Remember your first shotgun?
For every kid growing up in a family of hunters, getting that first scattergun is a special, special occasion. It's a right of passage that's minted to memory well into one's sunset years.
Shotguns, like other family heirlooms, are often handed down from generation to generation. Such quaint traditions are important, but they also have their limitations. A shotgun that doesn't fit well and has too much firepower is as useless to a kid as a snow shovel in the tropics. You know what I'm talking about. We've all witnessed the kid, perhaps no more than a couple breaths shy of his 12th birthday, whose first shotgun is as long as a push pole. In his hands, it looks like an awkward and cumbersome instrument -- that's a big problem.
Buying A Shotgun: Do Your Homework
That's why it is so important to do your homework before wading into the tricky marketplace of purchasing a new shotgun. That's especially true for purchases being made for kids and women. The upshot is that before you make a purchase, talk to as many experts on the subject as possible. A gunsmith is a good start. And a firearms' instructor, too. Professional shooting instructors are also a wealth of knowledge. Most can be found at your local shooting range.
Scott Grange, director of public relations for Browning, said that Browning and other gun manufacturers are catering to smaller shooters, so finding a shotgun that fits their body types well is much easier than it once was.
"As a company in the last two years, we've really put an emphasis on the youth market and smaller shooters in general," he said. "We have tremendous offerings for kids. A shotgun that doesn't fit well is a huge problem and a big safety concern, so you want to make the right choice."
Grange said Browning manufactures two shotgun models for smaller-framed shooters - - the Gold Micro and the BPS Micro.
The Gold Micro is a semi-automatic shotgun that's lighter in weight (about 6 pounds, 8 ounces) than most regular shotguns and has a shorter stock.
"It's an ideal shotgun for women and young shooters," Grange said. "Depending on their skill level, however, you may not want to purchase a semi-auto for your son or daughter right away. Personally, my son's first shotgun was a pump. I wanted him to have a repeater, but I didn't want him to have a semi-auto and the ability to shoot multiple rounds off quickly every time he stepped into the field."
Pump Shotguns Are Cheaper
The BPS Micro is a pump shotgun that also has a smaller stock and is lighter in weight (6 pounds, 14 ounces). It also has an "easy to swing" 22-inch barrel. Another important point to consider is that most pump shotguns are far cheaper than semi-autos.
"The BPS Micro is a very popular model for new youth shooters," said Grange.
Grange said that selecting the right gauge is very important, too. The most widely available shotguns in America today are the 12-gauge and 20-gauge. Of the two, the 12-gauge is more powerful and more versatile. For most hunting situations and trap shooting, however, the 20-gauge is an excellent choice. Its recoil is lighter than that of a 12-gauge, not to mention the fact it doesn't weigh as much.
"We live in a society where bigger is considered better," said Grange. "I guarantee you the quickest way to make a poor shooter out of a youngster is to put a system in their hands that beats them up. That's the last thing you want to do if you want your kid to continue shooting."
Most professionals agree that a 20-gauge is the perfect starter shotgun. Once you've made the purchase, Grange recommends enrolling any new shooter into a gun training safety course.
Safety Is The Key
"Kids and newcomers need to learn all they can about how to handle the firearm they've purchased," he said. "Safety is the key."
As long as we're talking safety, Grange noted that every new Browning firearm is shipped from the factory with either a cable-style lock or a trigger lock.
"We want to prevent the accidental firing of any firearm," said Grange. "That's our commitment to the public."
Grange said it's also important for a newcomer to get as much supervised shooting practice as possible. Start by shooting at stationary targets, and then graduate to moving targets such as trap or skeet.
"When you're on the range, start them off by shooting straight-away targets rather than those that go from left to right," he said. "Here again, you want to build their confidence before moving on to more sophisticated target shooting."
In sum, choosing the right shotgun can be a frustrating task. That's why you have to do as much homework as possible. Read everything you can find about shotgunning in general and about specific guns and their manufacturers. You would also be well served by contacting a local expert and asking that person for advice before making a purchase.
After all, that first shotgun may become a family heirloom.
For more information about Browning firearms, see www.browning.com.
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Editor's Note: Babe has shared his love of the outdoors with TV viewers for more than 25 years. Babe will share his tips and outdoor adventures weekly on sportsmansguide.com. In 1984, Babe's "Good Fishing" program debuted and later his "Outdoor Secrets" show became popular with hunting enthusiasts. Babe's programs appear on the Outdoor Life Network, WGN, Fox Sports Net, Fox College Sports, The Men's Channel, Sportsman's Channel, Great American Country, WILD TV, and Comcast. Babe also writes hunting, fishing and conservation columns that are carried by up to 350 newspapers each week. Winkelman sponsors include Chevrolet, Miller High Life, Johnsonville Brats, Crestliner Boats, St. Croix Rods, Browning, Hunter's Specialties, Nikon, Minn Kota, Optima Batteries, Mathews, Honda, and many more.