Jim Taylor
Saturday, August 06, 2022, 06:30 (303 days ago)

(written back in the 1990's)

My first recollections of shooting a shotgun involve my Dad and Grandpa's old Winchester '97 pump 12 gauge. Dad set up a 2 gallon can full of water and had me shoot it with a slug load from about 25 or 30 feet. While the gun kicked me plenty hard, I was more impressed by the water spout going 'way up in the air, and the water that came back over me. The old oil can was turned completely inside out. (This was back in the days when they were made out of steel). I liked the power of that old shotgun! When I was a bit older Dad used to have me stand in the back of the pickup or else ride on the hood of the car while he drove around the desert, and let me bust whatever happened to fly up in front of us. It was great fun. That old 97 Winchester is still in the family, still shooting.

The first shotgun of my own was a single-shot break-open .410. I liked the little gun as it did not kick much, but I quickly learned that you had to be exactly "on target" to do much with it. The power level was somewhat disappointing. We had a lot of buzzards over the place in those days and it was my goal to bring one down. Though I was only 12, I was by this time reloading. I tried some factory .410 loads and had no luck. I could hear the shot rattle off the big birds, but never got one down. One day I loaded up some shells with a 30 caliber ball, shot poured around it, and another ball and more shot. I poured hot wax over the whole mess and let it cool, then crimped it. I hid in some bushes and when an old buzzard tried coming down low I raised up and busted him. All he did was lose a few feathers, wobble a bit and fly on. I was sorely disappointed. I knew at that moment I needed more power!

One thing that was fun to do with the .410 was shoot .44-40 shells in it. They made neat "slug" loads and worked fairly well. They shot fairly hard. If I remember correctly I used Winchester-Western factory loads. I also shot some .30-30 factory loads in the .410 shotgun. If you pointed it straight up the bullet would go up about 30 feet or so. It would BOOM real loud, but since the bullet did not seal in the barrel it had no velocity. If the shell did not crack I then had a nice all-brass .410 shell for reloading.

While I have never gotten into trap or skeet shooting, I have always had a shotgun of some type around. Mainly they were used for guarding the property, especially at night, though I have done some hunting with them from time to time. The "gun of choice" has been the handgun. The old shotgun - of one type or another - has usually been around though. On the ranch they are handy and when I was gone my wife liked it as a "porch cleaner". I was out of the State once and about 2 in the morning a car pulled in our yard with the lights off. She went out on the porch with the shotgun at the ready and they left, without turning their lights on. Imagine that!


We had only been living in the little mountain community for a month or so. We had just purchased the house and moved in and did not yet know the neighbors. Already we had some problems with dogs coming in and scattering trash all over the yard. I set the 12 gauge shotgun by the door and told my wife I was going to kill the next dog that I caught in the trash. One morning our dog began barking and I yelled, "There's a dog in the trash!" and ran past my wife, grabbing the shotgun on the way, and burst out the front door with the gun ready. My wife was right behind me yelling at the top of her lungs, "DON'T SHOOT! DON'T SHOOT!"

There in the yard sat a Mexican on a horse, eyes as big as silver dollars, with his hands outspread. He stammered, "I was just going through..." I lowered the shotgun, thought about trying to explain for a bit and then gave it up and waved him on. We never had any of the neighbors or cowhands ride through our place again in the 12 years we lived there.


A friend got me into hunting doves. I had never done it before and did not relish the idea of walking all over the desert chasing the little birds. However, what he did was go out early in the morning and late in the afternoon, and set on a water hole. When the birds came in to water we shot. Since that year was a fairly dry year, the birds came to water several times a day and the shooting was good. I used my old single-barrel Stevens 12 gauge with a 32" barrel, full choke. It was fairly good for long shots if you could learn to shoot it. After several years of hunting I got to be a passable wing-shot. By then I was reloading my own 12 gauge loads. I found that 1 1/4 oz. of #6 shot made a right nice load, especially for those longer shots. The 4th year of dove hunting was one of my best. The birds came in fast and thick. I would limit out by 10 in the morning. My average for that year was the best I have ever done. For the entire season I averaged 3.5 shells per bird. Proof (to me) that my handloads were plenty good came one morning as I sneaked up over the bank of a cattle tank. Three large birds broke into flight and I just up and fired automatically. Two came down. It turned out they were Mallards. However, it was NOT duck season so the evidence had to be eaten so it could not be used against me! The shot was about 40 to 45 yards and was a good one. Though the timing was bad.


