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Dove shotgun....12 or 20 ga.?

bobbertbobbert Posts: 63 Member
Dove Hunting by Charley Dickey, 1976, states that the novice dove hunter should have a 12 ga. since doves are so terribly hard to hit anyway. You don't have to carry far for dove since you shoot from a stool usually. Do you believe this to be true?

I fancy a Benelli Nova or SuperNova pump. Either can be had with field barrels in either gauge. A 20 is just lighter to carry and kicks less. I suppose a 12 won't kick bad with dove or skeet loads. I'd prefer a 20 for flushing birds as quail and pheasant. You certainly need a 12 with heavy hunting loads for ducks. 

What do you think? 

Replies

  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 24,503 Senior Member
    I use and like both. Just depends on which gun I want to use. But, I find myself using a 20ga more often than not. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • bobbertbobbert Posts: 63 Member
    edited May 2020 #3
    Zee said:
    I use and like both. Just depends on which gun I want to use. But, I find myself using a 20ga more often than not. 
    I think it a thing of pride to be able to take a limit of mourning dove without going over one box of shotgun shells. These are tough critters to hit from all that I've read or heard. Will a 12 really make it more likely to take a dove limit with fewer shells fired? Do they really throw larger dense-enough patterns that a clever speedy darting dove is less likely to slip through? Does a 12 really allow for a greater margin of error for less than perfect lead, less than perfect swing and/or less than perfect mount or shotgun fit? Is it tougher to miss a dove with a 12? 
  • RugerFanRugerFan Senior Member Posts: 2,394 Senior Member
    Not hard to miss doves with a 12. I can miss them with a 12 just as easily as I can with a 20 😃
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,108 Senior Member
    The way I shoot, I do just as well throwing rocks.  Don't be discouraged if your hit to shot ratio is abysmal.  They're hard to hit.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 23,949 Senior Member
    Rocks are cheaper! ;)
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,085 Senior Member
    I split the difference...my dove gun is a 16 gauge SxS...
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • bobbertbobbert Posts: 63 Member
    RugerFan said:
    Not hard to miss doves with a 12. I can miss them with a 12 just as easily as I can with a 20 😃
    But can you actually hit them easier with a 12? 
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,085 Senior Member
    bobbert said:
    RugerFan said:
    Not hard to miss doves with a 12. I can miss them with a 12 just as easily as I can with a 20 😃
    But can you actually hit them easier with a 12? 
    A lot depends on how your shotgun is choked...and your ability as a wing shooter...in the end, 12 or 20 makes virtually no difference...
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 11,861 Senior Member
    edited May 2020 #10
    I have a nice 20 for doves which was my choice back when I had a place to shoot doves. I'm a terrible wing shot and doubt a 12 would give me any advantage.  Also have a Darne 16, super S x S lightweight and would make a fine dove gun, but see latter part of first sentence.  The clays range closest to me shut down a couple of years ago, so I guess I'm a collector of nice S x S now, with a total of two.

    Speaking only theoretically, to me a 16 ga. is ideal back when they were built on the 16 frame. When the fell out of favor with the rise of the 20, the firearms makers (in affordable models) used 12 ga. frames for 16 ga. guns.  Bad fit and ungainly.

