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This is what you should know about shotgun barrels

David Turner talks about gun dimensions, barrel length and how it all affects your shooting ability

shotgun barrels

Your height will influence the gun barrel length that will suit you best

What length shotgun barrels should I buy?

I wish I had a pound for every time a newcomer to shooting has asked me that question. The answer is that it depends on a few variables and the wrong gun length could have significant implications on your success.

shotgun barrels length

Is height and reach important?

  • A person’s height and reach is one of the first factors to consider.
  • The overall length of a gun can present a much higher degree of difficulty, particularly for a shorter person with a long gun, as it is likely to be unwieldy, awkward and much heavier in the left hand (right-handed shooter).
  • This will cause them to feel the gun is barrel heavy, difficult to get moving and cumbersome.
  • Taller people tend to have longer arms and reach, whereas the opposite applies to shorter people.
  • Visualise a small person, perhaps a child of 10, with a 32in gun. This would be too long, not to mention heavy, and present them with a difficult, almost impossible task
  • Alternatively, imagine a tall person with a short gun with 26in barrels. It would look and be way too short. This should give you an idea of the importance of height-to-length ratio.


Handling characteristics and barrel lengths

Many years ago shorter barrels were popular and as a teenage newcomer I clearly remember my peers extolling the virtues of 26in barrels as the be-all and end-all. I owned a 26in-barrelled boxlock side-by-side with a raised Churchill-type rib. This gun was an evil little piece with a kick like a mule and particularly lively, with a mind of its own. It wasn’t long before I went to an over-and-under with 28in barrels. What a difference.

These days longer barrels are more common and much more in 
vogue, and for 
good reasons:

Shorter barrels

Shorter barrels are much livelier, with a faster handling characteristic, which can cause some taller, stronger people to find them ‘flicky’ and unsteady.

shotgun barrels

If a gun is too long for someone, it feels heavy and cumbersome

Longer barrels

Longer barrels are certainly much steadier and will provide an altogether smoother, more controllable and predictable feel 
but they can sometimes have a barrel-
heavy tendency.

shotgun barrels

It’s also about what feels right


In conclusion, I would say that a 30in over-and-under could be considered as a good standard for the average person to start with, but bearing in mind height variations, a 28in or 32in could be more appropriate. It’s all about what feels right for the individual holding the gun.