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12 or 20 gauge?

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by andy, Jan 12, 2003.

  1. andy

    andy Well-Known Member

    I've decided to buy a Winchester Defender 1300 for use as a home defense shotgun. What gauge should I get, 12 or 20? I have never fired a shotgun before and I'm more than a little concerned about too much recoil. I'm in my late forties and getting a little arthritis in my shoulders. I hear the 20 gauge has about half the recoil of the 12. That would be nice as I would like to take it out and have some fun with it . Taking a pounding is not my idea of a good time. If I put lite loads in the 12 gauge would that be as easy to shoot as the 20? TIA
  2. labgrade

    labgrade Member In Memoriam

    Quick dump - you're likely to get more.

    A 12 with the lighter loads will likely kick less than the same in a 20 just because a 20 is lighter to start with - mass versus reciol/physics.

    If you have the opportunity, please dp try each of 'em before you buy.

    All told, I'm betting on a 12 with the lighter loads over the 20.
  3. HS/LD

    HS/LD Well-Known Member


    While I have had a lot of experience with other firearms I am relatively new to shotguns.

    However, I went through the process of looking at SGs recently. I purchased a Winchester 1300 Defender in 12gauge about 3 months ago.

    It is a GREAT gun.
    I had to, like you, consider the recoil problem because of my wife. Regarding 20gauge and 12gauge. I did the same thing and looked at the two. I am 5'11" and about 225lbs and have shot hundreds of thousands of rounds of various types in my life. My wife, on the other hand is 5'4" and about 118lbs, and very in-experienced. This is why, I too, was looking at the 20gauge. After shooting the two I became convinced that the 12gauge was the way to go.

    Labgrade is right the 20 is light and with the alloy receiver in the 1300 this makes a light gun even lighter. The 12gauge comes in at 6.5lbs and the 20gauge a 1/4lb lighter at 6.25. I shot both guns (and an 870 Wingmaster in 12gauge) prior to plonking down the cash, and I was surprised at the kick of the 20.

    My 'little' sweet heart has no trouble with relatively light 12gauge 1 1/8oz target loads (100 packs from Walmart).
    She also had no trouble with the standard 9 pellet 00 buck.
    However, she much prefers the 8 pellet reduced recoil offerings.

    We both felt that the Federal magnum 18 pellet #2 buckshot in 20gauge kicked more than the reduced recoil 12gauge 8 pellet loads!!

    She tried one 3" 1oz. magnum slug and would have hit me if she could but she busy rubbing her shoulder :D
    Now don't get me wrong a 12gauge weighing in a 6.5lbs with a 3" magnum 15 pellet 00 buck kicks like a 'son of a female dog'. I would only use those in bear country... or nasty big pig country...

    Another challenge of the 20gauge is getting shot larger than #2 buck. For home defense I don't like the idea of using anything much smaller than 00. There is just so much more ammunition available for the 12gauge!

    So with reduced recoil loads for slugs and buck shot in 12gauge,
    IMHO for versatility, availability and ease of use I would suggest the 12gauge :)

    Then again nothing will compare to actually trying each of the guns for yourself...


    BTW I have over 2500 shells through my Winchester Defender without the slightest problem of any kind. I have posted a couple of reports (with pictures) on this forum about the gun I hope the one you get performs as well as mine :)
  4. labgrade

    labgrade Member In Memoriam

    & besides any

    multiple posts
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    Feeling a bit like Max Headroom ;)

    12s have a bit better flexibility regards loadings.

    Defensive-wise, it may might not make any difference. 20s have a #3 buck that should do pretty well, but ...

    12s really do have it all over any other gauge far as load flexibility.

    & too. A 12 may feel less of a kick just because of that weight thiing.

    We've a couple 80 Expresses in 12 & 20 & for the pretty much same-same load, the 20s kick harder, for somewhat less payload.

    Stiff suggest you give both a try if you can & make your own choice based on what feels best for you.
  5. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

    The guys have it right. I strongly urge you to go to a range and try out different shotguns, and ask questions.

    The Winchester is a decent gun. I'd also try out the other members of the Big Four to see if one appeals more to you. Fit and ergonomics vary, and there may a better choice out there just for you.

    And start off with a lesson or two from a qualified instructor, using the lightest loads you can find.

  6. Captain Bligh

    Captain Bligh Well-Known Member

    I spent most of my adult life shooting a 20 guage to try to avoid the 12 gauge recoil. When I was about 49 I bought a Remington 870 Express in 12 gauge. I felt really foolish upon discovering that my 12 gauge 870--because of its weight--seemed to have less recoil than the Browning A-5 Light 20 I'd been shooting all those years so I didn't beat myself up.

    I agree with advice to try shooting them. You may be surprised. The thing you fear may not be so bad afterall.

  7. CMichael

    CMichael Well-Known Member

    As labgrade said, 12 gauge, 1 oz loads.

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