    I don't think a 16 outperforms a modern 20, and ammo is a bit more expensive for 16s, but still...
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • bobbertbobbert Posts: 63 Member
    edited May 2020 #11
    Jayhawker said:
    bobbert said:
    RugerFan said:
    Not hard to miss doves with a 12. I can miss them with a 12 just as easily as I can with a 20 😃
    But can you actually hit them easier with a 12? 
    A lot depends on how your shotgun is choked...and your ability as a wing shooter...in the end, 12 or 20 makes virtually no difference...
    A 20 might be great on a target with a predictable flight path as one of those skeet clay birds. Doves are never predictable in flight and one of those dodgy little buzzards can foil even the veterans.  I might just stick with a 12 as a greenhorn since that's what one classic dove-shooting writer from the days of yore recommended. Benelli does (or did) have a mercury recoil-buffer option for its 12 gauge Nova/Supernova models. 
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,287 Senior Member
    bobbert said:
    Jayhawker said:
    bobbert said:
    RugerFan said:
    Not hard to miss doves with a 12. I can miss them with a 12 just as easily as I can with a 20 😃
    But can you actually hit them easier with a 12? 
    A lot depends on how your shotgun is choked...and your ability as a wing shooter...in the end, 12 or 20 makes virtually no difference...
    A 20 might be great on a target with a predictable flight path as one of those skeet clay birds. Doves are never predictable in flight and one of those dodgy little buzzards can foil even the veterans.  I might just stick with a 12 as a greenhorn since that's one dove writer recommended. Benelli does (or did) have a mercury recoil-buffer option for its 12 gauge Nova/Supernova models. 
    20 ga is good for just about anything you’d take it to task for.  Actually most “target” shooters prefer light target 12 ga loads.  Firing a string of 100 birds using game loads is not pleasant regardless of the gun.

    Picking a shotgun for ANYTHING is akin to picking a wife.  You will find love and then you will adapt.  The right shotgun is the one that fits YOU best, you can shoot the best and with the least amount of recoil for extended shooting sessions if that’s the game, which dove tends to be.

    The Shooter is 98% of the equation and one thing to consider is that as a rookie you will miss A LOT.  Misses with  game loads of 20 ga, especially cumulative in a short period of time, are a lot less painful and with today’s 20 ga loads you are missing very little over the 12 ga on smaller birds.  Also a lot of folks find the smaller framed 20s more “lively” which is a term you will need to define on your own.  Now if you were hunting geese my advice would be different...
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • JayJay Senior Member Posts: 3,913 Senior Member
    In THEORY, a 12 gives you a better chance. Bigger shell, more shot.  Of course, if one was to buy the cheapest 12 gauge shells on the shelf, like 7/8 ounce Super Speeds, then you've effectively just killed that theoretical advantage.  And, if you can get your pattern on the bird and the shot is sufficient to bring the bird down, it really doesn't matter.

    I personally hunt with a O/U 12 ga. with 1 1/8 ounce 7-8 shot. Because that's what I like. At one time, I was able to take a limit with one box of shells.  When I was hunting a lot. My best was 15 birds with 18 shells, I believe. But I probably couldn't even get close to that now.

    Also, down here, there are a lot of Eurasian doves.  There is no limit on them here.  I've found that they can be much harder to knock down that Mourning or White Wing doves.  So having a little more "punch" works better for me.
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 11,861 Senior Member
    This is a lot of chatty info, irrelevant to the OP, but what the hell, it's lockdown and I've got nothing to do.  So read on if you're also bored, just be advised.  It is about dove guns, though.

    I've had one O/U a long time ago, a Beretta BL3, I believe it was.  I was in the Army and went to the Post Skeet Range at Ft. Polk, LA.  I don't think Sporting Clays had been invented then...1970 or so.  An instructor took me around the course, telling me how to lead, etc. with a 1100.  I hit like 21 or so, and thinking I was a natural, I ordered a gun from the Rod & Gun Club, the BL 3 12 ga. And the first time I shot at a dove, not on a dove field, I dusted it.  It was coming head on. Hey!  I thought "I'm bad!"


    But that was it.  One for one, No more doves came over and shortly after that, I moved away, got married, needed money and sold the gun. I wanted another shotgun, a SxS (traditionalist) and got an Ithaca, Japanese made and a fine gun.  No dove fields in my area I could afford to go to, and I lost the gun in a divorce.  A 12 also.

    Long time between dove fields and longer between dove guns.  About 12  years ago, I was invited to a Dove Shoot on a genuine dove field, first and only time for that.  I only had a 870 cylinder bore 12, shot a box of shells, one bird.  Pathetic. Then 10 years ago, I saw a Connecticut Valley RBL on display and fell in love, sold a couple of guns, and became the proud owner of a fine 20 ga.  Shot Clays a couple of times a week and was getting better at it until the course went bust.  Stuck with a dove gun, but no place to shoot it, but it could be worse,


    A few years ago, a guy brought in a Darne, a decidedly weird French made SxS in 16 ga. (which is uncommon in the US) into my LGS.  It was attractively priced, and you don't see them often over here.  I'd first seen one in Viet Nam, a little higher grade one than mine, I believe.  So now I have two dove guns and no place to shoot them.


