what is a 16 gauge shotgun used for

what is a 16 gauge shotgun used for

Right here’s an in-depth information containing all the pieces you should learn about shotgun gauges, to incorporate the variations between 12 gauge vs 20 gauge and different well-liked bore sizes.

Whereas many hunters know slightly bit about shotgun gauges, I feel that most individuals would seemingly agree the topic may be actually complicated. That’s completely comprehensible as a result of the best way shotgun gauges are labeled is counterintuitive at first look. It’s additionally primarily based on an previous, outdated measuring system that has step by step advanced over time.

The tip result’s one thing of a convoluted mess that the typical hunter can actually wrestle to make heads or tails out of. Not surprisingly, there are much more misunderstandings and misconceptions relating to shotgun gauges than most different topics regarding firearms and ammunition.

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For that purpose, I’m going to debate the ins and outs of shotgun gauges intimately on this article. I’ll go over the historical past of shotshells, how they obtained their naming conference, evaluate and distinction among the extra well-liked shotgun gauges (the 12 gauge vs 20 gauge specifically), and supply some suggestions on the very best makes use of for every.

Earlier than we get began, I’ve an administrative be aware:

Among the hyperlinks beneath are affiliate hyperlinks. This implies I’ll earn a small fee (at no further price to you) in the event you make a purchase order. This helps help the weblog and permits me to proceed to create free content material that’s helpful to hunters like your self. Thanks in your help.

Moreover, I recorded a whole podcast episode on this precise topic. In case you’d somewhat hear than learn, click on the suitable hyperlink beneath to hearken to this episode in your most popular podcasting service.

Shotgun Gauge Podcast

Apple | Google | iHeart | Spotify | Stitcher

Shotgun Gauges: Historical past & Naming Conference

To actually perceive the naming conference of shotgun gauges, we have to head again to the times of black powder.

Again then, cannons had been named in accordance with the mass of the projectile they shot, not by their bore diameter. As an illustration, a 12 pound cannon (aka a 12 pounder) shot a spherical ball that weighed roughly 12 kilos. The identical precept utilized to eight pounders, 6 pounders, 4 pounders, and so forth.

Shoulder fired weapons that fired projectiles weighing lower than 1 pound used a carefully associated system. Persevering with down that very same line of thought from 12 to eight to 4 pound projectiles, the naming conference switches from “kilos” to “bore” after we drop beneath 1 pound of lead. Massive bore black powder rifles had been named on this method and this is also the place the system for measuring shotgun gauges comes from.

For instance, a 2 Bore rifle has a nominal bore diameter equal to the diameter of lead ball weighing 1/2 pound, a 4 Bore rifle has a bore diameter of a 1/4 pound lead sphere, and so forth. So, we’ve a system the place a ten gauge shotgun has a bore diameter the identical dimension as a 1/10 pound ball of lead and the diameter of the barrel on a 12 gauge shotgun is the scale of a 1/12 pound lead ball.

Clearly, in the event that they’re made out of the identical materials, a 12 pound spherical ball will likely be bigger in diameter than an 8 pound ball. That is additionally true with a ten gauge (or 10 bore) ball in comparison with a 12 gauge (or 12 bore) spherical ball.

In brief, the smaller the gauge of a shotgun, the bigger the bore diameter. That is why a ten gauge shotgun has a bigger diameter than a 12 gauge shotgun, which has a bigger diameter than a 20 gauge shotgun, and so forth.

A unique means of claiming the identical factor could be to explain shotgun gauges by way of the variety of lead balls of a sure diameter essential to weigh 1 pound. So, 12 spherical lead balls of 12 gauge diameter would weigh 1 pound, however since they’re smaller, it will take 20 balls of 20 gauge diameter to weigh a pound.

There may be one exception to this rule: the .410 bore. Generally inaccurately described as “.410 gauge” or “36 gauge”, it’s the one shotgun in widespread use that’s named after its precise bore dimension (.410 of an inch diameter) versus a gauge quantity. If it had been named like all the opposite well-liked shotgun bores, it will be roughly 67 gauge.

Shotgun Gauges: Nominal vs Precise Bore Measurement

Happily, it’s now not obligatory to really do the calculations obligatory to find out the interior diameter of the barrel for the preferred shotgun bores. Simply reference the chart beneath for the nominal bore dimension of 10 gauge, 12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, 28 gauge, and .410 bore shotgun barrels.

picture of 10 vs 12 vs 16 vs 20 vs 28 vs 410 shotgun gauges compared

These numbers are nice for making an general comparability between the assorted shotgun gauges. Nonetheless, the precise diameter of the bore will typically range. The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Producers’ Institute (SAAMI) requirements for those self same shotgun bore sizes are listed beneath.

