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Shooting a Side-by-Side Shotgun

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September 14, 2011

Shooting a Side-by-Side Shotgun

By Phil Bourjaily

Today’s Gun Nuts clip attempts to answer a question about why it can be easier for some people to shoot a side by side than a single barrel gun. The Gun Cam we use in the clip does a good job of illustrating one reason: the width of the double gun’s barrels make for a wide point of reference that is easy to see and put on target, especially on going-away birds.

Of course, the barrels should be a blur rather than in sharp focus, but the camera does a nice job of showing the difference between a single and double barrel in terms of sighting plane (I never liked that term, as it implies aiming, but that’s what it is). I always feel like I am looking up a wide road that leads to the target when I shoot a double gun like this Ruger Gold Label.

http://ak.c.ooyala.com/JzNnEwYzp1fYkN7DNp5-An74-0eYrKze/Ut_HKthATH4eww8X4xMDoxOjA4MTsiGN

You have to watch closely to see us make the second point, which is that double guns are often stocked in such a way as to afford a better view of the target above the barrels. Both muzzles cover the target (in part due to the perspective of the camera, which doesn’t show exactly what the eye sees), but if you look closely you will see the single barrel covers it more. With a flat shooting single barrel gun you have to blot out the target; with a double gun you can see it when you pull the trigger. And, although I was taught to cover the bird with the barrel when I grew up, it’s easier to hit a target you can see.

Comments (28)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Maybe it is because doubles often have straight, English stocks that puts some shooters eye well fitted over the barrels, but I see the barrels and the width as a shooter more likely to have their focus go to the barrels being there is a lot more barrel in the sight picture. It is also been said that the balance point of doubles is better suited for the placement of the fore-end hand, creating a better swing, but I prefer to have my barrels stacked.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longhunter wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I own a Baikal and a SKB/Ithica side by side. I don't ever look at the barrels when I shoot and only concentrate on the bead as I would a single barrel shotgun. It also makes sense that since our vision is oriented, horizontally in our faces it should line up well with 2, side by side barrels of a shotgun. It you shoot an over-under better than it stands to reason that your eyes are similar and oriented in your face like a halibut and I feel sorry for you.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I shoot an old LeFevre Nitro Express field grader side by side in 16 ga. Whippy little straight-stocked shotgun, rear trigger's full choke. I just like the way it feels and handles and carries. It fits me, and yes, that wide road of both barrels and a rib probably is part of that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Good question.

I had the same issue with going from a side-by to an O/U. It took a while to unlearn seeing the bird as well as adjusting for a different "fit/point". I don't focus on the barrel, but it's presence is felt.

However, it wasn't too long before I was comfortable with the O/U.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Sorryness should go to the guy that uses a bead to point, and shoot a shotgun. Where ever your eyes are located the dominant eye should be over the barrel, and your focus should be on the target, not the bead.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longhunter wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Really, it was a joke. It really isn't that funny when I have to explain that. Besides, I am hitting all kinds of things just fine, but thank you for your concern.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Sorry for the response then, I didn't get the joke. But those hi-vis beads you can buy as an accessory for your gun? Most instructors would say they do far more harm than good. And, I do not know if it is old age getting me, or maybe because I now where glasses, but I do not remember myself having the problem that I now have. My eye tends to go to the barrel relatively easily. Happened today dove hunting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott Kittinger wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I have a great old shotgun: a J. Stevens Arms Co. Mod. 335 in 16 ga. I think it was made in 1913. It's still giving me just exactly what Phil is speaking of: a wide view of the plane used to sight the piece. I use it for birds of all sorts. It has the tightest pattern at 35 yards of any gun I've ever used.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Hal, I have one of those in 20. Good stuff. It points where I tell it to, and that's saying something, for me. I prefer the sight picture that I'm not supposed to use on a SXS to any other for upland hunting, especially grouse. I think a SXS is the only way I can hit the damn things.

