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A rifle with a scope is practically useless at short range because you can’t focus a scope and shoot from the hip in seconds like you can with a shotgun.

12 guage shotgun (Benelli) camo dipped at factory

If you can only afford one gun, then buy a shotgun for hunting and protection. In close contact protection from any animal, the shotgun would be best choice. In fact against a black bear, a slug or 00 shot would bring him down. For Deer, a slug would do it.   A 4-5 size shotshell would bring down any pheasant. Duck hunting would require a 4 shot, while goose requires a double BB or a T shot.

12 guage shotshell

Grouse hunting is usually done with a 6 shot. Raccoons would require anything from a slug to BB, they are tough beasts.

Squirrels and rabbits would be fine with a 7-9 shot.   Doves would be best with an 8 shot. Turkeys best with 4, 3 or 2 shot shell.

Marauding crazed zombies should be downed by 00 or slug.

Is there a big difference between a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge shotgun? A 12 gauge can take anything from a 2 ¾” length to a 3 ½ inch long shell, which means that it has extra powder in it. A 20 gauge always shoots with less powder. But there is a saying; if you can’t hold the 12 gauge steady enough to kill it, then you are worlds ahead with a 20 gauge.


Pellets inside a shotshell. The wad is under the pellets. The gunpowder under the wad explodes and pushes the wad out and it projects all the pellets.  A choke at the end of the barrel directs the pellets into the pattern that they will then project.

Experts from Winchester and Remington claim than in pheasant hunting it doesn’t make much difference with a 20 or a 12 gauge. So what is the difference for women?   Is it heavy to carry and does it have hard recoil? Certainly a 12 gauge is heavier to carry. If that is an issue, then a 20 gauge is best.

20 guage shotgun: lightweight and easily to carry

The most important thing is to get a shotgun that you can carry all day and shoot comfortably. It should feel like it’s an appendage. If your shotgun is too long and it’s too heavy, you will be too exhausted to shoot accurately when it counts.

I have shot a 12 gauge all my life. But I have a permanent bruise on my right upper arm to prove it, especially from years of shooting trap. In most cases a 20 gauge is the best choice for women who haven’t grown up with a 12 gauge. Don’t even bother with a 10 gauge; some guys have gotten detached retinas from the recoil of a 3 ½ inch shell shot from a 10 gauge. They use a 10 gauge to shoot at geese that are too far for a 12 gauge. We all know who they are because the loud noise wakes up the entire county.

Author with double barrel shotgun and spruce grouse.

The police carry 12 gauge pumps because of its firepower and that after they remove the hunters plug (that wooden dowel that prevents hunters from inserting more than 3 shots); the police can shoot up to 7 shots in a high risk situations.   The police say that more problems have been solved with just the noise of the homeowner sliding the pump back and engaging the shot shell into the barrel. It makes that familiar noise and scares off the burglar and no one gets hurt.

Shotguns come in types: pump, automatic, over and under, double barrel or rifled barrel. You can buy 2 or 3 pump shotguns for what an automatic would cost. That’s probably why I have 5 shotguns. (Or is it that I find them irresistible?). While some people love the autos, those of us who are shooting in below zero weather always remember the person in our group whose $3000 automatic became jammed from the brittle action in the guns receiver (where the shell goes in to barrel). For the same reason that I don’t like automatic car windows, I don’t like automatic shotguns. When it brakes, it is bad.

Over and under’s are merely two barrels; one on top and another underneath. They come with one or two triggers. One trigger shoots the top barrel and the other trigger shoots the bottom. Or one trigger shoots the top and then pulled again will shoot the bottom.   Double barreled shotguns can have one or two triggers too. But you only have a max of 2 shots. A rifle barreled shotgun is only for sabot shells to fire for deer. It shoots further than the other shotguns known as smooth barrels. A rifled barrel has twists inside that spin the sabot shell much like a rifle would and causes it to fly much farther than other shotguns. This is an advantage for deer hunting. Unfortunately, that is the only use for a shotgun with a rifled barrel. That’s great if you have several shotguns and only need one of them for deer or bear. The best scenario would be to get a shotgun that you can remove the rifled barrel and put in another smooth bore barrel with chokes for the other types of hunting.

Chokes: A choke guides the pattern of the shotshell at the end of the barrel. Some chokes (improved cylinder) all the shotshell to distribute its shot pellets in a wide pattern. This is good from close up grouse or pheasant. Modified chokes allow the pattern to be narrower and therefore flies farther for ducks. A full choke has the narrowest of squeeze on the pellets and allows the pellets to travel the furthest of all; great for turkey.