Observe that the revealed requirements are for a clean barrel and have a tolerance of +.020″ (.51mm).

photo of shotgun gauges compared

Shotgun Gauges: Shell Size & Pellet Measurement

Bear in mind: gauge dimension solely describes the bore diameter of a shotgun. Whereas that’s extraordinarily essential, there are various different essential traits of shotgun shells to bear in mind as effectively.

Along with gauge, shotgun shells additionally are available in various lengths with totally different a great deal of powder, shot weight, shot dimension, and shot composition. For instance, check out the picture beneath of a field of 20 gauge shotgun shells.

photo of shotgun gauges 20 ga box

This field accommodates 20 gauge shells designed to be used in a 2 3/4″ chamber. The person shells are loaded with a 2 1/2 dram equal of powder and seven/8 of an oz of seven 1/2 dimension shot. Winchester markets this specific ammunition for upland chicken searching, sporting clays, skeet, and entice.

Lets break down what every of these issues means.

The spot the place it says “2 3/4 inches” references the size of certainly one of these shells after it has been fired. They’re often about 1/2″ shorter when loaded. Longer shells often comprise some mixture of extra shot and/or extra powder for the next velocity and/or a heavier shot load, so all different issues being equal, an extended shell will kick greater than a shorter shell of the identical gauge.

The shell lengths and gauges listed beneath are standardized by SAAMI and are due to this fact probably the most extensively out there and simple to seek out. Sizes apart from these listed beneath are typically out there in restricted numbers.

photo of shotgun gauges chamber length

Look on the barrel or chamber of your shotgun to find out the correct size shell it could actually use. A shotgun with an extended chamber can usually safely use smaller shells, however the reverse is just not true. 20 gauge shells are generally out there in each 2 3/4″ and three″ lengths. So on this case, you might safely fireplace these 2 3/4″ shells in a 20 gauge shotgun with both a 2 3/4″ or a 3″ chamber.

Other than shotgun slugs, shotgun shells are loaded with numerous pellets. The precise variety of pellets relies on their dimension and composition in addition to the burden of pellets loaded into the shell.

To find out the scale of birdshot, simply subtract the shot dimension from .17″. So, 7 1/2 birdshot is .095″ in diameter (.17 – .075 = .095). This isn’t the case with different sorts of shot like BB and buckshot. That being mentioned, whereas there are exceptions, these different shot sizes bigger than .17″ usually improve in dimension in a reasonably uniform method as effectively.

Reference the desk beneath to see the diameter of among the most typical shot sizes in addition to the approximate variety of lead pellets of that dimension that weigh one ounce. As you may see, the variety of particular person pellets in an oz decreases because the pellets improve in dimension.

photo of shotgun gauges shot size

Some containers of shotgun shells state the composition of the pellets. As an illustration, lead free, non-toxic shot is remitted for waterfowl searching in North America. So shells marketed for waterfowl hunters will state that they comprise pellets fabricated from bismuth, tungsten, metal, or another kind of alloy that doesn’t comprise lead. Moreover, some upland and turkey searching masses supposed to be used on bigger birds will typically use copper-plated shot that’s much less more likely to deform on affect.

Most shotgun shells are loaded with lead shot and it’s greatest to imagine that’s what you’re coping with if the field doesn’t say something about it a method or one other. Of the supplies generally used to supply shot, lead is probably the most dense (with a handful of exceptions, like tungsten). Which means a given variety of particular person lead pellets will weigh greater than the identical variety of pellets of the identical diameter made out of another materials.

Extra on this later.

With all of these issues in thoughts, we will decide that the field of 20 gauge shells we’ve been speaking about accommodates roughly 306 lead pellets which might be .095″ in diameter (350 7 1/2 dimension pellets in an oz multiplied by 7/8 of an oz).

Now we get to the two 1/2 dram equal half.

This space can get significantly complicated, so bear with me for a minute right here.

A dram is a unit of mass from the British Avoirdupois weight system that also stays in various levels of use in among the former colonies. Again within the days of black powder, drams had been generally used to measure the quantity of black powder in a selected load.

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Most individuals in all probability know that there are 16 ounces in a pound. Properly, there are 16 drams in an oz. So due to this fact, there are 256 drams in a pound. Moreover, many gun fans know that there are 7,000 grains in a pound. Which means there are 27.34 grains in a dram.

