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Before you buy, choose the right gun
hunter and dog

If you’re looking to buy your first shotgun and want a good all-around-use gun, there are a few things you need to consider before buying. NWTF Hunting Heritage and Habitat Manager Travis Sumner shared a few tips on buying a shotgun that will make a good all-around hunting gun.

Action: For the action, the part of the gun that loads, fires and ejects shells, shotguns come in three main types: pump, break action or semiautomatic. Determining what type of action to get is truly a personal preference. Each comes with their own pros and cons. Many turkey hunters choose the semiautomatic. A common misconception is that a semiautomatic repeatedly shoots with one pull of the trigger — it does not. Semiautomatics have an inertia or a gas system that uses the energy (inertia) or byproduct (gas) from the firing of the shell to eject the spent shell and cycle a new shell from the magazine. Because of this, if a second shot is necessary, you will not have to manually cycle the next shell. Semiautomatics also commonly have slightly less recoil than their pump or break action counterparts. Gas powered actions generally have the least amount of recoil, but take more time to clean.

Gauge – The diameter of the bore, or the inside of the barrel, determines its gauge. The most common modern choices of shotgun gauges are 10, 12, 20, 28 and .410. Most turkey and waterfowl hunters use either a 12 or 20 gauge. Federal Premium introduced a .410 turkey load using tungsten shot last year that has sent many hunters seeking out their old .410s for a few hunts.

Barrel length – The length of a shotgun barrel should also be a consideration. Barrels can run from 18 inches to 32 inches, with a standard length running 26 inches. Twenty-four inch barrels are often preferred as exclusive turkey guns.

Finish on gun – The finish of a gun may not sound like much of a deal breaker, but if you are planning to hunt turkeys, having a camo or black matte finish can greatly increase the odds of staying hidden from their sharp eyes.

Price point – Shotguns start around $300 to $400 for most pump shotguns. Prices go up from there for semi-autos and over/unders, as well as shotguns outfitted specifically for gobblers.

Weight of gun – Shotguns can weigh anywhere from below 6 pounds to more than 10 pounds. Again, the “feel” of the gun is a personal choice. While a heavier gun will help absorb some of the recoil, if the shooter cannot hold the gun comfortably for extended time, accuracy and enjoyment of the hunt will be affected.

Fit – Even the most expensive shotgun on the market may not comfortably fit you. The length of the stock and the height of the comb (or the top of the stock) mostly determine fit. Your local gun dealer can help you put all of these pieces together to get a perfect shotgun to fit all of your needs. 

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