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Thread: 2.5" 12ga VS 2.75" 20ga

  1. #1
    Curious Caster
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    2.5" 12ga VS 2.75" 20ga

    Doing a bit of what-ifs in my head this morning and I have been wondering what folks would prefer... If you were considering a shotgun purchase and wanted to keep recoil below normal 2.75" 12ga shells, would you go for a 12 gauge and buy 2.5" shells or would you get a 20gauge and buy standard length shells? Why?

    The variables I had thought of were cost, availability, performance while hunting/target shooting, and magazine capacity.
    I'm a big fan of data-driven decisions. You want to make me smile, show me a spreadsheet! Extra points for graphs and best-fit predictive equations.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    I went through this thought process a few years ago. When I retired and down-sized into a small cottage out in the country, I sold all of my 20-ga. guns except for a light-weight Franchi autoloader which I shoot very well. After a year search I obtained a 1939 date of manufacture, plain-finished Vickers boxlock SxS, double-trigger, 12-bore game gun with plain extractors, quarter-choke and three-quarter choke with 25-inch barrels, chambered for 2 and a half inch shells, which weighs 5 pounds, 9 ounces. This gunsmith refurbished, classic English game gun performs well for trap and sporting clays, is a joy to carry and has light recoil. With my chosen loads it patterns better than any of my modern guns did with heavy US loads, that I find completely unnecessary.

    A lively gun which provides two shots quick for outgoing and incoming birds is adequate. Few people hit anything with a third shot, being mostly mental masturbation. I sold all of my modern US shotguns, a dozen or so, Winchester Model 12s, Remington 870s, 1100s, Citori Brownings. I kept a 12-bore Beretta SB1, folding single, which passes for my "survival" gun and hunting camp loaner. Whilst it has longer American chamber, other than occasional Ranger Low Recoil LE slugs which it shoots like a rifle, I use mostly light 1-ounce game loads in it to mitigate recoil in a 5-pound gun.

    I have no need for a combat shotgun, to fire buckshot, steel or sabot rounds. Light 12-ga. game loads from RST and the occasional slug from the Beretta FS1 serve all of my needs. My basic load is 1 ounce of copper plated no.7 at 1175 fps. I also keep a flat of No.6 and several of No.8 for practicing on clays. I don't shoot skeet or trap competitively only occaiionally as a pre-season warmup. Infantry Trophy rifle, NRA Highpower and bullseye pistol were my games.

    I do not miss my clubby fencepost, over-built American over-unders, pumps and autoloaders. They all sold readily and their proceeds permitted me to buy the light 12-bore game gun of my dreams.You could do very much worse.
    Last edited by Outpost75; 01-17-2022 at 03:54 PM.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master


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    I would not buy a gun that required 2.5” shells...I am too cheap.

    I have a number of shotguns and if I stopped shooting trap, and could only have one fun shotgun, I would get an over/under 20 ga. I do not hunt ducks or geese so no need for a 12 ga. 20 ga is fine for rabbits and upland game birds. Ok for Trap singles...but not Handicap. OK for skeet.

    If you are going to hunt, a heavy gun gets old as you age...I hunt with a 28 ga Feather weight.

    20 ga hulls are not as easy to get cheap or free if you reload.
    Don Verna

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  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dverna View Post
    I would not buy a gun that required 2.5” shells...I am too cheap...
    The last four flats, 1000 rounds of 12-ga. loads bought from RST last fall cost less than Winchester and Remington promotional game loads at Walmart, with free shipping on a $500 order which several of my hunting buddies and I went in on together.

    I sold my shotshell loading equipment as these days you cannot buy the shot and primers to load them that cheap.
    Last edited by Outpost75; 01-17-2022 at 03:55 PM.
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    As usual Outpost 75's advice makes a lot of sense to me.

    However, the only time I ever fired anything approaching a 2" 12 gauge payload from my Model 870TB, one of the cheaper 7/8 oz loads, they patterned abysmally. Since then, if I want a 7/8 or less payload, I go with the 20 gauge.

    I don't shoot trap or skeet or any of the newer shotgun games. The smoothbore to me is a hunting gun (not that I do much of that anymore) and I grew up shooting singleshots that were nominally full choked (probably overchoked for the modern shells).