So, a 2 1/2 dram load of black powder would weigh 68.35 grains.

A very long time in the past, someone someplace decided {that a} sure 12 gauge shotgun load firing 1 1/8 ounces of shot with 3 drams of black powder (82 grains) had a muzzle velocity of 1,200 ft per second. If it seems like a cumbersome means of doing issues, you’re proper. It’s actually complicated, however ever since then, firms manufactured shotgun shells itemizing the powder load by way of drams of black powder.

After the transition to smokeless powder within the early twentieth Century, ammunition firms continued to explain the quantity of powder they loaded in a shotgun shell in “dram equivalents.” It’s an imprecise means of doing issues, however they had been attempting to go about describing the rate of that individual load in a roundabout means.

Dram equivalents are good for making an apples to apples comparability (all different issues equal, a 2 3/4 dram eq. load may have the next velocity than a 2 1/2 dram eq. load), however that’s about it.

For that purpose, firms are making the transition away from itemizing dram equivalents on shotgun shells and as an alternative publishing the precise velocity of the load like on the containers beneath.

photo of shotgun gauges boxes

You’ll nonetheless often run into containers nonetheless bearing dram equal markings, however they’re getting much less and fewer widespread.

Lets be clear right here: dram equivalents ought to solely be used for a basic comparability between two totally different shotgun masses. Moreover, smokeless powder is significantly extra highly effective than black powder and it’s best to NEVER reload shotgun shells utilizing “drams” or “dram equivalents” of smokeless powder. ONLY reload shells in accordance with the information provided by a great reloading handbook.

Doing the rest may be very harmful.

Shotgun Gauges: Advisable Makes use of

Of all of the shotguns in the USA, 12 gauge weapons are by far the preferred. The 20 gauge is available in second, adopted by the 28 gauge and the .410 bore. The ten gauge and 16 gauge are a lot much less widespread than the remainder, however are in no way uncommon.

So, which one is greatest for you?

Properly, it relies upon.

The shot sample of a shotgun step by step expands as vary will increase. This makes it simpler to hit a goal, significantly one that’s shifting, out to a sure vary. Hunters can tighten up the shot unfold to a sure extent by utilizing a choke, which is a constriction on the muzzle of the shotgun. Nonetheless, there all the time finally comes some extent the place the shot sample is simply too unfold out to ensure successful on an object that passes via the shot column.

Moreover, the person pellets all decelerate as they go away the barrel. Generally, heavier pellets retain extra velocity at longer vary and trigger extra harm than smaller and lighter pellets. Nonetheless, growing the scale of shot leads to fewer particular person pellets. So, growing the shot dimension comes on the expense of a thinner shot sample if the whole shot weight stays the identical.

Shot patterns are historically measured by capturing on the middle of 30″ circle at 40 yards and counting the variety of pellets that hit contained in the circle. A dense sample is right for shortly and ethically taking recreation and implies that extra pellets hit inside that circle and there aren’t any giant “voids” inside it.

Sure shotguns sample higher with specific masses. That being mentioned, basically, one solution to get a dense shot sample is to extend the shot weight, like going from 1 ounce to 1 1/8 ounces of shot for instance. Nonetheless, the shot weight can solely be elevated to a sure diploma for a selected gauge and shell size.

That is additional sophisticated for North American waterfowl hunters when utilizing metal shot. Bear in mind after we talked about how lead is extra dense than metal earlier within the article? Properly, for this reason that issues.

Since particular person metal pellets weigh lower than lead pellets of the identical dimension, hunters should sometimes use bigger diameter metal shot or undergo degraded terminal efficiency. Nonetheless, utilizing bigger diameter shot leads to thinner shot patters. That is why many hunters use 10 gauge and 12 gauge 3″ or 3 1/2″ magnum shotguns, which might fireplace a heavier load of shot, for geese and geese.

All different issues being equal, a bigger bore shotgun with a heavier load of shot will throw extra pellets and due to this fact produce a denser shot sample at a given vary than a smaller bore shotgun with a lighter load of shot.

Searching bigger recreation animals, like turkey and goose, often requires heavier a great deal of bigger sized shot. The identical goes for taking longer vary pictures. Nonetheless, there may be such a factor as overkill although and hitting a small creature with a heavy load of shot will trigger substantial harm ensuing within the lack of a lot or all of the meat. On the identical time, the heavier load fired from a bigger bore shotgun comes on the worth of extra recoil.

As you may in all probability think about, there’s one thing of a candy spot in the case of shot dimension and weight for sure recreation. The talent degree of the hunter additionally performs into the equation.

