Looking for an over-and-under, a side-by-side, a semi-auto or pump-action? No problem. There are plenty of bargain guns for pigeon shooting around
Pigeon shooting is different – although you obviously still need to be a safe Shot. What you wear is dependent on comfort and camouflage. And this more relaxed approach also includes the type of shotgun you use.
A pigeon enthusiast might have a favourite gun that would be rather sneered at on a formal shoot day. But it’s no matter. Years ago most of us went pigeon shooting with a side-by-side because it was often the only gun we possessed and therefore it had to serve for all sorts of sport, a requirement it fulfilled very well.
Forget about gun snobbery
Nowadays you have a few more options as there are many different shotguns at reasonable prices. Go pigeon shooting and you can use whatever takes your fancy without feeling you have to conform and without having to be concerned about gun snobs.
Choice of gauge is important and most shooters will opt for the 12-bore with a splendid choice of cartridge at competitive prices, followed fairly closely by the 20- bore. The ubiquitous 12-bore is generally the cheaper, so that is the gun to buy when you want to make an economic purchase.
Over-and-unders offer greater choice
If you do a bit of clayshooting and are partial to the over-and-under, it makes sense to stick with the same sort of gun for a pigeon outing. There is undoubtedly a greater choice of over-and-under than any other type of shotgun. While standing behind a hedge to intercept a good, high flightline might be best served with a heavier, longer-barrelled gun, much dedicated pigeon shooting will be over decoys from a hide where a fast-handling gun is an advantage.
Guns for under £500
In this price range I’ve seen a neat second-hand 12-bore Zoli for £450, which was in good condition. If it had suffered more wear and tear it might have £100 knocked off this price. At just over 71/4lb with 28in barrels, this would seem to fit the bill, though it is wise to check that a fixed-choke gun will be choked to suit your purpose.
On the other hand you could look a gun of similar weight – a Lanber – which, with multi-chokes, can fall within a £250 to £490 price range, again depending on condition.
What else would you find in this price range? Maybe a Lincoln, a Bettinsoli, a Yildiz or a Hatsan with one of the shorter barrel options and aluminium alloy action body for quick handling.
If you’re looking for a less expensive gun, you should still buy the best you can to ensure that the gun wears well.
Now you’ll find a far greater selection of semi-autos. Back in the day choice was limited to the still popular Remington 1100 and classic Browning A5 — both of which can be purchased second-hand within our price range. However older Remingtons can be a little unreliable until you find the best cartridge and load to suit a particular gun. As for the wonderful old A5, they rarely function well with very light loads, and for modern shooters are considered somewhat slow in operation.
It is possible to find an older Beretta semi-auto near the £400 to £500 mark, something such as the Beretta A303 which, compared with both Remington and Browning, is fast in operation and quick-handling with the usefulness of multi-chokes.
If you’re looking for a new, economy semi-auto then you should investigate Hatsan, which dominates this sector. If you’re getting a Hatsan, buy the best you can afford – new guns start at prices of under £400. You should also look at Franchi.
Here you’re again looking at Hatsan and Winchester which has the SXP in the £400 price range. For Remington fans, there is the 870 Wingmaster.
In the pump-action field you’ll see the name of Mossberg again and again, due to its economy and reliability.
What caught my eye recently was a 20-bore Mossberg at just under £380; something that might be of interest to the smaller gauge enthusiast with a fondness for the pump-action and a potentially fast-handling little gun weighing in at a smidgeon over 6 3/4lb. A similar 12-bore version would usually be a more economic purchase.
The pump-action is not to many UK shooters’ tastes, but for rugged reliability they are often very good guns. After all, unlike a recoil- or gas-operated semi-auto, the performance of the cartridge makes no difference to the operation.
Side-by-side shooting from a hide
It may be considered a little old-fashioned but the side-by-side is a useful pigeon shooting gun still, particularly if you’re operating from a hide. In this instance its light weight and good balance are a distinct advantage.
Of course, a lot are what is commonly referred to as “game bored”, meaning they are something like quarter- choke or improved cylinder — ideal for decoying. Some, like those inter-war boxlocks, can be a reasonable purchase as a non-ejector — you can have the chokes tailored to a specific use and still be well in pocket within our £500 limit. One thing to look out for with older guns is chamber length, as some will be only 2 1/2in (65mm), which limits choice of cartridge.
Looking for a newer option? An AYA Yeoman with the rare optional pistol grip stock and beavertail fore-end, can be found for as little as £145. Ugartechea is another choice in the side-by-side range, around £100 more than the AYA, but if you need a single-trigger gun then a Winchester Model 23 could be the answer, though well-used examples are rarely as reliable as the Spanish Anson & Deeley types.
Think about what you want and relax. Because in the world of pigeon shooting, nobody is going to look down their nose at you.