man holding duck hunting shotgun

Choosing The Best Duck Hunting Shotgun | 3 Things To Consider

No worse feeling exists in the sport of waterfowl hunting than pulling up to dust a flock of mallards and then… your gun misfires.

I’ve been in that frustrating situation before and I don’t want you to experience the pain I did. 

So, how exactly can you keep this from happening?

Well, it begins with the firearm you select. I’m not here to push one brand over another, but rather to help you find the gun and gauge that best fits you so you can go with it.

What exactly is shotgun “fit?” Scroll down and watch the video near the end of the article to find out!

Does price matter?

I’ve hunted with guys who bought the latest and greatest shotgun on the market only to watch them miss every duck that decoyed. I’ve also hunted with guys who were shooting a “pawn shop special” and they absolutely slaughtered every duck within a mile radius.

So, what was the difference?

dead geese and duck

At the end of the hunt, you want a shotgun that has performed as expected, hopefully resulting in a successful harvest.

Well, one group of guys thought the expensive gun would make them a good shot. The other group knew they needed a gun that they were extremely comfortable shooting in several different conditions.

Simply put, the best shotgun is the one you are most comfortable using.

But how do you figure that out?



Which type of shotgun fits your hunting style?

There are three main types of shotguns. The most popular is the semi-auto, followed by the pump-action, and the over-under. They all come in different gauges and all are solid choices when it comes to waterfowl hunting. I have personally hunted with all three for at least one season each. As I hunted with each, I found there are pros and cons to all.

I prefer to hunt with a 12-gauge shotgun, regardless of the type of shotgun I am shooting. But, enough about me, let’s look at three critical factors in determining the best shotgun for ducks and waterfowl.




The three criteria I used to determine the best type of duck hunting shotgun are as follows:

  • Dependability: How unlikely it is to malfunction in different weather conditions?
  • Ruggedness: How much abuse can it take from being tossed in the back of a truck and dragged through mud all season long?
  • Amount of birds in the blind: That should be pretty self-explanatory. If I was able to shoot more birds with it, I hunted with the firearm more often!


The Most Dependable Shotgun

As far as dependability goes, an over-under is going to fire every time the trigger is pulled. A pump-action is going to fire basically every time, as well. The weather conditions are not prone to affect the firing capabilities of an over-under or pump-action.

The semi-automatic shotgun is a different story.

shotgun and decoy

Part of having a dependable gun is knowing it won’t jam or misfire.

As long as they are clean and lightly oiled in warm conditions, a semi-automatic works great! However, in my experience, when the cold weather hits, semi-auto shotguns tend to become finicky.

So, if you’ve ever wondered “how long do ducks live?” Well, a lot longer than you’d like, if your gun won’t fire dependably in the cold weather!

So, when I need a gun that is dependable, I hunt with a pump-action or an over-under. 



The Most Rugged Shotgun

Ruggedness, once again, goes to an over-under or a pump-action. The over-under has so few moving parts that make it such a rugged gun. Now, this does not apply if your over-under is a gun that only comes out of the gun safe to get oiled and then gently placed back in its place. 

12 gauge shotgun shells

Shotgun types come in different gauges… my personal favorite is the 12-gauge.

The over-under I used was as basic as they are made, perfect for the tough conditions I hunt. A pump-action has a few more moving parts, but in my experience hunting with one, they are just as rugged as an over-under.

The semi-auto shotguns I hunted with were not as rugged as I had hoped they would be, but in recent years semi-auto shotguns have made tremendous strides in ruggedness. 




The Deadliest Shotgun

The most critical factor is the number of birds the firearm helps bring down cleanly.

The semi-auto shotguns are outstanding when I need to fire off all three shots quickly, but I have a tendency to rush my shot. That is my fault, not the firearm!

When hunting with a pump-action, I am forced to slow down just enough to be much more accurate and add more birds to my limit.

semi automatic shotgun and black lab

Semi-automatic shotguns give you the ability to fire 3 shots rapidly, but may also lead the shooter to rush the shot.

The over-under shotgun I hunted with drastically fell short because it lacked the third shot I was familiar with. My friend, Jason Cruise, claims the third shot is a wasted shot more often than not.

I would disagree.



Yes, many times by the third shot, the birds are out of range. However, when the ducks are back-flapping in your face, that third shot is a huge advantage. Every hunt I am on, I will consistently shoot all three shells in a single volley. When I hunted with my over-under, I desperately missed having that third shot. 



So, what exactly is “shotgun fit” and how do you get the right fit for you? Check out this video to find out.

