With all its specialties, clay pigeon shooting fascinates thousands of people all over the world. Both men and women are on the platform, aiming to hit the target and see that colored cloud that indicates the breaking “du pigeon d’argille“, as they say in France.
Many play this sport for pleasure, and many others do this sport competitively, at various levels, including the international and Olympic levels.
The common denominator for everyone is the use of shotguns with fixed or variable chokes, with custom-made solid wood or adjustable wood-aluminum stocks with a 12 gauge.
In fact, this is the main gauge used on various shooting ranges and in various competitions and specialties.
In the 90s, the 20-gauge appeared on the shooting ranges. Accomplice to this trend was the wide use of this gauge in hunting, together with FITAV sports authorities’ choice of reducing the weight of lead charges in shooting ammunition from 32 grams to 28, then 24.
In this way, not only was there no longer an advantage between the two gauges related to the quantity of lead and size of the shot pattern, but the 24 grams also represented the standard charge of the 20 gauge.
Nonetheless, shooters have continued to choose the 12 gauge, thanks to its performance qualities, even using reduced loads.
However, in recent years, it seems that a new trend has arisen regarding the use of smaller gauges in shooting.
We are talking about the 28 and 410 (36 magnum), which we do not think can ever replace their bigger brothers like the 12 or 20, because their performances are much different. However, they represent a new and possible alternative interpretation of the practice of shooting sports, which is for some even more stimulating.
Small gauges for more fun and stimulating shooting
The history of small gauges in Italy is strongly linked to the hunting practice of hunting huts for small migratory game. However, in the last decade, perhaps to follow the US and Anglo-Saxon trend, or as a habit of those who thought they were a more precise shooter than others, it has gradually transformed into a consolidated trend in both hunting and shooting activities.
As a consequence of this new trend, many companies now produce shotguns suitable not only for the hunting hut but also for various hunting areas and ammunition of sufficient weight to increase the range and power of smaller gauges.
In fact, while the use of the 28 and 36 gauge initially required the use of ammunition between 16 and 22 grams of lead, the technical improvement allowed the 36/410 gauge to fire ammunition up to 21 grams and the 28 gauge to even go beyond 28 grams, especially in the magnum versions.
However, their use in shooting sports, especially when it comes to the Olympic pit, is less common, as their useful range, despite chokes, long barrels, and magnum doses, does not allow them to reach the distances of a charge fired from a 12 or 20 gauge.
And again, while acknowledging the shooter’s ability to hit the target within 30/35 meters, which is the maximum of the useful range of these gauges, the reduced-section shot patterns of the 410 gauge, in particular, would make shooting the clay even more complicated.
Which disciplines are for small gauges?
Many hunters/shooters, to try their hand at a new, small gauge for hunting or to stay trained, have started to use a small gauge in shooting activities that are more suited to them.
Thus, we realized that, in skeet hunting courses, the use of the 28 or 410 gauge was not so limiting. In the end, among many missed shots and very few bull’s eyes, it turns out that even a 15/25 made with these gauges, and with their reduced and pinkish charges with a smaller section, even if very regular, give the shooter enormous satisfaction. It allows them to improve their aiming and shooting settings and becomes an excellent stimulus and means to improve.
Small gauges in Skeet, Compak, and Sporting
Therefore, leaving out platform specialties that require guns for long shots, in which small gauges would demonstrate all their limits, the Skeet specialties such as Compak and Sporting, are certainly more suited to these.
In these cases, the target very much simulates the trajectory and starting distance of real game. The lightness, versatility, and compactness of the shot patterns of the 28 gauge and the 410 gauge can turn into an advantage.
Certainly, in the practice of these latter activities, shotguns dedicated to hunting can be used, which are easily adaptable due to bends, punctures, chokes, and barrel length.
With the diffusion of these gauges, there are now several dedicated competitions at the national level, involving hundreds of enthusiasts and highly attended events. So, if you intend to practice shooting sports and competitive activities with commitment and continuity, it is always advisable to use shotguns that are designed for shooting sports.
Today’s market certainly has many, offering more robust shotguns that can better absorb the numerous shots that will be fired and will not bother the shooter since they could compromise the structure of the shotgun itself and its most stressed parts in the long run.
Many Italian and international production houses have created small gauges exclusively for shooting sports.
This is how very linear, essential but elegant sporting shotguns are fitted with 71 or 76 cm barrels, naturally prepared for Mobil Chokes, with selected wood and standard stocks set for skeet shooting or in any case with “zero lift,” but on which you can always mount a variable stock to adapt it to the needs of the shooter and the type of shooting activity.
Due to their lightness and the light ammunition they shoot, the use of small gauges in clay pigeon shooting is an excellent training ground for young people of both sexes who approach this world. They will have the possibility to become familiar with the different clay pigeon shooting sports, managing, at the same time, to refine their technique and aim and shooting settings and eliminate the trauma of swinging a heavy shotgun and bearing heavy backlash if not properly amortized.
Photo credits: www.all4shooters.com