My brothers in camo, maybe you know by now, that I always try to be honest with you. I say this, because I was just a little nervous to start this month’s offering. One reason being, I think I have probably talked to you before about the importance of being prepared, knowing where your shotgun hits and having it sighted in (yes, I said “sighted in” for a shotgun).
As we are speeding into the month of March, many of us “shot-gunners” are thinking about (or should be) preparing for the spring turkey season. I want to caution you about merely grabbing the shotgun off the wall, and heading off to the woods. Success comes from having confidence in your weapon, and we achieve this by doing some shooting and knowing what the gun will do.
First, remember that this turkey shooting deal, in the spring, has evolved into something more like rifle shooting than “shot-gunning.” Ideally we are aiming, not pointing the gun, at a small, stationary target (the turkeys head and neck). Almost any kind of sights we put on the shotgun, more than just a standard bead, will help us.
The first level of improvement is installing an additional bead, about halfway down the rib. This gives you a “rear sight.” The shooter puts the rear bead on the front bead, front bead on the target and squeezes the trigger. A bead or rear sight, is meant to keep us from making the big mistake, the blunder, that saves more turkeys lives, than any other factor in our shooting. Ready? Here it is.
When we do not put our head on the gun and look squarely down a level rib, we shoot high and miss. I know, I’ve done it more than once. The front bead, is in fact, on the target, but your cheek is not fully down on the stock. The gun is tilted up and you sit there with your teeth in your mouth watching your turkey fly away. No amount of cursing and/or praying will bring him back.
Next level of improvement is rifle sights (check out what HizViz or Dead Ringer have to offer). An open, rear sight gives you a more precise way to aim the shotgun. Red Dot style scopes and other optics are an even more sophisticated way to aim. Even an inexpensive Red Dot scope can make a shotgun very deadly and the reason is simple.
If the Red Dot style optic is properly sighted in, and the dot is on the target when the shooter pulls the trigger, you will hit the target. This takes the cardinal sin, of not keeping our head down, out of the picture. Now remember, we are talking about aiming the shotgun at a mostly stationary target. Any wing or clay shooting instructor will have a stroke, if you ask him about putting these sights on your gun.
Alright, now that we have an accurate way to aim, let’s talk about point of impact. One of the hardest things for some people to learn, is that all shotguns, do not shoot-where-they-look. If we fire the shotgun from a bench rest, the target may tell us the gun is shooting right, left, high, low, or whatever. Let me make it even clearer. Many shotguns will shoot differently with different loads or chokes. You have to put them on paper, folks!
Basically, what we are talking about here, is sighting in your shotgun, and you knew I would have some pointers on this. First, do this on a day when you are not in a hurry. If you are pressed for time, go home, and watch “swamp folks” or something else on television. To do this right, you need a large target holder (30 inches or better), a bench rest, sandbags or comparable, ammo, targets, and a stapler.
DEAD FOOT ARMS
Have the loads, you are going to hunt with, on hand, but we are not going to start with them. To begin, let’s shoot any low brass, target loads that you have. Your first shot will be from 10 yard line (that’s right, 10 yards). You don’t need a turkey head target for this. A large piece of blank paper is better. Darken in a 4 inch circle, in the middle, to give you an aiming point and mark a straight line, vertical and horizontal, through your aiming point. All we are doing, is seeing where the pattern is going. Is the pattern evenly placed on either side of the lines? Is there about 50 percent of the pattern above the horizontal line and 50 percent below? Now, do this at the 20, 30 and 40 yard lines.
Use a new piece of paper every time and if it looks like you are Ok and the gun is shooting-where-it-looks, you should then try your hunting loads at the same intervals. Now, you know where your gun is shooting, no question.
If the pattern is significantly off and you cannot adjust it with your sights, you are getting into an area where you need to speak to a qualified gunsmith. We are talking about straightening or bending a barrel here. Don’t let that scare you; a good gunsmith can do this in his sleep.
Linda Powell – Mossberg Director of Media Relations, with a Mossberg 535 at SHOT.
Mossberg 535 Shotgun
You know my theory, about how many shotguns one needs? My answer is all you can get! So, I wanted to give you a peek, at a shotgun, that you can lust after.
Mossberg came out with the 835 Ulti Mag and 535 ATS pump shotguns back in 2015. The Marble Arms Bullseye sight system. If you don’t know about these sights, they have been around since Davy Crockett tracked his first bear.
I looked at these guns at SHOT Show; the shotgun is the same, functional, dependable, Mossberg pump gun with dual extractors, twin action bars, an anti-jam elevator, and that great ambidextrous top mounted safety. The Marble Bullseye, is a double ring design on the rear sight, and a light gathering fiber optic on the front. It allows the shooter to get on target quickly, and stay on target. The instant the front sight drifts out of the center ring, the shooter can see they are not on target. This sight is ideal for a turkey hunter.
The minute I picked this shotgun up and looked through the Marble sight, I liked it, and you will too. I have always thought that Mossberg shotguns are tough as a pine knot, and from what I can see the Marble Bullseye sight is as well. – Larry Case
The Long, So-far Fruitless Quest To Build A Battle Scattergun
Story by Joseph Trevithick
The shotgun is an iconic weapon most often associated with the pump-action badassery of action films and video games. While awesome in fiction, its use in the real world is limited to close combat and breaching doors, not to mention bird and deer hunting. Despite its drawbacks, a mystique surrounds the weapon, and soldiers as well as law enforcement officers still use them. The draw of the gun is so powerful that the Pentagon has spent several decades and millions of dollars to improve on the basic design.
