Wild Times: Is the 28 gauge for you? Part II
The very first shotgun I was ever allowed to carry on a hunt was a .410 of some make and model that I cannot recall. My first upland bird hunting season was the following fall after completing the hunter safety course, the first one offered in the state of Kansas, during the spring of my sixth grade year.
I really had no idea what I had in my hands in terms of muzzle velocity and number of pellets in my number eight shells. It did not matter to me at the time. All I knew was that I was holding a shotgun that if I did my job would knock down a flushing quail. The firearm was a single shot, and I don’t remember how many shells I ran through the bore of that gun before I finally connected on a flushing quail, but it was a lot! Holding that first quail that fell to that .410 was like holding a bag of gold. I can take you to the exact location of where I dropped that quail!
It was very common practice back then to make the .410 a young hunter’s first shotgun. A common practice, but with what we now know not a good one. A better gun to have given a beginner would have been the 20 gauge. Why? There are a lot more pellets in a 20 gauge shell than in a .410, thus the odds of connecting on a flying target increase dramatically. A 20 gauge is still light enough and doesn’t produce enough substantial recoil that it would discourage a young shooter. A .410 belongs in the hands of an experienced and skilled shooter.
Another good choice for a young hunter would be the 28 gauge. This small bore shotgun is gaining in popularity with new shooters and veteran shooters alike. From what I have been reading, more and more seasoned hunters are acquiring the 28. Why? There are a lot of reasons.
The first 28 gauge was developed back in 1903-4 by Parker Brothers. Ithaca, Fox and Winchester soon followed with their own versions. It was after World War II that ammunition companies finally settled on a shell casing of 2-3/4 inches with a 3/4 ounce of shot charge. The standard load was used mostly for skeet shooting, which is what the 28 gauge was developed for.
Times have now changed, and hunters have recognized the usefulness of the handy little 28. The 28 has a bore diameter of .550 inch. Most 28 shells are 2-3/4 inches, but some companies have recently been producing some 3-inch shells. The average muzzle velocity of the 28 gauge is around 1,280 to 1,300 feet per second. This is just a little less than a standard 12 gauge!
Most ammo companies offer 28 gauge ammo in shot sizes of 9, 8, 7-1/2, 6, and 5. The most common shot size for skeet and trap shooting is obviously the number 9. When you pull out the 28 for hunting, the choice would have to be the 7-1/2. When using the 7-1/2 shot size, there are around 275 pellets available for your shot pattern. If you are going to be pursuing pheasants, then the 5 or 6 size shot would be warranted. In a 12 gauge load of similar make, there are around 450 to 475 pellets.
As you can see, there is a significant difference between the 12 gauge and the 28 gauge. With that being said, one needs to take the number of pellets into consideration when hunting upland game. Obviously your range on larger upland birds needs to be shortened when using the 28. Most number six loads for pheasants only have 225 pellets in the charge.
The nice feature of the 28 gauge is that most guns weigh around 5-1/2 to 6 pounds. This is very light in comparison to the 12 gauge. It allows for lightning fast shoulder mounting and pointing and follow through. The recoil on a 28 gauge is almost non-existent, which is why the gun is so desirable for young hunters. Test patterning of shots fired from 28 and 20 gauges show that there is almost no difference between the two.
With all of this being said the case for the 28 gauge looks very strong. I don’t currently have one of these little beauties in my arsenal, but I think it might be time to consider acquiring one!