For the purpose of this article, I only consider various shotgun types and their gauges/bores/calibres used for hunting purposes. I exclude the various shotguns used for the myriad of sport shoot- ing disciplines in which shotguns are used.
Many people think… I have a shotgun and that’s fine for any and all types of shotgun hunting –
wrong! One needs various shotgun designs and action types for various hunting activities – from upland game bird hunting right through the spectrum to Waterfowl hunting and dangerous game back-up shotguns. There are numerous shotgun types, designs and variants. Here’s why…
High-volume (within bag limits) pigeon/dove shooting
A shotgun of decent quality that can handle many shots in a single day, without breaking a firing pin or ejector spring, week after week, season after season. Such a shotgun would be on the heavy side and well built. A main reason for a heavy shotgun when firing many shots a day is to counter excessive recoil. Barrel lengths of up to 32” with medium chokes (quarter and half) would be suitable in either an over-and-under designed shotgun or a semi-auto field shotgun. One cannot use a side by side designed shotgun for this purpose, as it is way too light in physical weight and not built for high volume shooting as it overheats the barrels and action.
Semi auto shotguns are also used for high volume dove and pigeon hunting. The semi-auto action design results in reduced felt recoil.
One does not move around much when hunting pigeons or doves, so a heavier shotgun is not uncomfortable and is more suitable, as one is mostly stationary when on a pigeon/dove hunt. Hunting with a semi auto shotgun is legally limited to certain species and provinces, unless one holds a permit, and that is why they are not used by many hunters in South Africa.
Upland (Rough) shooting, also known as Walk-up shooting:
A field gun such as a side-by-side or a lightweight over and under shotgun design for upland (rough) shooting when many kilometers are walked on a day’s bird hunting, is required. Such a lighter upland shotgun would have shorter barrels between 25 to 28 inches, and be of light weight, easier to carry and quick to mount.
Here the lighter gauges, such as the 16 gauge, 20 gauge, 28 gauge and .410 are preferred for francolin and partridge hunting. For smaller birds, such as partridge, quail, sandgrouse, etc the smaller gauges/bores/calibers are required as cartridges are also lighter to carry and sometimes use ammunition of lighter weight in order to preserve the birds better for consumption.
Another required shotgun would be a water-fowling shotgun. Shotguns for waterfowl hunting (duck, geese, etc) are purpose-built for the environment they are used in and will be robust and almost always made of synthetic stock material. Water-fowling shotguns will also have longer barrels (30 to 36”) with tight chokes. SA Wingshooters Association suggest the following preferable shotgun types and gauges/bores/calibers to be used for specific hunting disciplines and respective quarry:
A well-built 12ga over-and-under barrel shotgun or semi-automatic single barrel or pump-action shotgun with a barrel length of 24” to 30”.
Guinea-fowl Hunting (over bird dogs):
Upland walk-up: A lightweight side-by-side barrelled shotgun with barrel lengths from 26” to 30”. Best gauges/bores/calibers for this purpose would be 12ga with lightly choked barrels – IC to IM.
Guinea-fowl Hunting (Driven):
A side-by-side barrelled shotgun with barrel lengths from 28” to 34”.
Best gauge/bore/caliber for this purpose would be 12ga with tight choked barrels – Modified to Full chokes.
Francolin and Partridge hunting:
Lightweight side-by-side or over and under barrelled shotgun with more open chokes (IC to M). Barrel length 25” to 28”. Smaller gauges/bores/calibers are suggested, such as the 20 bore and 28 bore shotguns.
Waterfowl (Duck and Geese):
Purpose-built waterfowl over and under, or side-by-side barrelled or pump action, shotgun with barrel length from 30” to 36”. Chokes should be Modified (M) and/or Improved Modified (IM) or Full and in 12 gauge/bore.
Purpose-built waterfowl over and under, or side-by-side barrelled or pump action, shotgun with barrel length from 38” to 32”. Chokes should be Modified (M) and/or Improved Modified (IM) or Full and in 20ga, 28ga. .410 or 12 gauge/bore.
Side-by-side or over-and-under shotgun designs may be used. Smaller gauges, such as 20 bore, 28 bore and .410 shotguns are suggested for this type of hunting.
Side-by-side or over-and-under shotgun designs may be used. Smaller gauges, such as 28 bore and .410 shotgun gauges/bores/calibers are preferred and suggested for the hunting of these birds.
Furred Game hunting:
Shotguns, usually 12 gauge/bore shotguns are suggested for culling (especially from helicopters), when hunting Leopard (following up wounded) and bush pig and other damage-causing animals. Shotguns for this use should have shorter barrels to ensure safe and fast maneuverability and used in conjunction with the correct ammunition type, size and weight. Call the office should you have any questions regarding shotgun and all firearm types.
“Purpose-built water-fowl over and under, or side-by-side barrelled or pump action, shotgun with barrel length from 30” to 36”.
Chokes should be Modified (M) and/or Improved Modified (IM) or Full and in 12 gauge”