top of page


Choosing the right shot caliber

The ubiquitous 12 gauge has become the benchmark for all shot sizes due to its popularity. 12 shot is considered a versatile all-rounder. With an ultra-light summons, it can be deployed like a 20. At the other end of the scale, in the 89mm cases, it resembles the old caliber 8. Despite this versatility, there are still enthusiastic goose hunters who resort to even larger calibers, as well as small game enthusiasts who use a 20 or even 28 . 

It only becomes problematic when cartridges are completely exhausted. Grammages that are too high lead to increased recoil and a too long trigger. There is also a strong deformation of the balls and thus poor coverage - except, of course, when plastic wads are used.


Very light loads demand the ingenuity of the ammunition manufacturer when it comes to achieving good coverage, and sometimes it seems that a bit of instinct is involved, as well as ballistic science. It's no wonder, then, that we have different caliber sizes - each suited to a specific shot load in order to obtain the best performance.   Despite everything, there have always been shooters who use smaller calibers out of skill or the challenge.  


The right shot result is a mixture of good coverage and the right impact energy. Too much attention has been paid in recent years to velocity, which of course is part of the impact energy. This focus comes from the sport of shooting - but we have to be honest that breaking a clay pigeon is much easier than penetrating thick feathers. But much more important is perfect coverage with an adjusted energy. 

Fans of small calibers (i.e. everything below cal. 16) claim that with the same grammage, a small caliber has better coverage than a large one, since the bullets are guided in a narrower barrel. But this is not true!


To clarify here   a comparison:

At 30m, a 2.7mm shot was fired at a 1m target. The 16g 28 shot the same number of balls as a 30g 12!   There are only two ways to achieve better coverage. Either the grammage should be increased, which entails a larger caliber to guarantee comfortable shooting, or the use of a narrower choke, which entails narrower coverage at a distance.  


Of course, small-bore shotguns have a place on any small game hunt, but only in the hands of a good shooter. But anyone with problems in 12 gauge should never downgrade to a smaller caliber. For short shots an experienced shooter can use anything from 12 - 28 cal, but on tall pheasants it is better to keep a 28 in the gun cabinet to keep the number of birds shot small!


All of this means that a nice big shotgun is often better than a nice small one. But you don't necessarily have to resort to a cal. 4! A 12 or possibly a 16 do their job very well!

bottom of page