Robert Ruark summed this up fairly effectively in his essay The Courageous Quail:

The gauge of the gun is an index to the flexibility of the person to show his manhood…If it’s a 12-gauge, he’s so-so. If it’s a 16, he’s fairly good. If it’s a 20-gauge, he’s wonderful, and if it a .410 he’s bragging.

photo of shotgun gauges

With all that being mentioned, beneath are the really helpful makes use of for every of the preferred shotgun gauges.

10 Gauge: The ten gauge shotgun is primarily utilized by waterfowl hunters, particularly for goose searching. That is due to the beforehand mentioned benefits of the bigger bore and longer shell size supplied by the ten gauge when utilizing non-toxic shot in comparison with all different shotgun gauges in widespread use. Its stout recoil coupled with the heavy weight of most 10 gauge shotguns additionally limits the attraction of that bore dimension to most hunters.

Whereas there are a couple of turkey masses at the moment supplied in 10 gauge utilizing #4, 5, or 6 dimension shot, non-toxic ammo supposed to be used on geese (dimension 2) or geese (BB, BBB, or T dimension shot) makes up the overwhelming majority of all 10 gauge ammunition at the moment manufactured.



12 Gauge: The 12 gauge is by far the preferred shotgun dimension in the USA and probably your entire world. Produced in nearly each sort of shotgun from semi-automatics to pump actions and all the pieces in between, the 12 gauge is the shotgun of selection for giant recreation, turkey, waterfowl, upland, and small recreation hunters. It’s additionally the #1 selection for dwelling protection in addition to for army and legislation enforcement use.

Certainly, a hunter armed with a cheap Remington 870 or Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun might conceivably hunt nearly each species of recreation in North America by merely altering the barrel, choke, and/or shot dimension as obligatory.

Not surprisingly, 12 gauge ammunition can also be extensively out there in nearly each shot dimension from #9 as much as 000 Buckshot and slugs. Commonplace 2 3/4″ 12 gauge shells work very effectively on most species of small and upland recreation. They’ll additionally do the trick for waterfowl, turkey, and large recreation, however the bigger 3″ magnum shells are extra well-liked for searching these species. The three 1/2″ 12 gauge shells are greatest suited to waterfowl searching, significantly for geese.

The 12 gauge is so well-liked as a result of it’s highly effective sufficient to hunt most species of recreation, however the recoil of a 12 gauge is way more manageable than the ten gauge.

A 12 gauge shell additionally has benefit over the smaller gauges as a result of it has a shorter shot column. Principally, the fatter 12 gauge shell can match the identical weight of shot right into a shorter column, which leads to much less shot deformation because it travels down the barrel. Which means 12 gauge masses will usually sample higher with the identical quantity of shot when in comparison with a smaller gauge shotgun.



16 Gauge: Whereas it stays comparatively well-liked in Europe, the 16 gauge by no means actually caught on with American hunters. Most Individuals searching for an all-purpose shotgun use the 12 gauge and people searching for a lighter shotgun use the 20 gauge. A number of components contributed to this state of affairs, however the transition to metal shot for waterfowl specifically actually harm utilization of the 16 gauge and it’s now one of many least generally used shotgun sizes utilized in North America.

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That being mentioned, the 16 gauge can do nearly all the pieces else nearly nearly as good because the 12 gauge, however with slightly bit much less recoil. Whereas it’s definitely a succesful all-around shotgun gauge appropriate for deer, turkey, and duck searching, the 16 gauge is most frequently utilized in the USA for searching small and upland recreation like pheasant, quail, dove, grouse, rabbit, and squirrel. Because of this, most 16 gauge shells are loaded with #4, 5, 6, 7 1/2, and eight sized shot.



20 Gauge: Rating solely behind the 12 gauge by way of reputation, the 20 gauge is by far probably the most extensively used of all of the smaller gauges. It’s out there in all kinds of shotgun sorts (primarily pump and semi-auto) and 20 gauge masses are manufactured in nearly each dimension from #9 all the best way as much as #2 buckshot masses and slugs.

Whereas the 20 gauge is on the sunshine aspect for deer, turkey, and waterfowl searching, it’ll work in a pinch for these conditions. Certainly, advances in non-toxic shotgun ammunition over the previous few many years have dramatically improved the suitability of the 20 gauge for waterfowl searching.