In the late 1960s, the military and private companies started tinkering with prototypes for a super shotgun. Three decades later, questions about the weapon’s purpose and practicality on the battlefield doomed the project. The proposed super shotguns were revolutionary, but perhaps to a fault.
Since World War I, scatterguns have been a fixture in American military arsenals. In the trenches, where fighting could be brutal and often hand-to-hand, the short-range idea wasn’t a problem. In World War II, individual soldiers or Marines, especially in the Pacific, carried shotguns to help clear out bunkers or break up ambushes. The same situation persisted in both Korea and Vietnam, but even throughout these eras, the US Army and Marine Corps mostly issued the weapons to military police officers on guard duty.
“The usefulness of the shotgun in combat has long been the subject of some controversy,” Carroll Childers wrote in the January-February 1981 issue of Infantry magazine. “Unfortunately, a great deal of romanticism about its use prevails.”
At the time, Childers was an engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., as well as an officer in the Virginia Army National Guard. In 1969, Childers started work on what he hoped would be a radical new design dubbed the special operations weapon, or SOW. Childers based his initial concept on the needs of and feedback from Navy SEAL teams and Marine reconnaissance troops. The shotgun’s features made it an attractive weapon for specialized units that often had very specific requirements.
During the Vietnam War, Marines complained about how contemporary scatterguns needed to be constantly reloaded during firefights, couldn’t reliably hit anything — let alone kill — at even modest ranges and couldn’t stand up to the abuse of a patrol, according to Childers. The SOW prototype looked fearsome and crude, but it solved many of these key problems. The gun was fully automatic and fed from a 10-round, detachable magazine. Unlike the fixed tubular designs on most shotguns of the day, a shooter with an SOW wouldn’t need to reload one shell at a time, and they could swap out ammunition types — pellets, solid slugs and more — with relative ease. Childers’ gun was also compact compared to the other types of firearms troops took into the Vietnamese jungle, at least in length. With its simple stock folded — or removed — the SOW was shorter than the pump-action Remington Model 870.
Three years after the project got under way, Dahlgren patented the SOW. That same year, Maxwell Atchisson, a former Marine and private weapons designer, introduced his Atchisson Assault Shotgun. Atchisson’s original weapon looked like an M-16 on steroids, but was clearly influenced by the same background as the SOW, and had a special recoil-absorbing system built in to make it less of a beast to shoot.
The benelli M-1014 semiauto shotgun still has not completely replaced all of the classic-style pump shotguns. (MARINE CORPS)
When Washington signed the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam and began pulling troops out of Southeast Asia, any interest in either design evaporated. In the years that followed, Pentagon budgets shrank across the board.
DEAD FOOT ARMS
Unlike many other projects, the post-Vietnam drawdowns couldn’t kill the SOW concept. By the end of the decade, the Pentagon had started up an overarching effort to cook up new guns across the services called the Joint Service Small Arms Program, or JSSAP. The new office declared that there was a need for an improved combat shotgun suited for military purposes.
“While the greatest threat is represented by Warsaw Pact forces in Europe, there is a growing belief that the most likely US military engagement will again involve third-world countries,” a May 1979 Pentagon memo stated. “Current shotguns are converted commercial weapons adopted under the pressure of wartime emergencies.”
If another small conflict were to break out, American troops would be in the exact same predicament they had been in Vietnam. The Pentagon felt soldiers and Marines fighting in dense wilderness or urban areas needed better guns.
The work at Dahlgren caught the eye of the JSSAP. With Childers’ experience, the Navy led the development of RHINO — repeating, handheld, improved, non-rifled ordnance.
“I wanted to keep the name SOW, but that, being a female pig, never gained the support of those conferring program titles,” Childers wrote in a letter to Benjamin Schemmer in 1982. “RHINO was a little more catchy.” Schemmer, editor of Armed Forces Journal, had just published an article on the current state of JSSAP’s project. Childers felt the piece had fundamentally misunderstood and misrepresented his work.
The Pentagon had hoped the end result would be a revolutionary gun, not limited like existing shotguns, but the JSSAP-sponsored plans called not just for a new gun, but new projectiles to go with it. The RHINO would spit out pellets, high-explosive grenades, signal flares, tear gas bombs and more. Troops would use the weapon for house-to-house searches, combat and standing watch.
Tank crews would trade in their old WWII-era submachine guns for these new weapons. Even better, the resulting design could replace existing survival rifles, but plans for such a broad and sweeping firearm would run into trouble. Two years after JSSAP’s memo got the RHINO project going, the office renamed it the Multipurpose Individual Weapon System. A year after that decision, the Pentagon changed the moniker again to Combat Shotgun. Each shift reflected an internal debate about just what the new guns were actually supposed to do.
By 1982, the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Ind., had taken over what was by then known as the Close Assault Weapon System, or CAWS. Much of the original logic for the new weapon was getting lost along the way. The CAWS requirements had largely dispensed with plans for a multi-purpose weapon. Ammunition development focused on trying to build pellet-filled shells that would be accurate at longer ranges. These new rounds would make a troop armed with the shotgun less of a liability to his comrades on a traditional battlefield, but no one had ever really expected a soldier to use the weapon in that manner anyway. “I certainly wouldn’t want an automatic shotgun,” retired Army Col. Charles Beckwith, founder of Delta Force, told Schemmer in an interview. “I’d have to have four boys along just to carry the ammunition!”
