Best gauge for clays for beginning/young shooters and women? - THR

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View Poll Results: Which clay gun gauge for beginning/young and female shooters?
20 gauge 38 70.37%
28 gauge 6 11.11%
410 gauge 1 1.85%
Other 9 16.67%
Voters: 54. You may not vote on this poll

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Old April 12, 2016, 07:32 PM   #1
Join Date: May 29, 2008
Posts: 334
Best gauge for clays for beginning/young shooters and women?

I've read that 20 gauge is a good starting point over 28 gauge or 410 gauge due to increased likelihood of hitting the clay (relative to 410 or 28), but then I've read that 28 or 410 are better due to reduced recoil. Obviously, 20 gauge wins on ammo cost and availability.

If you vote "other," please explain which gauge you suggest and why. Thanks!

Last edited by SKILCZ; April 12, 2016 at 08:02 PM.
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Old April 12, 2016, 07:51 PM   #2
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When you say "clays" not sure if you really mean sporting clays or any of the clay games.

My experience is mostly with skeet. For beginners, .410 is not it. For an experience shooter, it can be very humbling. 1/2 oz of shot just does not spread very wide and dense.

It gets frustrating for beginners if they don't hit targets once in a while.

20 ga is a good compromise between the recoil of 12 gauge and the extra shot of 12 gauge. You can reload 20 ga down to 3/4 oz which will soften the recoil. I'm not sure if 3/4 oz loads are made commercially.

To that end, there are 7/8 oz loads for 12 gauge.

Gun fit is very important as well.

My 5'-2" wife enjoys shooting skeet with a 26" barrel 20 ga over/under.
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Old April 12, 2016, 08:02 PM   #3
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Yes, I meant all clay games. Thanks for the input.
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Old April 12, 2016, 08:13 PM   #4
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Hi there!

I voted "OTHER" because I think that it depends. I've recently introduced my daughter to the shotgun....she's 10'years old now and not a very big kid.

We'd been hitting the clay range with her .410 side-by-side and despite having put a tonne of work into getting the gun to fit her (it had an 11 inch LOP when we were finished) and the fact that she was hitting ok at close range, she was getting a bit frustrated. She was death-to-squirrels though and we've been out quite a bit to hunt them so she would have material for her aspiring hunting/cooking show on YouTube, and her success in this department was pretty good.

Here she is breaking her first clay with her .410

Then one evening we watched Terminator-2 together. She was fascinated by Sarah Connor's pump gun in the final scene of the movie and wanted to know if she could try mine (a 12 gauge 870). Frankly that idea was kinda scary for me but she was pretty persistent.

So the next day I went and looked at the Mossberg Youth Mini and the Remington 870 compact Junior. I chose the 870 compact junior based on my perception of how it would fit her with it's 12 inch LOP and the softness of the recoil pad, and I got it to the range to try myself side by side with her .410 to try and imagine what she'd feel. With standard 20ga shells my assessment was that it was going to beat the snot out of her, so I took it home and machined a 12 oz brass weight that I put in the stock. I also bought a couple boxes of Winchester featherlite 7/8oz 900fps target shells, and my perception was that the new combination kicked less than her .410.

She was thrilled when I showed her the new pump gun, and for our first range trip I made sure to bring my 870 along instead of my over/under so we could be pump gun buddies. Hasta-la-vista baby! At the range I let her load two so she can pump the gun which she loves, but when we're hunting I only feed her a single shell when she's all set up on the squirrel.

Here she is at the clay range with her new 20 gauge

Now 4 months later here's how she hunts squirrels

I'm getting a bit tired of picking a zillion #8 pellets out of her squirrels before we cook them, but I'm going to wait a bit before upgrading her to a more powerful load as we're simply having so much fun now and I'd hate to turn her off her gun.

The 18 inch barrel of the compact junior also turned out to be important...she's small enough that if she uses a 21 inch barrel (we tried the 20 gauge youth model too), the barrel is long enough that it stabs the ground when she holds it at low ready.

The last piece of advice I might offer is to set the new participant up for the highest degree of early success imaginable. When at a sporting clay range this means striking a deal with the course operator such that during times of low activity we can move into the course a bit outside the stand and position ourselves so the clays are hanging right in the sweet spot for her or shooting straight away with her standing right beside the trap. Only once she has built confidence in hitting these do we start to move back towards the stand or laterally along the trajectory of the clay. My daughter can now easily hit outgoers and incomers, and we're slowly introducing crossers. If all I had to work with was a skeet field, I'd start at station 7 on the low house, then slowly introduce the high house. After getting some success there, I'd move to station 1. I'd avoid the rest of the field like plague until we were getting good hits on the outside of the field.