    To make a long story short, a few years ago I bought a Winchester Model 37 20 gauge. Every single animal I have shot at with it has died right then. Good shotgun shells aren't cheap anymore, so I usually go with #6 shot. If I'm feeling rich I'll pick up a box or two of #5 shot for those squirrels up in the tall trees.

    Robert

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    2 3/4 and down load them if recoil is a problem they sell 3/4oz wads also which is equal to a 28ga load

  7. #7
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by Outpost75 View Post
    The last four flats, 1000 rounds of 12-ga. loads bought from RST last fall cost less than Winchester and Remington promotional game loads at Walmart, with free shipping on a $500 order which several of my hunting buddies and I went in on together.

    I sold my shotshell loading equipment as these days you cannot buy the shot and primers to load them that cheap.
    Have you checked lately? Not pretty.

    I know things are not normal, but I prefer being able to reload if I have to. My “tipping point” is $10/hr. If I can save $10/hr or more I cast/reload.
    Don Verna

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  8. #8
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    That depends on the gun, but more often than not, 20 gauge. The standard 20 gauge load of 7/8oz at 1200 fps is lighter than any 12 gauge load you can buy. I think RST has one load that matches it, but I doubt you could buy it easily, or cheaply. You can load 12 gauge down to that level, but it's getting into that less than ideal area, not great in cold weather. If you bought Alliant Extra lite, you would probably be ok.

    Or you could just get a 20 gauge and not fuss. You could even load down from that if you wanted.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Neither but, I completely agree with Outposts assertion of overbuilt American clubs. I started out with a 16 bore and I'll end up using them. All but one of my 16's are 2 1/2 chambered and for my purposes 1 oz. shot over 2 1/2 drams equiv. serves all my needs
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  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    I load 10,12,20,&410 wads make them what I want them to be . I find the 20 & 12 to be very similar as long as you’re not going heavy

  11. #11
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    My apologies that I didn't read the complete thread and all the responses. My question....What are you calling a normal 12 gauge load? That could be almost anything. The factories offer loads anywhere from Remingtons managed recoil loads to full house pigeon loads and probably beyond. I noticed Outpost mentioned 3/4 oz loads....Listen to him, he knows his stuff. I didn't sell my shotshell equipment because you never know when I might need a light 1 oz 12 gauge load of number 5's for the grandkids.
    I probably would pay more attention to what the gun weighs. I would rather tote a 20 all day than a 12. Let's face it, we carry the gun more than we shoot it.
    Good Luck to you,
    Rick

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    Quote Originally Posted by RickinTN View Post
    My apologies that I didn't read the complete thread and all the responses. My question....What are you calling a normal 12 gauge load? That could be almost anything. The factories offer loads anywhere from Remingtons managed recoil loads to full house pigeon loads and probably beyond. I noticed Outpost mentioned 3/4 oz loads....Listen to him, he knows his stuff. I didn't sell my shotshell equipment because you never know when I might need a light 1 oz 12 gauge load of number 5's for the grandkids.
    I probably would pay more attention to what the gun weighs. I would rather tote a 20 all day than a 12. Let's face it, we carry the gun more than we shoot it.
    Good Luck to you,
    Rick
    So, I agree that "normal 12 gauge load" is a pretty vague way to put things. To me, I guess it means the most common (and lowest cost) 2.75" 12 gauge loads available at most retailers and shops - not something specially sold as managed recoil, just the run-of-the-mill vanilla target and birding loads.

    Perhaps my ignorance of shotgun ammunition is on display...

    The theoretical guns under consideration are the CZ SxS classic with hammers for 12ga and one of the CZ SxS without hammers for 20ga since the model with external hammers isn't available in anything but 12.
    I'm a big fan of data-driven decisions. You want to make me smile, show me a spreadsheet! Extra points for graphs and best-fit predictive equations.