And, the best shotgun type is…

As I mentioned above, all three shotgun types have their pros and cons. However the one that stands out the most is the 12 gauge pump-action shotgun.

The pump-action shotgun is a workhorse. It is not anything fancy but it consistently gets the job done. Time after time, adding birds to the limit. No matter the weather conditions, a pump-action shotgun will deliver what it promises… three shells. 



Why the Pump-Action Shotgun is the Best

The reasons I choose to hunt with a pump-action shotgun over the other two styles are because a pump-action is typically more dependable than a semi-auto, it is extremely rugged, and I shoot more birds with a pump-action than an over-under. 

I admit I am extremely tough on my gear. So, I need a firearm that will hold up to the abuse, enduring throughout the season.

A pump-action shotgun does this for me more consistently than the other two styles. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t bring my other guns on a shoot or two during the season.



I love shooting my semi-auto when the weather permits and my over-under has become my turkey hunting shotgun. 

Whether you are just getting into duck hunting or waterfowl hunting has been a lifestyle for a while now, a pump-action shotgun is a tool that won’t let you down.

Before purchasing any firearm, do your research. I would recommend not only reading the online reviews, but also getting your hands on the gun you intend to buy prior to buying it. This ensures that it fits you well and you are more than comfortable handling it.

Buying a firearm is a big purchase, don’t rush into it. Take your time and choose the best shotgun for you

*All photos used by permission from Brad Alan

man sighting in a riflescope

Bullseye! | How To Sight In A Riflescope

If you’re ready to invest a little money in upgrading your rifle, one of the best things you can buy that will totally transform the way you shoot is a scope.

Not only will a scope improve your range and accuracy, but it will make our beloved sport more competitive and much safer.

But buyer beware.

Not all scopes are created equal! Some scopes are just poorly made, and other scopes are made for various purposes.

For example, the scopes I recommend in my 6.5 Creedmoor guide are solely dedicated for long range shooting.

Do You Need A Riflescope?

But before you buy a riflescope, learn why you should even buy a riflescope in the first place.

Some are built for tactical purposes while other sniper/hunting scopes specialize in longer-range targets.

mounting a riflescope

Purchasing a riflescope is only the beginning. You should properly mount and sight in your scope before you ever think about shooting it.

You may be shooting a .22 all the way up to a high-powered rifle, so it’s important that you have the right scope for the job. Be sure to read reviews on the scope you have in mind before purchasing. Reviews (like this Scope for Ruger 10-22 Reviews) can be very helpful in helping you decide how to spend your hard-earned dollars.

A quick pro-tip here is that it’s generally better to have too much scope than not enough. So, if you must err on the side of caution, err in favor of the scope.


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I Have A Riflescope… Now What?

Okay, so you’re happy with the scope you’ve purchased, and now you want to get out and shoot, right?

Wrong.

Only after you have properly mounted your riflescope can you sight it. This component is just as important as anything else because it is how you customize the rifle to your own anatomy and mechanics.

Your arm length, eye spacing, and the unique way you hold the rifle are slightly different from everybody else, and these subtle differences can make a big difference downrange.



You might find it is easiest to sight your rifle at a local shooting range. However, if you live far from one but have a lot of land nearby, just make sure you’re shooting in a safe direction where there is no chance of passing hikers, campers, etc.

Make sure you use the same exact brand and weight of bullets that you’ll be using on the hunt. Even the slightest variation can have a significant effect on how the round fires.


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The basic idea of sighting is to make sure the bullet hits exactly where you’re aiming. If this doesn’t happen, it is either because of two things:

  1. You need a refresher on the fundamentals of marksmanship.
  2. Or the scope isn’t properly sighted.

Assuming it’s number 2, you might be wondering:

How do I properly sight my scope? Keep reading to find out!


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Step 1: Focus the Reticle

The first thing you need to do is make sure your reticle is in focus.

The reticle is the shape (crosshairs, a singular dot or circle, a triangle, etc.) you see when you look through the scope, and its function is to indicate scale or location of an object.

view through riflescope and reticle

Step 1 of sighting in your riflescope is to be sure you focus the reticle.

Look through the scope to ensure the whole picture is sharp. If it’s blurry, twist the diopter adjustment on the scope, which is typically going to be the end of the scope closest to your eye.

Something to keep in mind is that when shooting is that you will be focusing your naked eyes way downrange, scanning for targets or game, and then you’ll quickly switch to the scope right in your face.

Your eyes take a little time to adjust, so the view through the scope can be a little blurry for a few seconds.


