A Shotgun Approach

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

downside is that they are much more difficult to clean than pump guns, and they have small parts, particularly O-rings, that wear out in time.

A simpler design is the recoil-operated shotgun. Invented by John Browning in the early 1900s, this gun is arguably the most reliable and rugged semi-auto, and it is still produced by at least one manufacturer (Franchi).

This type of gun cycles shells by transferring the recoil through a series of springs. The barrel actually moves back and forth during the cycling process, unlike the silky smooth operation of a gas-powered gun.

Semi-auto prices range from about $350 to $1,500. Buy a brand name, and you won’t be disappointed.

Break-Action

Also called break-barrels, this category includes both single-shot and double-barrel shotguns.

There are two types of double-barrel shotguns. The over/under style has two barrels stacked vertically. The side-by-side features two barrels mounted horizontally. Double-barrel shotguns are the most expensive, while the single-shot models are the cheapest.

Millions of young hunters cut their teeth on hammer-fired, single-shot scatterguns. One reason is because they are extremely safe and reliable. Their disadvantage is that you get only one shot before reloading.To load a break-action gun, you push a lever and rotate, or break, the barrel away from the stock. Insert a shell of the proper gauge into the breech and lock the barrel back into place. When you’re ready to shoot, thumb back the hammer and pull the trigger.

To reload, simply break open the barrel. If the gun has an ejector, it will launch the spent hull out with considerable force, so keep your head out of the way. If it has an extractor, it will merely elevate the top of the hull so you can pull it out.

Double-barrel guns operate the same way, except modern versions do not have external hammers. Some have double triggers to fire each barrel.

Choosing between over/under and side-by-side models is a matter of personal preference. Some people don’t like the wide sighting plane of a side-by-side, and others consider the over/under to be bulky and unwieldy. I love them both.

The downside is price. High-quality used over/under prices start at about $600. New, they start at about $900. Good side-by-sides start at $1,400.

Single-shot models uniformly cost about $100 new. You can buy them used for $50 or less.

Buying Basics

The type of shotgun you buy should depend in large part on how you plan to use it. If you just want to

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