The Heckler and Koch and Olin Close Assault Weapons System (CAWS) prototype. (H&K)
The Olin CAWS Spec Sheet
(COURTESY OF H&K)
Perhaps worst of all, the whole thing was becoming a political nightmare for everyone involved. “It is important that JSSAP show some development success [on CAWS] or lose credibility as a research and development vehicle,” Ray Thorkildsen, an ordnance expert in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, wrote the same year. Thorkildsen wanted Crane to hurry up and build something. With Childers’ in-house project scrapped, private companies were eager to scoop up the now open contract.
The AAI Corporation and Heckler & Koch took the lead. Like Atchisson’s shotgun, AAI’s prototype looked and handled like a beefed-up M-16. H&K offered a more radical “bullpup” design, which had its magazine all the way in the rear. Pan Associates, a much smaller company, planned to offer an even more futuristic-looking gun called the Jackhammer, but the Pentagon demanded all manufacturers have a line of specialty ammo ready to go with their submissions.
Despite a protest to the Government Accountability Office that held up the contract, Pan gave up trying to meet the goal. Atchisson also declined. A year after Thorkildsen sent his memo, H&K finally won out. The German gun manufacturer brought in Olin to design the new all-metal shells full of shot made from a tungsten alloy.
For the next three years, the prototypes were put through their paces. The new buckshot was indeed more accurate and deadly, historian Kevin Dockery notes in his book Special Warfare Special Weapons.
But with the project’s supporters increasingly unable to explain who would use the weapons or why, the project finally came to a close. More than a decade later, JSSAP chose a conventional semiautomatic as the Pentagon’s new scattergun, but the Benelli M-1014 still hasn’t completely replaced aging pump guns.
Four years ago, the Army started buying shotguns that fit underneath standard M-4 carbines. These M-26 Modular Accessory Shotgun Systems give troops an option for breaking down doors without having to lug a whole separate weapon around. Still, private industry has refused to give up on the idea of a fully automatic shotgun. Over the years, many companies purchased the rights to Atchisson’s design. Daewoo in South Korea built a derivative of that shotgun, too, but without real interest from the Pentagon or any other military around the world, the various guns have spent far more time in Hollywood productions and video games than in actual combat. AmSJ
Story and photographs by the team at Legacy Collectibles
Towards the end of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, the soldiers of the 506th Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne, are sent to Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” retreat in the Bavarian Alps. There, Nazi leaders had a getaway resort where they could enjoy an opulent lifestyle away from the public eye. As depicted in the miniseries, this is where the real boys of the 101st found a treasure trove of war souvenirs, and this is where the story of our shotgun – engraved with the initials A.H. – begins.
This style of shotgun, known as a Drilling, is uniquely German. The engraved Krieghoff Neptune variation combines a double-barrel, 12-gauge shotgun with an 8×57 JR-caliber rifle barrel. The gun metal is ornate, featuring high-relief engravings depicting woodlands with deer. The serial number, 15450, indicates that the gun was made in 1931 and then sent to a master engraver to embellish the gun to its current condition. The bottom of the trigger guard is where the initials are located.
1934 – 1935
Heinrich Krieghoff was in Sewanee, Germany, where he demonstrated a gas-operated rifle to Adolph Hitler, Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess and Paul von Hindenberg, possibly to gain favor for a military contract, which he received the following year to produce 10,000 Luger pistols. It is believed that Krieghoff offered Neptune Drillings to Göring and Hitler at this time. We do know that Göring, a German politician, military leader and leading member of the Nazi Party, owned a Kreighoff Drilling, which has been documented in books and period photos, and has his initials, H.G., engraved in the same location – bottom of the trigger guard – and in a similar style as the A.H. Neptune.
This Krieghoff Neptune Drilling sports the serial number 15450, indicating that the gun was made in 1931. It was later sent to a master engraver for the final extraordinary finish.
In May, the US Army’s 506th Parachute Regiment raided Hitler’s Berchtesgaden retreat in the Bavarian mountains and a soldier reportedly took the Drilling as a souvenir. The 506th is one of only a few units in the US Army to be transferred to the Pacific theater (also depicted in Band of Brothers). Due to weight restrictions while traveling, the paratrooper could not take the shotgun home with him, so he sold the souvenir to 1st Lieutenant Robert J. Lucas, who managed the mess hall and bakery, for $5. Lucas took the gun home with him and settled in central Illinois sometime after the war. His wife reported that the shotgun was kept under their bed for 50 years, and they never discussed its significance with anyone.
After Lucas’s death, his family began researching the gun’s history, discovering that the weapon may have belonged to Hitler.
Randall Gibson, author of the book The Krieghoff Parabellum, collector and gun enthusiast, examined the Drilling and told the family that the gun “very likely” was given to Hitler as a gift in 1934.
The family put the Drilling up for auction with Mid-West Gun Exchange and sold it to a private collector.
The A.H. Krieghoff Drilling was sold to Legacy Collectibles in a private transaction.
There are no documents to prove that this Drilling was presented to Hitler at the demonstration, or while he was touring the Krieghoff factory in 1934. All Krieghoff company documents were destroyed before the Allied armies took over the factory in 1945. The only documentation of a similar gun, that was given to Göring, comes from period photographs of him with the gun.
