The Question

Dear Ken,

I'm 13 and I just completed my PAL and HS requirements this spring. Now my dad is going to take me duck hunting in September, and grouse hunting in late October, and I'm very excited. I've been shooting guns for a few years now, but those were all rifles. What’s a good bird shotgun for a young hunter like me?

Braedon L-H

The Answer

Congratulations on passing HS and PAL—I’m sure you’re awfully excited to get out into the field. When selecting a shotgun, start by deciding on the gauge. If you can handle it, go with a 12-gauge, as they’re the most versatile and will serve you well for a lifetime if you take care of them. If you’re small in stature, or if you’re recoil-sensitive, you can always go to a 20-gauge. If you do select a 12 gauge, use light loads, which will reduce the recoil considerably.

Now you need to think about action type. I’d recommend you start with a pump-action. They’re dependable and easy to clean, more versatile than a double-barrel and less finicky than a semi-auto. If your dad is concerned about you taking more than one shot at a time, have him remove the plug and replace it with a piece of dowel. That will eliminate any shells being loaded into the magazine.
An all-around pump shotgun, in my estimation, should have a barrel length of 28 inches. Also make sure it has interchangeable chokes.

In terms of manufacturer, shotguns are all pretty well made these days. What’s more important than who makes it, is finding a gun that fits you well. Handle a few different models in your local gun shop, and you’ll be able to tell which one “feels” best. That’s the one to select. If you’re small, some companies make youth-sized shotguns you might want to consider. The problem with these, is that you tend to outgrow them in just a couple of years.

Whatever firearm you choose, practice with it as much as possible before opening day. Shoot some clay targets if there’s a range nearby, and ensure you’re comfortable with how the safety works, how to load and unload your shotgun, how to take it apart to clean it, and how to change the chokes.

Good luck in the field this fall—I hope you have a wonderful season.

Cheers,

Ken Bailey