Bourjaily: The North American Shotgun Battery

"The North American Battery" story is a gun magazine staple. The author makes the case for his choices for the three-, five- or seven-rifle battery that arms you properly for every animal in the U.S. and Canada, from gray squirrels to grizzlies. It usually consists of a .22 LR for small game, a .270 or .30-06 for antelope through caribou, and a magnum of some kind for brown bears, moose and elk.

So what constitutes the North American shotgun battery?

The truth is, you could effectively hunt every shotgunnable critter in North America with one gun: an alloy-framed 3-inch semiautomatic 12 , say, a Winchester Super X3. It's light enough to carry, the gas system moderates recoil, and choke tubes let you set it up for anything from birds in the brush to pass shooting. Throw in a slug barrel and you've got whitetails and black bears covered. I'd take a 3-inch gun over a 3.5 because 3.5 shells kick and are rarely necessary, while 3-inch guns cycle light target loads better, so I could shoot a lot of clays with my one gun.

One gun makes for a boring battery story. I'm going to say you need five. This is my current starting five, although I am fickle and the lineup is subject to change:
**
Waterfowl:** a 12 gauge pump or semiauto. 26, 28 or 30 inch barrel. Mine is a Benelli M2 with a 26 inch barrel. It is shorter and lighter than my ideal waterfowl gun, but it was a bargain and is growing on me. The Winchester Super X2 that I rashly traded away last year is closer to what I think a waterfowl gun should be: a soft shooting, reliable, 8 pound gas gun.

Plains and prairie birds: 12, 16 or 20 with 28-inch barrels, your choice of action. Currently, mine is a Ruger Gold Label, a light 6 ½ pound 12 double. It has an aggressively forward balance that makes it swing like a heavier gun, which is what you want on the wide-open spaces.
**
Birds in the brush:** 16, 20, 28 gauge with 24 to 28 inch barrels and very light weight. My grouse gun is an Ithaca/SKB 100 20 gauge. These Japanese doubles were ahead of their time back in the 70s. Mine has 25-inch barrels choked IC/M (SK/IC would be better) and weighs 5 pounds, 10 ounces.
**
Turkeys:** 3-inch 12 or 20 gauge pump or semiauto with a 20-24-inch barrel and some type of sights. I like pumps for turkeys because it means I can make the excited launch from a sitting position to a flopping turkey without worrying about a live round in the chamber. Right now I am enamored of a 20 gauge 870 with an Undertaker choke tube and a Zeiss Z-Point sight.

Deer: 12 or 20 gauge fully rifled pump, semiauto or single shot. My 20 gauge H&R Ultra Slug Hunter single shot kicks very little thanks to its heavy barrel and shoots 2 ½ groups at 100 yards. It has a Bushnell Elite 3200 1.5x-4.5x on top.

Those are my picks. You?