Shotguns for girls review.
The rapid rise in the popularity and accessibility of shooting in the last 20 years has seen an increase in the lady gun.
There are many reasons why this may be so, but shooting is a sport centered around skill, technique and co-ordination rather than strength, meaning ladies may shoot just as well as men.
Finding a shotgun to suit a lady gun is quite straightforward, as it is for most individuals.
There are certain things that have to be considered carefully, however, with weight and balance being quite important. Many ladies prefer the lighter weight and lesser recoil of a smaller-bore gun.
As ever, appropriate gun fit is absolutely essential, as a gun with an ill-fitting stock is a sure-fire way to frustration and injury.
Gun fitting for ladies is slightly more complicated than for men, and over my years in the gun trade I have found there are a number of problems which regularly occur.
Of course, many of these problems can be avoided in the first instance by having a proper fitting session at a shooting school and bringing the resulting measurements with you when purchasing a gun.
The most obvious problem has to do with the differences between the male and female physique. Most guns are built with men in mind, and the shape of the stock can often be uncomfortable for ladies.
To counteract this the stock may be altered so that the toe of the stock (the bottom of the stock at the butt) is made square or even inverted. Any good gunsmith should be able to do this for you.
Another common problem for ladies relates to the height of the comb, the top edge of the stock.
You will often find the comb is too low, as ladies tend to have higher cheekbones than men.
If the stock is not altered to raise the comb most ladies will find themselves looking into the action when mounting the gun, making accurate shooting very difficult.
This problem can be exacerbated on guns with long barrels, where there will be a tendency to shoot higher.
Again, any good gunsmith should be able to alter this if provided with the appropriate measurements.
The final common problem for lady guns relates to eye dominance.
Most men are right-handed and most of these will have a dominant right eye. However, most women have a dominant left eye, apparently due to the vagaries of genetics.
Being right-handed but having a dominant left eye can cause some interesting problems when fitting, but there are a number of ways of getting around this through shooting technique and equipment.
Dealing with left eye dominance
The most common way of right-handed shots dealing with dominant left eyes taught by shooting coaches is to close the left eye once the gun is mounted and you are into the swing.
This allows your brain to get a proper sight picture of the bird before giving you the opportunity to fine tune your aim and take the shot.
If you have a very dominant left eye and cannot close it while shooting, many would recommend that you learn to shoot left-handed.
Indeed, if you are just starting to learn to shoot then this may be entirely preferable. If neither of these techniques are viable for you there are other options.
You may choose to have a ?twisted? stock built for the gun, putting a significant bend on the wood and bringing the barrels closer to the left eye.
However, this is very expensive and can lead to significant problems with recoil.
A rather cheaper and easier option is to shoot while wearing glasses and to block out the left eye with Vaseline or tape, forcing the right eye to take over.
Some instructors have also suggested that fitting fluorescent sights onto the barrels can lessen the impact of eye dominance, and this is a very cheap option, which is very easy and quick to fit.
BERETTA SILVER PIGEON S £1,615
A lightweight over-under 20-bore or 12-bore gun would be an ideal starter gun for most ladies. The two big names in modern guns, Beretta and Browning, both produce some excellent light alloy action guns.
If you were intent on using a 12-bore, then using 24gram cartridges or lighter would alleviate any potential recoil problems and would shoot as smooth as a 20-bore.
However, I still feel that a 20-bore over-under is the more suitable starter gun. These shotguns are ideal for all types of shooting, and with a good selection of cartridges from a standard 21gram load upwards available it will be easy to find a comfortable combination.
I would recommend buying a gun with 28″ barrels with either multi or fixed chokes. If you choose to have fixed chokes, I recommend you have the bores regulated to improved cylinder and ¼.
There is a good selection of guns in this category, but any of Beretta?s guns from its Silver Pigeon range would be ideal.
They are reliable, shoot well and come in at a reasonable price.
Good alternatives come from Browning and Miroku in the shape of the 525 Hunter Classic and the MK60 Universal respectively, both of which start from around £1,600.
AYA NUMBER FOUR £2,995
Those ladies being introduced to driven shooting may desire a side-by-side as a first shotgun as part of the tradition of the sport.
As with an over-under I would suggest a 12-bore with light cartridge loads or a 20-bore, but you might also consider the slightly more unusual 16-bore.
Falling between the light weight of a 20-bore and the heft and power of a 12, a 16-bore gun offers an interesting compromise.
You will find that the weight and balance of a side-by-side gun is quite different from an over-under, so you might consider buying a gun with 26″ barrels.
This will keep the weight of the gun down but does increase barrel flip when shooting. To counteract the slightly greater recoil of a side-by-side I would recommend sticking to lighter loads.
You might also consider fitting a Kick-eez pad to the butt in order to reduce felt recoil. You should discuss both these issues with your instructor and gun dealer.
There is a wide range of new and old guns that would be ideal as a starting side-by-side, and the AYA is a popular choice. Though these guns are more expensive new, good second-hand models should not be ignored.
BERETTA A400 XPLOR £1,545
If you are likely to be shooting lots of clays or doing more rough shooting then you might consider buying a semi-automatic shotgun.
It must be said that you would most likely be frowned upon if you take one out into the field for driven birds, but it would be ideal as a second gun.
Having only one barrel means that these guns are lighter than their double-barreled cousins. This makes them much easier to mount and swing, and they will have much less felt recoil.
They are generally available in 12 or 20-bore, and lightweight versions are also common. Once again, I would suggest that if you buy a 12-bore gun you shoot with a lighter cartridge load.
Semi-auto guns are very popular outside of Britain, and therefore see a lot of technological innovation such as hydraulic dampers in the stock to reduce recoil.
This Beretta is capable of taking a variety of cartridge sizes and features a very fast gas-operated reloading system.
I would also recommend guns from Benelli, who offer a number of similarly competent but more workmanlike guns from £1,210 upwards.