Double-Guns for Ducks and Geese

By author of The Duck Blog

Two-Barreled Guns Fit the Bill in Many Waterfowlng Situations

Sure, double-guns only hold two shells instead of three. But in many situations, that's more than enough. Photo © Craig Watson

Admit it: You’ve raised an eyebrow when someone totes an over-and-under or side-by-side shotgun to the pit or blind. Those fancy guns sometimes seem out of place.

No doubt, semi-autos rule the modern waterfowl scene, and everyone’s a fan of the venerable pump-gun. But double-guns seem to be almost a novelty in many corners; guns regarded as playthings of the rich or too high-end to use in the nasty, dirty situations common in duck and goose hunting.

Well, that’s just silly.

After all, double-guns are just shotguns. And in some situations, using one can actually provide advantages.

Nicely balanced over-and-unders or side-by-sides can be ideal for jump-shooting, which really has more in common with upland-bird hunting than most waterfowl shooting situations. Some jump-shooters prefer the balance-between-the-hands feel of a quick-pointing double to the relatively barrel-heavy weight of a pump or auto.

Further, doubles provide one edge pumps and autos cannot: two chokes. For years, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of double-guns for turkey hunting, as you can use a fairly loose choke on one barrel for close shots but fix a tight choke in the other tube for longer-range work. The same holds true for jump-shooting and even decoy hunting. It makes sense to use one relatively open choke — say, improved-cylinder — in your first barrel for woods ducks that flush at 25 yards or geese that commit to within spitting distance. You can use a modified or even full choke in the other barrel for second shots at longer ranges.

Of course, many folks point out the obvious disadvantage of a double-barrel: You only have two shots compared to three with repeaters. True, you’ll never triple with a side-by-side. But then again, most hunters worry too much about shot Nos. 2 and 3 instead of focusing on their first round. If you concentrate on taking and executing quality shot opportunities, a double-barrel will never handicap you. And remember, you can only shoot a finite number of ducks, anyway. Further, it’s just as easy to break open a double and reload for cripples as it is to slap another shell into an auto or pump.

Doubles also kick more than a gas-operated semi-automatic, but I don’t know if that’s a real concern for most field-shooters. You probably don’t want to run 2-ounce, 3.5-inch magnum loads through a 6.5-pound side-by-side. Then again, you really don’t need to in most waterfowling scenarios. If your favorite hunting double really bucks, you can always add a recoil-reducing pad or other recoil aids.

Last, and probably most important, double-guns add a bit of elegance and nostalgia to the hunt. Every wing-shooter appreciates a fine shotgun, whether it holds two or three shells. And remember, our forebears didn’t forge the American waterfowl hunting tradition with semi-autos. They used doubles, sometimes with outrageous names such as Bo Whoop. Side-by-sides and over-and-unders take us back to days of yore, letting us experience to a tiny degree what duck hunting might have been like for our great-grandads and their buddies.

Bottom line: If you like double-guns and shoot them well, take them duck and goose hunting. Don’t worry if folks raise their eyebrows. They’re probably just jealous.

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