Do High-End Shotguns Really Perform that Much Better?

Yes. But unless you’re a professional shooter, they might not be the guns for you

A friend recently built his dream target gun, having a Krieghoff K-80 custom stocked. And he did it for the best reason: He appreciates nice guns, and owning it makes him happy. He didn’t get the gun as a status symbol, and doesn’t he think it will buy him more targets. Of his new gun he says, “Driving a Ferrari doesn’t make me Mario Andretti.”

He let me shoot it at a sporting targets one day. It’s hard to miss with. I ground up a few pairs before Matt said, “Hey, no fair shooting my gun better than I do, give it back!” I reluctantly handed it to him.

The top shooters shoot high-end guns because they are the best tools for the job. Do they perform better than lesser guns? Sure they do, but not that much better. A lot of the difference between a $13,000 gun and a regular target gun comes down to confidence in knowing your equipment is top-notch. If you believe you have the best gun available, you won’t worry about it. It’s like the reason Olympian Kim Rhode shoots hundreds of rounds daily in practice. She could get away with less trigger time, but as she told me at SHOT: “I practice that much so I’m confident in my preparation. If you step onto that field and you’re not completely confident, you can forget about winning.”

If I were to get serious about sporting clays, I’d go a different direction. As much as I’d like to justify the purchase of a high-end o/u, I know deep down what I’d do is find another Beretta 391 semiauto sporting gun like the one I already own. I might even look for a third—as a backup to the backup—because, as my colleague Bruce “The Technoid” Buck puts it, “Gas guns are like sheep. They know when they’re alone and they don’t like it.” I’d buy a spare-parts kit, too.

The gas guns would be reliable, and I could easily to tweak the fit with stock shims. I’d be trading the advantage of two chokes for the advantage of lower recoil, and that’s not a bad deal. I would have to clean them more often and more thoroughly than I would an o/u, but that’s the only downside.

With two identical guns, I’d always have an extra ready to go if something happened, and while I could make some repairs myself with the parts kit, any gunsmith could work on my guns. That’s not the case with high-end guns, which do break sometimes, just like any other gun. When they need attention, they have to see a specialist, and specialists don’t work cheap. I saw a man blast a choke tube out the end of a Kolar o/u once and hate to think of what his gunsmith bill must have been.

No one would look upon my pair of 391s with envy. I’d grow fond of them, but I would never like them the way I like break action guns. But, we’re not talking about shooting for fun. These would be for shooting to win, and I’d only have a total of $2,000 invested in my battery. I could spend the remaining $10,000 I saved by not buying a K- or P- gun on lessons, shells, target practice, and entry fees that would make me a stronger competitor, which is a confidence builder in itself.