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Okay, 20 gauge. I shoot 12b, all my shotguns these days are 12b. I have used others, but not much.

I was told 20b would be ideal for ladies of a smaller build, true or false? Also, I have been told modern 20b will do everything a 12b will do in bird hunting, true or false? Is the recoil any less? Anyone with 20b experience care to educate me...
 

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Most women can handle a 12ga if shooting light target loads for sports like trap or skeet. Hunting loads, slugs and full house buckshot, not so much. I don't care for the recoil myself. That said, I think a 20ga for women is a better way to go because the recoil is reduced, and if shooting from an auto loader, even softer. There are probably more guns suitable for women in the 20ga family too.

I would not hunt goose or turkey with a 20ga, but most upland game won't be a problem. My nephew uses a 20ga O/U exclusively on pheasant.
 

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I think recoil for a 20 is considerably less than a 12. As far as bird hunting I think comes down more to skill than performance of the gun, as a qualifier, dove, quail, pigeon. I wouldn't use one for goose or large ducks. I have a SxS 20 that is a pleasure to take in the field.
my wife has taken many geese with 20 ga. 3in. #4 shot bismuth over the years. 2 3/4in. #6 bismuth for ducks and grouse. using mod. choke w/ 26 in barrel.
 

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If you look at the recoil from a Physics standpoint it is not really a lot less recoil. Slightly less payload at the same velocity in the same weight shotgun will yield slightly less recoil.

My wife (5'5") shoots informal trap here using a 20 ga. Ithaca 37 and low brass loads. She uses a strap on shoulder pad (Cabela's sells them) as the shotgun has a hard butt plate. She can shoot a box or two before taking a break. No shoulder bruise with the pad.

If the women folk are smaller in stature the length of pull (LOP) is probably too long as well. For my shorter in stature adult daughters I shortened the butt stock of another 20 ga. enough to add a 3/4" grind to fit soft butt pad and end up with a 1" shorter LOP. It worked pretty good. If you make it pleasurable for them they will want to shoot more.
 

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Recoil will be a function of gun weight and type of load being used, and you didn't specify what type gun you're proposing or shell you'd be using. Twenty gauge shells come in a variety of lengths from 2.5" to 3" and loaded with 3/4 ounces of shot up to 1 3/8. In most cases a 20-gague gas operated semi-auto (like a Rem 1100) loaded with light 3/4 ounce shells will have very little recoil and should be fine for a lady or youth on all upland game and targets; but I'd never recommend a 20-bore gun for large birds like turkey or for waterfowl that require the use of steel shot.
From my experience don't ever believe a 20-bore will do everything a 12-bore will do; it won't. As to my personal opinion, the perfect upland gun for ladies and young people is the 28-bore; which will indeed do anything a standard 20-gauge load will do, but ammo is expensive and guns hard to find at anything approaching a reasonable price. Another alternative is to use a 12-bore with some of the Federal 1 3/4" shells with the 5/8 ounce shot load. This load is equivalent to a 3" .410 load but patterns much better and has negligible recoil; shells are also easy to carry. With this method an individual can learn to shoot while handling recoil, then "grow" into heavier recoiling loads as they gain confidence.
 

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If you look at the recoil from a Physics standpoint it is not really a lot less recoil. Slightly less payload at the same velocity in the same weight shotgun will yield slightly less recoil.

My wife (5'5") shoots informal trap here using a 20 ga. Ithaca 37 and low brass loads. She uses a strap on shoulder pad (Cabela's sells them) as the shotgun has a hard butt plate. She can shoot a box or two before taking a break. No shoulder bruise with the pad.

If the women folk are smaller in stature the length of pull (LOP) is probably too long as well. For my shorter in stature adult daughters I shortened the butt stock of another 20 ga. enough to add a 3/4" grind to fit soft butt pad and end up with a 1" shorter LOP. It worked pretty good. If you make it pleasurable for them they will want to shoot more.
did the same for my wife. chopped off 1in. and used the same recoil pad that was on it. rem. mod. 870. shes deadly with it.
 