This Krieghoff Neptune variation combines a double-barrel, 12-gauge shotgun with an 8×57 JR-caliber rifle barrel. In the stock, there was a special compartment created to hold extra shells under an engraved and felted cover.
While Göring, an avid hunter, was photographed several times with his Krieghoff Drilling, there are no photos of Hitler with agun. This does not disprove the validity of this A.H. Drilling. Hitler was seldom photographed with any gun because he reportedly was a vegetarian and was opposed to hunting.
We do know that Krieghoff was in the presence of Hitler on numerous occasions, which would have given him many opportunities to offer a gift.
This Krieghoff Drilling variation is slightly shorter than standard shotguns, perhaps due to Hitler’s smaller stature if it was, indeed, made for him.
The similarities of both the H.G. and A.H. Drillings, the time frame, the documented origin of the A.H., and multiple meetings between Krieghoff and Hitler lead one to believe it is highly possible. The additional fact that this gun has A.H. inscribed in the same spot as the H.G. on Göring’s gun led one expert to declare that it’s very likely this is indeed Hitler’s shotgun. AmSJ
Editor’s note: Legacy Collectibles is the nation’s leading provider of authentic and historical firearms. For more information on this Drilling and all the supporting documentation, you can visit them at legacy-collectibles.com.
The engraved initials “A.H.” offer another potential clue that this Krieghoff Drilling was made and presented to Adolf Hitler.
Browning’s light and balanced A5 shotgun lets you to shoot the old ‘gentleman’s gauge’ in a technologically updated package.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE DICKERSON
As an aspiring curmudgeon (my wife might suggest that I’m already there), I frown disapprovingly when I hear that someone is remaking a classic. Be it a movie, a song or a ﬁrearm, some things are just so iconic that you simply shouldn’t mess with them. If you do, you’d better get it right, or you’ll catch hell from people whose hearts were captured by the original. Sadly, and all too often, “new and improved” translates into “new and cheapened and ugly.”
In its newest incarnation, the A5 Sweet Sixteen weighs just 5 pounds, 13 ounces with a 28-inch barrel. It’s light but well balanced, and swings smoothly, according to the author.
I recently had an opportunity to test one such newly made-over gun, the Browning A5 Sweet Sixteen shotgun, and I’m pleased to report that, in this instance, the manufacturer got it right. By right, I mean spectacularly right.
My opportunity to test this reborn 16-gauge classic came during a three-day pheasant hunt with R&R Pheasant Hunting, an 18,000-acre, family-owned farming and ranching operation near Seneca, S.D., with four other outdoor scribes. We were there, along with representatives from Browning, Winchester and the South Dakota Department of Tourism, to test three new shotguns and ammunition from Browning and Winchester.
I spent the ﬁrst day wringing out the newly announced Winchester SX4 shotgun in 12 gauge, and bagged my fair share of birds. I spent the second day happily shooting roosters with the Browning 725 Citori over-and-under shotgun chambered in 28 gauge. I held off on shooting the Sweet Sixteen until the ﬁnal day of the hunt, mainly because only two were on hand and everyone wanted to shoot them. As fellow outdoor writer “Uncle Bob” Matthews observed, “The Sweet Sixteen was the prettiest girl at the dance, and everyone wanted to dance with her.”
Production ended on the Browning Automatic 5 in 1998, after a run of nearly 100 years, but the company brought the timeless design back a few years ago in modernized form, adding the Sweet Sixteen to the lineup last year.
AND WHAT A DANCE IT WAS.On the second drive of the day, I took the left ﬂanker position, outside and ahead of Bob, who walked a few rows inside a ﬁeld of tall corn. We both carried the Sweet Sixteen, stoked with the new Browning BXD Upland Extra Distance 11/8-ounce load of No. 6 nickel-plated shot, and as luck would have it, most of the roosters that ﬂushed during that drive came our way. The sky was soon raining pheasants. I think only one rooster made it past us. By the time that drive was over, someone had nicknamed us “The Sixteen Dream Team,” and I already knew I would have to own this shotgun.
To understand what makes this new gun so special, it helps to know a bit about its history. Today’s A5 traces its lineage to the original Browning Automatic 5, designed by John Browning in 1898. It was one of the most inﬂuential shotgun designs of all time. First produced by FN in 1902, it was later made by Remington as the Model 11 and by Savage as the Model 720 and other variants.
Built on a smaller, lighter alloy receiver, the shotgun retains its predecessor’s iconic squared-off profile.
The Auto 5 used a long-recoil operating system in which the bolt and the barrel recoiled together, and it had a friction piece and bevel ring to adjust recoil to the load. It was soft-shooting when set up properly, but could thump you soundly if it was improperly tuned. Production moved from Belgium to Japan in 1975, and the guns got heavier. By the 1990s, semiauto shotguns that were cheaper to produce and lighter, and with more modern designs, were gaining dominance. The writing was on the wall: Production ceased in 1998, after nearly 100 years of production, and the Auto 5 was no more.
That changed in 2013 when Browning stunned the shotgun world by bringing back the A5 in 12 gauge, albeit in much-changed form and manufactured in Portugal. The Sweet Sixteen followed in 2016. It’s built on a smaller, lighter alloy receiver with a polished black anodized ﬁnish, and weighs just 5 pounds, 13 ounces with a 28-inch barrel, and a bit less with a 26-inch barrel.
It’s one thing to ﬁnd a lightweight shotgun. It’s quite another to ﬁnd one this well-balanced that swings so smoothly. The gun simply painted birds from the sky for me, and I had difficulty believing I was swinging a 16-gauge shotgun with a 28-inch barrel.
