|20 Gauge Action|
Figuring three days rest I felt it was time to take on the honey hole once again. With luck I would get more of a meal out of the breast meat harvested this time around. The 20 gauge got the call, and this time it was my very favorite upland gun, and at times over decoy mallard shooter. This was a very well built and balanced Beretta Onyx stack barrel.
The gun didn’t weigh much more than the 28 gauge had, and it was built on a true 20 gauge receiver frame versus just slapping 20 gauge tubes on a 12 gauge receiver.
At the first passing flock I was able to clearly see the difference in raw firepower by moving up the gauge offering. Loaded with Federal 2 3/4" 1 1/8 oz copper plated #6’s the 20 bore dusted a bird with the first shot cleanly at a solid 35 yards down range.
Prior to this the lesser 28 gauge offering had all it could do to put shot on a 25 yard birds, much less stretch the range beyond that to any major degree. In effect, the 20 gauge owned a much larger area of air space around the stream bed, and adjacent tree studded hay field. With four shots dispatched I had connected on three doves each dropping as dead as field rocks.
Working over flocks for the next hour I succeeded in harvesting 13 dove with a single cripple to the gun / loads credit. This returned a 54% shooting average with 24 round expended. Needless to say, but I was very pleased with the gun and my performance.
The 20 gauge is to my way of thinking at the low edge of a waterfowl hunting system, but it is never the less effective when used appropriately on ducks, and even geese over decoys. In this case the 20 2 3/4" #6 shot loads were high end fast moving and state of the art Federal Cartridge products. Designed more for shooting ditch chickens, these loads had some added energy, and payload game anchoring effects. The step up in gauge had been an effective option.
The 410 Bore
For a fact the 410 shotgun is not a shotgun at all, but a 410 caliber tube that shoots shotshells. This was the third in the list of gauges/calibers taken to my dove killing hot spot. I was not under any sort of elusion that this was going to be a real killer on doves. However, I wanted to see for myself by reducing the shotshell to its smallest size what the observed results would be.
My shotgun was an old standby rabbit killer in a Stevens side by side that as without question very old school. This was a very plain field dressed shotgun, but it shot true, never seemed to have a function problem, and carried a full and modified fixed choke
set of tubes.
Taking Federal # 8 1/2 lead shot loads afield pushed me right back in the retained energy game once again. The 1/2 oz payload of light shot was just not much of a working kill net, and as I shot at passing birds that fact became as clear as could be. Like the
28 gauge the 410 put shot around the first five birds never dropping a thing. While it was true that these were not cake shots at all, they were killable, but the 410 and its light 1/2 oz payload failed to meet the task without question.
At one point I had succeeded in getting a pellet or two on a 30 yard dove which resulted in the bird flying straight at me. At about 15 yards my second full choke barrel caught the bird square in the chest.
It was lights out, and the first of only two birds to hit the deck during the dispatch of eight rounds. With that dismal display of firepower I cased up the 410 bore and decided to head for my range. This was now time to take a quick look a few shots into at a Perma Gel ballistic gelatin block before pushing any more shot through the pencil pipe smooth bore. With the 12 bore still ahead to test I didn’t want to mess up my sweet shooting honey hole, with a bunch of wounded birds scattered around the creek bottom.
At home on my test range equipped with a freshly melted block of Perma Gel ballistic ordnance material, I lopped off a 6X6"chunk, and set it out at the 30 yard line. Shooting the Federal 1/2 oz # 8 1/2 lead produced a 3.5" penetration depth. This was reasonable and in effect indicated that the small 8 1/2 shot was clearly capable of penetrating doves to a damaging vital area depth. The real kicker came when I moved the block back to 40 yards and I obtained a measured 2 3/4" penetration depth by the single pellet that contacted the 6X6" block. I had my answer in that it was obvious that even at 40 yards the ultra light 410 load could penetrate effectively against the small game birds, but getting any shot on target was the real problem.
Pattern density had died quickly regarding the 410 bore making it a very ineffective field gunning system at any range beyond about 20 yards. Here the small bore, and low payload yield added up to a poor choice even against the light weight dove.
The Mighty 12 Gauge
With two days rest as applied to the honey hole hot spot it was time for the big gun to go to work. Bore size was now increased, and ammo upgraded to nickel plated lead, or as it is sometimes called “magnum shot". The 2 3/4" 1 1/8 oz # 7 1/2 shot loads put together by Polywad Inc., as prototype test loads would be chambered in my BSA Classic side by side.
The BSA retained Benelli type chokes (Multi-Choke,) in a modified/improved cylinder configuration. Even in the heavy 12 bore I wanted to stay with the double gun concept so as to be as fair as possible in terms of applied firepower in the field. Autoloaders would spit out an extra round, as dove like waterfowl also require plugged magazines. However, that extra round in an auto-loading shotgun could tip the results greatly in favor of the larger 12 gauge.
With a summer’s heat that would not go away I started very early on day four, carrying the 12 bore twice shooter afield, while packing those custom loaded 7 1/2 upland loads. It didn’t take long for the action to begin, as in the pink dawn sky the first pair of gray bombers came rolling in over the old white bark cottonwood tree.
Swinging through the lead bird I touched off the nicely balanced Spanish built side by side, resulting in a stone dead cartwheeling earth bound gray target.
My second target had gotten clear of the kill zone, and lucky for it, as I was feeling very much in tune with the side by side on this early fall morning.
When I wrapped up the morning’s hunt I had killed eight birds with 13 shotshells. That returned a 61% average, and I don’t believe I scratched anything that didn’t come to bag.
In South Dakota those rounds fired were greatly reduced, therefore the recoil element when dealing with the fixed breech side by side was not a major factor.
Upgrading to a larger bore when taking on waterfowl is always a good idea, and as you have been clearly able to see, even when applied to this small exercise, gauge was a major factor in terms of maintaining firepower in the field. For the most-part while the 20 gauge in a 3" configuration can get it done in many cases, the king of the hill is without question the 12 gauge magnum shotgun. Gauge offerings less than the 3" 20 bore are to my way of thinking just stunts, and those guns in sub bore sizes don’t belong