Neophyte seeks recommendations for 20ga autos (of two types)


P. Plainsman
May 31, 2005, 03:09 PM
I took the matte black, uber-functional Rem 870 Express Magnum 12ga pump to the range last week and banged off a few boxes of #4 shot shells at longish range (which was the only range permitted). It was the first time I've ever discharged a shotgun.

Very interesting. It was evident why the shotgun is so praised for common defensive applications. Even as a novice shooting at 25 yards with an open choke, I put several hits on the "assailant's" upper torso each time.

12ga recoil is no joke. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I even noticed a trickle of blood in my spit after I called it a day. Is that normal?

I respect the 870's power and am resolved to continue practicing with it. However, I think I'd like a soft-shooting 20ga gas autoloader too. Two questions, then:

1. Who makes a good short, "tactical" 20ga auto? Is there such a beast?

2. What's a good all-round sporting 20ga auto for birds, trap and such?

Many thanks. Would also appreciate correction of any terminology errors or other beginnerisms found in this post.

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May 31, 2005, 03:20 PM
12ga recoil is no joke. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I even noticed a trickle of blood in my spit after I called it a day. Is that normal?
No, not usually.
Whenever I fire a shotgun with a youth stock or a thick soft recoil pad I have to remember to keep my thumb down or I'll take one in the nose every time.
sm will probably give a better explanation but I believe that the fit of your 870 may be the issue.
For practice, try some lighter loads 'til your form is up to snuff. Keep a tight cheek weld and don't let it slap you in the face.

For answers to both 1, and 2, you might want to look at some benelli's.

A Cleaner
May 31, 2005, 03:27 PM
I applaud you for wanting to continue shooting the 12g. Next time you do, you may want to ask some folks at the range to help you refine your stance, grip, cheek weld, etc. You may find that all you need is a little adjustment to how you're shouldering it.

Also, before you move on to a 20g, you may try practicing with Winchester Extra-Lite trap loads. They kick very softly and will give you a chance to work on your hold of the gun without punishing you for minor mistakes in grip or cheek weld. It's no defensive round but if using it helps you get used to the 12g recoil, it is worth it.

Fred Fuller
May 31, 2005, 04:38 PM
Proper fit and form are critical in shotgunning. Best bet in both departments is hands- on help from someone who knows how to get budding scattergunners on their way with a proper start. It might be a local club has classes available, or someone who can offer informal training and oversight from an experienced eye. But do get help, it will make your experience more pleasant.

Have you established which eye your master eye yet? That should be the first thing done in shotgunning, and you can do it yourself. Look at a small, distinct, distant object, with both eyes open. Make a circle with your fingers holding your hand out at arms length. Look at the object through the circle with both eyes and bring your circled fingers slowly to the eye that sees the object clearly without losing focus on the object. The eye your circled fingers come to is your master eye. If you are right handed and 'right eyed' no problem, likewise if you are left handed and your left eye is dominant, no problem. If your dominant eye and your 'handedness' are opposite then you should probaly learn to shoot from your eye- dominant side.

You shouldn't normally bleed from shooting a shotgun, if you notice any trace of blood in mucous/spittle again (and please do pay attention even when not shooting), get it checked out by a doc quickly.

Good luck, press on and enjoy the many aspects of shotgunning,


P. Plainsman
May 31, 2005, 05:23 PM
My left eye's master, but I have trained myself to shoot with my right eye because I'm cross-dominant. I don't shoot well using my master eye, whether it's with handgun or rifle.

The advice re: stance is obviously pertinent. Not knowing what else to do, I shouldered the shotgun like a rifle. There are a couple of knowledgeable instructors at my favorite gun store who teach classes. I'll make inquiries.

I'm in good health and don't ordinarily spit blood (what an odd thing to have to say!). Such as it was. I'm fairly certain it was a product of those socks in the shoulder... which, as I think about it, may really have been further "in" on the chest than is proper.