Internally, the old long-recoil action has been replaced with a reliable, fast-cycling inertia-drive system guaranteed for 100,000 rounds or five years.
Externally, this gun resembles the original Auto 5, retaining the distinctive “humpback” squared-off receiver. I like it because it affords a slightly longer sight plane, aligning naturally with my eye, and allowing me to shoot with my head up a bit more and beneﬁt from a more comfortable, less-punishing cheek weld. INTERNALLY, THE SWEET SIXTEEN is an entirely different animal from its predecessor. The long-recoil system has been replaced by an inertia-driven system called Kinematic Drive by Browning. It’s fast-cycling, easy on the shoulder and highly reliable – so much so that Browning stands behind it with a 100,000-round or ﬁve-year guarantee that the shotgun will work “come hell or high water.” It’s a clean-running system, because all gasses go out the barrel and away from the action.
A look at the barrel reveals other reasons why this is not your grandfather’s Auto 5. It has a lengthened, tapered “Vector Pro” forcing cone to minimize shot deformation and enhance pattern uniformity. The barrel is also backbored to reduce friction between the shot cup and bore. I’m not convinced that this reduces recoil, as some claim, but I do believe it helps with pattern consistency, uniformity and density. The barrel sports a red ﬁber optic front sight and white midpoint bead.
The shotgun ships with full, modiﬁed and improved cylinder Invector DS choke tubes. These longer-than-usual tubes have a more gradual choke taper, again contributing to more uniform shot patterns. They also have a brass alloy band to help seal out residue, making the tubes easy to remove after a day of shooting.
The Sweet Sixteen carries like a light 20-gauge gun but punches like a 12, helping the 16-gauge shotshell realize its full potential.
Other nice touches include 18-lines-per-inch checkering on the glossy Turkish walnut buttstock and forearm. The stock has an Inﬂex II recoil pad, which directs recoil energy down and away from your face. With Speed Load Plus, you simply push the ﬁrst shell into the magazine, with the action open, and the gun automatically feeds the ﬁrst round into the chamber. The “plus” part of the equation is a handy little mechanism you can push with a ﬁnger, inside the bottom of the receiver, to unload shells from the magazine tube without having to cycle the action repeatedly.
The new Sweet Sixteen honors its proud legacy while enabling you to shoot the old “gentleman’s gauge” in a technologically updated package. The gun has little noticeable recoil. It is fast, yet swings smoothly. It is elegant, but utilitarian. It packs like a 20 gauge, but punches like a 12. With this one shotgun, a hunter would be wellequipped to handle most any type of wingshooting. As one of my fellow scribes observed during our hunt, “This might be the gun that saves the 16-gauge shotshell.”
The author and his new pal, 6-month-old Desert, show off a pair of central South Dakota pheasants taken with Browning’s newly resurrected A5 Sweet Sixteen shotgun.
As I sit here admiring the richly ﬁgured wood of the stock on the sample gun sent to me for testing, I suspect he may be right. I also suspect Browning may have a difficult time getting this one back. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more on the A5 Sweet Sixteen and other Browning products, see browning.com.
Hunting corn country several years ago with Mike Krei, then a field rep for the National Rifle Association, we were working a draw for pheasants when one exploded from cover. Using a 20-gauge over-and-under, Krei fired twice and missed, after which I swung my 12-gauge side-by-side Beretta into action.
My first shot missed, but then the ring neck sailed straight away at maybe 20 to 25 yards away, and my final round – a high-base 2¾-incher No. 6 – launched out of my fixed full choke barrel and the bird folded in a cloud of feathers.
Krei proved repeatedly that weekend that he was a far better wingshot
than I will ever be, and this was one of those moments of part skill and
massive good luck that occasionally blesses yours truly.
I hunted with that Beretta for several years. It’s a bird-busting marvel I bought at age 19. The price was right, the stock fit me very well, it had double triggers, roll engraving on the receiver, deep blue on the barrels, and the bores were both like mirrors.
Paulsen’s had taken it on trade from a guy who had put maybe a box of shells through it. His loss, my gain; I’ve put more blue and ruffed
grouse in my bag with that gun than I can remember, and against pheasants and chukars it has been a real performer.
But remember, I said it has fixed chokes. A few years ago, I developed
a real liking for O/U shotguns with interchangeable choke tubes. The Beretta is hardly retired, but I’ve found that the 20 is plenty, and these days I look forward to fall with a nicely balanced Franchi
Instinct chambered for 3-inch magnums, though I’ve never used them in the gun.
Choke tubes are a marvelous development, and I’ve got full, modified,
improved cylinder and other chokes for the Franchi. I hunt grouse with the I/C and modified chokes installed, with the action set to discharge
them in that barrel order.
With the right chokes, your shotgun becomes the most versatile tool in the gun rack. It can be choked for everything from mourning doves to
Canada geese and wild turkeys.
WITH UPLAND BIRD and dove seasons opening as early as next month, now is a good time to set up your scattergun with the right choke and shot combination to fill the cooler with fresh wildfowl.
For doves, I recommend nothing larger than 7½ shot, and more likely No. 8 or even 9 lead, or No. 6 or 7 steel. Also make time now with clay
targets to hone up your shooting skills before heading afield for these
I much prefer grouse hunting over all other gamebirds. I set up with the I/C and modified chokes because I’ll be hunting in cover and I don’t care to let thunder chickens get too far because they’ve got a habit of
sailing behind trees or large bushes the farther out they get.
