Shotty for Newbie?

SumTingWong

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San Diego, California
Been doing a lot of deer hunting (rifle/bow) in San Diego, yes, San Diego, and the season just ended.
One of my new hunting partners has had a few years experience with bird hunting, and has invited me to go.

I have not shot a shotgun for 30 years, and do not own one. I'm not afraid of a little kick (one of my rifles is a lever 45-70), but am not a spring chicken (56) and would like to get something fun/comfortable to shoot.

I know I'll eventually need more than one, but would like to start with something that works well for dove, quail, and other birds in this class. If it could also do turkey, that would be a bonus.

Some friends have recommended 20 ga over 12, and gas operated over mechanical.
I'm aware that gas operated requires a bit more cleaning.
I've been looking at price ranges between the Fabarm L4S and the Remington V3.

So...
I would love to hear some recommendations for:
12 vs 20?
Barrel length (24"?)
And maybe a few specific models that would fit the bill.

Thanks, and Happy New Year!
 

entoptics

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Jan 16, 2018
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618
What's your budget?

I personally would go with 26" - 28" 12 gauge. You can run light target loads, which are equivalent to max loaded 20 gauge, or if you feel the need for more speed/pellets, you can go up from there. Also, in the event you go waterfowl hunting, you have a bigger payload capacity for steel shot. Since steel is much lower density than lead, you need more volume to run the same weight/velocity.

I'm a big fan of my Benelli Super Black Eagle II, which does everything well. I use it for skeet, trap, sporting clays, and hunting. By running the same gun in the games I might be giving up a bird here and there over a dedicated range toy, but it greatly improves my field shooting. The SBE III has a few improvements, and no downsides that I know of. They are spendy though.
 

imartin

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I would try to find a place that sells as many models as you are interested in and pick them all up. Pick the one that feels right and points where you look. I agree with entoptics, 12 ga, 26 - 28 in barrel would be what I'm looking for. Unless hunting tight cover, I prefer a longer barrel. I'd be looking at 3" 12 ga's with 28" barrels, but if 26" feels better, go with that. You want something light enough to carry, but with the right balance to swing smoothly. Ive shot a V3, it was a soft shooter but I say that about most gas guns. Don't believe I have had my hands on the fabarm but would suspect that as far as a semi-auto goes, the quality would be second to none. Beretta A400's are supposedly easy in the cleaning department. I know my uncle hates cleaning the V3, but it may be because it's his only semi-auto. I have a Weatherby SA-08 that has such a simple, easy maintenance, gas system, I really like it for the price. But as far as quality goes, the action doesn't feel as solid as my Browning Gold or Silver. But I haven't had any issues and it's so darn easy to clean. That's about all I know in the semi auto department, lol. Good luck and let us know what you end up with.
 

remy3424

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Apr 10, 2019
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79
Location
NW Iowa
The Remington 12 gauge auto-loader shotguns (1100 & 11-87) have always been super reliable for me. Cleaning is not much of an issue, if you shoot factory ammo bird hunting, they won't need cleaned very often. I have a V3 also but only had it out once, so I can't comment on cleaning it yet. We are about the same age and I carry the 11-87 as long as I need to. The V3 is a little lighter, someday it might be a welcome change. 26-28" barrels will be fine for about anything, as will the 3" chambers (3" for turkey or geese). You should be able to find a good used 11-87 without a lot of trouble at a fair price (under $600), they made a ton of them. A good V3 won't be much more. Get a 12 gauge, I can't think of a good reason to use a 20 gauge ... maybe if you are an incredible wing shooter, but after a 30 year break, you might not be as good as you once were. Don't worry about the recoil, they aren't bad and you won't even notice any when shooting at game. my 2 cents
 

SumTingWong

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San Diego, California
I appreciate the responses.
Budget-wise, I'm thinking 600 to 1600.
I've seen the Fabarm's used for that, but they are typically wood stock, which I'm not sure would be the best choice.
So I'll definitely go 12ga.

One aspect I forgot to mention:
I live in the Peoples Republic of California, and must use non-lead ammo.

Does that affect the recommended barrel length, availability of chokes, etc?
 

entoptics

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Jan 16, 2018
Messages
618
I've seen the Fabarm's used for that, but they are typically wood stock, which I'm not sure would be the best choice.
I'm a big fan of synthetic on a shotgun (frankly any gun). I highly recommend getting a shotgun with at least some level of stock adjustment. Shotguns are finicky to aim, since your head is the rear sight, and being able to adjust the interface, even a crudely, can really improve your hit rates.
One aspect I forgot to mention:
I live in the Peoples Republic of California, and must use non-lead ammo.

Does that affect the recommended barrel length, availability of chokes, etc?
Plan to shoot steel, so you'll want to have a 3" or 3.5" chamber, and steel rated chokes. The other non-lead ammo is great, but very expensive for practice.

Most modern shotguns should be capable of eating a lot of steel shot, with the right configuration. Anything with a goose in it's marketing images will likely come ready for steel...

Steel patterns tighter than lead, because it is less compressible I believe. This also means you can't choke it as much as lead, without risking damaging your choke or barrel from bulging or excessive wear.

Be sure to get "steel rated" chokes. They will be labeled accordingly on the choke.

Generally, one choke more open for steel to get the same pattern as lead. So a modified choke steel pattern will be roughly the same as a full choke lead pattern.

Regarding chamber, if you have 3" or even 3.5" capability, you can get more of the "fluffier" steel shot into a shell to achieve the same weight/velocity numbers as lead. Since steel is less dense, with the same pressure loads, you can either get more of the same size pellets, or the same number, but bigger pellets.

