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The Rebirth of the 16 Gauge....

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by Dave McCracken, Nov 16, 2007.

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  1. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    Back before WWII, the 16 gauge, oft in a SxS, was the darling of upland gunners. Usually more than half a lb lighter than a similar 12 gauge, it carried well and still was potent on stuff smaller than turkeys.

    Browning's A5 in 16 gauge, whether it said "Sweet Sixteen" or not on the receiver, became a legend in the uplands and still is a very good choice.

    I used a 16 gauge Single shot starting out in the 50s and accounted for 40 geese or so as well as lesser stuff before moving on to a 12.

    But as time went on, the 16 faded from view.Improvements and fashion decreed the 20 gauge would fill the gap, and while the 20 is oft bad at launching an oz of shot, few folks then knew enough to pattern and test.

    16 gauge ammo choices diminished, and the gauge seemed almost as dead as Diplodicus. Still, some folks kept their 16s, which still worked and worked and worked.

    Things seem to be different now. Browning brought out some O/Us in 16 gauge and the few remaining are advertised in gun mags at markup prices. Remington re issued the 870 and 1100 in 16 gauge and Connecticut Shotguns are reporting sales of their high end Foxes and Model 21s in 16 are rising.

    Divers makers in Europe and Turkey are turning out 16s that are imported here, oft modeled after classic British game guns.

    Ithaca, rising Phoenix like, has a 16 gauge Model 37 in its lineup that should gladden many hearts like the old ones have. My guess is it runs about 6 lbs, perfect for the oz of shot the 16 throws.

    And maybe this is a good time to talk about square loads. That's a load where the shot column is only as tall as it is wide.Supposedly, this magically conveys every pellet to its proper position in the pattern. And, supposedly the 16 has square loads with a 1 oz payload.

    Be that as it may, I've not patterned a truly bad 1 oz 16 gauge load. Top ammo produces beautiful patterns and humanely harvested critters. A short shot string means more shot gets to the target at the same time.

    Many 16 gauges handle very well. The SxS versions oft do so superbly, whether they are Parkers, 311s or a foreign make. The lessened weight and carry fatigue means we're more apt to make shots late in the day three ridges away from the truck.

    An oz of hard lead works for stuff smaller than wild ringnecks and even then with close working dogs during the early season.

    And the rising costs of ammo may see us needing to go to lighter loads anyway.

    I'm not privy to the ammo companies plans, but a 2 3/4" 16 gauge has a hair more room to put non toxic pellets than a 3" 20 gauge does. If a 3" Hevishot 20 gauge load is effective, and it is, than a 16 gauge load should be at least as good.

    How about 1 1/8 oz of Hevi 3s out of a 16? I think it'd work for everything within 45 yards, and few of us have any business shooting further on things that can suffer.

    Caveat, non toxic loads aren't for shotguns made before 1980 and not all shotguns made since.

    Some downsides exist.

    Some companies took the easy way and put 16 gauge barrels on 12 gauge receivers. These save no weight and oft handle less than satisfactorily.

    OTOH, Winchester did their 16 gauge Model 12s on 20 gauge frames, and produced a fine repeater thereby. "Carries like a 20, hits like a 12".

    Another downside is ammo availability. Choices are few and supplies are spotty at times. Reloading for the 16 is an even better idea than for the 12.

    I'd love to see what can be done if the newer barrel tweaks like overboring and long forcing cones were done to a competition grade O/U in 16 gauge. Stoked with ammo similar to the top target stuff in 12 gauge, betcha it'd raise a few eyebrows.

    What's YOUR opinion on the 16?....
     
  2. RNB65

    RNB65 Member

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    Dave, awesome thread. When I was a kid I used to shoot my grandfather's old 16ga single barrel and still have a fondness for the round. If I ever win the Powerball lottery, one of the first things I'm going to buy is a James Purdey & Sons SxS in 16 bore.

    My second choice would be a Browning Sweet 16. But, man, they're hard to find in good condition. And when you do find one, they cost an arm and a leg.

    I've thought about an 870 Wingmaster in 16ga. But, unfortunately, Remington took the easy route and built them on a 12ga frame and barrel. Not good. Plus, I'd rather have a semi or double barrel for clay shooting.

