ruffed grouse, british columbia, canada
If you're hunting grouse, what's the best barrel length?. Gerry via Flickr

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

“No one ever wishes they bought a gun with a shorter barrel.” That’s my usual advice when people ask which barrel length they should choose. And, notwithstanding the fact that I missed my best chance at a ruffed grouse in Minnesota last month when I swung my 28-inch-barreled gun into a tree, I am standing by that answer.

It’s rarely those last 2 inches of barrel that cause the problem. When I have run afoul of branches in the brush, I’ve hit the limb somewhere close to what would be the sweet spot if I were swinging a baseball bat at birds instead of shooting at them.

You could argue then that a gun cut down to the legal minimum would be the best choice. If you want to take that argument to the absurd extreme, a Taurus Judge .410 revolver becomes the ideal grouse gun. My SKB 100 with 25 inch barrels was a very compact gun, but I couldn’t hit anything but a straightaway woodcock with it. Personally I’d rather hunt with a gun I know I can hit with and take my chances with the brush.

Springerman3, who often chimes in here, spends more time prowling the bushes for grouse than I do. I put the barrel length question to him. He said “Funny you should ask. My normal grouse gun has 26-inch barrels, but I took my 28-inch o/u into the woods last time. In heavy cover, I felt it was a little harder to move the gun without hitting branches. You don’t need those 2 extra inches of barrel.”

The one place I will insist on having a short gun is the turkey woods, not so much for when I am sitting down and waiting on a bird but for walking through the woods with the gun slung. The longer the barrel, the more branches it hits. When I used to hunt with a muzzleloader, it drove me nuts because the trees would frequently pluck the ramrod out of the gun.