Can you use the same gun for both?
Can you use a clay gun on a pheasant shoot? Yes. A lot of the differences between a clay and a game gun are subtle. Ventilated and wider ribs, manual safety and slightly different woodwork won’t really stand out on a game day. Most of the day the gun will be in its slip, only coming out when you are on your peg, when you could be 40 yards away from your neighbouring Gun. Once the drive has finished the gun goes back in its slip, until you get to your next peg. If you use a semi-automatic, then you can’t use that on a game shoot. If you have bright shiny external chokes, change them for more subtle internal ones. Stocks that look more like a prosthetic leg, or Trap guns with high stepped ribs are too clay orientated to blend in on a shoot day. Other than that your clay gun will be a useful all-round gun.
Finding an all-round gun
Q: Having just taken up the pastime of clayshooting (the skeet discipline), and having more than a passing interest in gameshooting, I find I am bamboozled by the choice of shotguns that are available. I would prefer to buy a 12-bore side-by-side rather than an over-and-under shotgun, but are side-by-sides suitable for steel shot? The chambering sizes also confuse me, as my past experience has been with rifles (ex-army). Can you help me with my choice? Any advice on the best gun for shooting clays and game would be greatly appreciated.
Side-by-side or over-and-under?
A: The decision of whether to opt for a side-by-side or an over-and-under shotgun when looking for an all-round gun is entirely personal. Most active shooters today prefer the over-and-under, and you should not worry that an over-and-under might appear out of place on a game shoot. It certainly will not. Having said that, many experienced Guns still prefer their side-by-sides, myself included.
If you are intending to use your gun for clayshooting, with perhaps the occasional game or roughshooting trip, then you should ensure that it is chambered for 70mm (2¾in) cartridges. This will provide you with all the flexibility you will need. Decide on your budget and then choose a gun with which you are comfortable and which fits you. Ask your dealer if he can offer you the opportunity to try your gun at a shooting ground before you part with your money.
As regards steel shot, a modern gun that is in proof will be quite suitable to use with standard steel shot cartridges. However, I would not recommend using steel shot in old English shotguns, and if you are in any doubt I suggest you consult a competent gunsmith.
High-performance steel shot cartridges should only be used in shotguns that have been specifically proved for steel shot and which bear the “fleur de lis” proof mark with the words “steel shot” next to it.