I think they may also offer better ergonomics for when the grouse flush scares the s**t out of me (I don't hunt with dogs) and I almost drop it into the brush that I'm tripping on. It just seems to come up to my shoulder better after that happens...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Phil,
Since I can't afford a higher cable/phone/internet bill I never did see your explanation of my dilemma. Yours makes good sense. Perhaps I'll start shooting a tad higher with the single barrel. Thanks, jim

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I grew up shooting my dad's side-by-sides and I still prefer one to this day, even for dove hunting. A good side-by-side balances better and points quicker, or at least it does for me. You do have a wider sight plane but in my case, rather than drawing my eyes to the barrels, it directs them more easily to the target where your focus should be. I think you're just more likely to point than aim with two barrels.
I have a couple of pumps, a semi-auto and an O/U, but more and more lately I find myself reaching for the old C.G. Bonehill, whether I'm hunting turkey, doves or quail. Maybe I'm just reliving my childhood, but it just seems like a more comfortable companion.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Here's what some shooters have trained themselves to do...Mount the gun, focus on the barrels, move the focus to the target, and shoot. I can not. I do not want to see those barrels, or barrel in my main focus picture. You see them, but not as a focus point. I can't then go to the moving target it appears.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Cut my teeth on a 16 ga L.C. Smith! Still have it! Still can't hit anything with it! LOL!!! Still love to shoot it!

Bubba

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

A few years ago a rich guy with an ornate Model 21 Winchester in 16 gauge let me shoot at a few clays, including doubles, with it. I did not do particularly well with the gun, having difficulty finding the second trigger, and missing far more often than with my Model 12s. I suppose I am too much of an old dog to be be able to adapt to the side-by-side. It sure was pretty though!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from speedywalker wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I'm with MReeder; a good sxs points better and is much easier to sight than a single barrel or an o/u setup.
I have 2 doubles and prefer either of them to my other guns, pumps, autos, and o/u. I also grew up with a
pump and an sxs. I believe it creates a natural v that points at the game you're shooting giving the better accuracy. It works for me. Great halibut comment from Longhunter.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

speedy...YOU should not have to sight.! There should be no such thing a "sighting" shooting a shotgun. If you have practiced mounting your gun time and again, and your dominate eye is the back sight every time, you do not have to sight. Your eye goes to the moving target when you mount the gun, and your gun barrel is on the target because it follows your eye....a basic tenant of how to shoot a shotgun. "Sighters" end up shooting way behind the moving target.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from murdock32 wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I love my French made 16 Double.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longhunter wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Sir: While I do think you have a valid point I respectfully disagree. The great thing about this blog is that we all have differences of opinion on what shotguns are best, how we should establish lead, shot sizes ect. I shoot traditional archery and there are some similarities between that and shotgunning. I use the tip of my arrow to line up my shot on an animal and it works very well. I really don't even see the barrels of my shotguns when I shoot and I specifically purchase guns with a good fit so when I put the gun to my shoulder all I really see is the bead.

Perhaps this is not the correct technique to shoot at game birds but I have killed quite a few of them over the years. If my lead is off I tend to believe that they were simply too far out or moving too quickly. I believe that are many ways of shooting effectively and if we are shooting well, enjoying the outdoors and bringing back some game well, I think that is as good as it gets.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Seeing the bead needs to be defined in itself. One can see the bead, or see the barrel. I tend to want to have my eye slightly high, and see the barrel not having to block out the target given certain angles, BUT....as one very well known and recognized instructor described it....95% of your hard focus should be on the target, and the other 5 % that is not in hard focus sees the bead, or the barrel. The target moves, and if the hard focus is on the moving target, then the barrel moves, and it has to move when the shot is fired. If the hard focus is on the bead, then then the barrel stops. I have described the extended arm index finger example of following a tweeter bird in flight. When the hard focus is on the moving bird, the finger follows along moving with it, and you can move the finger ahead of the bird creating lead. But now make your hard focus go to your finger.....the arm/finger stops. That is the best example I could give to the need to hard focus on the moving target...you also see the barrel/bead however you shoot your gun.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from srlarson wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I know for me side by side are much effercive than O/U....naver felt comfortable with an O/U......now I own 4 SxS, in 12, 16, and 20.....love them all for trap or birds.......I think it's as much personnel preference....key is to find a gun you shoot well and enjoy!! That's why they make so many.....too bad my gun safe is only so big!!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from eva888 wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

