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Old 05-08-2015, 19:47   #1
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Gauge question

I have been looking into getting a shotgun. It would be a semi auto in either 12 or 20 gauge.
For all purposes either gauge would be fine, the only plus would be the available 12 gauge ammo.

My question is in the recoil. I know that it is impossible for someone to tell me how I would feel about the felt recoil and the popular answer is to "shoot them both" but I was looking for a few opinions before I do.

How much difference is there in the semi auto 20 gauge with a 3/4 oz slug vs a 12 gauge 1 1/4 oz slug if both guns weigh the same and all other factors are equal?

Thanks all
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Old 05-08-2015, 20:41   #2
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Impossible to explain. Recoil is very subjective and everyone experiences it a little differently.

Recoil from standard weight shells (not magnum) in both 12 and 20 gauge is not brutal to me. But shooting a shotgun well is all about form and unless you've done it a BUNCH you likely will not have good form and your shoulder will suffer until you develop good form.

The problem with many 20 gauge guns is they have a tendency to be much lighter than 12 gauge guns and as a result you actually feel more recoil with a 20 than a 12. Again, everyone is different and you will get 37 different opinions on the subject.

A standard 20 gauge target load is 7/8 ounce and a light 12 gauge target load is 1 ounce. So we are talking an 1/8 ounce difference and as I said many 20 gauges are lighter guns and therefore the 20 can be perceived as recoiling harder! Also, 12 guage slugs can be had in 1 ounce weights.

The best advice I can give you about shooting a shotgun is to get some professional help from a person who teaches shotgun shooting. Again, like a golf swing shooting a shotgun is all about form. Its easier to learn to do it properly than to try and learn it by yourself, develop bad habits and then have to RE-LEARN the proper technique and UN-LEARN the bad habits. I'll give you an example. You shoot a shotgun with both eyes open and focused on the target. But I can't tell you how many people I've worked with who insist they know how to shoot a shotgun then go out on a skeet range and blade themselves to the target and close one eye.... I also can't tell you how many of them will look at me when I try and show them the correct technique and with a straight face tell me they can't shoot with both eyes open. This is usually followed with the refrain of I can't shoot targets with a darn but I can knock birds out of the sky like nobody's business... Yeah OK. Well come on out to my dove shoot and impress everyone why don't you?

Its easier and cheaper in the long run to start out with professional help and to learn to do it the correct way. Or you can spend years doing it yourself and learning bad habits and not making any progress until your finally realize you need a good shooting coach.
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Old 05-09-2015, 04:17   #3
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Most tactical shotguns I see are in 12 gauge. You say 12 gauge has the advantage as ammo is more readily available locally. Go 12 gauge and don't look back.

BTW, I have a Mossberg 500 Persuader 12 gauge pump shotgun. Much more reliable than a semi auto shot gun.
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Old 05-09-2015, 12:30   #4
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I can appreciate what glide is saying and at first glance I might agree but I tend to think that 20 gauge is equally viable and cannot, as a serious student of the shotgun, be easily discounted.

20 gauge is shooting the exact same buckshot or slugs as a 12 gauge but there may be less of it as the payload but you can get #1 buck in 12 or 20 gauge.

Also keep in mind that a 20 gauge, even a 410, has a lot of muzzle energy and more than most any common handgun round. A 20 gauge slug has more energy than a. 44 Mag round.

Another component to this is training and while a training day is fun and informative, most of the range time is standing waiting to shoot. It's kinda like a football game where the ball is only in play about 13 minutes out of the 60 mins. At the end of a long 2-5 day session the lighter weight makes a difference.

I have both a 12 and 20 gauge that are set up identically. Either works and will meet the need.
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Last edited by Buffering; 05-09-2015 at 12:36.. Reason: Had to refill my coffee cup
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Old 05-10-2015, 08:44   #5
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It's easy to find a gun/load in 20 that is more brutal than a particular 12ga load. It isn't really about the gauge, as the others have stated. Having said that, you can shoot two guns of the same weight with the same load and find that one will be quite nice and soft shooting, and the other will punish you. Sometimes it's about gun fit. When I started shooting trap, it took an entire week between shoots for my cheek to recover. Then I learned about gun fitting. What a difference!
Whichever way you go, get your gun fit to you immediately, and not by some hack, but by someone that knows how to do it. You won't regret it.

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Old 05-15-2015, 21:50   #6
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That's cool that you're considering a 20 for HD. As far as availability goes, there were always slugs & buck in both 12 and 20 on the local Walmart & Meijer shelves during the initial wave of post Sandy Hook insanity when most pistol rounds and .223 were scarce.

At least in the midwest, there's no appreciable difference in availability of 12 or 20 gauge shells.

In semi-auto guise, no matter what the numbers say, your actual human shoulder probably wouldn't notice much difference between a 12 or 20 gauge firing anything powerful enough to cycle the action.
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Old 05-15-2015, 22:18   #7
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Adding a recoil pad will also help. I've got a short-barrelled (18.5") 12 guage pump. It's a Remington 870 clone. Out of the box the recoil was pretty nasty and sharp. I put a limbsaver on it and it's fine.
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Old 05-16-2015, 09:46   #8
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Both would be plenty effective for anything you would do with them. As you stated, the 12ga wins in availability of shells and types of shells. I think this shell selection makes it the winner. If you tend to be recoil sensitive, buckshot and slugs are available in low recoil varieties. The larger frame of the 12ga gun and the semi auto system will also help mitigate some of the recoil impulse.
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Old 05-17-2015, 19:54   #9
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Originally Posted by brycewise View Post
How much difference is there in the semi auto 20 gauge with a 3/4 oz slug vs a 12 gauge 1 1/4 oz slug if both guns weigh the same and all other factors are equal? Thanks all
I doubt you can find a 20 gauge shotgun that weighs the same as a 12 gauge.