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Here we go. I liked the 20 bore for pheasant hunting, but used the 3" with 1 1/8oz handloads. Did a lot of patterning and pattern analyzation. Would use the standard 30" circle and then draw a 21.5" in diameter circle inside. The 21.5" circle is pretty much half the area of the 30" circle. If you can center a bird with the 10-12" diameter center of a pattern there is not a lot of difference between a 1 oz and a 1 1/4 oz. load as far as killing a bird. What is the main issue in patterns is the fact that the area to be saturated is defined by the formula pi times the radius squared. As the diameter of the pattern increases the area increases geometrically. That is why the 21.5 " diameter is roughly half or the 30" and not a 15" diameter.
Yes, that is a bit of an egg headed discussion, but it also leads to a practical explanation. I have not seen a killing pattern that is a full 30". At the outside periphery the shot pellets are few and far in between . I don't remember the exact diameters but a 12 bore with a 1 1/4 oz load will have a good killing pattern of say 20-22" lets say, where a 1 oz maybe a 18" diameter. Different patterns and loads spread a little differently. Steel tends to center cluster more than lead. Tungsten alloys more. Almost every pattern I have seen has holes in it, especially in the outer areas that a bird might fly through. I used the 1 1/8 handload in the 3" 20 because when I counted the number of pellets in the 30" circle there was no difference between it and the 1 1/4. I preferred the 16 ga over the 20 as it just performed better and carried about the same.
No a 20 gauge is not equal to a 12.

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My wife shoots a 20, not necessarily for a reduced recoil (the lighter weight gun will kick as hard). She likes the 20ga over the 12 because it's easier for her to point and carry. #6-#4 pellets from a 20 are not really slower from a 12ga. I don't understand, why would anyone not use a 20 on turkey? The 25+ lb. turkey my wife shot with her 20 ga 37 Ithaca. Was just as dead as any I've shot with a 12 gauge.
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A all gages throw their pellets at the same velocity--low brass to low brass, high brass to high brass. The difference is how many pellets they throw. Each pellet will hit just as hard from a 12ga, a 20ga, or a 410 gr. But pattern density will decrease with the smaller gages, making it easier for birds to fly though a pattern, or it it takes 5-10 pellets to anchor a goose, you may hit will too few in the smaller gages and end up going home empty. Worse it leaves a wounded animal.

Felt recoil is a product of the velocity, and the shot weight against the weight of the shotgun. Stock design has some influence, but this doesn't affect the equation. I've shot some very lightweight 20 ga that kick like mules. The low priced single barrels like an H&R are among the worst offenders here, Winchester made some of these too. And heavy trap shotguns seem to soak up the recoil so that the shooter can smoke 250 targets in an afternoon without any ill effects.

You can't just pick a 20ga and assume it will have mild recoil. I've got a 6# Ithaca SxS in 20g and it kicks worse than any of my 12 ga SxS. And some of the 12 ga tactical shotguns are among the worst.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Okay, you lot are stars. So much to think on. To answer a couple of questions, I dont have the gun yet, and remain open minded. I was logging shotguns for a local dealer and saw a nice looking 20b OU, with a smaller overall size, and thought that might be nice for the wife. Of course as stated, a semi auto offers even more recoil reduction (If gas). The comments about not ideal for geese and high birds is valid, but not an issue for our needs.

Some thinking required. I diddnt get where I am today by thinking much. Bad example.
 

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I have Winchester 1300's in 12 and 20 gauge / bore. Alternated them dove hunting this year. I didn't really notice an appreciable difference in the recoil. The 20 was somewhat milder I guess. If I was out for a couple rounds of sporting clays I'd definitely prefer the 20. And I ain't no lady! ;)

I think the reason I prefer the 20 is the cool looking blonde furniture.
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Pretty much for any bird, I use the head for the target over center-mass. With 8 or 9 pellets in the head of that turkey and about another half-dozen in the neck vertebrae (bonus, one through the heart), that is a fairly dense shot pattern. I do take more dove than she has with my 12 over her 20, but I also go through a lot more shells. She often complains I hog all the shots. Geese and turkey are very large birds, much harder for them to fly through holes in a shot pattern.

Okay, you lot are stars. So much to think on. To answer a couple of questions, I dont have the gun yet, and remain open minded. I was logging shotguns for a local dealer and saw a nice looking 20b OU, with a smaller overall size, and thought that might be nice for the wife. Of course as stated, a semi auto offers even more recoil reduction (If gas). The comments about not ideal for geese and high birds is valid, but not an issue for our needs.