I also got a couple of knocks in the right cheek from the stock, but they weren't much to notice.

Re: my request for hardware recommendations -- Another source I asked said Benelli, but I can't remember the model he suggested. Benelli's website is a pain to navigate. So what is the name/model number of the short Benelli 20ga autoloader?

Again, many thanks for the advice.

May 31, 2005, 08:25 PM
If I were you I would go to Wal Mart and get some Winchester Light or X-Light skeet/trap shells. Look on the box for the DRAMS EQV. number. The lower the Dram EQV. number and the lower the weight of shot you have the lower the recoil.

Light loads are 2 3/4 to 3 DRAM EQV.

Heavy loads are 3 3/4 (MAX) to 4 (MAG) DRM EQV.

The great thing about the 12 gauge is you have a very wide range of power.

You can now get 00 buck and slugs in 3 DRAM EQV for defense.

May 31, 2005, 09:29 PM
Seems that Mossberg makes a fairly short if not fully tactical 20 gauge gas semi-auto. They definitely make a good one for general trap, birds etc. You also might look into a Remington 1100 gas semi-auto in 20 gauge for general use. Usually available and one of the softer shooting shotguns.

If the price isn't a problem the finest semi-auto gas gun in my opinion is the Beretta AL 391. It is softer shooting than an 1100 Remington even and more reliable. Simply one of the great shotgun designs.

While a fine shotgun, most semi-auto Benelli's are blowback operated. This doesn't absorb and soften recoil as much as gas operated designs from Remington or Beretta.

May 31, 2005, 09:54 PM
While a fine shotgun, most semi-auto Benelli's are blowback operated. This doesn't absorb and soften recoil as much as gas operated designs from Remington or Beretta.

Another feature of the Benelli is light weight. Lighter guns tend to have more felt recoil, all else being equal. That being said, I've got a 20ga Benelli M1 Field, which my wife shot for a couple years. Neither of us feel the recoil is much of an issue with the standard target loads, and it is an outstanding gun for a long day of running and gunning after pheasants.

As far as blood and shooting, my rule of thumb is that whatever I'm shooting AT should be doing the bleeding... not me. That said, I've had shotguns draw blood before, and it's always been due to issues of fit... typically with the comb impacting my cheek in an abrupt and painful fashion. When I first shot some (maybe 2 or 3) 3" slugs out of my Winchester Defender, I literally thought I'd knocked a couple teeth loose. Lower powered shells and some fine-tuning of the fit took care of that.

Trust me, if shooting is causing noticable pain, then you need to correct the source of the problem. Do not try to "tough it out". Your body may be capable of doing so, but your brain will notice the effect and begin to make adjustments WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE OR SAY-SO. The result is the dreaded "F" word (...flinch...). It's easy to acquire one, and very, very difficult to get rid of one.

Don't ask me how I know. :uhoh: :cuss:

May 31, 2005, 10:36 PM
Do not give up on the 12 yet. Every one that shoots has had to learn to deal with recoil. It is not that tough, you just have to understand the forces you are working with. If you get a 20, no doubt it will be lighter, and a lighter gun kicks more.

The first thing to understand is that you are probably pushing the gun away from you when you shoot. The first time it kicked you your instincts took over, and your body is trying to stop the kick by holding the shotgun away from you. That can not be done. The gun is getting a run at hitting your shoulder, and cheek. Try this; make a fist, and seat it in the palm of your other hand, and try to hit the palm from a contact position.. ; Now, move your fist two inches from your palm, and hit it again. If your fist is in contact with your palm, you can not hit it very hard. The same works with the shotgun. Take the gun, and the ammo you have, and go out to shoot. Do not try to hit anything, just shoot safe, and think ONLY about pulling the gun into your shoulder with BOTH hands. You do not have to flex your shoulder forward to resist recoil, let your shoulder flex and rotate to the rear some.

