How common are light 12-ga loads?

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Dec 24, 2002
Trying to decide between a 20- and 12-ga for HD and clay practice. I want a small 100-lb girl to be able to use it too, so I was thinking 20, but if there are plenty of light 12-ga loads (that are at least as effective as a 20-ga), I would obviously prefer the more flexible 12.

Lot of the 20s are lighter & will point more naturally due to thier weight - easier swing, etc.

"Problem," if any will come into play regards the recoil of the loads used. A 20, all equal (& assuming lighter weight of the 20), will recoil "harder" than the 12.

Fit makes a big difference, 'course, that'll matter too far as pointability & actually hitting stuf - the whole point of the exercize.

The Wife's 100 lbs/5' & shoots a 870 Express Youth 20 - but really, she sucks at it, but that more to do with SG trigger time than anything else. She's a wonder with DA revolvers & bolt rifles .....

Try a lightweight 20, built to fit & some light loads - first off on stationary targets = coupla clays sitting on a bank. Go slow & work on the acquire, mount, aim, & trigger release.

Go from there. Allow it to be gentle to work her into it. This is no stage for the "no pain, no gain" bit. You want her to have fun.


& thanks. Anybody teaching young lasses to shoot is OK in my book.
With factory ammo a 20 is gonna kick harder, the 12 ga is heavier and the extra-lite 12 ammo is very close to 20 ga ballistics. On the other hand a 100 pound female will likely have a bit of trouble with the weight of the 12. Load your own 20ga and you can get down where you need to be in recoil terms for a 100 pound newbie, otherwise get the 12 and keep sessions to a few rounds at a time with frequent rest periods.
There are 24 gram(7/8) loads as low as 1200 fps that are very easy to shoot in a 12 gauge. Very soft and pleasant.

I am trying those with my daughters. We will see!!
I've worked down to a 3/4 oz load for Son and little NEF single, which is 28 gauge territory.

Having/using a reloader and the right manuals and recipes can give us a universe of load options. I bet there's info somewhere on 5/8 oz 20 gauge handloads that should put a new bottom line in the term "Creampuff".

There's also very light 20 gauge ammo available, but it's neither common nor cheap.

If the tyro in question is capable of handling a full sized 12 gauge and its kick, obviously that's the way to go.

If not, I'd take it all the way down and use a light 20 gauge pump and the lightest loads I could fin dor make.

'Nother option, Remington makes a 28 gauge 870 YE model that might just be perfect for any rookie that can operate a 6 1/2 lb shotgun. The downside, 28 gauge ammo is harder to find and at ripoff prices.

Thanks guys. Anyone have any links to this "extra lite" or "24 gram" 12ga ammo? Ammoman and Natchez don't seem to have it.
No idea on the "24 gram" 12 ga ammo.

Do consider though that the extra weight of a 12 might just be too much, & that's where the 20 (or 28) shines.

Difficulty lies in finding a load that doesn't boot her due to the lighter weight of the SG itself - it's a blend.

I'd go with a Youth 20 & the lightest loads you can find - to start with.

No question that the 12's more flexible, but if she can't swing the added weight properly, it'll do her littele good. That'll likely come in time though.

& I'm not kidding about allowing her to just break stationary targets on a berm. Great confidence builder. Moving things will come in time as well.

Sorry, I was refering to reloaded ammo.
But, I believe Estate ammo lists a "Mighty Light" 24 gram at 1250 FPS in new ammo! Should be close enough.

Good luck
Latest issue of Shotgun Sports has a thing saying
that Remington is bringing out a 20 gauge light target load, 7/8 oz at 1150 FPS. This should be an excellent starter load for a tyro capable of operating a 6-6.5 lb shotgun.
Sportsman's Warehouse (I-225 & Alameda) has Winchester AA Xtra-lites (light 1oz) and another load I don't recall the name, that's 26grams at 980fps, each for $5/box. If you go to Winchester's site you can look these up, I'd post the links but I'm having 'net trouble and can't get there.
I'm kinda in the same boat. My wife and I are looking for our first shotgun for some informal clay-busting. We want to get something we can both use, same as you. We've spent a few days up at Gunworks trying on nearly every sub-$1000 shotgun they have, but we can't decide. This nasty wave of weather has given us an excuse to wait though ;)

Anyway, if and when you choose something, we'd love to spend a day shooting with you, we have a Trius One-Step trap that we all could make use of...
Shmackey, for a one and only, go with a shotgun fitted for the smallest operater. You can use the thing also, and a few years down the road may see you in a place where multiple shotguns are options.

And even for Manly Men of extreme testosterone output, a 20 gauge is lots of gun and lots of fun.

Let's say I take the simple route and get an 870. Is a "Youth" model (be it 12 or 20 gauge) built as well/strong as the standard, but just with smaller dimensions? My wingspan's not going to get me on the basketball team anyway, so if the Youth model is just as good, I'm sure I can make it work for me and the lady...
The difference between an 870 Express and a Youth model Express is stock length and that 21" barrel.

The one here for the kids is a great little shotgun, but NOT a light kicker with 1 oz loads. Much better with 7/8 oz loads. It's not that light weight, the smaller area of the butt concentrates the kick. That short barrel leaves the front end a bit light, contributing to muzzle rise. This doesn't help control either.

With good form, correct ammo and reasonable fit, most new shotgunners can handle the 20 gauge YE 870.

FYI, some B-more drug cops have fitted these out for raid guns with mag extensions and lights. #3 buck is the load.

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