The Ideal Waterfowl Gun

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has released audio tips for selecting a waterfowling shotgun (listen to part one and part two). The gist of NSSF's tips? You don't need a specialized duck gun. I tend to agree, but there are a few things I like in a waterfowl shotgun.

-3-inch chamber. Actually my point here is something you don't need: A 3 1/2-inch chamber. Non-toxic loads, including steel, have come a long way. Ammo makers have improved lethality (namely by reducing the amount of steel shot and speeding it way up) and patterns. Want to continue spending the extra money for 3 1/2-inch shells? Fine. Maybe it'll help the economy. But a 3-inch, 12-gauge shell will kill decoying ducks and, yes, geese, just as dead.

-Semi-auto action. "But Wintersteen, pumps work after all the automatics have frozen up!" Baloney. If it's so cold outside that a decent quality, modern auto-loader won't function, I'll be inside watching football. Sure, every semi-auto suffers the occasional cycling failure, but as long as you clean them and go light on the oil, the majority are very reliable. They also don't require pumping and most recoil less than pumps.

-Good recoil pad. Because duck loads kick, and I am a sissy.

-Synthetic stock. High-gloss walnut is pretty and nostalgia-evoking, but duck hunting is hard on guns. Why use a material that scratches, cracks and warps when we have more durable, less shiny materials at our disposal?

-Matte black finish. Because shine is the enemy.

-28-inch barrel. No, I don't like a long barrel for a "better line of sight." You shouldn't be looking at the barrel at all. My reasoning here is that shorter-barreled guns tend to be whippy and I like the handling characteristics of a heavy gun. Plus, as someone who has had his ears rung by a 24-inch gun, a long barrel is also a little easier on your blind mates' hearing.

Of course, choosing a shotgun is as subjective as picking a wife. Fortunately there's an option out there for any taste. What do you like in a duck gun?

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2 Responses to The Ideal Waterfowl Gun

KyleW wrote:
September 14, 2010

@JonnyPump (if that is your real name): If semi-autos didn't shoot when they got wet, I'd kill a lot fewer ducks. And as long as it's warm enough that there is any open water on the river at all, you'll find me hunting--with my autoloader.

Jonny Pump wrote:
September 14, 2010

Kyle, if I tip a canoe and my 870 goes in the water, I just pull it out and keep on shooting, what about you? I hope you enjoy football on those cold days, cause thats when we usually limit out and drop a few Cans, as you know. Your getting your ears rung for talking bad about the pump.