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If shotguns were invented in 2021, would 20 gauge be the best gauge?

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by Macchina, Jan 15, 2021.

  1. HowieG

    HowieG Member

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    A 3 inch 20. They call them magnums.
     
  2. rbernie
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    rbernie Contributing Member

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    Shot patterns are the result of shot column dimensions and shot size. Brister and others showed that shot columns (using lead pellets) that are reasonably equal in width and height are the ones that pattern most effectively on moving game; shot clouds that are thin (e.g. 12ga 7/8oz) or tall (20ga 1 1/8oz) tend not to work as well as more 'balanced' loads. This is why, historically, 16ga 1oz was credited for killing better than it's payload stats would suggest.

    It's clear that modern wads require far less space in the hull to effectively buffer the ignition impulse and that modern shot is far better at resisting deformation, making 2 3/4" hulls unnecessarily large for their payload in many cases (e.g. 12ga 1oz dove loads or 7/8oz target loads). It is not irrational to suggest that smaller bores are more viable today than they might have been 100 years ago. On the other hand, non-toxic shot (steel, specifically) lacks the density of lead and needs more space in the shot cup for the same weight of payload.

    So yes - waterfowlers trying to hit larger birds at distance really need the extra hull capacity of a 12ga 3" - 3 1/2", while most modern uplander hunters are probably well served with 16ga-20ga guns. I believe that 12ga became the 'standard' in prior generations because most hunters didn't have multiple shotguns and a single gun had to serve multiple purposes; if you had to choose one, you'd probably choose the one that covered the most scenarios.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
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  3. cdb1

    cdb1 Member

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    Just wanted to make sure, Back in the day when the Auto-5 and 1100 were about the only game in town if you wanted a semi, I heard that term a bunch. Now that all new production 20 gauge semi’s shoot 3” shells with a couple of exceptions, I don’t ever hear the term used anymore.
     
  4. HowieG

    HowieG Member

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    There are a lot of 20 ga guns out there that are not semiautos, but in this case I was referring to the ammo. If you guy a box of 3 inch 20 gauge shells, it will most likely say Magnum on the box. Same with 3 inch 12 gauge.
     
  5. Rudolph31

    Rudolph31 Member

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    That’s a 3” 20 gauge shell. 2 3/4” was the standard for years. I’m not sure when the 3” appeared, but I know that Browning debuted the Twenty Magnum in 1967.
     
  6. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Just to liven things up, there are also "Short Magnums" with heavier shot charges in 2 3/4" shells. They usually give up some velocity to standard or magnum shells.

    I don't know what the New Shotgun would be now, but a number of years ago, Winchester prototyped a 14 gauge aluminum shell in Model 50 autos.

    The English are partial to 12 gauge with lighter loads than We Colonials are accustomed to. A common Eley is 1 1/16 oz. There are even 2" 12 gauge guns and shells where we would pick a 20 bore.
     
  7. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    For certain applications a modern 20 ga can be a suitable replacement for a 12. With modern shells and choke tubes a the 20 is a viable turkey gun. I've come to appreciate the lighter, more compact 20 ga 870 youth gun I bought for turkey hunting. But careful choices must be made with ammo and aftermarket choke tubes which runs the costs up. I can use the supplied full choke tube with much less expensive 12 ga shells and match the performance I get from my 20. For me the ability to carry around a lighter, more compact gun are worth the expense. Not a lot of shells fired turkey hunting.

    But overall anything the 20 does the 12 does better. The 20 ga turkey loads I use have a long shot string. There may be 5-6' between the pellets at the front of the pattern and the rear of the pattern and a fraction of a second difference between when they impact the target. Not a problem with a stationary target. But when trying to hit a flying bird or running rabbit it is a huge disadvantage. You want all of the pellets to be pretty close together from the front of the pattern to the rear so they all arrive at the same time.

    There is a LOT of overlap in the weight of the shot charges possible in both 12 and 20 as well as velocity. I can get 3/4oz loads up to 1 1/4 oz loads in either gauge and shoot them to the same speeds. But with the same number of pellets the 12 will always give better patterns and recoil will be exactly the same from equal weight guns.

