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So why would you want a lightweight gun?

When you’re out on a day’s roughshooting or spending a morning walking hedges the last thing you want is to be lugging around a heavy gun.

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Sometimes you get to the point of feeling you want a little to carry a little less weight on a shoot day. So what are your options?

The sort of people who buy a lightweight shotgun have changed a bit over the last 80 years.

In the 1970s a lot of 12-bore Churchill guns with 25″ barrels were sold, a fashion which started in the 1930s when people went in search of lighter and lighter guns.

A lot of Churchill guns were taken right down to 6lbs or less in weight, and even Purdey made a few guns like this.

The popularity of lightweight guns changed as cartridges became more consistent.

In many ways it was cartridges which shaped the shotgun market as they became more consistently powerful.

Good cartridges going through a light 12-bore will kick quite a lot, but even some 24 gram and lighter loads can be very punchy, so you still have to be a bit careful.

A lightweight shotgun or a 12-bore?

Lightweight shotguns nowadays tend to be sold to youngsters just starting to shoot and for those who don’t fire many shots but walk a lot in a day.

However, due to there being a wide range of very consistent cartridges available, many buyers will look straight to a 20-bore rather than a lightweight 12-bore.

The most popular lightweight guns made today come from Browning and Beretta, who both produce lightweight 12-bore over-and-unders.

Lightweight side-by-sides?

Lightweight 12-bore side-by-sides are very rare because side-by-side shotguns are comparatively light anyway.

There are a few out there, however: AYA for example produces a Churchill-style gun with 25″ barrels that weighs about 6¼lbs, which for a side-by-side is now considered light.

  • Lightweight 20-bores are more unusual. Most 20-bore over-and-unders tend to weigh between 6 – 6½lbs.
  • Rizzini also produces a similar lightweight gun in 20-bore by using metal alloys.
  • The advantage of going for a lightweight 12-bore over a 20-bore is you keep a larger shot pattern.
  • Go for a 20-bore not just because you want a lighter gun, but because you want a challenge as the pattern is smaller.
  • With a lighter cartridge load in a lightweight 12-bore you will retain a larger pattern, making your task that little bit easier.

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Lightweight guns and your swing

  • Obviously, lightweight guns are easier to carry around, but you have to be very deliberate with your swing.
  • They come to the shoulder very easily, but they will also stop very easily unless you concentrate on your swing.
  • The most obvious problem, however, is with recoil – with less mass in the gun, it will kick more.
  • If you were pigeon shooting with one of these guns or shooting clays you would likely have quite a sore shoulder by the end of the day.
  • But, if you pick a cartridge which is softer on your shoulder or fit a recoil absorbing pad they will be fine.
  • Over-and-under guns are made lightweight by constructing the action body from metal alloys, which are lighter, with all the working parts made of steel.
  • The face of the action is made of a steel insert, providing strength, and the action is often made in a shallower profile.
  • The rib between the barrels is often removed or ventilated to reduce weight, and the stock hollowed out and made slightly slimmer.
  • Look to use a 24gram cartridge as you can get some really good lighter game loads now.
  • Consider No.6 shot – some would say you should use No.7 shot for the pattern, but really you won’t see a great difference, and No.6 provides more of a punch for clean kills.
  • Given that these types of guns will be used for walked-up shooting where the birds are generally going away from you,  it is better to have the increased killing power – you want to do justice to you and to your quarry.
  • For similar reasons try quarter and half choke, though if you are using a lightweight gun for driven shooting you could go for a wider choke.

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