Beginner shotgunners have quite a lot to learn.

My shotgunning techniques were self taught by trial and error.

Here are some helpful blunders from my early years that might help a new gunner avoid.

  1. The Hard Shootin’ Shotgun.  Well when I first bought my Remington 870 Express 12 Gauge Pump Action Shotgun with a 26″ barrel I went with heavy constriction choke tubes over the more open ones. I had read in the old time hunting articles you want a “hard shooting shotgun with tight patterns”. Well off into the woods I went with my new artillery. At first my shots were very dismal. Firing at a crow in a tree at a moderate range with a magnum load I missed that bird completely. This puzzled me. How could my shotgunning be so off? Next I tried shooting European Starlings on the wing. The tight patterns allowed very little margin of error and more were missed than hit. Then I realized that tight choke constrictions have their use for squirrel hunting and turkey hunting. All others were best served with a modified choke or less. Rabbits rolled like magic on the run with an open improved cylinder choke. A skeet choke with very little constriction was great for busting rabbits in thick brush. Those lessons from many decades back still ring true for my hunting trips to this day.

2. Your shotgun is pointed, not aimed… Here is another lesson learned the hard way aiming down the vented rib barrel and focusing on the front bead as I would firing a rifle. The bead and the vented rib are meant for fast target acquisition and firing. I even bought one of those clamp on rear sights that mount directly to the vent rib. This slowed my shots even more and with the above tight constriction chokes moving game was pretty safe.


3. Pull that trigger don’t squeeze it! With my previous .22 rifle and airgun shooting trigger control was at the utmost importance. Shotguns though are for short range shooting and above all speed. In an instant, the shooter must be able to pull that trigger quickly before the game has found cover or flown to the next county.


4. Swing! Shotguns are meant to increase your odds of hitting a moving target. This is greatly helped by smooth targeting and follow through techniques. This is learned by actual shooting and really nothing else.

While I had no teachers in the way of the shotgun other than some hunting magazines I did learn through trial and error. Do your own research and practice. A trap & skeet range and quality instructors certainly would have sped up my shooting experience a lot faster than without them. Practice makes perfect (or well, better than before!).

Do you like articles about the outdoors? You can follow him @ericthewoodsman on Twitter, The Classic Woodsman on Facebook, and @theclassicwoodsman on Instagram, The Classic Survivalist, and The Classic Woodsman YouTube Channel