My worst kicking gun is a light side by side 20 gauge upland gun. Part of it is the overall weight, and part of it is the thinner stock (less area). I would go with the 12 myself for your purpose.
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Old 05-17-2015, 20:29   #10
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If you just want a straight calculation of recoil energy there are several recoil calculators on line.

Here is one for shotguns:


Simply enter the weight of the shot charge (or slug), the velocity, weight of the gun, and the weight of the components (if known, if they are not just go with the default and keep it the same for both loads you are comparing)

That will simply give you a number, it will not tell you how the recoil feels or what the action of the gun semi auto gun does to dampen felt recoil.
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Old 05-17-2015, 20:45   #11
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I use a 20ga weatherby pump (20 pellet buck) and I can tell you that to me, the felt recoil compared to a 12ga seems like a 40% reduction. I have never met a person who didnt shoot a 20ga better than a 12ga. As others have said, if you go "light", it will likely feel worse than a 12ga but my weatherby is only slightly lighter than my mossy 500 12ga so it does soak up some of the recoil.
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Old 05-19-2015, 20:05   #12
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I shot 300 12 gauge shells this weekend in a Sporting Clays tournament. I didn't have the least bit of discomfort or soreness during the shoot or on Monday. My load is 1 1/8 Ounce of 8s at 1200 fps. Clearly not a light or low recoil load.

I'm not saying this to brag but to again make the point that shotgun recoil is largely a function of proper gun mount (form). How you stand is important. There is a right way and a lot of wrong ways. Are you standing mostly squared off with the target like say a defensive lineman or are you bladed to the target like a rifle shooter. If you are bladed you are wrong for many many reasons. Are you shooting with both eyes open looking at the bird or are you looking at the bead. Looking at the bird with both eyes is correct.

Here is a very good explanation about shotgun fit which is another aspect of how you perceive recoil. A poorly fitted shotgun can pound you.

Gil Ash in the video has a whole bunch of shotgun instructional videos sponsored by the NSSF on Youtube and if you've ever wondered about things like swing, gun mount, fit etc he does a great job of showing folks the basics.

Again, its all about form. When I first started doing this seriously (competitively) about 30 years ago 50 rounds would leave me bruised and ready to go home. Now I shoot as much as 550 rounds in a weekend and don't give it a thought. That's because my form has improved! How long does it take before you begin to get good and feel good and comfortable shooting a shotgun...for me it was somewhere around the 5-7 thousand round point. A shotgun mount is all about muscle memory. It takes many repetitions to get it down. No easy solution and there is no gun or magic bullet you can buy that will make it easier. You get good at golf by hitting a golf ball well with a consistent swing and shooting a shotgun is EXACTLY the same. You need a consistent mount and swing to hit things with a shotgun. You can't read about it. You have to get off the couch and go do it.
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Old 05-20-2015, 15:58   #13
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As you can see, opinions about shotguns are like pennies - everybody has at least one.

As noted before, a 20 ga is typically going to be lighter. For some people, the higher felt recoil is worth the trade-off in toting around a heavier gun all day.

Also, 12 ga ammunition is more readily available, has a greater available variety (like low recoil SD) and will usually be less expensive.

Further, the availability of accessories is greater for the 12 ga over the 20 ga.

An auto will also have less peak recoil, with total recoil energy dispersed over a longer period of time. So an auto 12 very well may feel like much less recoil than a fixed action 20. The type of auto will also have an effect on peak recoil - and generally gas operated autos will feel softer than inertia/recoil operated autos. I'm advocate of Benelli's inertia system, but I'd have to agree that the A400 and the 1100's feel softer all things considered.

Do not buy into the a "pump is more reliable than an auto" line of thinking. I've done a lot of shotgun shooting in the last few of years. I've been to the "tactical shotgun" classes. While most stoppages in pump shotguns are user induced, they are still stoppages, and they are much more likely under stress. I've seen a LOT more gun/user induced stoppages with pumps than (semi) autos.

I have a Benelli inertia operated shotgun with 1000's of rounds through it without a single stoppage (with => 1 oz loads, even though they recommend =>1-1/8). It is more reliable than any of my Glock pistols. My cousin went to an Argentina dove shoot and fired 6,000+ in four days through a Benelli without a single stoppage. How often do you see a stoppage with a Benelli in 3-gun? (I've never seen one - I can't say the same for pumps and some other autos).

The main consideration is - what are you planning to do with it? Home defense? At least to me, a shotgun is a "stay put gun"** - call 911 - and wait for the good guys or the bad guys to come.

**Stay put, get behind cover, wait for and identify target, if BG shoot until no longer a threat.

So if you are going to "stay put" you don't need and 18" (or SBS) "tactical" shotgun. You need a "shorter" barrel sporting gun - like maybe a 26" M2. With an extended magazine tube, you'd have a fine HD shotgun that you could used for just about any sporting purpose (duck, pheasent, quail, dove, skeet, trap, sporting clays, short range deer, and so on). Is it the perfect gun for any one of them - no. Is is elegant - no. Is it tacticool - no (well maybe).
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Last edited by PEC-Memphis; 05-21-2015 at 00:43..
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