    Life is still good.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • NNNN Senior Member Posts: 24,806 Senior Member
    I used a 12; it was a remington mod 58 Sportsman
  • bobbertbobbert Posts: 63 Member
    GunNut said:
    bobbert said:
    Jayhawker said:
    bobbert said:
    RugerFan said:
    Not hard to miss doves with a 12. I can miss them with a 12 just as easily as I can with a 20 😃
    But can you actually hit them easier with a 12? 
    A lot depends on how your shotgun is choked...and your ability as a wing shooter...in the end, 12 or 20 makes virtually no difference...
    A 20 might be great on a target with a predictable flight path as one of those skeet clay birds. Doves are never predictable in flight and one of those dodgy little buzzards can foil even the veterans.  I might just stick with a 12 as a greenhorn since that's one dove writer recommended. Benelli does (or did) have a mercury recoil-buffer option for its 12 gauge Nova/Supernova models. 
    20 ga is good for just about anything you’d take it to task for.  Actually most “target” shooters prefer light target 12 ga loads.  Firing a string of 100 birds using game loads is not pleasant regardless of the gun.

    Picking a shotgun for ANYTHING is akin to picking a wife.  You will find love and then you will adapt.  The right shotgun is the one that fits YOU best, you can shoot the best and with the least amount of recoil for extended shooting sessions if that’s the game, which dove tends to be.

    The Shooter is 98% of the equation and one thing to consider is that as a rookie you will miss A LOT.  Misses with  game loads of 20 ga, especially cumulative in a short period of time, are a lot less painful and with today’s 20 ga loads you are missing very little over the 12 ga on smaller birds.  Also a lot of folks find the smaller framed 20s more “lively” which is a term you will need to define on your own.  Now if you were hunting geese my advice would be different...

    Does a 12 ga. dove load or light field load kick appreciably? Firing  2 3/4" double-aught-buck loads in my 870 Remington police pump at an indoor range is not the most pleasant thing to do even for only 5 rounds. Not painful kick, but irritating kick nonetheless. 

  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,085 Senior Member
    edited May 2020 #17
    No...as long as you have a proper stance....a properly fitting shotgun helps a lot too...


    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • orchidmanorchidman Senior Member Posts: 8,145 Senior Member
    I am not going to recommend a 12 over a 20 or vice versa. The simple reason is that with modern loads, you can load up to a 12 using a 20 and you can down load a 12 to a 20, depending on what ammunition you buy. A purpose built 20 ( not one based on a 12g frame) will be lighter and more agile..........a 12 will be heavier normally which will aid the 'swing'. They both have advantages and disadvantages.

    The most important thing to consider is gun fit.
    Shooting fast moving targets be they feathered or clay relies more on gun fit than size. If the gun doesnt become an extension of your body it wont matter what gauge it is.
    It doesnt really matter if its a semi, SxS O/U or a pump gun.  If the gun doesnt fit it is much harder to be successful.

    You mention in your OP that a 20 kicks less than a 12...........Again, recoil is more about gun fit than weight unless you are shooting heavy or magnum loads although the exception is the difference between a semi or fixed action like a SxS O/U  etc...

    My advice would be to look for a Sporting clay range near to you, go along and introduce yourself, try a few different styles of shotgun, ie semi,pump, O/u etc and different brands of each........Then try to find a gunsmith that knows how to fit a shotgun to suit you.
    It may be more expensive in the short term but you should end up with a gun that will serve you well for most of your life.

    Learning to shoot fast flying objects is another whole different ball game,,,,,,,,but having a gun that fits you personally is the biggest and first hurdle to get over..........

    Just my point of view after over 50+ years of  both field and competition shooting

    BTW, welcome to our house, we are like a big family, we bitch and argue a lot sometimes, but always provide humour, good advice which is worth what you pay for it, and there is a wealth of knowledge to help guide you.
     