In my opinion, the blood is probably from a cut on the inside of your cheek, or maybe even a bite on your tongue, when the gun jumped up off of your shoulder and smacked your cheek. For that first test, you are not shooting at a target, so just hold your head up away from the gun for a couple shots, while your body learns to deal with the recoil. Then the same thing goes; PUSH your cheek on to the stock of the gun.

Some experienced coaching will help, for sure. Where are you? Someone here at THR might be close enough to help.

May 31, 2005, 10:43 PM
I don't know about question #1 but for #2 I would suggest a Beretta 391 20 ga or a Browning Gold 20 ga. Both are absolute sweethearts, run like a swiss watch, move like they know what you want before you do, and eat just about any ammo you can find.

For your 12 ga adventures, stay away from the heavy loads until you have some experience under your belt. Learn to shoot the light loads first, the light loads are NOT light in recoil compared to other mainstream shotshells and rifles, but they are light enough that you can deal with them and learn to shoot them without pain. Our man Trapper is right about the dreaded flinch, pick up a flinch of your own and it can be a LIFETIME of work to get past it. Your subconcious is faster and smarter than your brain ever will be, if shooting will hurt your subconcious will try to protect you from the pain. A 12 ga with any loading is a SERIOUS loading, go slow and work up as your comfort level allows. To do otherwise risks disaster.

P. Plainsman
June 1, 2005, 12:09 PM
Good stuff. Thanks again, folks.

June 1, 2005, 01:30 PM
While a fine shotgun, most semi-auto Benelli's are blowback operated. This doesn't absorb and soften recoil as much as gas operated designs from Remington or Beretta.

Au contraire. Benellis use inertia recoil operation (not long or short recoil), not blowback. Pretty much the only blowback firearms I'm aware of are .22s and .25s, with the occasional .32 or .380. Benellis still kick, though.

June 1, 2005, 03:08 PM
With regards to Benellis and recoil. I'm still not convinced that they "kick harder" (at least with light target loads). They do, however, kick differently. Shooting my Beretta 391 back to back with my Montefeltro, the Beretta seems to have a single shove. The Benelli has more of a two-stage recoil, with one spike followed a split second later by another of lesser intensity.

If I only shoot the Benelli, I don't really notice it. However, if I swap back and forth, it is more pleasant to shoot the Beretta.

June 1, 2005, 08:49 PM
Yes, 45crittergitter is correct.

My bad. Shotguns are intertia operated not blowback. Would take one huge bolt to make a blowback shotgun work.

Still the difference is the double recoil mentioned, and that it doesn't much reduce recoil over a pump. While a gas operated gun reduces recoil a bit, and spreads the recoil impulse out over a longer time making it feel like even less than it is.

I must say, my long time shotgun was a Browning Auto 5. Then the Beretta 391 replaced it. Seems a better shotgun overall. Then when going back to the Browning, which is inertia operated as well, that double hump recoil was so noticeable and aggravating. The Beretta is just a much smoother shooting shotgun. Nothing bad to say about the Browning, heck took nearly a hundred years for the design to be eclipsed as I see it. That double recoil of the inertia designs is very noticeable on quick second shots.

June 2, 2005, 08:39 PM
Shooting a Mosin 91/30 w/ 203 gr. is a good way to build up to a 12 ga. I would stay with the 12 ga. and as has been suggested shoot lighter loads. You can duplicate the power and recoil of a 20 and leave yourself some room to grow into the 12 ga. full power loads.

June 3, 2005, 01:35 PM
First, congratulations to me on my 500th post!

I am thinking of getting my gf a Beretta 391 in 20 ga. She is recoil sensitive and likes the gun. She seems to prefer handling it to the Browning and Remington. She wants pretty blue/walnut only. Anybody got any others to consider or any warnings/advice?

June 3, 2005, 06:52 PM
Important to note about the 391. Once you have one for your wife, don't shoot it or you end up buying two.

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