What exactly is an upland gun?

Well it is a shotgun that is well suited to hunting the small game of the upland areas.

We all have our favorites and here are some of the reasons why the upland gun is unlike any other firearm out there.

What was the first shotgun you owned that might be considered a proper upland gun? Mine was a Remington 870 Express 12 gauge shotgun. It came sporting a shorter than normal then 26″ barrel and included threaded Rem Choke tube system. My first mistake with this shotgun was over choking it. After reading old time literature I felt I needed “a hard shooting” shotgun with the most lead shot delivered on target. For squirrel hunting targeting the high treetop game it was dynamite. I found though wing shooting birds and running rabbits had many problems.

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Well what was the young hunter to do? While leafing through a sporting goods catalog I came across a 18.5″ barrel with a plain bead sight with a cylinder bore. Now that might just be the ticket for easy carrying and quick shooting in the thickets. A trip to my local gunsmith and then the little barrel surprisingly made by Mossberg for a Remington 870 now had the Rem Choke tube system.

Good things were about to happen in my small game hunting world. With an improved cylinder choke tube that little shotgun was quite lethal on up close rabbits. A modified choke was good for pheasants and pretty good for squirrels. The full choke in the short barrel was a winner for tall timber squirrels. That was my favorite shotgun for small game until I bought a Stoeger Coach Gun in 12 gauge. At first I thought only 2 rounds instead of the 5 previously (or 3 when plugged) might have been a mistake. That was until I starting hunting with it. One barrel was an improved cylinder. The second was a modified barrel. With the double triggers I could pick either barrel load and choke tube at a moment’s notice. The swing was incredible and scoring doubles became a quick reality. The short barrels were great in the brush and the somewhat lightweight shotgun was easy to tote afield.

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Since then I have tried many shotguns but keep carrying that Stoeger Coach Gun afield over all others. While not fancy it fits my physique and shooting style very well.

So what is not an upland gun? How about the 4 gauge punt gun I examined on auction many years ago? Yes that single shot weapon might have killed flocks of waterfowl back in the day. It was and is an extremely unwieldy weapon that has been obsolete for good reason for well past a century.

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The same would be true of a heavyweight shotgun better fit for goose hunting. Leave the 10 gauge shotgun at home master blaster. It’s a 12 gauge and smaller world when targeting upland game. The classic 16 gauge was well at home for hunting such game but has almost gone obsolete. The 20 gauge now is offered with loads that will rival the payload of a 12 gauge. The 16 just couldn’t keep up. The 28 gauge and even the diminutive .410 bore shotgun has found favor with close range hunters. They work quite well as long as the hunter realizes the short range limitations of such selections.

What shotgun should you pick for upland game? How well do you shoot a 12 gauge? If the recoil and weight might be too much try a 20 gauge. My best hunting buddy Grizz carries a 20 gauge pump gun that weighs about what a plastic stocked bb gun does. He is quite lethal on rabbits with it too.

Does it fit the shooter?

This leads to what is required of a proper upland gun? First off it should fit the shooter well. For a quick shot the weapon should flow to the shoulder and ultimately become a part of the shooter. Targeting the game animal is like pointing at something with your finger. It is all a natural quick motion.

Overall weight

Weight is a factor that is very important. A slung shotgun is slow to action. A heavy shotgun will not be as quick into action. Keep everything light as possible for a comfortable hunt.

Gauge or bore size

Shoot the largest size shotgun gauge or bore size you can hit a target accurately with. Better too much than too little when that big pheasant is making haste to get out of your lethal zone.

Barrel length

Not long ago 30 inch barrels were the normal shotgun barrel lengths. Well those long barrels seem to get wrapped up with everything in thicker cover. While they may be great for goose hunting a shorter length barrel will serve you better as an upland game gun.


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There are some really fancy shotguns out there in the higher price range. If you can afford the Cadillacs of the upland gun world hats off to you. If you have a smaller budget many handy shotguns on the market make fine upland game guns. Best of all is that a scratch will not break the bank in that case.

Ultimately the choice is yours.

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Many so called “experts” will tell you what the perfect upland gun is for you. My advice to you is to use the above tips to help pick what shotgun will be the best fit for you. Try as many as you can before you purchase. It might be a long road to finding your perfect upland gun but I will stick with my well used Stoeger Coach Gun for the foreseeable future.

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