Use the same choke set-up in a double gun for quail, and for those
who hunt chukar, I’d suggest a modified/full setup because they’re liable to get out ahead of you and they are fast. You may have to reach out If you’re hunting with a semiauto or pumpgun, I recommend the
modified choke for upland birds, including doves, at least for starters.
If birds are spooky and seem to be breaking cover, then you might consider going to a full choke. But if you’re hunting over a good dog
that will hold and not make birds nervous, that allows you to move in closer, and that’s where the I/C choke will work best. Of course, each hunter to his/her own choice.
SOME TIME AGO, Browning put together a comparison chart showing how choke choices would differ when using lead versus tighter and it is harder, remember, and I would never recommend using it through a full choke.
But here’s how it shakes out: A cylinder choke for lead or bismuth
translates to a skeet choke with steel or tungsten. The lead/bismuth skeet choke performs like an I/C with steel, and the I/C with lead/bismuth works like a modified with steel/tungsten, and so on. A modified with lead acts like a full with steel. Got it?
I confess to shooting a fair number of grouse with .22-caliber rifles
or pistols when they’re sitting on stumps or logs, usually during deer
or elk seasons, but there is really nothing to compare with being able
to tumble a big fool hen on the wing.
It’s a hell of a rush when they explode from cover, and they cook up
very well for the dinner table. Now’s the time to pull your choke
tubes, clean up the inside and out, wipe the threads with a soft cloth
and apply some good choke lube and then clean your bores until they
shine. Wrap a patch around the bore brush, scrub with Hoppe’s or Outers
solvent, wipe clean and then give your bore(s) a wipe with a lightly-
As the season unfolds and leaves begin to fall, you’ll want to look for
grouse to show up along old logging roads or trails, picking up pea gravel and catching any warmth from the sun, especially after a good stretch of rain. Remember, you can’t shoot them in the road, but grouse can be pretty predictable because they will likely trot back into the brush before taking flight if they’re spooked.
I chased one bird through the boonies after spotting it on a road
shoulder a few years ago. That thing wouldn’t fly no matter what, it
seemed, and then finally the bugger launched only to land on a tree limb
about 20 yards away. Birds that stupid deserve to land in the stew pot.
Once the bird is down, I recommend a quick field dressing immediately
to help cool it down. A small incision along the soft belly and you
can pull the guts out pretty easily. Always take along a pair of gloves
for this chore, and a small knife.
TURNING TO FALL’S other hunts, the .450 Bushmaster is an impressive cartridge, and Ruger recently announced that it is offering that caliber in their version of the bolt-action Scout Rifle.
It’s got a 16.10-inch stainless steel barrel that is cut with six lands and grooves on a 1:16-inch right-hand twist.
The barrel and action have a matte finish, and there’s a Ruger Precision Rifle Hybrid Muzzle Brake up front. The stock, meanwhile, is black
synthetic with a soft rubber butt pad that comes with spacers to adjust the length of pull. Ruger equips this rifle with a protected blade front sight and adjustable rear. It’s got a four round detachable box magazine, and the trigger guard and magazine well are glass-reinforced nylon.
Now, about that cartridge. The .450 Bushmaster is an awesome brush-country round. It launches a 250-grain bullet at better than 2,200 feet per second out of a 20-inch barrel, so expect to lose some speed out of the Ruger’s 16.1-incher, but not enough to make a difference to whatever is on the receiving end.
With a rebated base, the .450 Bushmaster’s parent case is the .284 Winchester sized out to take a .452-inch bullet. Now, that’s a big hole-maker, and against elk, deer or bears, it’s got a lot of muscle. AmSJ
Like many of you, I am much better at just doing stuﬀ than getting ready for it. I guess it’s all about being prepared, and I was never the sharpest Boy Scout in the troop, or something like that.
But some things are too important to not prepare for. Depending on what and where you hunt with your scattergun, your season is either coming up fast, or is already here. September is often the last call for getting shotguns and other paraphernalia ready, so let’s talk about what you need to do to get out there and sling some lead or steel.
First, pull those scatterguns out of the gun safe and look ’em over. I’m sure that you would never put a shotgun away at the end of the season without a thorough cleaning, but if somehow this did happen, now is the time to rectify it.
Open the action and make sure everything seems to function properly – action, trigger, safety, etc. If there are any problems, you may (yes, I wrote “may”) have time to get it to your gunsmith for repair. But if there are any questions with functioning or the safety, do not take the shotgun to the ﬁeld.
Most of the time, the only prep our guns need is some old-fashioned cleaning. Pump guns and semiautos need a little more TLC when it comes to this, but don’t neglect the actions on your side-by-side and over-and-under shotguns just because they’re easier to clean. It is, however, easy to be intimidated when it comes taking pump and semi-auto guns apart, so if you feel as if you are getting in over your head, don’t do it.
Not that long ago, I needed to disassemble a Browning BPS, and when it came to taking the bolt assembly apart I was unsure about getting it back together. Fortunately, there are multiple internet videos about putting this gun – and many others – back together.
While you are making sure that your guns are ready to roll, here are a few items that will help improve your experience in the ﬁeld.
ONE GUN PROTECTION PRODUCT I’ve recently come to use is Hopper Spit by Birchwood Casey. The name is derived from – and I am not making this up – the product’s dark brownish-green color. If you caught grasshoppers for ﬁsh bait as a kid (as I did), you know what color their spit is.