Cecil Drake was a good friend, a fellow-minister and hunting companion. He trained Brittany's for quail hunting, his one obsession. I had never hunted quail and Cecil introduced me to that sport. Near the town we lived in was a large valley perhaps 50 miles long. In the valley resides Gambel quail, Mearns quail and the Scaled quail. Those who are serious quail hunters come from all over the United States to hunt this valley. Cecil Drake told me one year that by count, the hunters he had taken out killed 9,000 quail. From the way he spoke I did not take it that it was by any means unusual.

In the hunting I did, whether dove or quail, I used the old single-barrel Stevens 12 gauge. While others had tried to talk me into getting a repeater I found that for hunting use I was able to hold my own with the single-shot. During quail hunting more than once I got doubles. Long shots were not a problem and since I was slow, the shots usually were on the longer side. I enjoyed the times spent with Cecil out on the desert valley. Not just the hunting, but the companionship.

Cecil loved to hunt rattlesnakes also. He knew where all the big dens were and in the Spring as the snakes were coming out of hibernation would go out and catch them. If he was selling them to the University he would capture them alive. If he was making hatbands he would just take off their heads.

One Spring he took me with him to get some snakes for hatbands. I had the single-shot Stevens with me as well as a handgun. We drove the jeep up a wash for several miles where he stopped and got out. He said he would toss the snakes down to me and for me to just take off their heads. I said OK and stayed right in the jeep! Cecil took a stick and climbed up a ridge. Soon I could hear the rattlesnakes buzzing. He yelled, "HEADS UP!" and here came a snake sailing through the air. It landed in the wash in front of the jeep and I just stood up on the seat and took off the snake's head with the shotgun. Cecil yelled at me to "...NOT RUIN THE HIDES!" which I was careful not to do. I found that as the snake landed they usually stretched out, and if I just covered the front end of the snake with the barrel it would take off the head cleanly, usually vaporizing it in the process. The distance was only about 8 feet and the shot charge from the full-choke gun had not yet opened up. If I remember correctly we killed around 20 that day. Some were HUGE. It still gives me the willies, thinking about him going right into the brush and digging those snakes out. I don't think I ever did get out of the jeep.

The last time I saw Cecil he had prostate cancer. Inoperable. The Doctors gave him no hope. He never said a word about it to me. He still looked happy, ready for life. And since I originally wrote this Cecil has gone over the Great Divide. The world is poorer place without him.


Somewhere along the way I acquired a 12 gauge double barrel Stevens. I cut the barrels to 18 1/4" and used it for a "house" gun. My wife liked it and kept it handy when I worked nights. She called it the "porch cleaner". One look down those short twin tubes was enough the make a believer out of anyone. I tried using the short gun for doves and found it to be OK for shots out to 20 yards. It was light and fast for the close-in shots, but I never used it much for hunting. I did use it some for clay pigeons, but mostly the other shooters complained about an "unfair advantage", whatever that was.

I ordered a round ball mold from Dixie Gun Works one summer that threw a .720" diameter ball. This was bore size for an unchoked 12 gauge. When I got the mold and cast some of the big balls out of wheelweights I found that my scales were not large enough to weigh them. Estimating as close as I could I figured the weight to be 530 gr. to 550 gr. using wheelweight lead. In working up a load, I decided on a "control" load to compare them against. I pulled the slug out of factory slug load and reloaded the ball in it. Firing into a 12" x 12" piece of Douglas Fir mine timber, the round ball came within one inch of exiting. It broke the back side out of the timber and blew splinters everywhere. It also kicked extremely hard.

I worked up a loading technique by cutting the "petals" off a Winchester poly wad and loading the round ball on top of that. The crimp would roll down inside and made a nice looking load. The powder charge was 28 gr. of Unique. Velocity on these busters was around 1200 fps. You could tell it when it went off. I tried shooting groups at 25 yards and 50 yards, and found the barrels to nearly converge at 75 yards. I did not fire more than 3 shots at each distance as the recoil of the light short gun really hurt. Groups at 50 yards were around 2" if I remember correctly. At 100 yards it was not hard to keep both barrels on a paper plate. If you could let them off without jerking the trigger. By this time I had put a set of home-made Express sights on the gun and found it greatly increased my hitting with the ball loads.

Camping in the woods one year, I had the short gun along for "camp protection" gun. One day I shot several of the ball loads at a 6" to 8" thick pine tree about 100 yards off. I could see the tree shake at each shot. Walking over I found all my shots had hit it, gone on through and split the poor tree nearly 2 feet in length.

I shot a number of these loads through various cars and never had one stop in a car. I'm sure they would from certain angles, but from side shots and frontal angling shots into the passenger compartment they never did.


