All it took for me was a spark lit by that first shotgun and I was hooked. Although I love my job as a competitive shooter, what gets me through tough days at the office is my overall love for the outdoors. Competitive shooting is what got me interested in shooting, but hunting is what has kept me interested and made me a lifelong outdoorsman.
When I was 11 years old I broke my hips in a hockey injury and was confined to a wheelchair for 23 months. Being an active kid, it was very difficult for me to sit still with nothing to do, or compete in. For a short time, I was even homeschooled, due to mobility restrictions. I was literally going nuts! Until one day I was watching TV and happened to flip to the outdoor channel, there I saw clay target shooting for the first time. I was instantly hooked and wanted to find a way to get started. Although I had grown up with a respect for guns I had never had the opportunity to actually shoot one. Growing up in a Southern California town, shooting guns wasn’t as common as is for many other kids that grow up in more rural areas. Still being surrounded by a neighborhood filled with police officers and other outdoorsmen, all I had to do was express some interest and the offers to go shooting started to flood in.
After several weeks of trying to convince my mother, she finally cracked and let my dad buy me my first shotgun. It was a $79.99 New England Arms single shot 20 gauge that was bought from Walmart. From the very moment I laid eyes on a shotgun I fell in love with them.
The New England 20 ga is just about as simple as they come. With a thumb opened action and external, manual hammer, cocked trigger. The choke is a fixed modified which means you can’t remove. What the gun lacks in frills it makes up for in dependability and versatility. The modified choke allows you to shoot the full range of cartridge choices; from lead clay target and game loads all the way up to steel and slugs. This gun is simple but effective.
Shotgunning has taken me all over the World. I have been a competitive shooter for 12 years and have been on the US National Shotgun team for 8 of them. I have been to 22 countries on 5 continents all because shooting a shotgun took me there. I have become a National Champion, World Cup gold medalist, and World Record Holder all because one day I happened to flip the TV to the right station at the right moment. I have upgraded from the New England 20 ga, but I still own it and shoot it every opening day of Dove season.
I started training bird dogs when I was 13 and have always loved wing shooting over a well-trained dog. After my season is over in September, I trade in my Krieghoff for a Benelli or 870 and hunt everything that has a season. I start with dove in September and carry myself right through January snow goose season, hunting everything with fur and feathers in between. Usually with a shotgun at my side.
But, why I really love shotguns is because they are so versatile. Seriously, if you can find me any other gun that you can shoot a quail with at 15 yards and also shoot a whitetail with at 150, I will be very impressed. Not to mention all the different gauges, styles and brands. You have; .410, 28, 16, 20, 12, and 10. They come in almost every action that you could possibly think of; single shot, pump, side-by-side, over-under, semi-automatic, lever action, and bolt action. Not to mention they are made by almost every brand out there in every price range possible. On the economic side you have CZ, Remington, Mossberg, and Browning and on the high end custom made side you have Krieghoff, Perazzi and Beretta. This is just to name a few. You can choose to spend $80 on one or you can choose to spend $8000. Obviously you get a few more perks as you climb up in the price range, but they all accomplish the same task.
You can use them to break a 4-inch clay target crossing at 60 yards, and also use them to shoot a 3-inch slug group at 100 yards. They are one class of weapon that literally has an answer to every question asked of them. If you had no other choice, you could use a single shot shotgun to hunt or shoot something every season of the year. You could use the same gun to shoot doves in September, throw a scope on it and hunt big bucks in October. Obviously, you are going to have to make some gear and ammo changes, but with the correct equipment, a shotgun could be the only gun that you need to own.
The exact same Remington 870 that you can use to hunt ducks, geese and pheasants, can just as easily and effectively be used as a home defense gun. It’s often stated that the sound of a pump action shotgun will clear a house faster than any other noise in a dark house in the middle of the night.
Their rugged dependability is what makes them a favorite action for the everyday sportsman. You can drag them through the mud, use them for a boat paddle and as long as you are strong enough, still rack one in the chamber and shoot a green head with his feet out.
With so many variations, styles, and ammunition choices the topic of shotguns and shotgunning can be broad and confusing. In the series that follow, I will be discussing and breaking down the vast World of shotguns.
I will offer tricks and tips on cleaning and care and how to pick the correct ammunition for your day in the field or a day on the range. We will look at what gauges are most effective for fur and fowl, and just plain and simple what guns are the most fun to shoot.
With a topic as broad reaching and vast as shotgunning, I look forward to diving into every possible crevasse about these interesting, versatile and complex weapons.