    A lot of guys buy a 20 expecting less recoil. But since a typical 20 ga shotgun is about 1 lb lighter, 20 ga shotguns very often recoil MORE than their 12 ga counterparts. Steel shot, where required, is also much more of a disadvantage in a 20 than a 12 for those guys who waterfowl hunt.
     
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  8. Cvans

    Cvans Member

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    This is often stated and is for the most part true. Especially true when waterfowl hunting. But for general upland and field hunting I think it's a stretch to make this statement. Pick up the average 12ga. and then a 20ga. and tell me which one you'd rather be carrying all day? If we put macho aside I'll bet that the 20ga. would win 9 times out of 10. Especially if your getting older. And to top that off you can fit a lot more 20ga. ammo in your pockets. :)
     
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  9. rbernie
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    rbernie Contributing Member

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    Just a minor quibble, but hit probability on passing shots will go up if there is some reasonable distance from the front of the shot cloud to the back of the shot cloud, since the pattern 'smear' helps compensate for over-lead and such things. But yes, it is also true that too much smear will thin the pattern and reduce effective coverage at range. That's why 'square' payloads seem to work so well; they seem to provide a good compromise between shot cloud depth and pellet density.

    Harder shot also helps, because it keeps the shot from deforming as much and reduces the 'lag' caused by aerodynamic losses on the deformed pellets. I am led to believe that the biggest reason for excessive pattern smear is pellet deformation, followed by shot column geometry.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
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  10. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    This is true, now, with progressive smokeless powder.
    There was less scope for shot loads with black, bulk smokeless, and the "32 grain" smokeless powders.
    Plus or minus an eighth of an ounce was a big swing in load back then.
    A 1 1/4 oz 12 ga was a heavy load, you might rather shoot a 10 ga (2 7/8").
     
  11. entropy

    entropy Member

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    There are reasons each gauge was developed, they fulfill specific needs better than a general gauge. 12 ended up being the general gauge because it was good on waterfowl, and with buckshot, good on deer or two-legged vermin. I've killed ducks with a 20ga. (when lead shot was still legal) but I don't recommend it. It is the first 'hunting' shotgun gauge for many kids, myself included. I've killed woodcock with a 12 ga. also. It's more gun than needed for that.
    While .410 is often used as a "first" shotgun, it is mostly an expert's gun. It's what a really good wingshot tries when knocking upland birds, which don't need much killing, out of the sky gets boring. It's like why a guy takes up fly fishing and tying files when a short pole and a can of worms will work. 28, the same reason, but with a little more authority for late season pheasants. The 20, a compromise for upland and waterfowling. the 16, the same.
    I think a lot of it also stems from SxS and O/U frame sizes, and to a lesser extent, auto and pump, too. An 1100 20 ga. Lt commands more $ because it handles and carries better than the 12. Same for the Sweet 16 Auto 5, I will personally attest to this. My Dad had one, then in another one of his fits of stupidity, sold it. I just bought a 16 ga. SxS with a nice slim frame, not on the 12 ga. frame as some cheaper SxS were made. It is a joy to carry. I have fired a few 28 ga SxS's and O/U's, and if I were confident I could drop pheasants at 60 yards with one, I'd be tempted. It's like carrying a feather.
    I will admit to being a fan of the 'odd' gauges, that is everything but 12 and 20.

    My Dad and I loaded a mean 1 1/2 oz. of #5 Lubaloy shot with the WW Red wad and Blue Dot powder, that put many a duck and pheasant on our table.
     
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  12. George P

    George P Member

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    Only those who can't shoot would pick a 16 first; good choice for second place, but a 28 is still king of panache, svelteness and ability - especially with some of the new ammo types with TSS etc.
     
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  13. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Smart aleck! :p You know what I just got......
     
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  14. Rudolph31

    Rudolph31 Member

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    Impossible, they never made an Auto-5 in 28.

    d91bpbm.jpg
     
  15. Antihero

    Antihero Member

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    No one has touched on the self defense side of things, the 20 is seriously lacking there.

    It comes down to this though: there's not a single thing the 20 does better than the 12.
     
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  16. rbernie
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    rbernie Contributing Member

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    Well, most any 20ga carries easier and shoots easier than its 12ga brethren. If you hunt afield, that matters a fair bit, and it's probably worth giving up some pellet count. If your definition of shotgunning doesn't include walking around all day with a shotgun, I can see how you might not value that.