    My search for a high quality 16ga that doesn't completely break the bank continues...
     
  3. Timthinker

    Timthinker Member

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    I frequent this shotgun forum infrequently, but I could not resist reading about the "sweet 16". I have never had the opportunity to fire one, but this situation may change when I move to a new residence next year. Please keep us informed about the progress of the 16 gauge on the market.


    Timthinker
     
  4. sm

    sm member

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    I learned to appreciate and respect the 16 gauge later in life.

    The 16 gauge simply was not used around my parts much growing up.
    Skeet also played a factor in the 16 having hard times as well, since for those that don't know, 12 20, 28 and .410 are events in Skeet.

    Dave is correct in regard to the square load, easy to tote, still easy to fell what needs felling catagories, and built on 16 ga frames, these are some good looking guns!


    I've shared this link before, and this picture says a lot to me at least.
    http://www.16ga.com/

    Neat!
     
  5. Shawnee

    Shawnee member

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    Good thread Dave !

    Will add this ...

    The 16 did not "fall out of favor with shooters" after WWII. It fell out of favor with the big ammo producers. Why? Because it was the only gauge NOT supported by any clay target game - which meant sales to hunters only - which meant carrying a high amount of inventory for a (comparatively) low level of sales.
    So the big companies - with the gun writers' help - strangled the 16 by cutting off the ammo, dropiing it from the line-ups, and touting the 20 ga. "Magnum".

    and I'll add this...

    Reloading for the 16, right now, is hampered by the scarcity of good wads and good reloadable hulls. You can find 'em but be prepared to pay.

    :cool:
     
  6. ACP230

    ACP230 Member

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    The 16 gauge was popular in my area of Michigan for years.
    That meant that a well-used Winchester Model 12 in 16 gauge was available for my father to buy and give me as a high school graduation present.
    I used it on grouse, geese, squirrels, and one three-point buck that I walked up on on a ridge next to a thick swamp years ago.

    I had semi-retired it because of a 20 gauge over and under that weighs a about a pound less and fits me well. This year, however, I spent most of the first grouse season carrying the old Winchester.

    Along the way I also got my paws on a Marlin Model 90 over and under in 16 gauge. I haven't hunted with it yet this year but a few years ago it was the gun of choice. I tried to buy one at an auction, quite a while ago, and was beat out by my old high school wood shop teacher who was long retired by then. I didn't know the old gent could still move that fast.

    I have looked at Ithaca 37s, Browning over and unders, and Remington 870s in 16 gauge in the last few years. Couldn't afford any, but liked the way most of them looked.

    There's a group called The 16 Gauge Society that's trying to keep 16 gauge ammo loaded and available. Their website has a lot of interesting info.
     
  7. BridgeWalker

    BridgeWalker Member

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    First gun I ever shot was my grandpa's 16 gauge single-shot. A 16 will be my next shotgun for sure, probably an A5. I was delighted to discover that Dick's sells a light game load in 16 that is ok for ranges (I think it was #7-1/2 shot; my range allows no larger than #7-1/2).
     
  8. andrewdl007

    andrewdl007 Member

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    I love 16ga. I use my Great Grandfather's Model 21 in 16. It was great for quail and dove, and I still use it for sporting clays. As for ammo, I use RIO its fairly inexpencive and it kicks much more than the old ammo i used to use. I dont know the name of the old ammo I used but the shels were purple. That was my favorite ammo. Hardly kicked and seemed to have plenty of power and pelets.
     
  9. armedandsafe

    armedandsafe Member

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    I love my 16s. I have the Model 12 I have lusted after for so many years, a Belgian under-lever double and a Wards "Browning Patent" pump action. All are old and only the Model 12 has the 2 3/4 chamber, and its ejection port was cut for paper (roll crimped) shells. So, I reload in brass.

    Pops
     
  10. Guntalk

    Guntalk Member

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  11. cdrt

    cdrt Member

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    My first gun was a AYA Matador SxS in 16 gauge, which I still have. It's been restocked and it is still a great gun to take out for dove on opening day. I had a Winchester Model 12, 16 gauge skeet with a Simmons rib, but I sold it on Gunbroker a couple years ago. It was a safe queen; just too nice to take out and shoot in the field.
     