    Still enjoying the trip of a lifetime and making the best of what I have.....
  • JayJay Senior Member Posts: 3,913 Senior Member
    edited May 2020 #19
    "Kick" aka felt recoil is dependent on a lot of variables.  The action and design of the gun probably being the most important.  A single shot break open shotgun will recoil more than your 870, which will recoil more than a nice autoloader. It's also a matter of personal preference.  I personally don't have a problem shooting the heavy field loads and I use the same loads on the trap field. When I was learning, I asked a close friend and older gentleman I know who at one time was a world champion trap shooter why he shot the heavy 1 1/8 oz loads on the trap field all the time.  His answer was simple.  "More BBs. Better chance of breaking the target.."  When you get back to the 25 yard line on a trap field, you want some shot going toward the target.... I also translated that information to field conditions for dove and quail...  That's also why I personally choose 7, 7 1/2 or 8 shot loads for bird hunting.  "More BBs," as Jim so eloquently put it to me...  Of course, gotta make sure those BBs pattern the way you want, too..

    As far as recoil, the actual load being used matters as well.  A 7/8 oz load will not recoil as much as a 1 1/8 load.  But, all that being said, a field load will not produce as much felt recoil as a standard buckshot load.  Buy a box of 1 1/8 oz, 2 3/4" shells and try them out of your 870. A good field gun SHOULD be more comfortable.  So if you're cool with them out of your 870, you've learned something you can apply to a good field gun.  If you find them uncomfortable or if you just decide to go with a 20 ga, go for it.

    For bird hunting, learning how to shoot is the critical part. Being able to put the shot cloud where the bird will be when it gets there is the key.  If you can do that, a 12,16 or 20 will all do the job. Watch the bird, not the gun and keep the gun moving (follow through).  More misses are due to stopping the gun or watching the bead on the barrel rather than focusing on the bird than anything else. Learn lead based on distance and speed of the bird. It's a learned skill that some people take to more naturally than others...
  • JayJay Senior Member Posts: 3,913 Senior Member
    GunNut makes another good point. If you plant to shoot waterfoul some time in the future, stuff bigger than doves, and you don't want to buy multiple shotguns, probably lean toward a 12 ga.  Or, use that as a reason to buy more guns....  That's the better idea..
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,287 Senior Member
    bobbert said:
    GunNut said:
    bobbert said:
    Jayhawker said:
    bobbert said:
    RugerFan said:
    Not hard to miss doves with a 12. I can miss them with a 12 just as easily as I can with a 20 😃
    But can you actually hit them easier with a 12? 
    A lot depends on how your shotgun is choked...and your ability as a wing shooter...in the end, 12 or 20 makes virtually no difference...
    A 20 might be great on a target with a predictable flight path as one of those skeet clay birds. Doves are never predictable in flight and one of those dodgy little buzzards can foil even the veterans.  I might just stick with a 12 as a greenhorn since that's one dove writer recommended. Benelli does (or did) have a mercury recoil-buffer option for its 12 gauge Nova/Supernova models. 
    20 ga is good for just about anything you’d take it to task for.  Actually most “target” shooters prefer light target 12 ga loads.  Firing a string of 100 birds using game loads is not pleasant regardless of the gun.

    Picking a shotgun for ANYTHING is akin to picking a wife.  You will find love and then you will adapt.  The right shotgun is the one that fits YOU best, you can shoot the best and with the least amount of recoil for extended shooting sessions if that’s the game, which dove tends to be.

    The Shooter is 98% of the equation and one thing to consider is that as a rookie you will miss A LOT.  Misses with  game loads of 20 ga, especially cumulative in a short period of time, are a lot less painful and with today’s 20 ga loads you are missing very little over the 12 ga on smaller birds.  Also a lot of folks find the smaller framed 20s more “lively” which is a term you will need to define on your own.  Now if you were hunting geese my advice would be different...

    Does a 12 ga. dove load or light field load kick appreciably? Firing  2 3/4" double-aught-buck loads in my 870 Remington police pump at an indoor range is not the most pleasant thing to do even for only 5 rounds. Not painful kick, but irritating kick nonetheless. 