    My HD shotgun is a Benelli M2 21" 12ga. My go-to field gun is a Benelli 26" 20ga (and I wish that I could find a 24" barrel for it).
     
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  17. DocRock

    DocRock Member

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    Sadly, this has changed with the advent of the 3" 20 ga. If you compare a 1950s 20 ga chambered for 2.75" only to a 21st century 3" 20, frequently the modern 20 is overbuilt and heavy. That's good if you are pushing 1oz + loads from a 20, but it negates the benefits you note above. A properly scaled 20 is almost as nice to carry as a properly scaled 28ga.
     
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  18. rbernie
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    rbernie Contributing Member

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    My Franchi 48AL 20ga was a joy to carry, but at 5lbs-in-the-hand it shot as hard as a 12ga with field loads. But did I mention that it was a joy to carry all day? :D
     
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  19. Antihero

    Antihero Member

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    Carries easier means lighter weight which negates the shooting easier bit.

    Of course a 12 gauge that weighs a bit more loaded light shoots even easier.

    The last time I looked at 12 vs 20 gauge guns I saw a difference at the absolute most as 1lb. Now in a carry handgun this would be a huge difference but thrown over your shoulder? We are talking a wider strap for the same comfort.

    I get that it could be easier to carry but that's easily made up for. Having considerably more power and shot cannot be made up for
     
  20. kudu
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    kudu Moderator Staff Member

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    If shotguns were invented in 2021, they would be illegal as anything over .50 bore size would be a destructive device. No loophole as they were just invented. Smoothbore? doesn't matter it was just invented, so that leaves you with a .50 caliber smoothbore, or about a 32 gauge shotgun.
     
  21. rbernie
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    rbernie Contributing Member

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    You can keep tilting at this, but any blanket statement that a 12ga shotgun is always better than a subgauge simply shows a lack of experience at using shotguns. Smaller gauges absolutely sacrifice payload, and in turn get either lower recoil or lighter weight (or some combination of both) and commonly get a better shot pattern to boot (more useful shot cloud shape). There is no free lunch, and chucking 1 1/4+oz of lead isn't always needed and comes with compromises of its own.

    A 12ga doesn't necessarily have any more 'power' than a subgauge - it has more payload.

    Ha! Well played! :) Of course, it's possible that they would get the same pass as they did in 1934, but who's to say?
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
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  22. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Who carries a shotgun with a sling outside of waterfowling? (I never did there, either.) Especially upland bird hunting. They'd be in the next county before you unslung. I carry my pheasant guns at port arms. I've got several birds others didn't even get a shot at becuase they were carrying them cradled in one arm.

    Iuvat forte paratus.
     
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  23. bersaguy

    bersaguy Member

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    I'm in the 16 gauge camp. If developed today, they would certainly have 3" or even 3.5" models available. They were unfortunately omitted from the rule books when they were written for skeet and trap. A shame, as had they been allowed to play, we certainly would have 3" 16's today. Of course the rule makers knew using a 16ga would be an unfair advantage;)
     
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  24. Antihero

    Antihero Member

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    These are the arguments you came up with? Really? Ok, let's go thru them

    Yeah, experienced with shotguns, I doubt your expertise in this matter since you decided to throw that out.

    Shot spread is better on bore size: really? If only there was a way to like.....choke down the shot column. My God, someone could get rich on that on an idea like that, why has no one ever made this?

    Power vs payload: yeah more payload equals more power. It's like saying a 5.56 going the same speed as a 30-06 is the same and totally throwing out extra weight on tap. Roughly the same difference in bore diameter too here.

    Overall I would have preferred a much less pissy response, then we could have discussed things instead of me having to type out the above.

    There's nothing that the 20 can do that the 12 can't do. Ammo is even cheaper, more shot, more options, home defence stuff too and it can do more. I understand that lightness is a big deal to some, but that doesn't make the 20 better. It makes it a compromise that you are willing to make, just like the ultra light hunting rifle in 243 isn't better than say.....a 30-06 rifle. It doesn't make the 243 a better round overall.

    Plus if small and light is the bestest ever we would all be using 410s
     
  25. Antihero

    Antihero Member

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    That's fair, I feel like the weight is even less of a concern there so I went around that.
     
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