When chasing the flush, the weight of your shotgun can make or break your hunt
by the Shoot-On Staff
Chasing wild birds through the uplands is not for the faint of heart. It requires putting a ton of miles on the boots, trudging through thick grass, dense forest, and up steep, treacherous mountainsides. The proper equipment is critical to keep you in the field longer, including the most important aspect of upland hunting: your shotgun.
Before you hit the field with your trap gun, there’s an important aspect to consider: how much does your gun weigh? On the mountain, every ounce counts.
How Much Should My Gun Weigh?
Hunting wild birds often requires you to hold your shotgun in one hand while you use your other to push through tall brush. That means your dominant arm gets a workout, and after many miles, the weight of your shotgun suddenly feels heavier than it is.
That’s why it’s important to go light. Leave your eight-pound trap over/under in the gun safe! Instead, opt for something much more forgiving in weight. Thanks to modern technology, manufacturers can lessen the weight of shotguns by making receivers out of aluminum rather than steel. This in no way alters how your shotgun performs, as the aluminum is only used in parts of the shotgun that do not undergo a lot of stress.
Generally, a 20-gauge shotgun will weigh about a pound less than a 12-gauge shotgun. I say generally because in today’s market, there are plenty of lightweight 12-gauge options for those wanting to shoot extra shot at crossing roosters.
As a guideline, typical weights for a 20-gauge upland shotgun will range between 5.75 and 6.5 pounds. For a 12-gauge upland shotgun, ideally, you’ll want to stay between 6.5 to 7.25 pounds.
If you’re feeling really daring and you’ve hit the range to practice, uplanders can cut even more weight by opting for a 28-gauge, .410, or even 16-gauge, which are currently making a resurgence in the hunting world.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Lightweight shotguns are more enjoyable to carry afield compared to their skeet and trap brethren. The weight is easier to manage over miles of rough terrain and on the flush, a shoulder mount is quick and fluid.
Although 12-gauge shotguns are the most popular in the sporting world for many reasons, the 20-gauge comes in a close second because of the low felt-recoil. This makes them ideal for young shooters; however, when you’re opting for lightweight options of your favorite gauge, felt recoil goes out the window.
Without an extra pound to absorb the kick of bird loads, recoil can be harsh. Additionally, a lightweight shotgun mounts differently than a shotgun weighing eight pounds. It takes time to train yourself to properly shoulder mount a sub-six-pound gun.
Plan on hitting the range, and often, before hitting the field. Train using light trap shells to save your shoulder. Force yourself to start slow and condition your arms to remember a proper shoulder mount for your particular shotgun. Practice crossing shots often because swinging a shotgun weighing less than a heavy trap gun takes time to master.
Ideal Lightweight Options
So, what options are out there for those looking for lightweight shotguns? Consider these:
Franchi Instinct SL. Available in 12-, 20-, and 16-gauge options, the Franchi Instinct SL ranges from just 5.8 to 6.3 pounds.
Browning 725 Citori Feather. This model comes in both 12- and 20-gauge and ranges from just over 5 pounds to 6.9 pounds.
Benelli Ultra Light. Available in 12-, 20-, and 28-gauge, this semi-auto weighs between 5 and 6.1 pounds.