A few years ago on one of my birthdays my wife came into the house with a large package for me. Unwrapping it I found I nice MAVERICK (by Mossberg) 12 gauge pump shotgun. It had a black stock and forend and was a neat-looking gun. It now sports an 18 1/4" barrel and an unplugged magazine and resides in a place of honor - where we can grab it should a need arise. Loaded with buckshot and slugs alternating, it should be about right for any occasion. You have GOT to love a woman who thinks like that.


At one of the early Shootists Holidays I took the short double barrel 12 gauge along. All the Shootists were staying in a motel in Alpine, Wyoming and had a shooting range set up just beside and in the rear of the motel. Every morning around 6:30AM I would take the 12 gauge behind the motel and touch off both barrels. It worked extremely well and roused everyone. The first day was funny. The second day drew some complaints and the 3rd morning Deacon Deason stuck a pistol out his motel window and persuaded me to quit. I haven't taken the shotgun to a Holiday since then!

(update- I took it to Shootists Holiday 98 and had fun. The roundball loads shot well on the 100 yard targets and impressed all who fired them. I did not use it as an alarm clock!)


Dad had a single-shot 12 gauge that he had cut off to 18 1/4". He kept the little gun around for amusement. One day we were driving into the local dump to drop off some trash. Dad was driving the truck and as we pulled in I saw about 10 or 12 ravens hopping around gleaning some lunch. I grabbed Dad's little sawed-off and leaned out of the pickup window. He had it loaded with 3" Magnum BB and due to the angle that I was at, I could not get it on my shoulder. When I pulled the trigger the butt was resting firmly against my bicep. Needless to say it hurt tremendously. I never hit one bird either. Later on Dad took and poured several pounds of lead into the buttstock to hold down the recoil.

To say the cut-down shotguns kick is to seriously under-estimate what they do to the human frame when they go off. I was out with Tom Peterson one afternoon and we were shooting the short double barrel. Tom fired a 3" Magnum and complained about it hurting his shoulder. I laughed at him and called him a name and told him he was a pussy. I then took the gun, held it out in one hand like a pistol and fired the other barrel. The shotgun whipped around in my hand just missing my face with the barrels, tore off the skin from my fingers and flew back over my head about 20 feet, breaking the stock when it landed. Tom just laughed at me. Later I glued the old stock back together and pinned it. It is still that way. A good reminder.


Starlings cover the sky in Missouri at different times of the year. The air is literally black with them. They eat of the fields of grain, devour the grain put out for livestock and are a general nuisance. But they are fun to shoot. One year I had about 200 shells loaded and sat out near the back porch shooting blackbirds as they came over. I do not know how many I got, but the ground around the house and in the near pasture was littered with the carcasses. It made not a bit of difference in how many there were next year!

Shooting the blackbirds in flight is really great practice. They come by at all different angles and heights and speeds. When I managed to hit one now and then it was fun to watch their reactions. Some folded their wings and came straight down. Others looked like a WW I fighter that had been shot down, circling in with feathers rumpled, hitting the earth like a biplane crashing. Some would fly straight on for a little ways, fold one wing and spiral in. My Dad sat out there and watched me shoot birds, and laughed all afternoon. It was great entertainment.

This Spring (1995) I inherited all of my father-in-law's shotgun shells after he passed away. There was around 400 of them. Most were ones he had loaded himself. Many were loaded very weirdly. Some had little shot in them, the crimp being rolled in and the shot held from falling out by a wad of toilet paper stuffed into the end of the shell. Others bulged up, looking as if they were too full. Some looked OK. I decided to fire the weird ones first. Every morning for several weeks I took a handful of shells and walked out to check the cows and to shoot blackbirds as I went. Some of the shells went off fine. Others went FLOOP and I could see the shot charge go at about the velocity of a BB gun. Still others went PFFF and then I had to go back to the shop and get a rod to shove everything out of the barrel. Some went KAWHAM and nearly broke my shoulder when they went off. However, none blew the shotgun up for which I was grateful. I managed to kill quite a few blackbirds. In fact, the yard around the house was littered with them. I let them lay for a day or so, then just mowed them with lawnmower. They mulched up real well and seemed to help the yard grow.


One spring Dale South and I went out on the cattle ponds to shoot doves. Dale had borrowed his brother's Browning 12 gauge autoloader while I was using my old Steven single-barrel. The doves came in fast and furious that morning and the air was literally thick with them. I do believe that if I had a baseball bat I could have knocked some down. They were flying right past our faces and landing within 10 feet of us. The shooting was equally as fast. At one point a dove landed within 10 feet of Dale and in his haste he just up and blew it to bits! There was a big explosion of feathers and nothing else was left. I was shooting as fast as I could with a single shot, but I could not keep up with the autoloader of Dale's, that is until he stuffed shells into the magazine backwards and tied up the gun. He was so wound up he took some time clearing the jam and allowed me to get ahead of him in the body count.


