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Shooting Tips

The Difference Between 12 Gauge and 20 Gauge

By April 15, 2023April 24th, 2023No Comments

These two different shotgun gauges are the most common and popular among hunters and clay shooters. There are also 10, 16, 28, and .410 bores common in the arsenals of different shooters. “Gauge” refers to the bore diameter of the shotgun. The gauge of the shotgun impacts multiple factors when shooting, ranging from accuracy to the amount of recoil experienced by the shooter.

What’s the key difference between a 12 gauge shell and a 20 gauge shell?

At the end of the day, the main difference between gauge sizes is the number of BBs, which is often called the projectile or shot. A 12 gauge shell will typically have one to one and one eighth ounces of shot, while a 20 gauge shell will have about ⅞ ounces of shot. For hunting, the 12 gauge shell offers a wider shot for birds, better patterns for waterfowl, and more weight when shooting turkey. For clay shooting, the 12 gauge and its wider spread might be a more suitable option for someone who wants to break more clay pigeons.

How much recoil does a 12 gauge shotgun have vs a 20 gauge?

The shooting experience and the type of shell used in a shotgun will directly impact the amount of recoil. For target and clay shooting, a 12 gauge produces about 18 ft-lbs of recoil. When hunting waterfowl, you will experience about 33 ft-lbs of recoil because the shotgun load is slightly different for that hunting experience.

A 20-gauge shooter will experience about 11 ft-lbs of recoil for target shooting and about 19 ft-lbs of recoil for shooting waterfowl. In the rare occurrence someone is using a 10-gauge for target shooting, they will experience about 47 ft-lbs of recoil.

Which is the better gauge for clay shooting?

Many new shooters start with a 20 gauge because it has less recoil. Over time, many shooters transition over to a 12 gauge because of the wider spread and better odds of hitting the clay pigeon. Most shooters will use #8 shots and a tighter choke, letting them take advantage of the wider spread and greater number of pellets.

Should recoil be a factor when selecting your gauge?

Most new shooters will think about recoil when selecting their ideal shotgun gauge. That being said, recoil can easily be reduced by adding a recoil pad from Falcon Strike®. With a potential for 80% recoil reduction, your recoil from a 12 gauge shotgun will be only slightly more than that of a 20 gauge without a recoil pad. A new shooter can easily get acclimated to the 12 gauge and not have to transition over to a different gun later in their shooting career.

In addition to thinking about gauge size, a shooting instructor can help you choose the right type of gauge for clay shooting based upon your height, weight, shooting experience and other personal preferences.

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