Hopper Spit from Birchwood Casey is a fine gun protection product
Hopper Spit is an extreme rust and corrosion preventative for the metal on ﬁrearms. It will protect ferrous and nonferrous metals, and withstand the harshest conditions, including salt spray. This is a good protective spray for long-term storage of your guns (so you’ll be all ready for next season), or before a hard day in the ﬁeld or the range. The suggested retail price is under $15, so you really can’t aﬀord to not test it out.
ANOTHER TYPE OF protection that we often neglect in the ﬁeld is for our hearing. For some reason, we wear it religiously when we go to the trap, skeet or sporting clay range, but we think that banging away in the dove ﬁeld all day is somehow diﬀerent. Some of us (like me) have already experienced some hearing loss from years of unprotected shooting, but it’s never too soon, or too late, to protect the hearing you have left.
Any hearing protection, including the simple “jam it in your ear” soft foam type, is better than nothing, but I think the in-ear electronic models work best. They eﬀectively reduce shotgun blast noise while letting us hear what is going around us, and this increased awareness can be very important while on the range or in the ﬁeld.
Etymotic Research’s Gunsport PRO electronic ear plugs provide excellent hearing protection on the range or afield.
Etymotic Research’s Gunsport PRO electronic ear plugs are an excellent option for this need. GSP 15 electronic earplugs allow natural hearing when no background noise is present, and gradually protect from loud continuous noise from vehicles, machinery or gunﬁre from nearby shooters. At the ﬂip of a switch, sound is ampliﬁed, improving distance detection up to ﬁve times for enhanced awareness.
I’ve used the GunSport 15 model ear plugs in the ﬁeld and in a shotgun class at Gunsite Academy, and found them to be comfortable, eﬀective and easy to use. The suggested retail for these ear plugs is $299.00, but if you do much shooting (or go to NASCAR races, etc.), they are worth every penny.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING as too much ammo. Can I get an “amen?” We shotgunners tend to go through a lot of ammunition, and that is a good thing. No matter how many shotgun shells you may have stored at your ranch, you are probably always in the market for more. I know I am.
Before you head oﬀ to the dove ﬁeld for your ﬁrst hunting expedition, you should put in at least a couple sessions shooting trap, skeet or sporting clays – anything to get you out there shooting.
Browning BPT Shotgun ammo with a CZ-USA All American Trap Combo Shotgun.
Maybe you’ve heard that Browning has entered the ammunition world, and here are a couple oﬀerings for you to consider.
For the range, Browning oﬀers Browning Performance Target (BPT) Shotshells. A combination of hard shot and a smooth hull make this an excellent choice. Most of you know that round shot will ﬂy truer and hold a better pattern, and the harder or denser the shot, the more it holds its shape and doesn’t become deformed during ﬂight. Harder shot also breaks targets better.
Before you hit the fields, woods or marshes, tune up your aim with some clay targets.
Browning wanted to come in somewhere in the middle on the price point on this ammo, and accomplished this on their BPT line with a brass-plated steel shell head. The brass plating allows for smooth feeding, but the steel head makes it diﬃcult to reload, so Browning does not recommend it. MSRP for a box of 25 is $9.99, but you may see them on shelves anywhere from $7.99 up.
Browning has also introduced the BXD line of hunting shotshells. Along with nickel-plated shot for tighter downrange patterns, the main feature of these shells is speed. The 12-gauge 2¾-inch shell with a 13/8-ounce shot load delivers a muzzle velocity of 1,485 feet per second, and that, my friends, is a screamer. This type of speed should allow for less lead when drawing on that rooster pheasant that ﬂushed a bit too far out.
Browning’s new BXD line of hunting shotshells feature nickel-plated shot.
THIS ONLY SCRATCHES the surface of all the things you need to attend to before you hit the woods or the dove ﬁeld, but the editors would not give me the 20 pages I asked for to cover this topic adequately. Go ﬁgure.
As always, my advice to you is to just go. There will never be a perfect or even a good time to do it. Go to the range, go to where the doves are flying, or go see if the teal are in yet. No matter what you want to go after, just go! ASJ
Here are a few of the author’s favorites, including (left to right) his Remington 870 Wingmaster, Browning Superposed, Winchester Model 12, Browning A-5, Browning Model 32, and Remington Model 31.
Here’s some other things to consider while out in the field – Shotgun Hunting Strategy from Youtuber Expert Village.
Bonhomie – Pedersoli’s new side-by-side is a modern shotgun with a classical twist, and it will be right at home for you at the range or aﬁeld.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE NESBITT
Dedicated scattergunners have probably realized by now that, although I’ve shot their preferred choice of gun for many years, I’ve never considered myself a shotgunner. It’s not that I have anything against them; it’s just that for me, shotguns have always taken a backseat to riﬂes and riﬂe shooting, especially when it comes to using black powder. But after seeing, handling and shooting a ﬁne Pedersoli 12-gauge double with twin outside hammers, I think my priorities might start to shift a bit.
Pedersoli calls this side-by-side their “Bohemienne,” or Bohemian. Comparing it to the standards of today, this shotgun is deﬁnitely nonconformist, and it is good enough that we can refer to it as being somewhat irregular. It is a cut above many others, and for me it is delightful in many ways, especially with its double outside hammers.
