Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shotguns, Shotguns, and More Shotguns

     What is it about shotguns that makes us wingshooters want more? Take me to an outfitter, and guaranteed the first place I go is the gun rack. There really isn't anything better than cruising a used gun department, navigating the endless variety of gauges, barrel lengths, and actions, to finding a hidden little gem that you just can't believe someone parted with. Of course, it isn't long before the glimmering light reflecting off  the wall of perfectly polished new guns behind a counter draws you in as if caught in a tractor beam straight out of a sci-fi flick. I find it's best to approach the new gun counter when the sales person is busy with another customer. Usually the glow of new gun finish kind of hypnotizes me and I stand there unable to form any rational thought, my brain completely over-loaded, let alone able to muster up a complete sentence, should I even comprehend whatever the sales person may have said.

     What's most interesting about shotguns is that with so many configurations, endless really, that even though a shooter may have a preference for a particular type of gun, we're always able find something else that'll make us happy. While I prefer guns with two barrels, whether stacked or juxtaposed, I find myself really wanting, no,... make that needing, an auto-loader. I haven't any idea what I'd use it for, but I'm feeling it's pull. No doubt it'd find it's way to the clays course, and probably the duck blind too. Not that I don't have guns for those purposes already. I recently made the mistake of putting my hands on a .410 double. What a sweet little creature, with an English style straight stock, and double triggers. I'd never thought about owning a .410 before I touched this one, and I don't believe they have any place in the field, but it has injected me with it's poison, and I'll no doubt be adding it to my collection. I have, however, thought of a good reason, or excuse if you want to call it that, to buy one. I'm getting a new dog this spring, and a .410 is the next reasonable step in gun breaking a dog after you've accustomed it to the .22 blank pistol. Yeah,.. I'm good. Of course, getting a .410 presents a problem too. The gap in my collection, where the 16 gauge should be, will be clearly evident.

     Some guns work better for us than others, and I'm not talking about fit, or configuration. Some guns have a special something about them that makes us shoot them better. I recently found a replacement for my old 12 gauge over-under, that I primarily waterfowled with. The gun fits well, and I shoot it pretty good, too. It doesn't hurt that it's got some nice engraving, making it a step up from the old fowler, but I'd still not call this a nice piece, just a utility piece that won't cause me to sweat over carrying it into the salt marsh. As I shot it today, 100 round of sporting clays, I was aware that I was maintaining a better score with this gun than with my 20 gauge double I usually shoot. Of course, stupid. It's a 12 gauge. But the truth is, I shoot this new gun (yeah, it's still new) no where near the level I shot my old gun.

     The old 12 gauge was a Stoeger, Uplander. The Stoeger weighed about 10lbs, with a trigger pull of about 8lbs, but it had something magical about it. One friend described the way I shot the Stoeger as "money" in my hands. In reality, the gun probably wasn't blessed with any super powers, but having shot so much game with it I was confident whenever I carried it. And confidence goes a long way in the shooting sports. It instilled the kind of confidence that allowed me to shoot 6 birds in 8 rises one day a few seasons back.  I shot 3 Woodcock, 2 pheasant that may have been wild, as I wasn't hunting a WMA or anywhere near one, and a Ruffed Grouse. I'd like to say it was done with 8 shells, but it wasn't. One of my misses was on a grouse, and one was on a Pheasant. It instilled a similar confidence on the skeet field.  Though I've never been one to post high scores when it comes to shooting clays, I did post a 22 shooting a low stakes game of Doubles one afternoon.

     In the end, it comes down to this; If the gun did, however, have any magical powers it probably wouldn't be buried in mud on the bottom of a river, the result of a duck hunting mishap. In the absence of a gun actually being the recipient of a supernatural incantation, I'll have to continue shooting what I have regularly (or semi-regularly) and hope to find the same mystical confidence I found in the Stoeger. I'm betting it's out there somewhere, too.

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