T hat writer who takes on the task of discussing shotguns is a fool. He might better write about wives; there being as much variation and personal preference in women as there is in shotguns; and less inclination on the part of most shooters to defend the merits of their respective wives than there is to speak up in defense of a favorite shotgun. However, it is that time of year when shotgun talk echoes through cornfields, tagalder thickets, country taverns and chilly duck blinds. It is, therefore, understandable that a writer run-off-at-the-typewriter with a few shotgun thoughts and a brief look at some of the basics of the scattergun. You are cordially invited to peruse for ammunition to load your next shotgun argument, or to explain away an unbelievable "miss" of a fat greenhead or a cackling cock pheasant. We shall start first with "gauge" - -that term used to denote the size of a shotgun's bore. "Gauge" originated in the early days of shotgunning. It means the number of balls in a pound of lead, one of which will pass through the gun barrel. In the 12 gauge, for example, if a pound of lead was divided into 12 equal balls, one of these balls would just pass through the bore. A 20 gauge gun would accept a lead ball running 20 to the pound. An exception is the .410 gauge shotgun in which the .410 designates the actual size of the bore—410/1,000 inch. By comparison, a 12 gauge bore is .775 of an inch. The gauge of your shotgun determines the density of your pellet pattern; the size of the pattern is determined by the "choke" of the gun. Choke is, as the term designates, a constriction of the end inch or two of the barrel. This constriction of the muzzle condenses the pellets and keeps them closer together in flight. Choke designation is generally: full, modified and improved, with full choke giving the tightest constriction and pattern, improved the least pellet "squeeze", and modified falling in the middle. If you shoot a 20 gauge full choke gun, you will get the same pellet spread as your partner with his 12 gauge full choke weapon, but he will have more pellets within the "spread" than you will. (Here's a ©1967 Rural Gravure chance for the lighter gun man to pick up an alibi — the bird flew through the pattern.) At 30 yards, a full choke gun should give you a pattern about 26 inches in diameter; a modified choke, one of 32 inches; and an improved cylinder one of 38 inches. It is important that a shooter knows how his shotgun patterns at various ranges. You can learn this most easily by measuring off ranges and shooting various loads into wrapping paper tacked onto a wooden frame. As a general guide, a full choke gun shooting 280 pellets of No. 6 shot, should place about 196 of these pellets inside a 30- inch killing circle at 40 yards, and 108 pellets inside the same size circle at 55 yards. The choice of shot size is probably responsible for more scatter gunning debates than any other factor. There will be thousands of such debates this fall, and it might be said that never have so many said so much to so many and convinced so few. It is an excellent idea to get out to the trap or skeet range well in advance of the hunting seasons to limber up creaky swinging muscles. With a few rounds of target busting under your belt, you will feel more at home with your shotgun when the first bird explodes out of cover or comes whistling over on the crest of a stiff north wind. And "whistle" they do. A canvasback flies at from 90 to 150 feet per second. It's a wonder we ever hit one of them. Other foot-per-second speeds are: mallard—5090, teal —80-100, ruffed grouse — 35-75, mourning dove — 50-120, Canada goose — 70-100, pheasant—40-90, crow—30-^60. Some of us are going to be so intimidated by these speed facts that we will come away with nothing more than a sore shoulder. But here too, there is room for debate and some statistics to flavor it with. For example, a 12 gauge magnum shooting a three-inch shell in an 8 pound, 12 ounce gun generates 54 foot pounds of recoil energy. By contrast, a 20 gauge, magnum three inch shell kicks to the tune of 28 foot pounds. And for a 16 gauge ,.. but, duck down, here comes a bird. Now, remember all those things about bird and pellet velocity and swinging and shot size and . . . KAPOW! Oh, well, there will be other chances, Not as a means of entering into the debate, but rather to urge the participants on to greater heights, the following information is offered as it comes from the Remington people: Ducks — Use No. 4 shot for long range and pass shooting. For normal range, No. 5 or No. 6 shot. Some hunters use 71/2 shot for closer range shooting over decoys. Geese —Goose hunters need wallop to fold up their birds so they use the big loads with large shot. Many hunters prefer No. 4 over BB and 2's for a denser pattern. Pheasant — For cornfield shooting where long shots are usual, better use No. 5. On a normal rise over dogs and for all around use, No. 6 is the favorite. Bigger shot may be dangerous when hunting in a group. Grouse or partridge — On the smaller birds such as ruffed grouse or Hungarian partridge use the smaller 7y% or 8 shot. The big western grouse will call for No. 5 or 6 shot. with large shot. Many hunters prefer No. 4 over BB and 2's for a denser pattern. Quail — For early season shooting on bobwhites when feathers are light some hunters use No. 9 shot. Later they switch'to No. 7*/z or No. 8. Doves and pigeons — You can do a good job on mourning doves at normal ranges with No. 7 l /% and 8. Longer ranges call for heavier loads. Woodcock — Your choice of shot size will depend on ranges at which your game is shot. For fast shooting in the alder thickets No. 8 shot is a good choice. Rabbits — For cottontail rabbits at normal range, the 5's and 6's are suitable, but for larger game such as jack rabbits and snowshoe rabbits use heavier loads such as No. 4. Squirrel — Most hunters use the No. 5 or No. 6 shot and prefer the heavier loads in the tall timber. Fox — It's a toss-up between SB's and No, 2 shot. But, remember — the smaller the shot the denser the pattern. YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT. . .
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