Nonetheless, the 20 gauge is extensively used as an upland and small recreation shotgun and excels in these roles. The sunshine recoil of the 20 gauge, mixed with the truth that it has a a lot denser shot sample than the .410 bore, helps clarify why the 20 gauge is so well-liked amongst small framed in addition to youthful shooters and hunters. Certainly, the comparatively low felt recoil of the 20 gauge additionally makes it effectively suited to self protection and makes it simpler to take a fast follow-up shot.




One closing factor to bear in mind about 20 gauge shotgun shells is that, whatever the producer, present manufacturing 20 gauge shells are ALWAYS yellow.

Why are 20 gauge shells yellow?

12 and 20 gauge are by far probably the most generally used shotgun gauges. Because of this, they’re additionally the most certainly to get blended up. As you may see within the picture beneath evaluating 12 gauge vs 20 gauge shells, 20 gauge shells are significantly smaller than 12 gauge shells.

photo of shotgun gauges 12 gauge vs 20 gauge

A 12 gauge shell received’t slot in a 20 gauge chamber as a result of it’s too massive. However, in the event you try to load a 20 gauge shell in a 12 gauge shotgun, the shell will drop via the chamber and get caught within the barrel. This may clearly trigger a barrel obstruction with doubtlessly catastrophic outcomes if the shotgun is subsequently fired with out eradicating the obstruction.

It is best to by no means try to load any shells of a distinct gauge into any shotgun, however that is of specific significance with 20 gauge shells.

Along with the truth that 20 gauge shells are so widespread, they’re additionally the right dimension to trigger an particularly harmful scenario. A 16 gauge shell is large enough that it received’t go far sufficient down the barrel of a 12 gauge shotgun for a 12 gauge shell to chamber and fireplace behind it. 28 gauge and .410 shells are sufficiently small they they’ll journey right through a 12 gauge barrel with out getting caught.

So, 20 gauge shells are yellow so as to make them simple to establish and to reduce the possibilities of loading a 20 gauge shell in a 12 gauge shotgun.

28 Gauge: Rating beneath the 12 and 20 gauges by way of reputation, the 28 gauge shotgun is considerably widespread in upland recreation searching and skeet capturing circles. It’s considerably extra highly effective than the .410 bore, however nonetheless has a really mild recoil, even in a lighter gun. The 28 gauge is often out there in various light-weight and simple to hold shotguns.

Ammo is much from widespread, however it’s not uncommon both. Nearly all 28 gauge ammunition choices are concentrated within the smaller 6, 7 1/2, 8 , and 9 shot sizes splendid for skeet capturing in addition to squirrel, rabbit, dove, grouse, and quail searching.



.410 Bore: Because the smallest shotgun bore in widespread use, the diminutive .410 is often used for small recreation searching. The .410 does have a really delicate recoil, which makes it well-liked for smaller framed hunters like youngsters. .410 ammunition and shotguns are fairly widespread and simple to seek out as effectively.

Whereas the .410 bore is accessible in most shot sizes, its gentle payload and correspondingly thinner sample could make the .410 a difficult shotgun to hunt with at something apart from brief vary. For that purpose, the .410 is mostly utilized by model new sportsmen, professional clay shooters, or effectively seasoned hunters searching for a problem like Ruark described in his quail searching quote above.

That being mentioned, the small dimension and very gentle recoil of the .410 make it well-liked for run of the mill varmint and pest management in break-action single shot shotguns. It’s additionally discovered a distinct segment together and/or survival weapons just like the M6 Aircrew Survival weapon, which had a .22 Hornet barrel over a .410 shotgun barrel.




Ultimate Ideas On Shotgun Gauges

In case you’re searching for probably the most versatile shotgun doable, then the selection is obvious: get a top quality 12 gauge shotgun, ideally one with a 3″ chamber than can accommodate each 2 3/4″ and three″ shells. In case you’re slightly bit extra delicate to recoil, then get a 20 gauge shotgun, which has a marked recoil benefit over the 12 gauge.

Although they’re removed from the one actually good shotgun choices, I personally favor both a Remington Mannequin 870 or a Mossberg 500. Each fashions can be found in 12 gauge and 20 gauge variants.




All the different shotgun bore sizes definitely have their place for particular duties, like goose attempting to find the ten gauge or small bore skeet capturing for the 28 gauge, however none can maintain a candle to the flexibility of the 12 and 20 gauge shotguns.

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Bore sizes and standardized chamber lengths for every gauge had been obtained from SAAMI (p17-30).Ensure you comply with The Huge Recreation Searching Weblog on Fb, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.NEXT: 9 BEST DEER HUNTING CALIBERS




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