Why I Still Love Hunting With Pump Shotguns

Earlier this week my wife told she was tired of getting me the usual (sweaters, dark chocolate bars, books, bottles of whiskey and Scottish ales) for my birthday. She told me to go buy myself a shotgun instead. Who was I to argue? I found a used walnut-stocked 12 gauge BPS in great shape, with just enough dings in the wood that I won't mind putting in some more. I'm thrilled to have a pump for waterfowl and dove shooting again.

I wonder if I am the only one. By and large, Americans have voted with their wallets for semiautos over pumps. The sound of a pump shucking in the field seems to be going the way of the passenger pigeon. Pumps used to dominate trap and skeet but they are already pretty well extinct on the target range. The 870 was the classic Midwestern pheasant gun years ago. I can't remember the last one I saw in the uplands. People treat pumps as entry-level guns, and they trade up to a semiauto as soon as they can. With the exception of the BPS, the Wingmaster and the Ithacas, most pumps these days are built as cheaply as possible with budget shoppers and first-time gun owners in mind.

Nevertheless, the lowly pump gun has many virtues.

It cycles everything. We make a big deal about semiautos that will reliably shoot anything from a ¾-ounce target load to a 3 ½-inch magnum. Guess what? So does every pump gun with a 3 ½-inch chamber.

There's not much to clean on a pump. Most pumps come apart and go together easily and there is very little you have to do to keep them running. A little oil on the action bars and some attention to the magazine tube every once in a while and you're set.

They work in almost any weather. I did once hunt snow geese in a field so full of blowing grit it choked my pump gun until it sounded like I was grinding coffee when I worked the slide and finally I did switch to another gun. That night I blasted the action with Gun Scrubber until all the black dirt running out came clear and it was back in the field the next day.

Pumps make the best turkey guns. You can shoot once and as long as you don't cycle the action, the gun is totally safe as you jump up and run to the bird. If the turkey's head pops back up, you've got another shot at hand. Even though I haven't had a wingshooting pump for a while, I've always shot pumps at turkeys.

Shooting a pump is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn to work the slide you never forget and a practiced pump shooter can empty a gun as if it were a semiauto. It took me about a box of shells to learn to cycle a pump. I'd load two, shoot one target, leave the shell in the chamber, then call for another bird, pump and shoot. That's all it took.

There are lots of used pumps for sale because, as I said, people trade up. That just means more used pumps for us that want them.