Ask Phil: Switching Guns

I have a question about switching shotguns for different hunting styles. I am obsessed with shotguns and own several, many for a specific style of hunting. I shoot most of them adequately, some far better than others, but the problem that arises from time to time is getting used to one then switching to another, and adjusting to each of their confusing controls. I practice with all of my guns but some more than others, because of how much I adore certain ones. Are practice and more shooting the best medicine? Or (heaven forbid) should I stick to one or two guns that I can shoot the best for hunting purposes? —Team Asgrow

Good question. More practice and more shooting are always the answer to any shotgunning question. Most really good shooters I have seen own lots of guns and shoot them all well, because they’re into shotguns and they shoot a lot. However, there is something to the old “beware the man with one gun” saw. If you shoot only one gun all the time, you learn it thoroughly, and you’ll never try to pull a back trigger that isn’t there, or pump a semiauto. I once hunted grouse with sporting clays champion Andy Duffy, and his gun for all upland hunting, from close-cover woodcock to open-country pheasants, was an old Parker, for which he had a set of both 20- and 16-gauge barrels. After putting on the best display of bird shooting I’ve ever seen, he told me to quit fooling around with different guns and get one and shoot it. So there’s that advice, and Andy is an unimpeachable source.

Of course, I don’t do that. It’s not that I own many guns (I don’t, and I tend to hunt with just a few of them), but I am always shooting test guns. Learning to use different controls isn’t hard, but it does take practice. A few rounds of skeet was enough for me to learn double triggers and pump actions, even though I started out with single triggers and semiautos. And, I find if you practice, it’s not difficult to switch back and forth. I usually have to tell myself before a hunt “Okay, this gun has a safety in front of the trigger guard” or whatever, and I’m fine after that. Your mileage may vary.