side by side shotguns

Side by side shotgun

On side-by-side shotguns the barrels are placed alongside one another, as the description suggests.

Side-by-side shotguns were first created in France in the 1730s, with barrels held together by soldering. Before this, the barrels were kept in place by the stock.

The side-by-side dominated the field until the 1950s, when technology improved and better over-and-under designs appeared and now over-and-unders head the market.

side by side shotguns

Side-by-side shotguns need skilful handling

Side-by-side shotguns need skill

Ed Wills, deputy editor of Shooting Times, says: “Side-by-side shotguns are in my opinion the most humbling of them all. Not only do you need tremendous skill to carry out the shot successfully but also the guns themselves look elegant and make you feel proud to own one.”

The dream of an English side-by-side

Today an English side-by-side is a dream shotgun for many in the sport.

Shooters like them for their handling tradition, pleasing lines, lack of weight and the sheer joy of owning.

However side-by-sides do have their limitations. Although they used used to great effect by many competent Shots, some shooters would benefit from using an over-and-under shotgun. It’s worth having a discussion with an experienced shooting instructor.

If you’re looking for a review of a particular side-by-side shotgun, then visit our review section here, which covers every side-by-side our experts have looked at.

Which trigger do I use first on a side-by-side?

Most side-by-sides fire the barrel with the most open choke via the front trigger.

When shooting driven game, the first target is usually the most distant, demanding the tighter choke of the pair.

However, in walked-up shooting the reverse is true: the first target is usually the nearer of the pair. The solution is, when shooting driven game and the circumstances demand, to pull the back trigger first.

This is where over-unders score over side-by-sides: you can set the barrel selector to fire the tightest choke first.

Why do none of the top Sporting shots use side-by-sides?

The stacked barrels of an over-and-under give an edge when it comes to viewing certain clay targets.  The difference might only be two or three birds per hundred but the margin is there.

The heavier weight of an over-and-under also helps make a difference but this can be cancelled out if the side-by-side user decides to use a gun of similar weight.

Regardless of weight however, where it might cede another vital target or two is through muzzle flip from the first shot. An over-and-under tends to be steadier, allowing the user to acquire his second target a little better especially on those combinations where it helps to keep the gun in the shoulder between shots.

best English guns

Are English guns the best?

The famous makers of English guns – Holland & Holland, Boss, Purdey, William Evans, Westley Richards. These names are revered as the finest examples of the gunmaker’s art around the world. Or is that really true? Inherited English guns You’ll see plenty of people turning up at a smart driven…

Shooting in field

What’s the best cartridge load for standard driven pheasants?

How should you tackle standard driven pheasants when you’re out in the field? The sort you’re likely to come across earlier in the season. What would be the best cartridge load for driven pheasants? Speaking from my experience as a shooting instructor I think that the cartridges a shooter uses…

Pigeon shooter with dead pigeons

How to choose the right shotgun and cartridge for pigeon shooting

Shotguns and cartridges for pigeon shooting First off, what sort of gun would be best for you out in the pigeon field? Invest in the best gun you can afford. This doesn’t mean you have to buy new, there are plenty of good quality second-hand guns around. A properly made…

shooting with a dog

Steel-proofing for a Spanish side-by-side

  Anyone with even a vague interest in live quarry shooting will be aware that there is an ongoing conversation about the continued 
use of lead shot. The centre of gravity of this debate has recently shifted away from lead’s toxicity when scattered into the wider environment. This is because…

Fausti DEA

Fausti DEA side-by-side 12-bore

Fausti offers a wide range of side-by-side and over-and-under guns, from the plain black XF4, aimed at clay shooters, to the RDX round-action over-and-under for game shooters, as well as the Magnificent over-and-under in both game and clay models. In this review we are looking at the Fausti DEA side-by-side…

Yildiz Wildfowler

Yildiz Wildfowler

Yildiz has been producing shotguns for 40 years and manufactures some 45,000 annually in a variety of models. It takes pride in its customer care and after-sales service, and also offers custom-made guns and special finishes. Although Yildiz produces a wide range of side-by-side game guns under the model name…

EJ Churchill Regal

EJ Churchill Regal

It’s rare to see a side-by-side on a game shoot these days. They have fallen out of fashion and, although us shooters might like to think we are sticklers for tradition in our tweeds and brogues, many tastes in the shooting world are subject to trends. A case in point…

Beretta 486 Parallelo 20-bore

Beretta 486 Parallelo 20-bore reviewed by Shooting Times

As the new shotgun reviewer for Shooting Times, I was asked to look at the Beretta 486 Parallelo 20-bore side-by-side and consider whether it would make a good rough shooting gun. The short answer is yes, but let’s have a look at the evidence 
to support the argument. Familiar sight…

AYA Sfera

AYA Sfera

I’m sure that at one stage in most shooters’ careers there would be a 
side-by-side in the gun cabinet, and if I had a pound for everyone that was an AYA I’d be a rich man. I had one when I was younger. My trusty old Yeoman served me well,…

Side-by-side shotgun

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

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…

Beretta Ultralight Gold

Beretta Ultralight Gold reviewed by Shooting Gazette

Long-term experts in using alloy metals in constructing their guns, Beretta build the Ultralight Gold largely from a tough, lightweight aluminium alloy with the main wearing parts of the gun being made from tougher stuff. This is most clearly seen in the action face where a titanium insert will take…

side by side shotgun

Is the side-by-side shotgun history?

“Snobbery and inheritance are the only reasons why people use a side-by-side.” So said one keen Shot, once described as the best of his generation. “But I’m not that bothered. I just like to shoot straight.” Once upon a time, the side-by-side was the only gun to use. Turn up for…

AYA No.2 28 bore

AYA No.2 28 bore

Spanish gunmaker Aguirre y Aranzabal (AYA) admits that “a true work of art does not simply appear out of thin air”. The more cynical amongst you might chuckle at this seemingly tacit admission that much of the output of its Eibar factory has been inspired by the work of craftsmen – particularly English craftsmen – who came before. This, however, is…

side-by-side hammergun

Don’t discount second-hand side-by-side shotguns

A: English boxlock shotguns represent fantastic value for money because they are rather unfashionable at the moment. The Italian over-and-under carries all before it. A boxlock made between the wars or just after World War II is a classic handmade sporting gun. So is a hammergun. Both represent very good value for money in the current market. Assessing a…

Winchester Model 23

Second-hand guns for gamekeepers and clayshooters

Winchester Model 23 Side-by-side classes in major sporting contests don’t seem to be as popular as they were, which is a pity because they formed a friendly link between clay and gameshooting. Nevertheless, using a side-by-side for club Sporting targets can be great fun, as well as sharpening up the reflexes ready for the autumn. Of course,…

side by side shotgun

Fausti Dea British double-barrelled side-by-side 20-bore

Fausti is a name probably not that familiar to many shooters but I would predict that is about to change. The company was formed in 1948 by the Honourable Stefano Fausti and is now run by his three daughters. I do not know if that is unusual in Italy but in Britain over the years a number…

double trigger 12-bore

Newnham double-trigger 12-bore

George Newnham is listed as setting up in the gun trade in 1866 and by 1905 the name, as on this gun, had changed to Newnham Limited, though still at 29 Commercial Road, Landport, Portsmouth. The company survived until around the start of World War II, with another change of name to Newnham & Co circa 1924.…