Most Important Quality For "Bird Gun?"


June 4, 2005, 03:39 PM
What do you think is the most important quality for a gun for birds like grouse and woodcock?

I mostly hunt grouse, and I want my bird guns to be lively. Light weight is nice too. I've done best with a six pound 20 gauge OU but can use a shotgun that's a pound or a pound and a half heavier if it's balanced well.

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June 4, 2005, 04:03 PM
I hunt grouse every chance I have during season and the most important aspect I'm interested in is weight of my shotgun, and barrel length.

I choose my 1949 year Ithaca Mod 37R 16ga. with 26" barrel. I don't even notice the weight, balanced superbly even with the original Poly Choke she has. Since I hunt in thick terrain the 26" barrel swings just fine.


June 4, 2005, 04:06 PM
The most important quality of any shotgun is that it fits and hits were I look. That's very important for grouse and woodcock because the shooting is usually very quick.

Next on the list are dynamic handling and the right weight. For me thats 6-1/2 to 7-1/2 pounds. Any heavier and it's not pleasant to carry, any lighter and I can't hit well with it.

My upland gun is a custom-fitted 12 gauge sxs built on a 16 gauge frame choked skeet and light modified. It weighs 6-5/8 lbs.


Dave McCracken
June 4, 2005, 09:32 PM
The best Upland hunters I've shared with have favored a wide assortment of shotguns.One of the best was my old buddy Billy, whose Polychoked A-5 was nose heavy as a pig on a snow shovel. Another favored an AL 48 in 20 gauge. I've carried lunches that weighed more.

A couple shotguns I've owned made me look like I knew what I was doing. These included riot barreled 870s, a 20 gauge SKB O/U, and a little French/ Belgian SxS that weighed 6 lbs, 5 oz, was a straight gripped, beautiful death ray with a stock sculpted by a master. Wish I still had it and the SKB.

What good upland shotguns have in common is they handle like Zorro's rapier, while waterfowlers and trap guns handle like Braveheart's two handed can opener.

It's not so much the weight as how the weight lies along the axes. When more than 50% of the gun's weight lies between the hands, it makes the thing more responsive and easy to get into motion. A slim design like most SxS shotguns keeps more weight close to the COG and aids getting that mysterious sweet "Feel". The kind of shotgun that when one takes that first shot,we look down at it and smile.

Downside, of course, it that these are easier to stop also. No inertia to keep the swing going.

I've little grouse hunting here, I believe my lifetime total is 3. But if I were going to get a purpose made grouse/woodcock/quail shotgun, it'd be something like....

Capable of handling at least 3/4 oz of shot.

Choked for a good pattern at 20 yards in the first barrel. And for 30 yards with the second. Or 25 yards with a single barrelled gun.

Less than 6 1/2 lbs.

And pretty.....

June 4, 2005, 11:41 PM
Dave Mc~~~

THAT was eloquent, funny, analytical and right on the money in all respects.

You have a wonderful mastery of the English language and the ability to make your point while keeping it interesting for the reader. You would have been well received at my college as a lecturer. I no longer hunt grouse, and I could have clicked the Back button, but I really enjoyed your post.

Great job. (pig on a snowshovel... Braveheart's two-handed can opener.)


June 5, 2005, 09:54 AM
I made one of my best shots on grouse with a Mossberg 500 riot gun.
It had a 28 inch barrel too, but I rarely put it on. The 500 was heavier than my 20 gauge OU, but didn't balance too differently.

The shot came near the end of my Springer's life. He'd finally educated me enough so I made a crossing shot on a grouse he jumped twice in the thick stuff and pushed across the bush road I was on. I shot and saw the bird fold in the air. It's momentum carried it into the fairly thick stuff on the other side of the road. I found it on it's back next to a pile of sticks. The dog arrived then and was praised extravagently.

I sold the 500 to buy a 590 with ghost ring sights to shoot at bowling pins. It has about the same balance as the 500 riot, but I haven't killed a grouse with it yet. It doesn't get taken hunting much because I usually use the 20 or my 16 gauge Marlin 90.

Don't miss the 500, but still do miss the dog.

El Tejon
June 5, 2005, 10:19 AM
Most important: that I like it, therefore I will practice with it. :)

My tastes are outside the mainstream; I'm comfortable with that! :D

June 5, 2005, 10:22 AM
Most important quailities are that it goes bang when you pull the trigger and hits what you are aiming at. Everything else is about fit, finish, personal opinions, and bragging rights.

Dave McCracken
June 5, 2005, 12:03 PM
Nitesite, thanks, but I must admit the Pig On a Snow Shovel line was borrowed from Bruce Buck. Besides writing for Shooting Sportsman, he's known as The Technoid over on Well worth reading.

The Braveheart thing is all mine.

ACP230, a couple of my 870s have done outstanding service with riot barrels over a good dog for quail. One of these days I'll write about a chokeless hunting season I had.

And there's dogs who have been dead for decades I still miss. They were family as well as hunting partners.

June 6, 2005, 02:03 AM
I and my little English Setter, Kate, really love grouse (or "pats" as they call them in Mi.) hunting. We hunt (not always find :) ) them in Mi., Pa. and Oh. I've pretty much settled on two shotguns for this "chore" : a Browning Double-Auto 12 ga. (purchased new in 1961 with money saved up over a two year period) and a 20 ga. Merkel SXS, with double triggers. The 2 shot Browning has a 26", vent ribbed bbl. choked modified and the Merkel has 27 1/2" bbls. choked improved cylinder and modified. Both guns balance nicely between the hands and are relatively light (a very real prerequisite for this kind of hunting) ; the Browning weighs 6 1/4 lbs., the Merkel 5 3/4 lbs.

Guns can be too light and barrels can be too short. It has often been said that the name of the game in real estate is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. With good grouse and woodcock guns, the mantra is BALANCE, BALANCE, BALANCE.

I like 1 oz. loads in 12 ga. and 7/8 oz. loads in 20 ga.; both in a 2 3/4" shell length carrying #7 1/2 size shot most of the time.

You still have to be able to shoot well, of course. After over 45 years of pursuing these wiley and diabolical birds, I have learned not to rely on feasting on their succulent breasts for lunch...I bring lots of hot dogs with me! :)

June 6, 2005, 07:55 AM
Somebody say grouse? I doubt that I've seen a dozen in my life.

6.25#, 28 ga., 28", Guerini Woodlander... (starting to look like it's on semi-permanent loan from my dad :) )

June 6, 2005, 09:34 AM
For grouse and woodcock, I want a nice blend of the following:

1) Familiarity of use. The grouse I hunt are in extremely thick cover, and even a split second fumble with the safety will result in the bird getting away.

2) Light weight. It's common for me to hunt for several hours and get maybe one or two shots. A lighter gun just makes the day more pleasant.

3) Reliability. I don't want to spend hours looking for a bird and have the gun go "click".

4) Decent payload. I've only had a couple shots at grouse which didn't involve shooting through leaves and branches. I wouldn't want to go under 7/8 or an ounce of lead. There are other birds I'd use a .410 on, but not grouse or 'doodles.

5) Gun fit. It's useless if it doesn't shoot where I'm looking. FWIW, most of my shots at grouse have been fast enough that there's little time for a "normal" swing... it's more like a poke.

and finally

6) Barrel length. Normally I like my barrels to be 30". For working in close cover, I prefer something in the 24" range (on a single-barrel repeater).

So, taking all those into account, my grouse gun is a beater 16ga Winchester Model 12 which I lopped the barrel back to around 24"... making it handier and opening up the patterns quite a bit.

The numbered items above aren't in any real order, just what came to mind as I typed. All are important to me, so it would be nearly impossible to rank them.

June 7, 2005, 10:15 AM
I was going to go out and shoot my 20 gauge OU this morning.

Yesterday, I saw my doctor and he switched one of my medications.
That resulted in an allergy reaction, a call to the doc, a switch back to my old med, and Benadryl.

Now the only thing I'm up for, after the Net, is a nap!


June 7, 2005, 01:38 PM
I have 2 shotguns in 20ga that are proven great shooters, which I religiously use for grouse hunting. One is a Winchester model 120, a $125 sale shottie with 28in barrel. The other is a Browning BPS with 28in barrel. Both function smoothly and fit me well. I've gotten double hits with both. They are easy carrying. I have a Citori O/U that is just too heavy to lug around. Weight does matter when you're combing the mountain sides for those blues.

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