I want to emphasize one point right from the beginning. In most gun reviews like this one, contact information is provided so consumers get more information about the gun can described, but all too often the dealers at local gun shops don’t receive guidance about how to stock them. But this ﬁne shotgun is available through the Italian Firearms Group,
a partnership that supplies the U.S. dealer network with the best products of multiple Italian gun makers.
The Italian Firearms Group was established in 2010, and represents some of that country’s top ﬁrearms craftsmen: F.A.I.R, Sabatti and Pedersoli. By going directly to IFG, dealers can make rather quick contact to get wholesale pricing and other useful information in regard to getting ﬁrearms to sell.
This finely crafted firearm features fine engraving, color casehardening, browned barrels and blued trigger guard.
THE PEDERSOLI LA BOHEMIENNE is a striking piece, to say the least. It is a classically styled, double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun with double outside hammers. The 28-inch browned barrels have 3-inch chambers, and are equipped with interchangeable chokes at the muzzles. The pistol grip and the fore-end each oﬀer checkering for comfort, a good grip and, quite honestly, beauty. And speaking of, the frame is color casehardened and features hand-ﬁnished engraving. Overall length of the shotgun is just under 46 inches, and it weighs about 7¾ pounds.
The hammers are rebounding, so they don’t have or use half-cock notches. Rebounding hammers are, in my opinion, a good safety measure. If the gun is cocked and the hammer needs to be returned to its “down” position, you just hold the hammer back, pull the trigger, and slowly ease the hammer forward while releasing the trigger. The hammers cannot go far enough forward to hit the ﬁring pins unless the triggers are held back.
The La Bohemienne is right at home with modern loads and with steel shot.
In addition to that, the gun is also equipped with a sliding safety, the very same as on a hammerless double, so the gun can be put on safety while the hammers are in the cocked position. The sliding safety does not move to the safe position when the gun is opened.
This gun is not speciﬁcally a black powder shotgun, not like a muzzle-loading shotgun would be. Instead, the Bohemienne is a ﬁnely made modern shotgun with modern steels in the barrels, so it is right at home with modern loads and with steel shot. While using steel shot, however, the changeable chokes should be used with only cylinder or improved-cylinder at the muzzles because the steel shot is simply not as compressible as lead.
A cloud of black powder smoke obscures the target, but it was a hit. (JERRY MAYO)
At the same time, in my most humble opinion, this gun is such a classic that it had “black powder” written all over it, and my choice for shooting it immediately fell to black powder loads for ammunition. That ammunition came from Buﬀalo Arms Company in northern Idaho. They oﬀer a variety of shotgun loads with black powder, and the one I selected to use the most was loaded with 3 drams (82 grains) of black powder under 11/8 ounce of size 7½ lead shot.
This close-up of the side-by-side’s muzzles shows the changeable chokes.
THE BLACK POWDER SHOT SHELLS from Buﬀalo Arms Company are rather classic themselves. They are loaded in good old-fashioned paper hulls, and are nicely star-crimped at the mouth. Inside, these shells are loaded with what we might call “old style” components.
Dave Gullo, owner of Buﬀalo Arms, described the loads this way: “An important feature to our shotgun ammo is that it’s loaded with nitro overshot wads and ﬁber overpowder wads, not plastic wads, so that the shooter is not needing to scrub plastic out of their barrels when they are done shooting.”
At ﬁrst, I couldn’t help notice what I will call rather heavy trigger pulls. I know that “rather heavy” is a relative expression. I’m most comfortable with the very lightly set triggers on muzzle-loading riﬂes and my favorite Sharps, so perhaps I wasn’t the best prepared for what this shotgun required. When I called for my ﬁrst bird on the sporting clays range, I followed it until it was out of sight and the gun hadn’t ﬁred. For my next try, I was more prepared.
The trigger pulls were actually quite ﬁne, breaking very sharp and crisp, while remaining a bit on the heavy side. I realized that one reason for those trigger pulls being “heavy” is so the gun can be ﬁred while both hammers are cocked. In this way, with its associated recoil, the jarring of one barrel going oﬀ will not release the second hammer. In other words, this gun will not “double” on you, which could be a memorable experience you wouldn’t want to have.
After I “caught up” with the gun, the good hits began to come one after the other. As you can guess, that’s when the fun really took over, and using this shotgun became a delight.
Our muzzle-loading club has a target known as the “slice of pie” that is used for a particular match with ﬂintlock smoothbores during our Trade Gun Frolic. The slice of pie is used in a luck shoot where each shooter gets just one shot at 25 yards while using buckshot. It’s hard enough just to get some hits on the paper, and a shooter must be lucky to get any score at all.
This shows the “slice of pie” target with the six holes from the buckshot load.
Just to give this Pedersoli 12-gauge a chance, I took one shot at the slice of pie while using 00 buckshot. This was done with the Pedersoli’s left barrel, with the modiﬁed choke, and six hits are seen on the target (see photo at left) but with zero for a score. That shot was just another part of the fun.
There isn’t a whole lot more I can tell you about the Pedersoli La Bohemienne that wouldn’t simply be echoes of what I’ve already written. It is a very ﬁne classic double-barreled 12-gauge, priced in the neighborhood of $2,100. And with the black powder loads, it provides classic shotgun shooting at its best.
For more information about Pedersoli, the La Bohemienne, and other ﬁnely crafted shotguns, visit italianﬁrearmsgroup.com. To learn more about the Buﬀalo Arms Company’s black powder shotgun loads in 10 and 12 gauges, visit buﬀaloarms.com. ASJ