Part of me thinks the .410 was a bit of a waste, as it was only about a year until she was into the 20 gauge and handling it like a champ. The other part of me is glad I went with the .410 as it was a cheap gun that I did not mind cutting down to the 11inch LOP required to make it fit ok and it got her feet wet and stirred her imagination.

Cheers, and I hope you have as much fun with your newbies as I'm having with my daughter!

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Old April 12, 2016, 08:15 PM   #5
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20 ga. Auto loader
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Old April 12, 2016, 08:50 PM   #6
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Started both my wife and kids out with 12 ga and 1 oz loads using PB powder in a Rem Sportsman 58. Almost recoil free and great patterns.
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Old April 12, 2016, 10:43 PM   #7
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To add to my post #2, 28 gauge is my favorite gauge. It is what I learned to shoot shotgun with, the side by side my Dad grew up with and the first gauge that I won my class in at a skeet tournament.

But, my 28 gauge skeet averages were less than my 20 gauge skeet averages.

28 gauge would be a good starting gun, but you can load down 20 gauge these days to emulate 28 gauge. 20 gauge ammunition is alot easier to find and priced more attractively.
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Old April 12, 2016, 10:49 PM   #8
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.410 is an expert's gun. Period. 20 ga, preferably a gas operated semi-auto is good for new shooters.
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Old April 12, 2016, 10:52 PM   #9
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Fred Missildine said the 20 was the ideal skeet gauge. Some ladies and juniors shoot a 20 in the 12 event.
Probably ok for 16 yard trap, if the stock is right.
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Old April 12, 2016, 11:49 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Jim Watson View Post
Some ladies and juniors shoot a 20 in the 12 event.
Not just ladies and juniors. When I was shooting competitive skeet in the 1990's, my 20 gauge average was higher than my 12 gauge average. So, I began shooting 20 gauge in the 12 gauge event.

One of the reasons, I could never get my un-tubed shot gun shooting 12 gauge to swing the same as the shot gun with tubes shooting 20 gauge.
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Old April 13, 2016, 05:16 AM   #11
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The 12 gauge for everything bunch will surely disagree, but I like a 20, preferably in a gas semi auto. Recoil is not the only consideration; gun weight is also an issue with some.
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Old April 13, 2016, 06:11 AM   #12
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i have been shooting a 20ga more and more, but my scores so far are 2-3 birds less than the 12ga,s. i use a 20ga browning xs o/u and a large frame rem 1100 20ga. eastbank.
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Old April 13, 2016, 07:44 AM   #13
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A load with 7/8 oz of shot is still 7/8 oz regardless if it is fired from a 12 or a 20. Assuming equal weight guns recoil will be exactly the same. But since most 20's weigh roughly 1 lb less than a comparable 12, the 20 will actually recoil more. You have the option of shooting heavier loads in the 12, which is useful for hunting. But for clays shooting 1 oz of shot is about the most anyone shoots so recoil is going to be about even and if anything the 12 will recoil less. If a beginning shooter finds a 12 too heavy to point and shoot then that is where the 20 comes into play. Recoil isn't the reason.

Even though they are shooting equal amounts of shot the 12 will almost always produce better patterns and make hits easier. Great confidence builder for beginners.

Gauges smaller than 12 are for seasoned shooters. They are harder to hit with and are used to make the sport more challenging for experienced shooters.
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Old April 13, 2016, 10:14 AM   #14
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A 28ga is the perfect gun to learn to shoot anything, with a shotgun. It will teach you to shoot well! A .410 is a bit light on BBs, the .28 is a great compromise. If you learn to shoot with a .28ga, you'll be a serious killer, with the 20ga and especially a 12ga.
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Old April 13, 2016, 05:11 PM   #15
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What type of "clays" are we talking about? The 28ga is a great beginners gun for backyard clays, skeet, and most shots on a sporting clays course. If trap is the game, I would say at least a 20ga, preferably in a gas powered auto. If the shooter is big enough to hold the gun up, a 12ga won't have much if any more recoil than a lighter 20 gauge.
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Old April 13, 2016, 08:37 PM   #16
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Like all of them, but

