Shotguns and Ammunition

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    In  Pennsylvania, the only legal firearm that is allowed to be used while waterfowl hunting is  shotgun.  Its illegal to use lead shot while waterfowl hunting because lead after being shot, stay in the ground and vegetation in which waterfowl feed on and become susceptible to lead poisoning.

    Shotguns are different from rifles in that they dont't shoot an individual bullet.  They use shells filled with  tiny  b.b.'s that when shot are spread through the air.  A few classes of shotgun sizes are available such as the small 20 gauge, most commonly used 12 gs., and the large 10 ga. shotgun. I will primarily talk about the 12 ga. shotgun because its accepted that this is the best size for waterfowl.  Its in the middle of the class sizes of shotguns and there are three different    diagram of shotgun shellshell sizes that are made for the 12 ga. model. There are three different sizes of shotgun shells and they are 2 & 3/4",  3", and  3 & 1/2" shells .  The difference between these three sizes  is the amount of  gun powder they contain which is  the driving force of the b.b.'s.  These b.b.'s are made in different sizes and each size class can be matched with the game your hunting.  The most common waterfowl shot is steel and the cheapest.  Other shot materials are tungsten-iron, bismuth, and Hevi-shot are other approved shot materials.

    The smallest shot size (b.b. size) are #4's and the largest is T's.  Understand that the smaller the shot size the more b.b.'s will be in the shell and vice versa.  Typically for smaller ducks the smaller the shot size is used and vice versa.
b.b. pic displaying scale of shots If hunting small ducks such as teal and wood ducks use #4' and 3's.  For the larger puddle ducks #3's and 2's while hunting over decoys.  If hunting divers you can use #2's up to BB's and for geese #1's to BBB's will work well.  The 3" size shell is the average size used by all, but use what works best with your gun the as well as the situations you'll be in.  Keep in mind that the large shell, shot size, and shot material such as tungsten-iron, bismuth, and Hevi-shot will cost more.
                                                                                                             
    There are three types of shotgun designs.  They are the pump, semi-automatic, and the break. They manufacture shotguns with traditional wood stocks or use the more durable synthetic stocks that come either in black or various camo patterns.                       * The middle row displays waterfowl shot sizes

    The pump shot gun is operated by a slide that is forced down and up which ejects or injects shells into the chamber or magazine (storing chamber for live rounds).  You have to manually eject the fired shell out of the chamber by pushing the slide down, and then injecting a live shell into the chamber by pushing the slide up which moves a live round from the magazine into the chamber.
black synthetic pump shotgun
    A semi-automatic eliminates this pumping action as well as the slide on gun.  After a shell is fired, gases from the explosion of the shell travel back down the barrel and create pressure on the piston (part that injects the shell into the firing chamber) which ejects the fired shell.  Then a spring pushes the piston foward which loads the new round from the magazine.  This is convenient because it eliminates moving on arm while trying to shoot.
semiautomatic shotgun
    Break shotguns are hinged where the chamber meets the barrel and they're considered the safest of all shotguns.  These guns come in either single or double barrels so your limited to one or two shot.  After loading the shell(s) into the barrel, depending on how old the gun is a hammer must be pulled back in order to engage the firing mechanism.  After the shell(s) are shot a lever is moved which allows the barrels to "break" and a spring pops the shells out.
side view of a break shotgun  break shotgun in half 
    Choosing a shotgun is all about personal preference.  Depending on the model, year, and manufacturer all types vary in price.  A shotgun that fits the hunter well is very important because they are comfortable in pulling up and and swinging the gun while aiming and shooting.  Don't rule out used shotguns because there are a lot out there in good condition and great prices.  Ask other hunters, gun shop owners, people on forums, and search manufacturer sites for more in depth information on shotguns and ammunition.

Home
Waterfowl Biology
Hunting spots in S.C., PA
Hunting Methods
 Field
Hunting
Hunting over Water
 Clothing
Accessories
Duck and Goose Calls
Decoys
Waterfowl Organizations