The pigeons here roost in the barns, eat the feed, crap on everything and give animals mites. They really are a dirty bird. I have fun once in a while going out and busting a few. I had two that were constantly roosting in my cow shed. One morning I slipped down with the short double barrel and rousted the pigeons off their roost. As they came busting out of the barn flapping for all they were worth, I let fly. I got the far one with the first barrel and the near one with the second. It was great fun but over too quickly.

One day my neighbor told me there were some pigeons roosting in his barn and asked if I would go and shoot some of them. I took the single barrel Stevens and walked over. Only one bird came out and as it went away from me I shot. I knocked a few feathers out of it's tail, but it just kept on going. I automatically ejected the empty and reached for another shell in my pocket as the bird started to make a circle around me. As it came back past I swung up and led it just a bit and tumbled it into the pasture.

Later the same neighbor told me I didn't do too good a job on the pigeons as there were still some in one of his cow sheds. I took the Maverick pump with the 18 1/2" barrel and walked up to his cow shed one evening. As I walked up two pigeons came busting out, flapping hard and trying to gain altitude. I swung on one and dropped it, pumped the gun and swung on the other one and dropped it. The cow shed is located about 50 yards behind the Baptist Church and the pigeons had to either go around it or up over it. They choose to head for it, trying to climb over it I suppose, and it gave me a nice shot. The Church also acted as a nice backstop so I did not have to worry about dropping shot into the neighbor's yard. Good thing the Baptists were loud singers. No one came out to see what I was doing.


Late one night the dog started barking and woke me out of a dead sleep. I heard a car cruising slowly by the house, then it stopped and shut the engine off. I was up by that time and grabbed the short double-barrel 12 gauge. Clad only in my underwear I slipped out on the porch and holding a mag-light under the barrel of the shotgun, I lit up the car. The engine started and the car roared off into the night without turning it's lights on. I guess the sight of a nearly naked fat guy with a sawed-off shotgun was too much for them.


Early one morning I heard dogs barking and cows bawling. I figured someone's dogs were into the cattle and grabbed the sawed-off Stevens double and ran out the door. One barrel was loaded with my round ball load while the other had a 3" Magnum BB load in it. I went up over the hill and looked down into the small valley and here were two dogs chasing a bunch of heifers. They had them cornered in the pasture and were worrying them a bit. I shot at one of the dogs with the ball load from 75 or 80 yards and missed. The noise of me shooting diverted their attention long enough for the ranch foreman and his hand to run their horses up on the dogs and shoot one of them. The other, a large German Shepherd, took off from them and came running past me about 30 - 35 yards out. I swung the double gun on it and touched off the other barrel. The load of BB took him square and stopped him in his tracks! He froze, shook all over and fell over kicking. The foreman came riding up and took the collar off the dog so he could file charges on the owner for damage to his cows. He saw me make the shot and was mighty impressed with the performance of the short gun.


While working for the State of Arizona we were issued the old Remington 870 pump 12 gauge with the short barrel. The issue load was the 2 3/4" #4 Buckshot. This had replaced the old 00 Buck loads. While there are more shot in a given shell with the #4 Buck, I have personally always preferred the larger .31 caliber 00 Buck to the smaller .24 caliber #4 Buck. I guess the thinking is if you can get more shot flying in a given direction, your probability of making a hit is greater. However, it is REAL easy to miss a target under stress, even one as large as a person. I have seen guys with submachine guns go through 30 rounds and miss a man-sized target at less than 20 yards. I have also seen people shot at and missed at less than 20 feet. It is best to concentrate on the business at hand rather than to trust tricks, technology or gadgets to help you perform better. But in the business of 00 Buck vs. #4 Buck, in the situation we were in, the smaller shot would not carry as far (hopefully) and you could spray a larger area if need be. Up close it really don't matter. Before the shot charge has a chance to separate even #8's will make a mess of someone.

While my personal preference is the handgun, the shotgun is a handy gun to have around. I would suggest though if you keep one, practice with it. A lot. The machinery you use is not as important as your skill with it.


Saturday, August 06, 2022, 07:06 (303 days ago) @ Jim Taylor


I probably would not be up that early these days!

Jim Taylor
Saturday, August 06, 2022, 07:12 (303 days ago) @ JT

- No text -

I used to keep some fancy (to me) shotguns around.