Some thinking required. I diddnt get where I am today by thinking much. Bad example.
Stock design has a lot to do with felt recoil and adding a pad always helps. The over-under should help with felt recoil as well, because the extra barrel adds some weight.
 

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Most folks replying to this post, are walking right up to this, but not getting it into words: 20 gauge guns are frequently made on a dedicated receivers/frames, which are smaller and lighter than a 12 gauge receiver frame, and the barrel or barrels are lighter. 1 once of shot, fired out of 12 or 20 in the same sized receiver/frame/barrel length, are going to recoil almost exactly the same. That same 1 once load in dedicated 20 gauge receiver/frame (smaller and lighter) is going to kick more. Still that is not a lot of recoil, and the guns are a delight to carry after game all day, the lighter weight appeals to smaller hunters as well as big ones.

A 20 gauge on the correctly sized frame/receiver with 7/8 oz loads is perfect for a person looking to go light, without undue recoil.

Do all the clays and bird/rabbit hunting with a pair of identical 20 gauge doubles (Ithaca/SKB 150 & SKB 280), where power is needed, deer driving and turkeys is for the 12 gauge.

Handload the old 2 3/4 inch 20 gauge baby magnum load which has 1 1/8 oz of shot, which is hard to distinguish in effect from the standard 12 gauge 1 1/8 oz field load. People, really into shotguns will talk junk about the long shot column in heavy 20 gauge loads, saying that puts it way behind the 12, maybe it does on passing birds, but the critters I shoot at are usually directly in front and headed straight away.
 

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My first gun was a Remington 1100 in 20g 28" full choke. Killed lots of turkeys with it shooting 3" magnum with #2's. Still have the gun.

I have Beretta Silver Pidgeons, one 12 and one 20. Shot trap with both guns one day. The 20 was a bit lighter, couldn't tell much of a difference in recoil. I think I missed 1 more bird with the 20 than the 12 but that could have been a function of me and not the gun.

I've always wanted a Remington 870 or Mossy 500 with a 20" barrel in 20g.
 

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I’ll just add that the finest skeet shooter in our club is a young lady in her mid twenties who has been winning championships since her mid teens. She’s not a small woman, but for tournaments she uses a twenty gauge gun in both 12 and 20 gauge classes then adds insert tubes for 28 and 410 classes. The base shotgun is a Kreighoff.
BTW, I’m a 200 pound male and my preferred shotgun is a Marlin Model 90 in (wait for it!) 20 gauge!

Froggie
 

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When going afield for small game and upland fowl I have several choices. I never really preferred a 12 over a 20 or vice versa. Both seem adequate to me.
I have a couple of 20's and 12's, but my first shotgun was a 16ga model 870 Remington acquired in the mid 1960's. I have always been a fan of them and the bulk of my collection leans towards them. No favorites there either until I got a 100 year old Meffert hammer drilling (nitro proofed). 16x16 over 9.3 x 72R. Lighter than a 336 to carry and three choices at the flick of a switch or trigger.
In answer to your question, Either will work well, with negligible difference, especially to the game, or target.
Find the shotgun that feels good to you and enjoy it. If you or she, can shoot it first, even better. If it doesn't shoulder well and shoot where you aim you will never be happy with it. A rifle, you aim, breathe and squeeze, a shotgun is as unique as a traditional bow, yen and yang, if you will.

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I have an older Remington 870 youth 20g with an 18 inch barrel. It was the first gun that many Scouts in my troop shot. Used 7/8 oz target loads. The shorter LOP made it easier to handle than a full size. I have not shot it in a while, but from what I remember the felt recoil was about the same as my Rem 1100 with target loads.

The little 20g sits under my bed ready to go. Perfect little self defense gun.
 

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my first shotgun was a 16ga
Up until about the 1920's, 16ga was by far the most popular among hunters. Hardly any sportsmen hunted with 12ga, or 10ga for that matter. They were considered commercial hunting bores.

If ever there were two bores similar in delivering the goods, it would be 12 and 16. So, what changed in 1920 that pushed the shotgun world to adopt 12ga as the standard? I'm glad ya asked! It was clay sports. 16 & 12 were in the same classification for clay sports, shooters went for the 12 because they had an advantage of more shot. More shot means more broken clays. And that is what killed off the 16ga as the predominant bore.
 
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