Shooting Gazette talks to a seasoned Gun, Edward Watson, about his preferences

Tradition will always be on the side of side-by-side shotguns. 

In recent years, over-and-unders have grown in popularity. This is largely due to people going into gameshooting having started on clays.

But this doesn’t mean that if you’re an over-and-under user you shouldn’t try a side-by-side. In fact,  it might be considered part of your shooting education.

Edward Watson explains why.

Edward Watson: I started my shooting with a side-by-side shotgun, then when I got more involved in the shooting world I moved to what consider ‘the dark side’ and switched to an over-and-under.

Much easier shooting

There is no doubt it is very much easier shooting with an over-and-under for so many reasons.

If you are in any doubt look at the guns all the Olympic shooters use. You won’t find a side-by-side there. In fact the double trigger would be enough to ruin some of their scores. But the side-by-side is a wonderful looking gun and is very much more stylish.

Watching an experienced and accomplished game shooter with a side-by-side is a thoroughly satisfying experience, which transports one back to that Golden Era of British gunmaking and game shooting in the late Victorian and Edwardian period. But actually we are in a pretty Golden Era now too, so let’s put those rose-tinted glasses away for the moment.

over and under shotgun

The rise of the over-and-under

On a shoot day in October I had a fascinating conversation with a fellow gun about his switch from a side-by-side to an over-under.…

Gun fit is very important

It is very important if you do change to the side-by-side that it must be fitted to you correctly. It is more difficult to fit a side-by-side than an over-and-under.

With an over-and-under you can make the gun fit you by moving your leading arm up or down on the fore-end, and this will then make the length of the stock fit you in a satisfactory way. However the fore-end on a side-by-side is a lot shorter so it is harder to make this adjustment in the way you hold the gun.

The cast (bend of the stock) on an over-and-under is normally pretty straight for most people and the drop (difference in height between the line of sight and the comb or heel) on most over-and-under shotguns is fairly uniform.

Cast is very important, as your master eye needs to be in line with the rib and with a side-by-side of course this is now in the middle of the two barrels, rather than on top of one single plane of sight as in the over-under. And the drop must be right so your eye looks straight down the barrels, not down on them or up at them.