Before I get into any of todays topic: Next month, September, is National Preparedness Awareness Month. What I am considering is that I will allow guests to tell their story on here during the month. If this interests you, please send me an email or hit me up on my facebook page. I don’t know exactly how I will do this, but I know that I need at least 10-15 people willing to do this before I commit to it.
Now for the topic. I want to compare the real differences between the 12 gauge, 16 gauge, and 20 gauge shotguns. I want to explain some concepts that may debunk what you think you know about their power. I may even touch on dram equivelance a little in my explanation.
A common misconception in many people’s mind is that the 12 gauge is more powerful than the 16 gauge, which in turn is more powerful than the 20 gauge. This is pretty much wrong. Hang with me for a second here. The POTENTIAL power of these gauges is true, but that doesn’t mean that they ARE this way all the time.
If you look at a typical 2 3/4″ 12 gauge with 1 1/8 oz of 7.5 shot, that means that the cartridge is 2 3/4″ long, the TOTAL shot weight is 1 1/8 oz and the individual shot size is 7 1/2. Now on this box of shells you will see 1145 FPS and DE or DR (dram equivelent) of 2 3/4. What the DE means is that the amount of power produced by the amount of smokeless powder in that shell is equivelent to 2 3/4 drams of black powder.
A dram is 1/16 of an ounce, or 27.34 grains of powder. 2.5 drams is about 70 grains (a quick reference for you reloading types).
If you were to take a look at a 16 gauge 3″ shell with 1 1/8 oz of 7.5 shot with a DR of 2 3/4, I promise you that the velocity of that shot, will be near the same velocity of the 12 ga shotgun. The same goes with a 20 ga with a 3 1/2″ shotshell and the same ballistic numbers. As a matter of fact the 20 will produce a HIGHER velocity, thereby power, than the larger gauges. A 2 1/2 dram, 7/8 oz. load produces the following velocities:
So why would we use a 12 over a 20? The POTENTIAL power is higher. We can fit more drams in a given length. We can fit more shot in a given length. If we were going to all out power abilities, a new 3 1/2 chambered 12 ga could beat out the others when loaded to the max. But we typically don’t load it to the max though, do we? So it would actually be better, in my opinion to go with a 20 ga for lighter hunting over a 12, because it has the same capabilities, up to a certain point that we usually never reach. The reason for this is weight. A couple of pounds of weight is alot when you have to carry it all day, and even more over the entire weekend. What if you ended up in an extreme scenario that forced you to carry it for 2 weeks?
So as we go down in gauge, it is almost like adding a choke to the larger barrel. The velocity and distance of the shot goes up a little.
If I take a 3 1/2″ chambered 20ga and put it against my current 2 3/4″ 12 ga, the 12 really doesn’t have any advantage, except slightly more spread at closer range shots. The main advantage of a 12 gauge is the ability to add more power PER UNIT SHELL LENGTH. The main advantage of a 20 ga is WEIGHT. The 16 ga is usually based on a 20 ga frame, so it is relatively light, but it comes closer to the potential power equivelence of a 12 ga. It marries these worlds quite well.
I don’t recommend the 16 though. The reason in its availability, or lack there of. It is cheaper and easier to come across the 12 and 20 shells. So it seems that for a “survival” situation, the 20 is actually better, as long as it has a longer chamber. The lighter shells don’t weight you down as much, and neither does the gun. The heavier 20ga shells will take up just as much weight on your person, but due to the reduced width, may be less cumbersome, size wise.
So, by this logic, the .410 is only a beginner shotgun due to limited recoil, but I consider it an advanced skills gun because there is less margin for error with the pattern and limited number of pellets per given length of shell, and the 20 gauge is quite possibly the best for home defense due to weights and maneuverability.
Now because I have been pretty good at providing basic charts lately, I thought that it may still be a good idea:
Enter the challenge for: