Minimun Barrel Length for Hunting


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whalerman
October 2, 2011, 03:57 AM
I realize home defense shotguns usually have 18-20" barrels, while turkey hunting shotguns come in around 24". All around shotguns often measure 26", while trap guns can go 30-32". What is the shortest barrel length that makes sense for hunting? Can you use a 20" barrel for hunting birds or rabbit? Or is it the usual lack of choke tubes that makes it an unusable choice? I like carrying shorter shotguns. And I'm just beginning to get into bird hunting.

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rszwieg
October 2, 2011, 05:51 AM
For shorter ranges slug barrels are ok and use my slug gun for rabbits and grouse in thick areas. But I find I have better success with a longer barrel as it forces me to swing through more. My waterfowl gun has a 30" tube.

natman
October 2, 2011, 06:45 AM
In HD and turkey hunting a shotgun is fired as if it were a rifle, by taking deliberate aim at a relatively stationary target. OTOH, in bird hunting, the bird is shot at on the wing and you have to create and maintain a smooth swing to provide the correct amount of lead. A longer barrel influences the swing characteristics. For most wingshooting I'd use 26" as a minimum. Any shorter than that and the gun gets "whippy". Yes, it's possible to hit a target on the wing with a 24" barrel, but it's harder.

whalerman
October 2, 2011, 07:37 AM
That's interesting. So Natman and rszwieg, you're saying it's not so much about the spread of the shot as it is about the travel of the gun while shooting. I never would have thought of that. That is helpful. Thanks.

Here I was thinking about something else altogether. I was fixated on just the spread of the shot itself and not the swing necessary to engage. This is a good site. Great advice.

MCgunner
October 2, 2011, 08:42 AM
For most wingshooting I'd use 26" as a minimum. Any shorter than that and the gun gets "whippy". Yes, it's possible to hit a target on the wing with a 24" barrel, but it's harder.

That depends on the indian. My 20" 20 gauge coach gun is DEADLY on doves out to 40 yards. I choke it I-C/Mod. Choke is important for range, barrel length is superfluous. I'll admit the coach gun is better at close birds dodging and darting than those high sweepers, but I hit my fair share of high sweepers. I was getting a lot of high sweepers last year, birds moving pretty good at 35 to 40 yards, and shot about 50 percent which ain't bad on doves, not for ME, anyway. I don't do any better with my 28" Winchester 12 gauge. This season's trip to Waco to open the north zone, I used the 20 in preference even though I had my 12 along with its 28" barrel. We were hunting tanks and the birds were in close and weaving around looking to land. It's been so dry here, the tanks were the place to be if they had water in 'em. We massacred 'em :D My buddy uses a light O/U with 26' barrels and did well, too, but I outshot him as I usually do.

What I bought the coach gun for is motorcycle trips to dove hunt, breaks down and stashes away real handily out of sight on the bike. When I had my old Goldwing, I'd just stick it in the top box, could lock it up. On my KLR, I just stick it in a backpack with my ammo and water and hunting seat and strap it to the rack. Can't do that with a 28" repeater.

You have to concentrate on you swing and follow through with the shorter barrel, for sure, but I have proven to myself that I can be just as effective with my coach gun on doves. The novice wing shooter probably should stick to more forward balanced guns, though, as swinging with a longer gun is more natural.

Virginian
October 2, 2011, 08:47 AM
The short barrel lovers are always touting their choice, but you will usually see the best wingshots using something from 26" to 30" in the field. Maybe there's a correlation.
Target shooting U.S. style is entirely different so don't worry about that.
You can kill flies with a 3 pound flyswatter, but is it the best choice?

MCgunner
October 2, 2011, 08:56 AM
You can kill flies with a 3 pound flyswatter, but is it the best choice?

It is if it fits in your saddle bags and the normal flyswatter don't. :D But, I do agree in general with using a longer barrel shotgun, especially for a beginner wing shooter. And, if I miss a bird now and then because my wing was off, so be it, it ain't the olympics. Most people don't ride motorcycles, let alone to go dove hunting. I've always been a bit weird....and gas costs money and my KLR will go places my van won't. That thing gets stuck on wet grass. :rolleyes: Besides, I'd rather ride. :D

natman
October 2, 2011, 11:20 AM
That's interesting. So Natman and rszwieg, you're saying it's not so much about the spread of the shot as it is about the travel of the gun while shooting.

For all practical purposes how quickly the shot spreads is controlled by the choke, not by barrel length. You will lose about 50-75 fps in velocity total when going from a 30" to a 20" barrel. But the main difference in barrel length is how it swings when wingshooting.