  13. #13
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    Recoil depends on three things. Weight of shot, velocity of load, and weight of firearm. I have an Ithaca featherlite 20 ga. that has considerable recoil.
    Most 12 ga. Shotguns are heavier in weight than 20 ga. So I would look at a 12 ga. with lite loads like 3/4 oz. Shot. I don't know what shot weights are available in 2 1/2" 12 ga. Shells.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master

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    As for “clubby” American O/U, you guys must have never picked up an 20 ga Ruger Red Label. More moderately priced is a nice used 20 ga Remington 1100. Hulls are no problem in these parts and loading 20 ga 7/8 oz loads are economical in today’s market and can be loaded mild to hot.
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    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    W.W. Greener, in the ninth edition (1910) of his book

    The Gun And Its Development,
    https://www.simonandschuster.com/boo.../9781616088422

    ...stated that a correct shot charge should weigh no more than 5 times as much as its black powder charge.

    For a 12-bore gun firing 3 drams (82 grains) of black powder or the smokeless equivalent producing 1175 fps, the correct weight of shot is 410 grains or 15/16 oz.

    Similarly, the minimum weight for a light game gun to mitigate against the effects of gun recoil headache is 100 times the weight of shot.

    For a 15/16 oz. shot load a light game gun should weigh not less than 5.86 pounds.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    The above define the parameters of the British Standard 2-1/2" 12-bore Game Load.
    Last edited by Outpost75; 01-18-2022 at 06:45 PM.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    I got lucky and inherited a nice 24ga French double. Light and it fits me nicely. Yep, I have to reload it and the hulls are all brass. The bonus there is they use lg pistol primers so I don't have to keep and extra stash around. I don't shoot it a lot so 100 rounds suffice for me. I load it to heavy 28ga levels and it shoots well.

    If I could find an equally nice 20ga double I would not mind having it, but, it would probably be too expensive for me. 12ga doubles are to clunky for me as well, either SxS or OU. A single shot may be in my future

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by Outpost75 View Post
    W.W. Greener, in the ninth edition (1910) of his book

    The Gun And Its Development,
    https://www.simonandschuster.com/boo.../9781616088422

    ...stated that a correct shot charge should weigh no more than 5 times as much as its black powder charge.

    For a 12-bore gun firing 3 drams (82 grains) of black powder or the smokeless equivalent producing 1175 fps, the correct weight of shot is 410 grains or 15/16 oz.

    Similarly, the minimum weight for a light game gun to mitigate against the effects of gun recoil headache is 100 times the weight of shot.

    For a 15/16 oz. shot load a light game gun should weigh not less than 5.86 pounds.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	EleyGrandPrixTargetLoad.jpg 
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Size:	59.8 KB 
ID:	294785
    The above define the parameters of the British Standard 2-1/2" 12-bore Game Load.
    Bore does not affect recoil. Use a 20 ga with the same payload and velocity, and recoil will be the same.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  18. #18
    Boolit Master

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    At Christmas got to see a 12 double, Scottish maker, about 124 years old. Just under 6 pounds, 2 1/2" chambers, engraved, cast off stock for a left handed shooter. Still in the original wood case, Was beautiful and already been used for pheasant, grouse, and ducks. Every shot collected game, owner was ecstatic.
    He considered well worth the effort to find ammo for it.
    Spell check doesn't work in Chrome, so if something is spelled wrong, it's just a typo that I missed.

  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Quote Originally Posted by ulav8r View Post
    At Christmas got to see a 12 double, Scottish maker, about 124 years old. Just under 6 pounds, 2 1/2" chambers, engraved, cast off stock for a left handed shooter. Still in the original wood case, Was beautiful and already been used for pheasant, grouse, and ducks. Every shot collected game, owner was ecstatic.
    He considered well worth the effort to find ammo for it.
    Every shot?? Reminds me of a story. I was at my first Grand. Met a guy who told me his dad had attended the Grand many years ago and never missed a bird. I gave him “the look”. He smiled, told me his dad had run the first post and had a malfunction. He never fired another round.

    Buddy, everyone misses eventually.
    Don Verna

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  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Yes, but I have shot with a few that it takes almost 1000 rounds before they miss. Yes, they did compete and a couple were Olympic medal winners.

    I think you confirmed what Outpost75 wrote. Suggested load is based on powder charge and recoil based on weight of shot. It also refers to a standard shot velocity of 1175fps.

    Does anyone know why shotguns 'settled' at a std vel around 1200fps? Is that where the chokes were most effective?

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
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GC Gas Check