Shotguns come with either a group of chokes that you screw in or it comes with barrels that are chokes themselves or different sizes. Some older shotguns have multiple chokes that can be turned at the end of the barrel. That seems like a great thing until it wears out and you have to spend $300 getting the barrel re-machined for internal chokes (I know it happened to my Ithaca 37).

Specialty chokes suggest that they are for turkey or geese alone. You can only shoot slugs from an improved cylinder choke. You cannot shoot sabots in a smooth barreled shotgun where you have chokes. You can only use sabot shot shells in a rifled barrel.

The receiver part of the shotgun can vary. Some allow you to insert a shot shell into the receiver from the side and the bottom. Some only allow them to be inserted from the bottom.   A side opening allows you to insert different size shells without ejecting the others. This has an important advantage when you see a goose and want to insert BB without taking out all the size 4’s for ducks.

I always have a shell-holder on the butt of my shotgun. I want to be able to grab a shell in a hurry. The metal shell-holders like the police have are really heavy, but they are easy to install. They are great if you are sitting in a deer blind, but heavy if you must walk a lot.

Author (a few years back), shell holder on shotgun really helped when shooting a raccoon who was raiding the chicken coop. Shell holder makes extra shells available in a hurry. 

Getting a camo dipped color for your shotgun is great. All of my shotguns have camo, either that I put it on or had it dipped. I mean you are turkey hunting with stealth in mind and wear camo clothes from head to toe, but your shotgun has a silver barrel and black stock…come on! Turkey’s have excellent eyesight.

With all that said, you can’t run and shoot with a shotgun like a pistol despite what Europeans believe in their arguments against pistols. The Canadian government has the same ridiculous idea. You don’t want to take a shotgun with you on a hike. You want a pistol on you hip or concealed.

The best overall pistol is probably the Taurus judge with the barrel that can shoot .410 shot shells and a .45 cal bullet. Many people walking in snake country love the Taurus judge. The .410 is really good for shooting snakes. The .45 cal will knock down most things. The Judge has a big recoil and is made of heavy steel weighing twice as much as an aluminum .38 special.

.38 special Lady Lavender and inside the waist holster. Very lightweight.

Another pistol that is versatile is the .357 magnum pistol. You can also shoot the lower caliber .38 in it.

Most women carry a .40 cal S&W,. 38 or .380. They have very little recoil and are extremely accurate. Recoil is a big issue for women. If a gun has the recoil to hurt your hand, then it’s useless, because you will always brace as you squeeze the trigger to compensate for the recoil, thus losing accuracy.

Alaskans carry a .44 or .50 caliber pistol to protect themselves from grizzly bears. These are big guns with a lot of power. It takes awhile to get used to the recoil. If you don’t live in grizzly territory, then you probably don’t need one. I was salmon fishing in the Russian River in Alaska and saw a big brown bear (bigger species than grizzlies) attack 4 men on the opposite shore. Three of the guys jumped into the river, the fourth guy pulled out his .50 cal and killed the bear. That’s the way it is sometimes.

.44 Magnum with scope. This is big enough for Bear.

Some of the western states are making muzzlebrakes or suppessors (silencers) legal. This is great for women, because it reduces the noise and therefore helps with accuracy. It also helps your ears even if you are wearing ear plugs. For years the silencer was illegal, because lawmakers thought we would all go out and become assassins. Of course the assassins continued to work with silencers regardless of the law.   Assassins mostly used .22 with silencers because it is the quietest and highly accurate for a head shots on humans.

The silencer on a .38 still makes noise, but not as much as without it.

Sometime’s a pistol is the best choice with a varmint at close range, like in your attic or garage. After all you don’t want to blow a hole in your garage wall with a shotgun.

Ladies, if you get a conceal and carry permit, in most states you can carry a pistol while bow hunting. This is very important in the case of a bear attack. A couple of years ago, a bowhunter was in a treestand in Minnesota when a bear started to climb up her ladder. She called friends with her cell phone telling them to bring a rifle. By the time they got there, the bear was laying dead. When they asked her “Why couldn’t you wait…did you have to kill the bear?” The woman said “Yes! I had to kill the bear” She pointed to her boots that showed teeth marks in them. She shot him with her bow at very close range. The following year Minnesota made it legal to carry a pistol while bowhunting (if you have a conceal and carry permit).

Every woman should own a pistol and a shotgun at the very minimum. From there you can build on your armory by going to a gun range where you can rent another caliber to try it out.

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Regional Directors

Regional Directors organize
and participate in
shoots and shows

Julia Heinz
Alaska and the Yukon

Kathy Russell

Tammy Hartline
North Alabama, Mississippi p
and North Georgia

Synthia Wilson

Kim Hose
Rachel Baker
Beth Milligan
Jo Rice
Angelina Coopersmith
Jenny Paul
 Mara Osborne
North Carolina


Tracy Rowe




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