There our wonderful, true ideas here. What is hard for students, and indeed some faculty and administrators, to grasp is how complex the world is. A good liberal arts education develops one's capacities to discern complexity and to respond in a meaningful way. That is why all the professional degrees, whether at the bachelors level or beyond, need at base a solid liberal arts education. Philosophers sometimes call ethics practical wisdom, and I agree. To interpret the world well in all its complexity requires wisdom nurtured through good education. It is this wisdom and this wisdom alone that allows one to act effectively and appropriately--it is practical wisdom. Moral and cognitive development go hand in hand. We all need practical wisdom, which is why everyone in higher education ought to be concerned about the liberal arts whose goal should be to provide that practical wisdom. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the ideas and the example of your life.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

If only we had better liberal arts instructors that didn't use the bully pulpit to spew their slanted ideology.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

The only thing wrong Eva is that "Teachers" today think "Liberal" equates to their idea of the world view. Which equates to Idiocy and communism.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RandyMI wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Jim in MO---FREE HIGH-SPEED INTERNET!!!
I've been using several area public libraries, IT'S GREAT! :-) Just be sure to have your login info w/you.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from muellerr64 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Nice video and explanation. Question...

How do you guys get that "down the barrel video" and keep the target visible? What does the camera setup look like to do that?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I do believe that the guys that developed the "down the barrel" camera were Marty Fisher and Bob Scott. I bought their DVD on methods of shooting a shotgun. Fisher is involved heavily in Sporting Clays courses as a designer. And on that note. Why is it that the top guns at state tournaments, and national sporting clays tournaments that want to score a lot of XXXXXXXXXXXXXX's do not shoot SxS's, but there are a lot of top guns that shoot O/U's ?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

And if I am not mistaken, that small camera is worn on their head on a harness with the small camera located just above their eye that is located as the back sight.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mofro14 wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Sayfu, I am sorry some of us like something different than yours, please forgive us and we can only hope to learn to be as great as you. Until then we will continue to struggle with our SXS's because we all look at our barrels instead of the target. You even manages to get in another interesting point about how bad SXS's are when you are talking about the camera they used, nicely done.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from speedywalker wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I'm with MReeder; a good sxs points better and is much easier to sight than a single barrel or an o/u setup.
I have 2 doubles and prefer either of them to my other guns, pumps, autos, and o/u. I also grew up with a
pump and an sxs. I believe it creates a natural v that points at the game you're shooting giving the better accuracy. It works for me. Great halibut comment from Longhunter.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longhunter wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I own a Baikal and a SKB/Ithica side by side. I don't ever look at the barrels when I shoot and only concentrate on the bead as I would a single barrel shotgun. It also makes sense that since our vision is oriented, horizontally in our faces it should line up well with 2, side by side barrels of a shotgun. It you shoot an over-under better than it stands to reason that your eyes are similar and oriented in your face like a halibut and I feel sorry for you.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Good question.

I had the same issue with going from a side-by to an O/U. It took a while to unlearn seeing the bird as well as adjusting for a different "fit/point". I don't focus on the barrel, but it's presence is felt.

