The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

Should I shoot game birds with a side-by-side or over-and-under?

What would work best for you?

A Perazzi 20-bore side by side

A Perazzi 20-bore side by side

Side by side shotguns are loved by traditionalists. Many Guns start shooting with a side-by-side shotgun (which they have possibly inherited) and then switch to an over-and-under. But why? (More on switching from a side-by-side to an over-and-under.)

Beretta 486 Parallelo side-by-side shotgun

A Browning 486 Parallelo side-by-side

Side-by-side or over-and-under?

It is much easier shooting with an over-and-under. For proof, look at the Olympic shooters and you won’t see a single side-by-side. The double trigger would ruin some of their scores for a start. But in its defence the side-by-side looks wonderful and is a stylish gun. (Read more on the rise of the over-and-under.)

Gun fit

Of course, if you make the switch to a side-by-side shotgun it must be fitted to you correctly, particularly as shooting with a side-by side is harder. (For more on gun fit, read here.)

side by side old fashioned shotgun

Side by side shotgun

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.

right gun fit

Being checked for gun fit

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.

Rizzini RB Regal 12-bore

Rizzini Regal 12g RB (Round Body) with 30“ over-and-under barrels

This article was originally published in Shooting Gazette in 2014 and has been updated.