweight aluminum receiver, coupled with a short stock and short barrel; seems to fit most smaller framed people.

    If you are teaching a new shooter to the world of shotguns, please don't hand them a lightweight 12 gauge with 3 1/2" magnum shells just to beat them up. You will only turn them off to the sport. Likewise, don't give them a .410 with a fraction of the shot compared to a 20 gauge using the same size pellets.

    The goal is to get them to consistently break targets and then....once the concept "clicks" with them - build on that knowledge.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    Great post. I will add that the recoil pad on the Remington 870 Express Youth 20 gauge needs to be thrown away and replaced with a REAL pad so the flinches dont develop. One ounce loads in the 12ga. And 7/8 oz. Loads in the 20 gauge are perfect.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Texas by God, agreed !

    I will use a 1 1/8 oz load when teaching an adult male with a 12 Gauge but the 7/8 oz load with the 20 gauge is the way to go when working with youth and woman.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Great post, lots of truth. I would add that the comb height is a major concern for most youth and many adult ladies. If the comb is too low their “shooting” eye will drop below the reciever and they will be using the off side eye, unknowingly. Worse they will be “loose” on the comb to cheek and that cheek slap is MUCH more painful than recoil to the shoulder muscles. Fitting the gun, get the length of pull reasonably close then get the comb “adjusted” to have their eye slightly above the rib. This needs to be done while keeping them in a proper form. If the gun beats the shooter up it is not going to be something they want to do. I use 1 oz 1150fps loads in a 12 gage gas gun or 7/8 in the gas 20. Light 20 gage guns, like singles, kick HARD. I love my pump guns and 410s, but never use them for starting a beginning wing shooter! I have been teaching youth clay target sports since 2003, especially international skeet and just generally “how to shoot a shotgun”. Clay target sports and bird hunting, I leave tactical games and slug guns to others with an interest.
    “You don’t practice until you get it right. You practice until you can’t get it wrong.” Jason Elam, All-Pro kicker, Denver Broncos

  5. #5
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    i really have to disagree, gauge of the gun doesnt much matter. how the gun fits the shooter, is everything. the gun that fits will not beat up the shooter, and the gun that fits will hit where the shooter is looking.

  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master Texas by God's Avatar
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    When it clicks in their mind that their eye is the rear sight- priceless.

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  7. #7
    Boolit Master gpidaho's Avatar
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    It's harder in my opinion to teach an old rifleman to wing shoot than it is to teach youth or a new shooter of any age, the temptation to aim is too great. The fit of the gun to the shooter is very important as is the same hold each time. I'm sure some here have heard this but as it was explained to me, aiming a shotgun is like merging on to the freeway off the on ramp, you don't sight down the hood ornament. Gp

  8. #8
    Boolit Buddy 35isit's Avatar
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    Have trained several ladies and children to shoot a shotgun. Mostly at NRA Woman On Target Programs and hunters ed. Number one problem I saw was ladies and children try to lean back to raise muzzle of gun. If you can get them to lean forward into the gun, they control their swing better. Also found using trap guns instead of field guns speeds up the learning curve. They tend to raise head up and give better "sight" picture and tend to manage recoil better.
    Ky State Director IHMSA
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  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    I agree that gage is pretty meaningless, but 28s are expensive factory and hulls for reloading ar scarce. I will use the 410 for specific instances but same issue with ammo cost. I also never use or encourage 1 1/8 loads for clays, have shot too many straights on skeet and 16 yard with the 28 ha to feel any need for the extra shot. I like to teach on an incoming crosser at 20 yards or less. Body mechanics and total focus on the target is easier to learn when the target is getting closer rather than “getting away”. Light loads in a gun that fits and focus the instruction of process. Yep, breaking the urge to aim is very hard. I find that if I take their gun and break a couple from the hip that it gets their attention and I can get them to focus 100% on the target for at least a few shots afterward. No one will become a good wingshot using the bead(s) like sights, total focus on the target and confidence breaks targets. If they are afraid of recoil they can’t focus on technique. Recoil to the face, from a bad fitting gun, is the worst. Soft recoil pads don’t fix that.
    “You don’t practice until you get it right. You practice until you can’t get it wrong.” Jason Elam, All-Pro kicker, Denver Broncos

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    I just recommend to new shooters to not lock into a particular gauge from conventional wisdom until they have tried both (in my case 20 and 12) on moving targets. Sometimes the right shotgun that fits is more important than the amount a shot. I hunt a lot of ducks and only rarely geese. I have found that a lot more ducks fall out of the sky for me with my beloved 20 s/s than my 12's so unless geese are definitely on the menu, my 20 goes out on the water with me.

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by 35isit View Post
    Have trained several ladies and children to shoot a shotgun. Mostly at NRA Woman On Target Programs and hunters ed. Number one problem I saw was ladies and children try to lean back to raise muzzle of gun. If you can get them to lean forward into the gun, they control their swing better. Also found using trap guns instead of field guns speeds up the learning curve. They tend to raise head up and give better "sight" picture and tend to manage recoil better.

    They lean back to compensate for the weight of the gun out in front of them. The heavier the gun, the more they will lean.
    When I see a new shooter leaning back like that, I try to put a lighter gun in their hands.
    Last edited by Petrol & Powder; 11-10-2019 at 12:05 PM.

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by quilbilly View Post
    I just recommend to new shooters to not lock into a particular gauge from conventional wisdom until they have tried both (in my case 20 and 12) on moving targets. Sometimes the right shotgun that fits is more important than the amount a shot. I hunt a lot of ducks and only rarely geese. I have found that a lot more ducks fall out of the sky for me with my beloved 20 s/s than my 12's so unless geese are definitely on the menu, my 20 goes out on the water with me.
    /\ For an experienced adult male shooter - YES /\

    For a beginner child or woman of small stature, the 20 gauge is the way to go. Not so much because of the amount of shot (7/8 oz verses 1 to 1 1/4oz ) but because of the size of the gun.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    I put a lb or so of steel BBs in the stock of my wife's Mossberg Maverick 20. Before I did, it kicked as hard as my 12. She shoots it a couple times a year. If she shot it more, I'd probably get her an auto.

  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy

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    I guess I learned with the wrong gauge. My dad taught my 2 brothers and me with a single shot .410. I also taught my 2 sons with the .410. We mostly hunted quail and doves.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by gpidaho View Post
    It's harder in my opinion to teach an old rifleman to wing shoot than it is to teach youth or a new shooter of any age, the temptation to aim is too great.
    Tell me about it. I started shooting shotgun/clays in my late 30's,having shot rifles and pistols since kid. I was being instructed back and forth, "you need a longer stock,a shorter stock,more this less that,bigger pellets smaller pellets,everything and then back".

    I went through a dozen shotguns and practically quit. Then ten years later I tried a friends 20 gauge (just because I liked the gun) and at the same time someone,a young fella just starting out, said the magic words: " Send the pellets where the claybird is going to."

    It just clicked right away and I've been breaking clays ever since. I had been subconsciously aiming after all all this talk about "leade" never really lit my bulb. Until I started shooting "where the claybird is going to". Simple as that.

    Of course I understood " leade", having shot moving moose rifle target competition for years,yes of course the leade,we aim at the beard. But still,the clay in the air had tricked my mind somehow. It's too easy to see and aim at. Wrong.

    Experienced shotgunners forgot to explain that fundamental well enough to me. Some even suggested a scope,which I tried,too.
    Last edited by Petander; 11-10-2019 at 07:46 AM.

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