However, it wasn't too long before I was comfortable with the O/U.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longhunter wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Really, it was a joke. It really isn't that funny when I have to explain that. Besides, I am hitting all kinds of things just fine, but thank you for your concern.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott Kittinger wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I have a great old shotgun: a J. Stevens Arms Co. Mod. 335 in 16 ga. I think it was made in 1913. It's still giving me just exactly what Phil is speaking of: a wide view of the plane used to sight the piece. I use it for birds of all sorts. It has the tightest pattern at 35 yards of any gun I've ever used.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Hal, I have one of those in 20. Good stuff. It points where I tell it to, and that's saying something, for me. I prefer the sight picture that I'm not supposed to use on a SXS to any other for upland hunting, especially grouse. I think a SXS is the only way I can hit the damn things.

I think they may also offer better ergonomics for when the grouse flush scares the s**t out of me (I don't hunt with dogs) and I almost drop it into the brush that I'm tripping on. It just seems to come up to my shoulder better after that happens...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I grew up shooting my dad's side-by-sides and I still prefer one to this day, even for dove hunting. A good side-by-side balances better and points quicker, or at least it does for me. You do have a wider sight plane but in my case, rather than drawing my eyes to the barrels, it directs them more easily to the target where your focus should be. I think you're just more likely to point than aim with two barrels.
I have a couple of pumps, a semi-auto and an O/U, but more and more lately I find myself reaching for the old C.G. Bonehill, whether I'm hunting turkey, doves or quail. Maybe I'm just reliving my childhood, but it just seems like a more comfortable companion.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Cut my teeth on a 16 ga L.C. Smith! Still have it! Still can't hit anything with it! LOL!!! Still love to shoot it!

Bubba

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I shoot an old LeFevre Nitro Express field grader side by side in 16 ga. Whippy little straight-stocked shotgun, rear trigger's full choke. I just like the way it feels and handles and carries. It fits me, and yes, that wide road of both barrels and a rib probably is part of that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longhunter wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Sir: While I do think you have a valid point I respectfully disagree. The great thing about this blog is that we all have differences of opinion on what shotguns are best, how we should establish lead, shot sizes ect. I shoot traditional archery and there are some similarities between that and shotgunning. I use the tip of my arrow to line up my shot on an animal and it works very well. I really don't even see the barrels of my shotguns when I shoot and I specifically purchase guns with a good fit so when I put the gun to my shoulder all I really see is the bead.

Perhaps this is not the correct technique to shoot at game birds but I have killed quite a few of them over the years. If my lead is off I tend to believe that they were simply too far out or moving too quickly. I believe that are many ways of shooting effectively and if we are shooting well, enjoying the outdoors and bringing back some game well, I think that is as good as it gets.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Seeing the bead needs to be defined in itself. One can see the bead, or see the barrel. I tend to want to have my eye slightly high, and see the barrel not having to block out the target given certain angles, BUT....as one very well known and recognized instructor described it....95% of your hard focus should be on the target, and the other 5 % that is not in hard focus sees the bead, or the barrel. The target moves, and if the hard focus is on the moving target, then the barrel moves, and it has to move when the shot is fired. If the hard focus is on the bead, then then the barrel stops. I have described the extended arm index finger example of following a tweeter bird in flight. When the hard focus is on the moving bird, the finger follows along moving with it, and you can move the finger ahead of the bird creating lead. But now make your hard focus go to your finger.....the arm/finger stops. That is the best example I could give to the need to hard focus on the moving target...you also see the barrel/bead however you shoot your gun.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from srlarson wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I know for me side by side are much effercive than O/U....naver felt comfortable with an O/U......now I own 4 SxS, in 12, 16, and 20.....love them all for trap or birds.......I think it's as much personnel preference....key is to find a gun you shoot well and enjoy!! That's why they make so many.....too bad my gun safe is only so big!!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Maybe it is because doubles often have straight, English stocks that puts some shooters eye well fitted over the barrels, but I see the barrels and the width as a shooter more likely to have their focus go to the barrels being there is a lot more barrel in the sight picture. It is also been said that the balance point of doubles is better suited for the placement of the fore-end hand, creating a better swing, but I prefer to have my barrels stacked.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Sorry for the response then, I didn't get the joke. But those hi-vis beads you can buy as an accessory for your gun? Most instructors would say they do far more harm than good. And, I do not know if it is old age getting me, or maybe because I now where glasses, but I do not remember myself having the problem that I now have. My eye tends to go to the barrel relatively easily. Happened today dove hunting.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Phil,
Since I can't afford a higher cable/phone/internet bill I never did see your explanation of my dilemma. Yours makes good sense. Perhaps I'll start shooting a tad higher with the single barrel. Thanks, jim