a 20 ga in a gas operated semi-auto would get my vote. Shells are cheap and easy to find and the gas semi will iron out some of the recoil. The 410 is not for a novice. You can ream the choke and it still shoots tight, plus the ammo is expensive and harder to find as is the 28ga. I shoot a 28ga Verona and Beretta 20 ga and love them but the 410 barrels stay in the case. A 12ga is the optimum but recoil can be brutal after 50 rounds.
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Old April 14, 2016, 06:31 AM   #17
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Still another vote for a gas operated 20 gauge.
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Old April 14, 2016, 08:15 AM   #18
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12ga. gets my vote. Why? Because even though smaller gauges would seem to make sense, they often come in much lighter guns and the apparent recoil is greater than just shooting light 7/8 or 1oz loads in a heavier 12ga. gun. 7/8oz or 1oz, 3/4dram equiv. loads are really all you need for most clay sports. Plus, the cost of ammo in anything other than 12ga. tends to be much greater; especially in 28ga and .410. Gas operated anything is, of course, an option for softening recoil, but you also then limit what rounds will cycle well.
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Old April 14, 2016, 09:01 AM   #19
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Beretta A400 with the Kick-Off. It will also cycle the lightest loads.
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Old April 14, 2016, 10:10 AM   #20
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Brobee Biter, did you add am additional recoil pad or just use what came with the shotgun?

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Old April 14, 2016, 10:31 AM   #21
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I started with a .410 SXS when I was 10 yrs old and was into a 20 SXS by the time I was 12, at 15 it was a pump 12, and today is O/U 12.
I however started my boy @ 9 with a Stoeger "Condor" Youth Model in 20 ga w/24" tubes and 12" LOP. I started him with hand thrown clays,
a half dozen times before taking him to the "Trap & Skeet" club. He busted 10/25 his first time and 14/25 his second. Now he uses a 20 ga pump gun. (he's 19)

Last edited by tahoe2; April 14, 2016 at 10:49 AM.
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Old April 14, 2016, 10:32 AM   #22
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I voted 20 gauge. That is what my wife uses for sporting clays and it doesn't beat her up real bad. She used to use a pump 20 gauge mossberg but recently upgraded to an auto.

I was different. When I was younger my dad gave me a 16 gauge for busting clays and small game hunting. I couldn't hit the side of a barn if I was standing inside the freaking thing! I've been using a 12 gauge since I was about 11 or 12 years old and it works best for me. For what it is worth, I was 6 foot tall when I was in 7th grade, so I don't fall into an average size for my age.
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Old April 14, 2016, 10:37 AM   #23
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I voted 20 but really don't see a problem with MOST new shooters using a 12 as most trap/skeet loads are very light with pretty minimal recoil.

It's all about enjoying the outing so shooting a 16-100 by using a 410 or a gun that doesn't fit really doesn't encourage new shooters. I love the .410 (probably shoot it more than any shotgun besides my duck gun)but it is NOT a good beginner gun for moving targets. I don't shoot often now but even when I was regularly participating in clay events I saw a considerable decrease in my scores when using the .410.

Get them a gun that fits and they will be good.
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Old April 14, 2016, 10:50 AM   #24
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Specific to shot loads, payload sizes much below 3/4oz are hard on new shooters, because they just don't offer a lot of margin for error. If the new shooter is likely to get discouraged quickly, stick with payloads at least 3/4oz in weight. It's popular to contend that 7/8oz loads in a 20ga are the same as 7/8oz loads in a 12ga, and for the most part that is true. The difference in the depth of the shot column as it traverses through the air; the 12ga column will be shorter. That's fine for straight-on shooting, but you may find that getting hits on passing targets really does require a better match between bore and shot weight.

When talking about the gun itself, there are really two issues when picking guns for new shooters and/or smaller statured folk - perceived recoil and offhand gun weight.

Perceived recoil is a function with a bunch of variables - gun weight and shot load (shot weight and shot velocity) and action type and overall fit. For example, a 5lb 20ga fixed breech gun with mediocre fit is probably going to have more perceived recoil than a well fitting 8lb 12ga gas gun. You can't just single out chambering as the sole critical factor.

The real issue is that most women and children have issues holding up heavy guns, especially those with any significant forward/offhand weight. This is why many 'youth/starter' guns are both smaller and lighter (and they get lighter by being chambered in sub gauges). But it is possible (coughBrowningBPScough) to get a 28ga gun that weighs as much as my Benelli M2 Field 12ga - that gun will prove low in recoil (see above) but hard to shoot for the smaller folk because they lack the muscle mass to hold the gun up for any length of time.

So in the end, you probably should pick a compromise between light weight, payload size, and adjustability of fit. My experience has shown me that a 6lb-6.5lb 20ga with light loads (3/4oz to 7/8oz at 1200fps)and an adjustable LOP is just about the best that you can do for smaller or newer shooters.

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Old April 14, 2016, 12:20 PM   #25
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Whats funny is most average 12 gauge loads pack the same if not less ft-lbs of felt recoil then standard 20 gauge loads, a lot of people dont realize that. Target loads dont kick much at all in a 12. My wife is only 5' tall and under 100 lbs an she can shoot a 12 all day long skeet shooting, and she is recoil sensitive. 12's are easier to hit with to. Remington 870 or a mossberg 500 is what i'd recommend.

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