Do You Really Want a Light Shotgun?

My friend Clint, who works at a local sporting goods store, helps me out with Best of the Best. At the range the other day he picked up one of the BOTB shotguns. "I can't sell that," he said. "It's too heavy. People want light guns."

"It's not just shotguns either," he said. "The handgun that people want to pick up at the store is the S&W .44 magnum with a scandium frame. They just can't get over how light it is."

Alloys and carbon fiber make it possible to build lighter guns now, and manufacturers can give people what they want. Question: is the customer always right?

A lot of people narrow down their choice of gun to three or four, then go the gun shop to see which one fits. The usual test is to throw the gun up. In that situation, the light gun that flies to your shoulder is the one that makes you smile and reach for your wallet.

Light guns are great for grouse, woodcock, and for mountain chukar. They're great for turkey hunting, where you carry the gun all week and shoot it once. For almost everything else, a shotgun with some heft works best. That's not to say I don't have some light guns I love: a 6 ½ pound 12 gauge Ruger Gold Label; a 6 ¾ pound Montefeltro and, lightest of all, a 5 ¾ pound 20 gauge SKB 100 which, frankly, is great for carrying and for straigthtaway shots at woodcock and not much else. I yearn for a 6-pound, 12 gauge Benelli Ultra Light, which is a great carrying gun for long walks after upland birds.

On the other hand, I have guns that feel clunky and muzzle heavy when I mount them, but in the field or on the clays course I shoot them better than anything else. I preach this in vain. The trend is to light guns, I think, because they feel good when you pick them up in the store.

It so happened that the next thing Clint and I did was try to get a feel for another gun's recoil reducing properties by shooting some long crossers on the skeet field with Federal's 1500 fps, 1 ¼-ounce Prairie Storm pheasant loads. The gun was a very light 12, about 6 ½ pounds. The heavy loads destroyed crossers at 40 yards which was kind of fun, although it really hurt to shoot the Prairie Storm.

Clint outweighs me by more than 100 pounds and is completely immune to recoil. Nevertheless after shooting a few crossers he gave me the gun back and said, "That's a little stout," which is the closest he ever comes to admitting a gun kicks.

"People want light guns like this," he said. "Then they come back to the store and complain about the recoil."