Saturday, August 06, 2022, 07:55 (303 days ago) @ Jim Taylor

The two best shotguns I performed with were a Winchester M24 in 12 and Citori 12 Competition Skeet. I cheated with both, handloading #9 shot for Dove, and my skeet loads were basically 20 ga. in a 12 hull. I went shooting sporting clays, skeet, and some live quail shooting with them. It was fun and I enjoyed it. I love a good old southern dove hunt and Alcorn has invited me several times. But as friends have begun passing on they started collecting dust in the safe. I traded them off to pay Gary for custom handguns. They take up less room, are more interesting to me, and I'm lots more likely to actually shoot them. I do think we have examples in every gauge .410 (67 ga.), 20, 16, and 12. Sold the big 10 ga. but it was fun. I even have an 11 bore and 28 ga. black powder smoothbore. Also I have a TC 10" .45/.410 with rib and choke.

Now days they are mostly kept around for utility use and self defense. A shotgun is seldom the wrong tool for close range. We have a chopped 20 Stevens double (like Jim's), and handgripped Mossberg 20, some 870's and a 1100 riot. I did keep dad's 1100 20, and my Stevens 16, Mossberg Turkey for actual hunting duty. I've been shooting 20 ga. more lately, but to pick, the 12 always wins hands down.

I try not to look at shotguns for sale. I accidentally spied a nice SKB O/U fancier field gun not long ago for $750. It had a silver receiver, and engraving, higher grade wood, and shorter barrels. It was still there last I looked. I hope someone buys it soon!

would be hard to beat an SKB shotgun

Gary Reeder
Saturday, August 06, 2022, 14:52 (303 days ago) @ WB

they have been rated in the top tier of shotguns for years. They built shotguns for several big companies like Ithaca. I used one of the original blue receiver model 600 skeet guns in skeet matches. I bought a silver receiver 20 gauge model 600 that to me is a perfect hunting shotgun.


Saturday, August 06, 2022, 20:19 (303 days ago) @ Gary Reeder

Bought a 12G 600 from Gary several years ago that is one one of my favorites!
Lots of comments and offers to buy! In commifornia we have to use steel shot so haven’t hunted with it but am sure that it would be be deadly!

Steel shot is total crap. the other non-toxic alloys

Monday, August 08, 2022, 07:09 (301 days ago) @ Larryh

are so expensive but worth it in performance IF they allow them.

This shotgun is a Ithica/SKB M600 in 12 bore. Really pretty and I like the top crossbolt action. They open more generously to reach that bottom shell and I think they are just stronger. The guy who does checkering could use a bit finer tool but I think they are nice guns.

Unfortunately if you are waterfowl hunting here

Gary Reeder
Monday, August 08, 2022, 10:08 (301 days ago) @ WB

in AZ and the game warden checked you, your shells better say "STEEL SHOT". The game and fish are so brain washed by the liberals. In a large area bordering California hunting for deer or elk and you get checked by the game warden they will really give you a hassle if you are not using no lead ammo for deer or elk. It is not a law that you have to shoot no lead but the game wardens don't seem to realize that.

In Ark. you can use Bismuth or Tungsten non-toxic

Monday, August 08, 2022, 11:41 (301 days ago) @ Gary Reeder

But as you mentioned the Game Warden's magnet might not be effective at "proving" your non-toxic shotshells. The fancy Tungsten Turkey loads are several dollars each! I think $3-$5 a shot. But Turnkey hunting you seldom shoot twice. They have unbelievable long range shot patterns with effective ranges to 70 yds.

That mention of a Model 97 Winchester brings back an

Saturday, August 06, 2022, 14:08 (303 days ago) @ Jim Taylor

old memory of my first meeting with one. Now this took place back in 64 or 65 I was just a young guy fresh out of high school and had purchased my first real trap gun, a beautiful 870 TC model, vent rib, super nice wood. It cost me most of my hay baling money earned thru the hot Kansas summer. I was full of piss and vinegar as most teens my age were. The summer before before we won the national lottery and all got expense paid trips to beautiful SE Asia. Well I was attending a Turkey shoot put on by our local Knights of Columbus and feeling pretty salty with my fancy new trap gun. I entered a shoot along side of a dusty older gentleman dressed in bib overalls smelling of slightly sour milk fresh from his milking barn, and he was sporting a well used pump action shotgun that had the ability to take the hide off your thumb every time you shucked it. No rib and a kitchen match head stuck in the barrel for a front bead
. Just another country rube for us city slickers. Well when the smoke cleared that afternoon and that feller left with a truck load of turkeys I was left with nothing but empty shells and no lunch money. Times have moved on since then but I have never forgotten that Model 97 Winchester

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