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Here's what some shooters have trained themselves to do...Mount the gun, focus on the barrels, move the focus to the target, and shoot. I can not. I do not want to see those barrels, or barrel in my main focus picture. You see them, but not as a focus point. I can't then go to the moving target it appears.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

A few years ago a rich guy with an ornate Model 21 Winchester in 16 gauge let me shoot at a few clays, including doubles, with it. I did not do particularly well with the gun, having difficulty finding the second trigger, and missing far more often than with my Model 12s. I suppose I am too much of an old dog to be be able to adapt to the side-by-side. It sure was pretty though!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

speedy...YOU should not have to sight.! There should be no such thing a "sighting" shooting a shotgun. If you have practiced mounting your gun time and again, and your dominate eye is the back sight every time, you do not have to sight. Your eye goes to the moving target when you mount the gun, and your gun barrel is on the target because it follows your eye....a basic tenant of how to shoot a shotgun. "Sighters" end up shooting way behind the moving target.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from murdock32 wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I love my French made 16 Double.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from eva888 wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

There our wonderful, true ideas here. What is hard for students, and indeed some faculty and administrators, to grasp is how complex the world is. A good liberal arts education develops one's capacities to discern complexity and to respond in a meaningful way. That is why all the professional degrees, whether at the bachelors level or beyond, need at base a solid liberal arts education. Philosophers sometimes call ethics practical wisdom, and I agree. To interpret the world well in all its complexity requires wisdom nurtured through good education. It is this wisdom and this wisdom alone that allows one to act effectively and appropriately--it is practical wisdom. Moral and cognitive development go hand in hand. We all need practical wisdom, which is why everyone in higher education ought to be concerned about the liberal arts whose goal should be to provide that practical wisdom. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the ideas and the example of your life.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

If only we had better liberal arts instructors that didn't use the bully pulpit to spew their slanted ideology.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from muellerr64 wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

Nice video and explanation. Question...

How do you guys get that "down the barrel video" and keep the target visible? What does the camera setup look like to do that?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

I do believe that the guys that developed the "down the barrel" camera were Marty Fisher and Bob Scott. I bought their DVD on methods of shooting a shotgun. Fisher is involved heavily in Sporting Clays courses as a designer. And on that note. Why is it that the top guns at state tournaments, and national sporting clays tournaments that want to score a lot of XXXXXXXXXXXXXX's do not shoot SxS's, but there are a lot of top guns that shoot O/U's ?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 29 weeks ago

And if I am not mistaken, that small camera is worn on their head on a harness with the small camera located just above their eye that is located as the back sight.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mofro14 wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

Sayfu, I am sorry some of us like something different than yours, please forgive us and we can only hope to learn to be as great as you. Until then we will continue to struggle with our SXS's because we all look at our barrels instead of the target. You even manages to get in another interesting point about how bad SXS's are when you are talking about the camera they used, nicely done.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

The only thing wrong Eva is that "Teachers" today think "Liberal" equates to their idea of the world view. Which equates to Idiocy and communism.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RandyMI wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Jim in MO---FREE HIGH-SPEED INTERNET!!!
I've been using several area public libraries, IT'S GREAT! :-) Just be sure to have your login info w/you.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Sorryness should go to the guy that uses a bead to point, and shoot a shotgun. Where ever your eyes are located the dominant eye should be over the barrel, and your focus should be on the target, not the bead.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

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