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How to Choose Duck Hunting Gun: What you need to know to find
the perfect gun for hunting waterfowl

  Waterfowl, particularly ducks have been hunted for food and sport since ancient times. Until today, the sport draws hunting enthusiasts from all walks of life during hunting season. As with any hunter, the first things you have to consider are your tools. For duck hunters, one of the biggest considerations is your weapon of choice and knowing how to choose a duck hunting gun will go a long way in improving the experience. That’s why today, we are going to discuss how to choose the best gun, as well as the considerations you’ll have to make when deciding to buy one.

  Legal Considerations

  As a result of overhunting in the 30s, the government recognized the threat excessive game hunting posed to populations of migratory birds. In response to this reality, the government has enacted various limitations on hunting fowl.

  As with other non-Federal laws, regulations behind duck hunting will vary from state to state. The parameters for hunting consider location, schedule, method of hunting which includes firearms and ammunition. These will vary depending on where you are. In terms of firearms, it can generally be noted that shotguns are the allowable type of firearm. Types of shot are also limited to non-toxic rounds which are outlined by the United States Fish and Wildlife Services.

  Federal law limits the number of shots in your barrel to 3. If your weapon can load more, you have to put in a stopper. Shotgun barrels are also limited to only two barrels, anything more than that is illegal for duck hunting.

  Who’s Shooting?

  One question you will be thinking about when choosing a duck hunting gun is who will it be for? One gun isn’t good for all body types. Generally speaking, hunting shotguns were built with the average bodied male in mind. Rifle stock, barrel length, and recoil were all put together for the general market for firearms, average sized males. If you’re a 5’10 male with medium build, you probably won’t have any trouble here. But, if you’re looking to introduce your kids or your wife to the sport, the average shotgun might not be the best choice.

  Smaller women and kids will generally have a lower level of upper body strength and smaller body size. Having to shoot with a stock that’s too short (a problem for bigger guys) can be easily remedied by stock padding. If the stock is too long, the butt of the gun will prove tough to properly mount, hence impeding proper form. With bad shooting form, there’s a far smaller chance of actually hitting the target and typically, recoil hits much harder.

  Ladies and youths models will offer stocks shorter (by roughly an inch). If you’re making the purchase for a younger fellow, you should consider that your son or daughter will still grow. So you should pick a model that has easily available adult-sized stocks as well.

  Type of Gun

  Killing fowl is still very much possible with a gun that can kill a moose or deer, but the focus of our discussion will be shotguns as US federal regulations have limited waterfowl hunting to these types of firearms.

  You will want a shotgun that can handle steel shot. Steel is standard and is classified as a non-toxic shot (one of the many regulations on duck hunting). Using lead shots is illegal.

  The firearms industry has taken to crafting specific types of guns optimized for certain tasks. This is why you have guns that are labeled as sporting disc guns, deer hunting guns, turkey guns, and the like. The specification also exists for waterfowl.


  This refers to the bore diameter of shotguns - the higher the number, the smaller the diameter. On average, water fowling shotguns that are top-sellers are 12 gauges. They are largely popular because of the availability and cost of ammunition as well as versatility in terms of load.

  * 20 gauge shotguns are also a viable option for budding hunters, especially for shooters with smaller physiques. The 20 gauge tends to have less recoil and will be lighter. It can handle pretty decent range, but may provide limited applications when hunting.

 * 10 gauge shotguns are probably the most versatile, and accurate. But these will tend to come with a bigger price tag, not to mention the fact that in order to maximize the bore size, your slugs will wind up being more expensive.

  Barrel Length

  Back in the day, hunting shotguns would have 30-34 inch barrels. Many fowl hunters still swear by this length today. Longer barrels generally lead to greater accuracy. The problem, however, is that the longer your barrel, the tougher it is to use your shotgun effectively. If you’re hunkered down in a static position while lining up your sights, it’s all well and good.

  A big concern is that duck hunting requires a hunter to shoulder and swing the shotgun while lining up a shot which is definitely not easy with a heavier barrel. 26-28 inch barrels are both good options, but if you’re strong enough to handle the usually top-heavy 30 inch barrels, they are still a very good option.


  This refers to the manner in which the firearm loads, fires, and ejects shells. For shotguns, they generally come in three varieties.

  Break Action – These are shotguns that come in single or double barrel variations. These have their barrels hinged and rotate in a perpendicular motion relative to the bore. These are touted to be the best balanced shotguns in terms of allowing a shooter a fluid swinging motion. Single shots, however, will not allow for a quick follow-up shot. Double barreled variations allow for that second shot as two shots are loaded prior to firing. The downside to break action is the tendency for stronger recoil and generally higher price.

  Pump Shotgun – The pump action allows for a third shot; something not possible for the break action. Their mechanics are also very reliable. Pump action shotguns also tend to be the cheapest kind. The concern for some however, would be the fact that a pump shotgun’s second and third shot, will take time due to the required “pump”.

  Autoloader/Semiauto – These shotguns will allow you to take shots in rapid succession. At present these have taken center stage as the preferred shotgun of many fowl hunters. Though they were largely overlooked in the past because of high recurrence of mechanical failure, recent advances have eliminated that problem. These models tend to have the lowest recoil among the three.

  These are only some of the many considerations you’ll have to keep in mind as you decide on your purchase for a duck hunting gun. It’s always good to thoroughly consider your options before making a knee-jerk purchase. This’ll allow you to get the most of your money’s worth and improve your hunting experience tremendously.

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