Usability and practicality develop the true art of Women’s Shotguns.
Upland hunting is the closest I have ever come to getting in to the “art” of something (women’s shotguns being no exception). By this I mean that I have always viewed activities by their function as a tool and end results, not their finer points. For example; I grew up riding horses but did not enjoy showing them in the arena, fancy clothes, belt buckles and trophies, makeup and chromed saddles. I liked using horses for gathering cattle, trail riding to a destination, or hunting while in a comfortable saddle on a dependable horse. I also enjoy canoeing when scouting, hunting, fishing, ricing, or exploring but I use an old aluminum canoe, basic gear, and a plastic paddle that was intended for use on a raft. I don’t have a beautiful handmade laminated paddle or Kevlar canoe with the latest technical gear (but, maybe someday).
My approach to guns used to be much the same. I started out using a 12 gauge 870 Special Purpose (turkey hunting) that was dipped in some sort of camo. This gun is heavy, long, mechanical, cold in the hands and loaded with sentimental value. It’s great for waterfowl and waiting on turkeys; activities that allow for a lot of sitting and resting of the gun. When I first handled a nice over under on one of my early Minnesota grouse hunts I knew that I might have been wrong about guns being just tools. After a couple more times out with the little over-under I did not miss carrying my turkey gun and found that the light and agile 20 gauge, despite the price tag, had greatly improved my experience in the field.
It fit, it was light enough to carry through thick and grabby grouse coverts all day, it was simple but elegant, easy to clean, and the break action made for a comfortable carry over long distances. Not to mention that break actions are also left eye dominant friendly, which is important to me (and a good proportion of other women shooters). Today, my shotguns are still tools but they are nice tools and for me they are women’s shotguns. Part of the art of upland hunting.
The recent increase in availability of high quality shotguns designed specifically for women is encouraging. Although most are out of my budget the thought that they are out there is reassuring. I will say that in my experience it is worth paying for a decent shotgun if you are serious about spending a significant amount of time in the field. Work smarter, not harder. Just be sure that you really enjoy the sport first because the purchase will be an investment (that fortunately doesn’t lose much value). The weight difference alone between shotguns makes a big difference in my experience.
I have read articles featuring other women shooters that scoffed at the need for a lighter gun. However, in my opinion just about anyone would chose a lighter gun for a full day of busting brush in the grouse woods whether a women’s shotgun or not. I now have several 20 gauges from a range of manufacturers and grades. There is never a day when I am headed out to hunt that I decide to take my heavier shotguns (which are primarily used for dog training now).
A word on purchasing. Whether you are a woman doing the purchasing or a male counterpart, when buying women’s shotguns be sure it is one you/she likes and are/is comfortable with. Don’t let the salesman talk you in to something you aren’t sure about and if you are a male don’t assume the gun you like or pick will be the right one for her. The right gun can impart confidence and makes a big difference in the success of a new shooter or hunter. Expect to spend between $1,000 (used) to $5,000.00 for decent shotguns. There are other functional options at lower price points but you will sacrifice qualities like smooth actions and craftsmanship. I bought my favorite over under used on an auction gun site for a few dollars shy of a grand. It is the same gun as the one I first carried on those first serious grouse hunts but the forend is cracked, the stock looks like it was drug through a scree field and the receiver appears to have been reassembled by an impatient child… but the gun works perfectly. A side benefit, I am not worried about marking it up in the field. I love it.
Interested in getting into wingshooting? Check out the Women’s Intro to Wingshooting Program.