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Ribless game guns – the downside

A reader writes: "Ribless game guns are becoming increasingly popular. I can see all the advantages of shooting game with a ribless gun but are there any pitfalls?"

ribless game guns

If you're thinking of moving away from a shotgun with a top rib be prepared: the new shotgun could take some getting used to

Adam Calvert writes: The main purpose of removing ribs is to reduce barrel weight and, as a result, improve speed of handling or reduce the overall weight of the gun. Some would say removing the top rib also makes the gun more elegant. There are, however, several drawbacks that need to be considered first before venturing down this route…

Six downsides of ribless game guns

1. Heat haze: because there is no rib at all,
as the gun warms up a shimmering cloud appears above the barrel, rather like one you see floating above tarmac on a hot summer’s day. This is at best off-putting and at worst a disaster for trying to guide the gun onto birds, particularly against dark backgrounds.

2. Not being able to see the barrel: due to the barrel being rounded and black I often find that ribless guns are difficult to shoot against dark backgrounds as your eye can’t see where the barrel is in your peripheral vision, causing you to check with your eye back to the barrel. This point can be very important as ribless guns can be sold as fast-handling grouse guns, but the problem 
I have just mentioned almost contradicts this.

3. Muzzle flip: reducing barrel weight causes increased muzzle flip, making second barrel recovery poor.

4. Increased recoil: the problem with reducing barrel weight is that it reduces overall gun weight and therefore can increase recoil.

5. Caution when fitting: rarely do I come across a pair of well-fitted ribless guns. This is mainly because people don’t understand how to fit this type of gun properly. It is absolutely vital that a ribless gun is final fitted (the final stock shaping is done with the client present and in an environment allowing them to shoot it). This is because ribless barrels often shoot higher than their measurements allude to. Guns that are ribless but have a raised sighting bead are by far the worst for this, so I urge caution here.

6. Second hand values: this applies to any specialist gun, whether it is ribless, raised rib, no centre rib or just plain different! The gun trade is very nervous of such guns as they are a bit like selling a pink Range Rover: there may indeed be a client out there who’d like one but they are few and far between.

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In summary, ribless guns certainly do have their place, even after taking into consideration the problems mentioned above. I believe they are best used to address specific issues. For example, I recently built a ribless 28 bore for a very slight 11-year-old who otherwise would have been confined to single barrelled .410s for a good deal longer. However, when it comes to more mainstream shooting, I would advise to proceed with caution.