  12. rob4570

    rob4570 Member

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    I still use my grandpas fox sterlingworth sxs 16 for dove and squirrel
     
  13. Shawnee

    Shawnee member

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    My 16 is a splendid Bill Hanus "Birdgun" :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2008
  14. Pete409

    Pete409 Member

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    I think that this "rebirth of the 16 gauge" was actually a "still birth" since the mommy was in labor for so long. For at least 20 years, I've been reading/hearing those who decry the demise of the 16 gauge, yet the 16 gauge is no more likely to become common in usage than I am to start growing hair on my bald spot.

    The 16 will continue to exist on life support for another decade or two due to nostalgia only. Afterward it will exist in museums and private collections. As many have pointed out before, those guns which allege to have all-around usefullness for everything seldom are good at anything. For medium to heavy loads, it can't match the versatility of the wide assortment of 12 gauge guns or shells. For moderate to light loads, it can't match a good 20 or 28 gauge gun or shell.

    If a person were limited to only one shotgun, then perhaps the 16 gauge might have a chance of survival, but, happily, that is not the case and it hasn't been the case for the past 40 or 50 years.
     
  15. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    I grew up duck and goose hunting. I had a 20 gauge 870 that worked fine with lead number 5s in its 2 3/4" chamber, but for geese, I needed more. I borrowed my uncle's 16 Ithaca and brought it home a bit dirty, once. He got on my case about it and gave me an old single shot 16 to use, said "Here, boy, you have a goose gun, now." So, I actually killed my first geese with that old gun, 30" full choked barrel shooting 2s. I still have that old gun and it's tight and plenty usable, but I never shoot it. I think I might use it for duck hunting now and then if it weren't for the steel shot laws.

    I might, someday, pick up another Ithaca 16 just out of nostalgia, but truth be told, for waterfowl, the 16 just ain't up to the 12. The 12 is THE waterfowl gauge. The 10, actually, has a place in goose hunting what with steel shot and all, though hevi shot 12 gauge 3" does a good job. Weight of the gun is not a consideration except that a gun that is too light in 12 will kick a bit much for my tastes.

    For upland hunting, I can certainly see the 16s advantages. However, I've never hunted pheasant, we don't have 'em. I have hunted quail on rare occasion. I have a fine old light weight 12 gauge side by side if I ever do get to hunt pheasant or I could use my 20 gauge side by side. I don't feel the 16 would do all that much for me even if I moved to South Dakota. LOL I don't need the gauge in my collection, really. But, I may get one anyway some day. Not much huntin' they can't cover plenty well. There will always be those that prefer the odd bores like 28 and 16, but really, they waned in popularity for a pretty good reason. A 16 just really can't do anything a good 12 can't and in some cases much better and that's why the 12 is king and the 20 is there for those that want something lighter and quicker and easier on the shoulder. But, as with the 28, I do hope the 16 never dies. I have fond memories of hunting with one
     
  16. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    Thanks for the responses, folks. 16s turn up in our personal histories, but there's also some utility in this old gauge.

    I just don't see the 16 as an all around tool. A 12 gauge will always have the advantage when it comes to stuffing big non tox pellets in a hull. However, when one has the big load bases covered there's still lots of room for game that doesn't require a teacup of 2s to fold. Or an 11 lb shotgun.

    And, consider all those German and Austrian hunters back then with their Drillings. These combination guns were used on everything, and usually consisted of two 16 gauge smoothbore barrels over a centerfire rifle barrel. When these folks went after wild boar, they used slugs in the shotgun barrels.

    Otto Brenekke developed his now famous slug for just that.

    And Pete, in days of yore well heeled shotgunners oft owned 8,10 or heavy 12 gauge shotguns for waterfowl and buckshot duty. They also owned a lighter, more portable and user friendlier shotgun, most often a 16.

    I see the same thing here. Like the interest in the 28 gauge, the 16 provides "Something DIfferent" and has the advantages I listed above.
     
  17. Pete409

    Pete409 Member

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    "And Pete, in days of yore well heeled shotgunners oft owned 8,10 or heavy 12 gauge shotguns for waterfowl and buckshot duty. They also owned a lighter, more portable and user friendlier shotgun, most often a 16."

