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The Magical 28 Gauge

Live the Legend |

Don’t take my word for it. Test drive a 28 gauge shotgun for yourself and you’ll see. This little number performs all out of proportion to its kick.

What kick? Truth is the little 28 gauge recoils so little you hardly know it went off. But birds and clay targets sure do. From doves to ringnecks, everything falls when you’re swinging a well-balanced 28 gauge. Heck, I’ve even dumped mallards and Canada geese with it.

If you’re familiar with the kick of a 12 gauge shooting a 2 3/4-inch shell with 1 1/4-ounces of shot, imagine what it would feel like to cut that recoil in half. That’s what the typical 3/4-ounce load from a 28 gauge does. Half the recoil of a 12 gauge. Nice.

This translates into more hits because the shooter is concentrating on the target instead of anticipating a wallop to the face and shoulder. Might not be a big deal to a 200-pound athlete, but to a 13-year old new shooter or a 5-foot, slightly built adult just getting into the game…The 28 gauge can be the difference between enthusiasm and golf. It’s a great option for anyone with shoulder pain, too.

It’s been said the 28 gauge hits all out of proportion to its light load of shot because its load is “square,”meaning the pellets are stacked as high as they are wide. But that’s not true. The column of shot within the shell is actually taller than wide. This means pellets are subject to the same deforming pressures (inertial crushing) as any other gauge. The pellets are prevented from scouring barrel walls by thick, protective shot wads, same as 20 and 12 gauges. Launch velocities of around 1,300 fps are about the same as traditional 12 gauge loads, too. So why the out-of-proportion performance?

Comparative dynamics is my best guess. In addition to being easy to shoot precisely, the 28 gauge brings with it such low expectations that shooters are easily impressed. They likely anticipate the sort of ragged performance delivered by the .410, which is really a puny 67.5 gauge. That bore size is so narrow that shot deformation and torn patterns are serious issues. The .550-inch bore diameter of the 28 gauge is much larger, thus much more efficient. Shot sizes #8 and #7.5 pour through smoothly without excessive squeezing and jarring. Both are large enough for doves, quail and early season ruffed grouse, gray partridge and chukars, but you’ll want to step up to #6 shot for larger grouse and especially late season pheasants. The 28 gauge guns I’ve shot all handled #6 shot surprisingly well, taking pheasants routinely and cleanly out to 35 yards if I centered them.

The final benefit of a 28 gauge is speed. Guns as light as 5.5 pounds still recoil mildly, yet they carry like wands and whip into action so quickly that you can snap shoot a surprise woodcock before he can reach the canopy. Quail fall more quickly to a 28 gauge. They’re up, they’re down. With just 225 #6 pellets in a typical 2 3/4-inch 28 gauge shell, there’s no need to wait for roosters to “get out there a ways.”Take ‘em in close where they’re easier to hit.

The little 28 is just such a delight to handle that they seem almost to shoot themselves. If you haven’t tried one yet, get started. You’ll wonder why you waited so long.