By Joe Arterburn


There is a lot to consider when choosing a hunting shotgun, so we asked Rafe Nielsen, communications manager for Browning, to answer questions and help us through the process.


What should I consider first?

How it fits you is the most important aspect, Rafe said. Consider overall length, balance point, weight, how your face fits the comb of the stock, and length of pull (the distance between trigger and butt of the stock).


What gauge should I get?

“Pick the biggest you can shoot,” Rafe said. “Being able to shoot a 12-gauge is the ultimate we want to get to.” Advantages of shooting the biggest include bigger shot patterns and more BBs on target. There are advantages to smaller gauges too, such as lighter weight and less recoil, so many start with a 20-gauge. Or 28-gauge or .410.


What type of action?

Each type has advantages. Semi-autos lighten recoil because some recoil energy is taken up in cycling the action, plus they allow quick follow-up shots. “They are typically lighter and have less recoil.” A disadvantage, especially for new shooters, is “you have to remember after a shot there is another round ready to go, so if you are uncertain of your gun-handling skills, it may not be the best to start with.”

Pump shotguns are a little heavier, but the weight helps reduce recoil and the manual operation to seat a new round makes you mentally aware you have a loaded round in the chamber. Plus, pump shotguns often work through dirty, sticky conditions that might jam a semi-auto.

Over/under shotguns are typically for “gentlemanly” sports, such as upland shooting, sporting clays and other target shooting, he said. They have the advantage of light weight, good balance and you can vary choke tubes in each barrel to hit different types of targets.


What length of barrel?

“Shoot the longest barrel you feel comfortable with. A longer barrel will give you a longer sighting plane. And a longer barrel will help with target acquisition as well as swinging your gun. The more barrel you have, the more fluid your swing.”


What shotguns do you recommend?

For the recoil sensitive, Rafe recommends Browning’s lines of auto-loaders, the Maxus, A5 or Silver. For a pump, he recommends the BPS, “a workhorse, go-to-it gun that can’t fail.” For upland shooting, “there’s no better gun than Citori,” he said.

The Citori and Silver lines come in Micro versions, designed to fit youth and smaller-stature hunters. Plus, Browning offers a youth-growing program where you can send your Micro stock in exchange for a full-size stock.

Also youths involved in established shooting programs such as SCTP, AIM, 4-H or NRA, are eligible for a rebate on Browning shotguns. Details are at and retail locations.

And, Browning is offering a scholarship to the highest-ranked Browning shooter at the SCTP finals this year. They’ve donated three shotguns, with a combined value of more than $10,000, which will be auctioned or raffled with proceeds going to the scholarship winner.