    Yeah, but that was then and this is now. The 16 gauge is not experiencing a "rebirth". It's on life support. I never read of any "young" guys waxing nostalgic about the 16 gauge. It's always the old greybeards who remember shooting their daddy's or granddaddy's 16 gauge many moons ago.

    In a decade or two, those greybeards will be gone or eating mushy pablum in a nursing home. Who will miss or want the 16 gauge then? No one!

    Not trying to rain on your parade. Just presenting an opposing (and I believe more realistic) view of the status of the 16 gauge. I enjoyed the discussion. Take care. :)
     
  18. greyeyezz

    greyeyezz Member

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    My Father owned a 311 in the mid 50's, used it for many years upland hunting. It was one of the first shotguns I've ever fired.

    Dad made the mistake of leaving it in a wet soft case at our trailer, and when we tore the rusted Savage out of the case he was ready to saw the chambers. I convinced him we should restore it, which we did and it came out gorgeous, except the hot-tank bluing warped the 28" barrels badly.

    So it was relegated to a wall-hanger for many years, till I decided to chop the warped barrels and make it a useful coach gun.

    The purist will hate me, but today the 311 lives on as one of my HD guns. A dozen #1's can be very convincing, and it patterns extremely well. She'll live another 50 years easy.


    [​IMG]
     
  19. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    I don't hate ya, but all that comes to mind is "redneck mall ninja"....sorry....ROFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!:D You have revived an old gun to usefulness, not a bad thing. And, you could still hunt with it you had it converted to screw in chokes ala Briley. However, that can run into money. I hunt with such a coach gun, bought that way. It kills 'em dead just as far out there with it's 20" barrels as any 28" gun.

    Don't know about anyone else here, but this is one "grey beard" (I have a razor) that's goin' down shootin'. I ain't even close to done, yet.

    And, Dave, well said. There is room in my collection for another 16, eventually. Of course, I still have that single barrel. I still like the gauge, used to be a rabid nut about it. But, steel shot sorta killed some of my energy about it. Yeah, the 12 is THE versatile gauge, but it ain't the ONLY gauge.
     
  20. Oldnamvet

    Oldnamvet Member

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    If you bring the 16, at least when you show up at the range, you don't normally need to worry about the range "leach" wanting to "borrow" a box of shells from you.:D
     
  21. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    Pete, I don't have a dog in this fight. There's a messa 12 gauges here and one 20. I was noting the fact that lots of folks are finding 16 gauge fills a need/want for them again.

    As for messy pablum, I'm only 61. Based on how long most of my forebearers survived, I'm good for a couple decades yet.

    Greyeyezz, 1 buck is certainly effective. While your coach gun is nto state of the art, you are probably well equipped.

    MC,Steel amd the 16 aren't a marriage made in Heaven, but the high density non toxics may do better. Time will tell.
     
  22. Guntalk

    Guntalk Member

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    For upland hunting, there is something special about a 16-gauge double on a 20-gauge frame. Put 29-inch barrels on it . . . .

    Sweeeeeet!
     
  23. skinewmexico

    skinewmexico Member

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    So my Belgian Sweet 16 is cool again? Since I shoot it better than anything else I've ever had, I'll always think it's cool. Wish I had the same confidence in my M2. And I wish I wasn't getting afraid to carry it in the field. One less thing to think about when you're jumping out of a quail buggy with something plastic.
     
  24. macFarlaine

    macFarlaine Member

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    Excellent thread Dave.
    I too am a big fan of the 16b.I use mine for walked up birds and pigeon shooting.I have never put anything other than lead through mine,I would love to find a later gun to use on ducks.
    Mine is a 1930s W.Richards non ejector,damascus barrels,with some decent engraving.
     

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  25. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    Tom, truly sweet. Friend of mine has a tough decision to make. Connecticut Shotguns is offering 16 gauge barrels for the O Frame Parker Repro. Said friend has one of them in 20 gauge. While pricey, a 16/20 combo is hard to turn down and will add value as time goes on.

    Ski, it never was uncool. The Browning 16 is a classic.

    Mac, thanks for that. Nice gun, I wonder where the other half of the pair is...
     
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