So, You Want to Start Duck Hunting? (Part 2)

This is part two of a three part series on how to get started in duck hunting. In the prior post (part 1) we discussed getting licensed to hunt ducks.

Now that you have your license what’s next?

Well, next in importance is a shotgun. Without a shotgun you’d be a bird watcher out in the marsh so, what should you get for your duck gun? My personal preference is a pump action 12 gauge. My reason for this is mainly reliability and ease of use. Some people like semi-auto shotguns, as they don’t seem to “kick” as much and there are others that like a nice over/under double barrel. You might want to check at a local trap range and see if you can rent a couple different shotguns and see what your preference is. Another good source you might want to consider that could save you some money is if you have a local pawn shop that handles firearms you can sometimes pick up a used gun for cheap as well as checking out the consignment and used guns at the local gun shop. I’ll list a few of what I think are good starter shotguns for your consideration. Of course, the final decision is entirely up the the individual hunter and what he or she prefers and can afford:

Mossberg 500 – A very basic, pretty “bulletproof” pump action gun. They’ve been around for many years and work well. They can handle 3-inch ammo and are not too expensive. You can pick up a new 500 for around $280 to $300 or so. I have recently seen a deal at Big 5 for one of these that comes with 28 inch barrel with screw in chokes and another 18 inch barrel for home defense for about this much money. Many years ago I bought my son his first duck gun at a pawn shop and it was a version of a Mossberg 500 but is marked “New Haven 600AT”. I believe I paid about $125 for it from the pawn shop.

Remington 870 Wingmaster – Just take a look at the shotgun rack in any police car in the US and I’ll bet 99 times out of 100 you’ll see a Remington 870 sitting in that rack. These guys bet their life on these guns so you know an 870 is reliable. I’ve heard some of the newer “express” models aren’t as well made but I have no personal experience with them so I don’t know for sure. I do have a 50+ year-old 870 that used to be my duck gun. I mainly use it for upland now as it only handles 2 ¾ inch shells so when we had to go to steel I retired it from duck hunting. Most of the more recent 870s will handle 3-inch ammo and there are even a few around that they chambered for 3 ½ inch shells but they are hard to find. You’ll probably be looking at about $400+ or so for an 870. Another good one to look for used in a pawn shop or as a used gun at a gun shop.

Remington 1100 – The 1100 is a good basic reliable semi-auto. Of course, made by the same folks that make the 870. My preference is for pump guns so I have no personal experience with the 1100 but they have a reputation for reliability and, from what I understand, tame the recoil somewhat over what you’ll feel with a pump gun. Most will handle 3-inch shells although some of the older ones only took 2 ¾ inch shells. Again you can sometime find a deal on an 1100 at the local pawn shop or used at a local gun shop. 1100s go for around $500+.

Benelli Super Nova (or just Nova {older model}) – A newer style pump gun. These have a polymer stock and fore-end and come in black anodized or camo. Novas are a good reliable shotgun and will handle all ammo up to and including 3 ½ inch shells. This is what I use as my waterfowl gun and it works great. I don’t think you’ll see too many of these in pawn shops or on the used gun rack at your local gun store but they aren’t too pricy and you can walk out the door with a Super Nova for around $450 give or take a little.

As with all things, shotguns are a big personal preference item and these are just a few suggestions to get you started. Try some of them out and don’t be afraid of a used gun as most of them, especially the pump guns, are hard to mess up as long as minimal maintenance is done.

Now, the next thing you’ll need is ammo. What are you going to feed your shotgun? Of course, due to federal waterfowl regulations, you have to use “non-toxic” shot. This means steel, bismuth, tungsten or heavy shot. No lead! That’s a big ticket if you’re caught with any lead shot on your person or in you gear when you’re out duck hunting…don’t do it! Personally whatever I use I like it to be what’s referred to as “fast”. In other words I like mine to have a muzzle velocity of at least 1550 feet per second. I’ve seen some steel loads that have a velocity of 1300 fps or less. These, in my humble opinion, are too slow for reliable, kill shots on ducks. There are some newer non-toxic loads that have a velocity of 1625 fps or more. In the case of duck loads, as they say, speed kills. Steel shot will be your cheapest option and a box of 3” or 3 ½” “fast” steel shot loads will cost about $13 to $18. Other non-toxic loads (other then steel) can run anywhere from $15 to up to as much as $32 a box. A lot of these non-steel non-toxic shot shells come in boxes of 10 instead of boxes of 25 as most steel shot loads do, even with those afore mentioned high prices so you could be paying up to $3 a round or more for some of the more expensive types. As for shot size, personally I like #3’s. Lots of people shoot #4’s and a lot of people shoot #2’s. If there is a possibility of geese I usually carry a few rounds of BB or T size shot just in case.

Well, now that you’re armed and ready. In the next installment we’ll discuss the rest of the equipment you’ll need to get into duck hunting.


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