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To eliminate this lag, look away from the scope and let your eyes focus on something else at a distance. Stare at it for a few moments, then quickly look through the scope and in the brief moments before your eyes adjust, determine if the picture appears blurry. Keep doing this until the image is sharp and in focus immediately upon looking through the scope.

Step 2: Boresighting

view while sighting in riflescope view

When boresighting your riflescope, be sure that what you’re aiming at down the barrel is the same thing your reticle is aimed at.

Boresighting your rifle first will save a lot of time and ammo.

This will take just a few minutes and will ready your weapon for the fine-tuning we are about to do.

First, securely mount the rifle to aim downrange at a highly visible target 25 yards away. Then, remove the bolt so you can see straight down the barrel at the target.

Look through and aim the barrel center mass. Next, look through the scope to ensure the reticle also lands center mass. You will likely need to adjust the scope’s turrets to achieve this. The turret on top adjusts the scope’s elevation (up and down) and the one on the side adjusts its windage (to the left and right).

Once your reticle is adjusted center mass, replace the bolt and get ready to start shooting.

Pro-tip: There are even specialized zero targets you can use that are gridded to help precisely determine the adjustments you need to make. You’ll see why that might be useful later.

Step 3: Fine Tuning

Sighting requires great precision, so make sure the rifle is either mounted or thoroughly supported for this step.

Replace the bolt, insert your high-quality ear protection, and fire three rounds directly at the bullseye of your target at 25 yards. You will probably not hit the bullseye, so focus more at the consistency of the shot group.

If your three shots are really close to each other, but the whole group is about 1 inch south and 2 inches west of the bullseye, you need to adjust the elevation for 1 inch and the windage for 2. It looks complicated, but it’s really simple.

scope turrets for sighting in riflescope

Use your scope turrets to fine tune your riflescope. 1 click typically changes shot location by 1/4 of an inch at 100 yards.

The turrets we were playing with earlier in the article are what we will now use to fine-tune your scope.

But before I go in-depth, here’s a quick primer on elevation and windage adjustments:

Usually one click changes the location of the bullet’s impact by ¼ inch at a target 100 yards away. The way we represent that is “1/4 MOA,” where MOA stands for Minute Of Angle. Four clicks will move the bullethole one inch in the direction indicated.

But, if the target is only 25 yards away, we need to move the dial 4x as many clicks to move the bullethole the same 1 inch. If the target is 200 yards away, conversely, 2 clicks move it 1 inch. Four hundred yards away, 1 click for 1 inch.



So, for the example above, we need to rotate the turret 16 times to elevate 1 inch and another 32 clicks to the right. The turret itself will indicate which direction to turn and the MOA (although most are ¼).

Once your scope is sighted for the target at 25 yards, it is time to extend the range to 100.

Fire another three rounds for your shot group, then determine how far off the bullseye the group is located.


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Measure the deviation and adjust your elevation and windage in the same way we just did, bearing in mind that 4 clicks at this distance will equal 1 inch.

Fire another shot group at your 100-yard target, and if they hit where you wanted them to, you have successfully sighted your scope.

NOTE: Be careful not to bump your sight during transport or when pulling your gun up to your treestand. If you do, you could have to repeat the process to get your sight zeroed in again.

Happy Hunting!

6 shotguns standing up

Choosing The “Best” Shotgun Setup For Hunting | Consider this before pulling the trigger on your choice

One of the most common questions many hunters ask is, “what shell do you recommend for (insert gun) with (insert choke)? Without hesitation, the most immediate follow-up question usually results in, “What do you define as best?”

turkey and shotgun on truck tire

You should ask the question what will my shotgun setup be used for?

To us, the perfect shotgun setup is a result of the ultimate satisfaction and confidence when you pull the trigger. The “Best” setup then, more often than not, is a result of personal preference.

Since there are so many factors in determining what shotgun setup to go with, we’ll dive into a couple that allow you to develop some thought and help guide your decision for your next hunting season or day in the field.

#1: What are you going to use this shotgun for?

While many customers call already owning the shotgun they intend to use, they often can also be in the market for a new one as well, possibly even in a different gauge.

The first question we might pose is, “what do you intend to use this gun for the most?”

Just as you would when choosing the right rifle caliber, it’s important when choosing a shotgun setup to know what exactly you are going to use it for.

For example, when hunting waterfowl, semi-automatics are the most commonly used. Occupying the most weight, these guns rely on either gas or recoil driven systems to cycle the shells, allowing the shooter to stay more focused on the target, thus reducing the need to cycle the next shell.

When it comes to turkey hunting, it could be argued that the most prominent shotgun is a true pump-action.  Given the reduction in weight, these guns also provide a level of reliability that semi-automatics cannot provide. This could prove crucial during a turkey hunt, especially as a beginner.