Dave McCracken
October 2, 2011, 11:59 AM
The only true triple I've done on quail involved a riot barreled 870. But, in general I do better with more pipe in front.

rodregier
October 2, 2011, 02:03 PM
And for those later arrivals, I commend Barrel Length 101:

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=78969

Zoogster
October 2, 2011, 07:54 PM
The extra length is mainly because it swings better to hit moving targets.
With birds on the fly you are not aiming at the bird, but where the bird will be when the shot reaches them. That is slightly in front of the bird when you fire from a moderate distance. More experienced shotgunners can quickly and accurately adjust how much they lead the target on the fly on targets at different ranges.
It can be quite a bit in front of the bird at longer ranges like in goose hunting.
This ties directly in with how they swing the shotgun, and more barrel is easier to swing at a desired pace.
When shooting clays the target is broken at a similar range almost everytime, there is not much change to adjust for between targets. While hunting the range of the target is less predictable and one must adjust how much they lead the target.


The speed of the actual pellets is not that different in barrels beyond 18".

Most shotgun powders used are fast burning, closer to pistol powders than rifles powders. Which is why you can use many of them to load handgun rounds as well. The large diameter bore of the shotgun combined with the low maximum pressure of 11,500 PSI and many target loads operating well below that, means the powder burns completely in a relatively short distance. Well below the NFA cutoff of 18".

So additional length is not for projectile speed as it would be for rifles.
A choke makes a big difference though. How gradual or abrupt the forcing cone is can make a difference as well, and while not directly tied to length it is more common for a longer barrel to have a better forcing cone transition.
For hunting birds with shot a choke is almost a necessity, except for very close range hunting in brush. Appropriate choke constriction is less common in shorter barreled self-defense oriented shotguns.
You want a little spread before the shot hits the target, and home defense guns are designed for very close range, while hunting birds uses smaller faster spreading shot and at longer ranges.


So the biggest difference is in swing and choke.
You can learn to swing and work with the shorter barrel even if it is not as smooth, but you still need the appropriate choke constriction.

Red Cent
October 3, 2011, 04:02 PM
In a time long ago, I used to run 25 in skeet with an old M12 "Riot" gun. IC.

About the same time doubled and tripled on quail with a 26" 1148 12gauge. IC.

Trap with a 32" unsingle. Now.

Skeet with a 26" o/u.

A short barreled pump makes a fine bird gun for the young and healthy people. Add an ugly PolyChoke and name it Versatile.

jmr40
October 3, 2011, 06:31 PM
This is a personal thing. I like 28" barrels on doubles. 26" seems to work best for me on most pumps and autoloaders, but those numbers are not carved in stone. Some guns just balance and point different and that is what you are looking for.

I have a 21" 870 barrel designed for turkey hunting. It takes interchangeable tubes and with the right choke tube I can do surprisingly well with it.

Bowhunter57
October 5, 2011, 10:18 PM
* It depends on the indian.
* You have to concentrate more on your swing and follow through with a shorter barrel...
* The novice wing shooter probably should stick to more foreward balanced guns, though, swinging with a longer gun is more natural.

whalerman,
I agree with MCgunner's statements, above. If YOU can shoot a shorter barreled shotgun and shot it well, that doesn't mean that I can do the same thing. Shotguns are instinctively aimed weapons, so the fit and feel of the shotgun is VERY IMPORTANT.

I watched a young man shooting a duck blind clay bird competition with a Russin Baikal IZH-27 (an O/U shotgun) with 26" barrels and never missed a target. It was a shotgun that he'd purchased with money given to him for graduation. As a graduation present, he was given a Ruger Red Label O/U, with which he also shot the duck blind. He hit 24 out of 30...and he went back to his Baikal O/U and "aced" the course again.
Reason: The Baikal fit him! Nothing against the Ruger, but it's about the fit and feel.

I used a Mossberg 500 Turkey Special with a 20" barrel for predator and crow hunting. I have no problem hitting coyotes and crows out to 60 yards. I use a Carlson's .680" restrictin and Remington HD or Dead Coyote ammo.

My goose shotgun is a Russian Baikal MP-153 (semi-auto) with a 24" barrel. This shotgun allows me to drop geese out to 65 yards, on a regular basis. It uses a Terror choke with .685" restriction and 3 1/2" Kent Fast Steel in BBBs...and produces a 91% pattern insided a 30" circle at 40 yards. :cool:

I prefer the quicker swing of a shorter barrel. :)

One thing I have noticed is that shorter barreled shotguns tend to pattern higher, at the same distances, than longer barreled shotguns. ;)

Bowhunter57

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