More shot in the air is good...:)
 

PredatorSlayer

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Aug 3, 2019
Messages
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Location
CONUS
Been doing a lot of deer hunting (rifle/bow) in San Diego, yes, San Diego, and the season just ended.
One of my new hunting partners has had a few years experience with bird hunting, and has invited me to go.

I have not shot a shotgun for 30 years, and do not own one. I'm not afraid of a little kick (one of my rifles is a lever 45-70), but am not a spring chicken (56) and would like to get something fun/comfortable to shoot.

I know I'll eventually need more than one, but would like to start with something that works well for dove, quail, and other birds in this class. If it could also do turkey, that would be a bonus.

Some friends have recommended 20 ga over 12, and gas operated over mechanical.
I'm aware that gas operated requires a bit more cleaning.
I've been looking at price ranges between the Fabarm L4S and the Remington V3.

So...
I would love to hear some recommendations for:
12 vs 20?
Barrel length (24"?)
And maybe a few specific models that would fit the bill.

Thanks, and Happy New Year!

I shoot a versamax which has the same gas system as the V3 - it is awesome. Been running it for 4 years now and have shot everything from doves to pheasants to geese with it, never had a problem. Even though it is a 12ga, the recoil is the same or less than most 20ga I have shot.

I would go with a 26” or 28” barrel. I have a 28” and really like how it balances. Performance will be comparable, so it will come down to personal preference.
 

nmbarta

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billings mt
The beretta a400 is worth a look. Shotguns are a bit like bows, you just have to have one that feels good. Plenty of great guns that are all for the most part equally reliable, but they have to fit. I couldn't hit a pterodactyl at 10ft with an 870, i think I'd be lucky to hit the air in front of the barrel with one. Good guns, but I can't shoot'em. No fit.....no hit.
12 gauge for sure.
 

SumTingWong

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Messages
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Location
San Diego, California
The beretta a400 is worth a look. Shotguns are a bit like bows, you just have to have one that feels good. Plenty of great guns that are all for the most part equally reliable, but they have to fit. I couldn't hit a pterodactyl at 10ft with an 870, i think I'd be lucky to hit the air in front of the barrel with one. Good guns, but I can't shoot'em. No fit.....no hit.
12 gauge for sure.

Interesting, I didn't know the fit was that big of an issue. Not having shot that many, and none recently, I would have thought shottys were more forgiving than rifles, given the resulting spread. I don't have a lot of options for trying them here in San Diego, as there are few places to actually shoot.

Is it not possible to find one that is able to be shimmed/adjusted to most ppl's positions?
 

PredatorSlayer

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The Versa Max looks very affordable. 2 questions:

Is it somewhat easy to clean the gas mechanism?
Can steel be shot through it reliably?

Thanks again!
Yes to both. The gas system is super low maintenance. I went for a whole season, doves to pheasants to ducks without cleaning the gun to see if I could get it to malfunction. Nothing...she was flawless. That was in some cold temps in Idaho, Montana and North Dakota.

The versamax has spacers and different size cheek pieces to customize it to fit. Helpful since I am 6’5”.
 

nmbarta

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Location
billings mt
Interesting, I didn't know the fit was that big of an issue. Not having shot that many, and none recently, I would have thought shottys were more forgiving than rifles, given the resulting spread. I don't have a lot of options for trying them here in San Diego, as there are few places to actually shoot.

Is it not possible to find one that is able to be shimmed/adjusted to most ppl's positions?
That rabbit hole runs deep, but the answer is yes. If your just looking to knock down some birds or ink some clays for fun, you don't need to do that. Shotgun fit is more important that precision rifle fit....imo. I can get behind a rifle that doesn't fit me well and make a few adjustments to my form and still shoot it pretty well. I can't do that with a shotgun. The spread (or choke) that you choose does matter, but you still have to find your target and hit it, the more natural that happens, the better. People spend a lot of money on shotguns (more than any precision rifles I know of).
A lot of this is just feel, how it pulls up and how your sight picture is without trying to get it right.
Put the gun to your shoulder and pull it up with your eyes shut, get comfortable and then open your eyes. If your all lined up your probably gto. If your way off, try another shotgun and see if it naturally lines up better for you.
That's a really, really basic way to see if the gun fits, some will fit better than others, if you want to get more into fitting than that, you can go as far as want.
 

imartin

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Messages
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Location
Southeastern Pennsylvania
Also remember that proper fit of a shotgun is only as good as your mount. You need to be able to consistently mount the gun, the same way, Everytime, otherwise it doesn't matter how well the gun fits you if you can't mount it consistently to take advantage of the fact that it fits you. If you know someone who understands gun fit, take them shopping with you and buy the gun that fits best and feels right. Then you only need to make minor tweaks to LOP, cast, drop, etc if the gun is already pretty close.
 

Memberberries

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I have shot just as many birds with a 20ga as I have with a 12ga and can honestly say that when I did my part both calibers did their part. 12ga light loads aren't as friendly with autoloaders as heavy 20ga.

I have owned at least 2 dozen shotguns and currently have the following remington 870 12ga wingmaster, remington 1100 20ga synthetic, Beretta a300 12ga synthetic, American arms 12ga o/u, winchester 1300 12ga, browning a5 12ga. Some of those are sentimental but the rest I just liked.

I grew up shooting an 870 and the remington 1100 points a lot like one so I can shoot best with it with the least range time if I have had a lot of time off from shotguns. I sold my versa max because I shoot the Beretta better and I thought it felt too heavy. I can shoot the a5 well also but it's wood and hunting waterfowl gets the gun dirty and when it's the slightest bit dirty it's moody.

Pick them all up that you can afford and narrow it down to a few then try to get some range time with them. You will very quickly know what feels right swinging it around.

With your budget I would pick up a Remington, Browning, Beretta, and Benelli if I could find them. Just because I didn't like the versa max feel doesn't mean you won't.
 
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