In upland hunting (i.e. pheasant hunting), over/under or semi-automatic shotguns are king and its no coincidence these are favorites, as hunters can switch barrels and utilize multiple chokes at once for selected ranges.



>> Check out N1 Outdoors hunting, fishing and outdoor apparel

#2: Choosing a gauge

After you have selected your style of gun, you’re undoubtedly going to want to settle in on a gauge.

With gauge selection comes a choice in payload, recoil, weight and lastly range. Most smaller gauges tend to have smaller frames.



For larger type people, a bigger gauge may feel more comfortable, as it has added size and length of pull. Smaller-framed individuals, or people looking for less recoil, may opt for a sub-gauge gun such as a 20, 28 or even a 410 bore. These gauges offer less weight, recoil and ease of maneuvering. A smaller gauge may also provide an additional level of challenge.

Whatever the situation, premium performance and effectiveness are available to all outdoor enthusiasts.

green apex ammunition shotgun shells in a stack

Tungsten Super Shot shells yield maximum pattern efficiency at various ranges.



#3: Choosing the right shell for your shotgun setup

With your next shotgun in hand, what shells do you intend to use?

With such advancements in technology and metallurgy, there are vast amounts of lengths, payloads and shot materials to choose. The most widely used shot materials are often steel for non-toxic and lead (where allowed) due to their mass availability and affordability.

Large pellets hit with a magnitude of force. However, they usually lose pattern counts at extended ranges.



To make up for this, smaller shot sizes are used. But, the setback here is that these smaller pellets lose vast amounts of energy, thus decreasing their range regardless of pattern count.

To combat decreasing range, increasing the density of the shot material increases the mass of the pellet. This results in saturated, hard-hitting and efficient killing patterns, resulting in more success and less cripples.

With the recent rise in tungsten based alloys, a new pinnacle in the shotshell community known as, “Tungsten Super Shot” yields the maximum in pattern efficiency at a multitude of ranges.



#4: Choosing the right choke

Referring back to our most commonly received question, many customers ask us what shell works best for their previous setup. A choke, aftermarket or not, is merely an additional forcing cone to optimize pattern efficiency.

In short, your choke should complement your gun and cartridge, not the other way around. The best aftermarket chokes cannot allow the shell to optimally perform if they are chosen incorrectly.

mallard ducks arranged in pinwheel

The type of game you are hunting impacts which choke you might consider using with your shotgun setup.

First and foremost, it is the utmost importance to consult the ammunition and choke manufacturer you are considering for both their recommendations and any safety warnings.

Chokes that are not designed to handle heavier-than-lead-type products, or over-constriction, could result in severe damage to the gun or even injury to the shooter.



Tighter constriction doesn’t always mean tighter patterns. In fact, it can result in an inconsistent blown core pattern that leaves it looking “splotchy.”

When selecting the right choke, consider the make and gauge of your gun.

The backbore of your shotgun, coupled with shot material, payload and shot size, will ultimately dictate which choke is right for your setup as it will ultimately culminate in your desired best pattern.



#5: The final touches

Your shotgun setup is almost complete. But, there are a few accessories and modifications you can add to increase your comfort and performance.

A reflex sight, (not to be confused with a rifle scope) which is most commonly referred to as a “Red Dot,” is a great addition that can improve your accuracy, and ensure that your point-of-impact/point-of-aim is true. It can also provide ergonomic relief to your neck and eyesight.

In short, if your sight is dialed in, the gun will hit what it points at.

apex ammunition shotgun shells

Shot shell selection is a critical part of the deciding what the “best” shotgun setup.

You can also improve your setup by lengthening the forcing cone of your shotgun. This results in a smoother transition as the pellets travel down the barrel, reducing stray pellets or, “fliers.”

Lastly, if you desire to provide the ultimate level of protection for your setup, there are options like Cerakote that virtually eliminate the wear and tear from the elements that allow you to prolong your investment.



In conclusion:

Choosing your best setup is the result of what you want to achieve. As it has been said before, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” In this case, perfection is just what you envision it to be.

As outdoorsmen and women, and conservationists, we all strive to achieve the most lethal and efficient method of take. After all the effort we put in to become successful, our equipment should be at the forefront of our mind and we should accept zero compromise in their performance.

Remember, with any setup, practice and patterning are critical to fine tuning your outcome. Maximum confidence in your abilities and equipment will ultimately lead to most memorable hunts you will ever experience.  

NIck Charney holding a turkey
Nick Charney, Founder of Apex Ammunition