The beauty of a dove gun is, it can be almost anything. Your dove gun can be your dress up gun, or a family heirloom that you shoot once a year. It can be your main hunting gun because you want to sharpen up for “serious” seasons later on, or it might be the only shotgun you own. It can be a dainty smallbore if you like a challenge. You bring whatever you want to bring to the dove field. It doesn’t matter, so long as it makes you happy, and you don’t stretch it beyond its limits. For a lot of people, dove hunting is about more than hunting anyway.
Call me tiresome, but my idea of fun involves hitting what I shoot at. And, while I am perfectly happy not to shoot a limit of doves, all things being equal, I’d just as soon kill 15. They taste good, after all. I have cycled through a few different guns in search of my full-time dove gun, and the search is over (we all say that, and we all reserve the right to re-start the search at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all). Now, I am fully aware—and I tell this to kids I coach all the time—that there is no magic gun. The magic is inside you. However, the right gun helps bring the magic out. For me, the gun that brings the magic out is the Fabarm Initial Hunter. I can shoot it about as well as I shoot any field gun, and it combines all all the qualities I want in a dove gun, as outlined here:
Action: semi-auto. My dove guns are repeaters. Every once in a while, that third shot is the one that stops a crippled dove from flying off. It doesn’t happen often, but I hate losing doves. While pumps are great for waterfowl, I find hand-cycling a shotgun is distracting in the dove field. You may disagree, but that leaves me with no choice but to shoot semi-autos at doves, so I save my break actions for upland birds and targets.
Action type: Gas. Gas guns are softer shooting than inertia guns, period. Inertia guns have an edge in reliability, but this is not South America where you shoot 1,500 shells in a day. We’re talking one or two boxes of shells to kill a limit, maybe into a third if I’m having one of my days.
Gauge: 12. It could be any gauge, and 20s are nearly as good as 12s at normal ranges. I find the extra bulk of a 12 gauge makes it easier for me to shoot. And, it’s not too much gun. Loaded with my favorite dove load, an ounce of steel 7s* at 1325 fps, it kills doves to 40 yards plus, it doesn’t tear them up badly, and it doesn’t leave pellets in the meat.
Choke: Improved Cylinder. The Texas Parks and Wildlife dove shooting study about which I have written before showed shooters with IC chokes outshoot those with Modified and, especially, Full tubes in their guns.
Weight: Given my bias toward heavier guns for any shooting that doesn’t require carrying, I am surprised to find my “perfect” dove gun is a lightweight, at about 6 ¾ pounds. Long, light guns are easy to shoot. So are long heavy guns, but long light ones are a little easier to handle when doves are the quarry.
Barrel length: 28 inches. Barrel length primarily affects a gun’s balance, and this gun has a lively feel with a 28-inch barrel. Your mileage may vary.
Finish: The L4S has matte-blued metal and a satin wood finish. It’s handsome but doesn’t glint and gleam in the sun and is a nice compromise between good looks and functionality. I refuse to shoot camo guns at anything besides turkeys, and even then they’re not necessary.
*When Iowa got its dove season six years ago there was a debate about whether non-toxic shot would be required for doves. Lead shot proponents ran a disinformation campaign that eventually won out: steel didn’t kill well (not true), it cost two to three times as much as lead (it costs exactly the same), it’s hard to find (nonsense) etc. I started shooting steel 7s to prove a point, and kept shooting them because they work.