Selecting the shotgun for hunting

Selecting the shotgun for hunting

Careful attention should be paid to selection of the shotgun, as the weapon must suit the user.


1. Select the action and gauge according to your hunting style and preferences

Think about which shotgun action would be the best suited to your needs.

  • The single-barrel break-action shotgun is an affordable option for the novice hunter, but its limited cartridge capacity reduces the weapon’s usefulness in many types of hunting.
  • The over/under shotgun is well suited for hunting all game. The advantages of the weapon are ease of use, reliability and a quick second shot.
  •  The side-by-side shotgun is a delicately designed, lightweight weapon for hunting on the move. The classic look is especially appealing to hunters of game birds. Good side-by-side shotguns are often quite expensive.
  • The pump-action shotgun is an inexpensive weapon, often made of weatherproof materials, that is favoured in Finland especially for hunting waterfowl.
  • The semi-automatic shotgun is popular, for instance, among waterfowl hunters and is suitable for a lightweight hunter thanks to its softer recoil effect.

There are many gauges for shotguns, but for beginners the most reasonable option is gauge 12, due to the low cost and availability of shells. The choice of chamber length depends largely on the user’s preference. The longer the chamber is, the wider the range of shells the weapon can hold. However, longer shells have a higher charge, which means a greater recoil. A beginner should usually opt for 12/76, as the steel pellet shells used for waterfowl are often of this length.

2. Focus on the dimensions of the weapon

The most important selection criterion is that the shotgun is a good fit. Because there is no time to aim, the weapon must point at the target as soon as it is lifted to the cheek. Try this by lifting the weapon a couple of times with your eyes closed — the sights should always point to the same point. Choose a shotgun that suits you as it is, or with minimal changes to the stock. Any additional pieces that may come with the shotgun as well as an adjustable cheek rest make it easier to dimension the stock.

In many types of hunting, a shotgun is carried for long periods, in which case a lighter weapon is more comfortable. On the other hand, weight balances recoil and improves practising comfort; so with regard to weight, it pays to select a suitable compromise based on one’s own needs.

3. Think whether you need interchangeable chokes

A shotgun choke affects the spread of the pellets. Pellets shot through a smaller hole stay in a tighter pattern, allowing the shooting of a slightly more distant target.

The shotgun has either a tapered muzzle or so-called interchangeable chokes. When buying a weapon, it may be convenient to choose a model with interchangeable chokes.

4. Price matters

For a shotgun, it pays to buy the best that you can afford. Investing in quality gives more certainty, and there is much difference between the least expensive manufacturers. Firearms of a higher quality are usually made of better materials, which increases the life of the weapon. A used weapon of higher quality may be a better solution than a new one of the same price. In the case of very expensive weapons, the price is raised not only by the materials but also by the craftsmanship and the weapon’s elaborate engravings.

Gauges and cartridges of the hunting shotgun

The gauge of the shotgun is determined by the inside measure of the barrel and the length of the chamber. A higher number means a smaller gauge. The hunting shotgun gauges used in Finland are 10, 12, 16, 20 and 28. The most common chamber dimensions are 70, 76 and 89 mm. By far the most common gauge in use here is 12, with a chamber of either 70 or 76 mm. The gauge of such a weapon is marked as 12/70 or 12/76.

Knowing the gauge of your weapon is important as you shouldn’t shoot a shell longer than that. (For example, a 12/76 shell should not be fired with a 12/70 gauge weapon.)

Depending on the type of hunting, the shotgun uses either a pellet cartridge or a slug shell.

Hunting bow

The popularity of bow hunting keeps growing in Finland. There are many reasons for this rise in popularity, such as the challenge of the sport, silence and the easily controllable safety area for the shot. Finnish legislation allows the use of bows for all small game and for cloven-hoofed animals smaller than the elk. Hunting of cloven-hoofed animals requires a shooting test (also the roe deer as of 1 January 2018).

aloitteleva metsästäjä

8 steps to hunting -guide (In Finnish)