Shotguns may look like rifles — at least, they resemble rifles in that they have locks, stocks and barrels — but I have always thought shotguns had a lot more in common with tennis rackets, golf clubs and baseball bats. A shotgun is personal. Shooting one tests your reactions and eye-to-hand coordination. Your gun has to fit you, because there is no time to fit yourself to the gun when a bird is in the air. It has to be responsive, so you can swing it and point it well.

When it came time to test shotguns as part of the July issue, we focused on the interface between gun and shooter. Does your pet gun really fit? Is it the right heft and balance for the kind of shooting you do?

What we found might surprise you. It certainly surprised us.

“I learned about 40 years of hits and misses from half an hour at the pattern plate,” remarked Executive Editor Mike Toth, one of the test participants.

Take a look at our results and you’ll see why.

We put some other long-held notions to the test. We tested brush guns in the brush, to see if short barrels helped us get on target in a thicket. We added altered a gun’s weight to see if light guns really are faster to the bird. We timed followup shots with light and heavy loads to see if recoil affects your shooting in the field. I may have even found out I was a little bit wrong about 3 1?2-inch shotshells. Or I may not have. You’ll need to read the test to see.