Pump, Auto, or O/U?

Picking a shotgun is never easy.  Picking a "first" shotgun or a special purpose shotgun isn't either.  The decision tree looks like this:

If money is an issue, shoot a pump.

If recoil is an issue, shoot an autoloader.

If neither is an issue, shoot a double. 

If either money or recoil is a real big issue, shoot a rifle.

Each of the action types has its advantages and disadvantages.  Here are some of the basic differences between the three action types.

  • The features of the O/U and semi-auto guns make them superior to a pump shotgun.  The pump shotguns are cheap and reliable, but hard recoiling and much slower and noisier on follow up shots.
  • An O/U doesn't jam. The O/U is a notoriously reliable 2-shot semi with no action noise.  Both the O/U and semi-auto will fire as fast as the trigger is pulled.
  • Pumps and autos both have more moving parts, more action noise, and they throw the empties sometimes as much as 10-15 feet.
  • An O/U is 4-5" shorter overall than a pump or autoloader with the same barrel length thanks to it's compact action. As a result, an O/U gun with the same barrel length takes less storage space and fits in a much shorter case.  Be aware that the O/U also has a shorter sight plane compared to pump or semi-auto guns of equal barrel length.
  • Unloading a pump or semi-auto without an external release requires depressing the internal feed latch, which can be hard on fingertips and can catch glove material.  A well designed O/U will extract loaded or eject empty shells and is much easier to load and unload.
  • When trying to be quiet at the beginning of a stand and lowering a bolt softly, any pump or semi-auto gun that uses a rotating bolt may not always close completely.  Always check that the bolt is completely closed or the gun will not fire.
  • Repeated recoil-cycling and reloading of the tube magazine guns is hard on shells, may deform the crimp, and even cause a jam. Cycling an O/U shotgun the same way, loading and unloading, hulls still see some wear and tear.  WinXB ammo with the standard half-sealed crimp can leak some of the gritty white buffer.
  • Remove the plug from any tube magazine shotgun if the law allows it.  Two shells and the extension can add nine ounces to the total weight.  Watch shells for wear and deformed crimps.  When the gun cycles, the shells move and stop quickly, which can deform the crimp end.  Check and rotate.
  • An O/U can use two chokes and even two different types of ammunition.  Most modern guns also have a barrel selector.
  • Inspecting the bore and cleaning an O/U is easier... much easier.  Dirt down an autoloader takes a pin driver, air, a brush, 15 minutes, and three swear words to clean it up.
  • A modern autoloader can lessen the felt recoil by as much as 40% according to some manufacturer's claims.

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