    All 12 ga loads out of pump, single or double barreled shotguns will let you know you’ve fired a round.  Semi autos will generally have less recoil but there are exceptions to all rules and a well fitting stock will mitigate some of the recoil.

    But even shooting light 12ga loads, when I take a new shooter to Shoot Trap I normally try to limit them to one 25 shot round on day one because even with the ultra light target loads they WILL feel it next day.
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • JayJay Senior Member Posts: 3,913 Senior Member
    Great advice. 

    Not to take anything away from anyone, but I’d take Orchid’s advice in a heartbeat. He knows what he’s doing. As do the others, of course...

    Out of everything in shooting sports and hunting, I can’t keep from being be in awe of a good wing shooter. The whole thing is an art form and beautiful when done right.. this ol’ redneck just got lucky and did ok now and then. The guys who know their stuff are cool to watch. 
  • orchidmanorchidman Senior Member Posts: 8,145 Senior Member
    Jay said:
    Great advice. 



    Out of everything in shooting sports and hunting, I can’t keep from being be in awe of a good wing shooter. The whole thing is an art form and beautiful when done right..
    Nailed it Jay.
    When you watch a great wingshooter the person and gun act as one unit seamlessly. Bird/clay shooting is an exercise which relies on total coordination between the shooter and the tool (gun).

    Still enjoying the trip of a lifetime and making the best of what I have.....
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,085 Senior Member
    When you have a properly fitted shotgun you and you learn to focus on, not just the bird, but a specific spot on the bird is when wingshooting comes together....I'm a much better wing shooter in my 50s and 60s than I was in my 30s...learning to slow down figures into that...
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 8,383 Senior Member
    The logistics of 12 gauge are just a whole lot easier - LOTS more choices out there and LOTS more of those choices on the shelf.

    I like the higher pellet count, and run a full choke - the intent being to have birds be either entirely missed or rapidly dead.

    Recoil is more a factor of the load and the weight of the gun than the bore diameter.  There are hot 20's and light 12's, but a 20 will never have the upper threshold.

    There are lighter and whippier 12's if that's your thing.  The 12 gauge Nova, as I remember it anyway, is a poorly balanced club, but the 20 version was significantly better.  There's a lot of ways to play with the balance of a shotgun: steel receiver, aluminum receiver, playing with the taper on the barrel walls, barrel length, density of whatever the stock is made out of - - so it's not really fair to apply the blanket statement of "20's are just livelier".

    FWIW, I ran a Mossberg 500 as my dove gun the last two seasons I went and found that the tang safety is a lot easier for on and off quickly; the large ejection port is GREAT for chamber loading when you're empty; and not having the flappy shell carrier of a Model 12, 870, Nova, etc... hanging down in your loading port when the bolt is forward makes feeding the magazine quickly a breeze.
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,085 Senior Member
    Back when I was rehabbing older side by sides I had a Lefever Nitro Special in 20 gauge (originally short chambered but opened up to 2 3/4") that would just knock the snot out of you
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,152 Senior Member
    edited May 2020 #27
    Jayhawker said:
    When you have a properly fitted shotgun you and you learn to focus on, not just the bird, but a specific spot on the bird is when wingshooting comes together....I'm a much better wing shooter in my 50s and 60s than I was in my 30s...learning to slow down figures into that...
    Totally true.  It's to the point that I purposel - and often successfully - go for doubles when hunting teal and other ducks in the early season by leading the overlapping blob of two huddled close together.

    As for doves: I have no shame and want all the shot in the air I can get.  Gimme the 12 GA.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 22,394 Senior Member
    edited July 2020 #28
    I've got both plus a Browning FN Belgium made Sweet 16. I've yet to pull the trigger at a dove with the Browning but I'm wanting to. I also have a Citori 12 gauge, a Remington 870 12 Gauge, a model 12 Winchester 12 gauge, and a Mossberg 500 20 gauge. So take your pick. I don't have any real modern guns but I love what I have.
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
This discussion has been closed.
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