I really enjoy my game shooting. I’m not so much a fan of big bag days, but rather the 150-200 bird days with friends and family where you can just relax and enjoy yourself. Anything more than that and I get a bit tired nowadays! 🙂
However, recently I’ve not been enjoying my driven days as much. It’s not the birds, and certainly not the company, but rather the quality of my own shooting. I’ve been wounding far more birds than usual, and it’s becoming incredibly frustrating.
When it comes to my rifle shooting, whether competition or hunting, I’m always keen to try new things. I’m forever trying out different rifles, scopes, ammunition and equipment, always trying to get that extra edge – usually with some measure of success.
However, I haven’t applied the same rationale when it comes to my game shooting. I’ve used the same shotgun for my driven shooting for nearly 9 years without even giving it a second thought! I just seem to wander into the Gunroom, grab my gun & cartridges and head out the door.
My faithful Browning Citori Lightning Grade 6 has been a constant companion for hundreds of shoots – from walked up grouse over pointers to simulated game days. It’s a strangely built gun, with 28″ multi-choke barrels and shiny gloss finish – and at a portly 3.6kg it’s also incredibly heavy.
But it’s always performed well for me, so much so that I’ve never really given too much thought to changing it. That’s until very recently, yesterday in fact, while I was shooting with friends at Winwood Shoot near Stourport in Worcestershire.
Because of my Bells Palsy I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to shoot the whole day, so Clare took her 20-bore Beretta 687 EL Gold Pigeon 2, just in case she had to step in. As it happens it was lucky she did!
Half way through the second drive, the top barrel of my Citori stopped working and I had to borrow Clare’s Beretta, and to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure to start with. At a mere 2.6kg it felt very light and the stock was also rattling around in my enormous hands.
But once the drive started, I felt like I’d experienced an epiphany! Rather than dragging my unwieldy cannon through the air, the 20-bore felt light, manoeuvrable and a joy to handle. I found birds folding with the first barrel rather than chasing them to finish them off with a second.
Despite having to concentrate more carefully on my mount (the Beretta was a little short for me so I kept finding myself looking down the right hand side!) I became more confident, and therefore more fluid, that I’ve shot for years. I was simply astounded!
So now I have an even bigger problem. I’ve discovered that not only does a 20-bore have the same potency as a 12 bore for driven game (yes, I know we already knew that 😉 ) but due to its weight and dimensions it’s also a thoroughly enjoyable calibre to shoot.
I’ve already started looking at my options, and the choice is simply staggering. My budget is around £5000. While it sounds a lot, this is a long term investment in what is a very important part of my life.
Whilst there’s a huge number of shotguns available at this price, I’ve already drawn up a shortlist. First is the stunningly beautiful AYA No.2. A quality built Spanish side-by-side, I’ve been casting glances at the No.2 for a few years now.
Next is the Beretta 687 EELL Diamond Pigeon. This is similar in weight and handling to Clare’s Gold Pigeon and would offer the same quality build and finish as the AYA.
The final gun on my list is Brownings new Heritage Hunter. I first saw this at IWA back in March, and was immediately impressed with it’s handling. I like my Browning guns and I’m sure the Heritage Hunter would provide years of faithful service.
I’ll be testing each of these shotguns over the next few months to see what will be joining me out in the field next season. In the mean time, I’d appreciate any comments or experiences you may have had with these fine shotguns.
It’s just a shame it’s taken me so long to discover the joys of shooting a 20-bore!