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The Home Page has an alphabetical list of all guns in stock, and notes which guns have been sold.


To jump to a topic click here: Abbreviations | Adjustable CombsBalance | Barrel Length | Bore and Choke Constriction | Cast | Cast On and Cast Off Chamber Length - Measuring | Chamber and Shell Length | Clay Target Shooting | Drop at Comb | Drop at Heel | Drop at Monte-Carlo | Field vs. Sporting Shotguns | Gun Measurements | High Ribs | Home Protection | Left Handed  | Length of Pull | Cynergy LOP | Lubrication of O/U Shotguns | Oil Finish | Old vs New Guns | PhotographsRecoil | Regulation of Shotgun Barrels | Release Trigger | Rib Width | Rifleman Syndrome | Shotgun Fit | SkeetSporting Clays | Sub-Gauge Inserts | Trap | Tribore | Upland Hunting | Waterfowl and Turkey Hunting | Weight of Gun | Women | Wood Quality | Youth

If you could only have one shotgun, a 12 or 20 gauge multi-shot (pump, semi-auto, over/under, side by side) with a 28 inch barrel and screw in choke tubes would allow you the maximum number of hunting and clay shooting possibilities.  That said, most of us do one kind of shooting most of the time and would like to have a gun particularly adapted to that kind of shooting.  Fortunately, as well, many of us can afford more than one shotgun. In all cases the gun should fit you, and you should feel comfortable shooting it.  The Gun Measurements used by Hero's Arms provide a guide to fit and comfort. There are standard bore and choke diameters and constrictions, though some manufacturers deviate considerably from the norm. 

Here are some simple general suggestions. There are, of course, exceptions to all of them.

Upland Hunting generally involves walking around all day, perhaps following dogs, and shooting very quickly at birds which are not far away.  Gun Fitting is critical because the gun has to come to your shoulder precisely. A light gun, perhaps a smaller gauge, with a 26" barrel is often favored.  Hunting guns often come with automatic safeties which go on when the gun is opened and have to be taken off before shooting - because walking through the woods risks an accidental discharge. While the recoil of a light gun may be significant, it is infrequent in most upland hunting.  You will be carrying the gun all day and a heavy gun gets heavier by the hour.  Upland Hunting High Volume Exception:  High volume shooting such as in Argentine Dove Shoots, which may involve thousands of shots a day, call for a heavier gun to tame the recoil.

Waterfowl and Turkey HuntingDuck, goose and turkey hunting is often carried out sitting in a blind so the gun is not being constantly carried.  It also often involves longer range shots at tough targets, so a semi-auto or pump with 3 shots gives a measure of security for finishing off a wounded bird.  Magnum shells of 3" or 3 1/2" length are often used, so recoil can be significant.  As lead shot cannot be used for waterfowl, modern shotguns with screw-in chokes allow the use of non-toxic substitutes. Many wetland hunters favor heavy semi-auto shotguns which spread out the recoil impact into more of a shove.

Clay Target Shooting in general involves from 25 to 400 shots in a day, so a heavier gun is appropriate to keep the recoil from beating you up. Generally target guns have non-automatic safeties so that you will not miss a target because the safety was on.  At the extreme, some trap guns, such as the Browning BT-99, have no safety at all - safety being assured by the rule that you only load when standing on the pad waiting to call for the target.

Trap  can be singles or doubles, so trap guns can be singles, doubles or combos. Although you can shoot trap with smaller gauges, the 12 Gauge gun is the standard.  The 12 Gauge has more pellets, and a denser pattern further out, important as trap targets are usually shot at a distance of 36 yards or more (handicap doubles may be as far out as 50 yards). Trap guns tend to be heavy, and have high combs (that is to say a smaller Drop at Comb) so the gun will shoot high as the targets are always rising when shot.  Trap shooters favor longer barrels, 32" and 34".  Partially, this is,  I suspect, for historic reasons, longer shots used to require longer barrels in Black Powder days, but also for smoothness of swing.  I know many trap shooters who object to being hit by shells ejected by their fellow shooters' semi-auto shotguns, so this might be a consideration in your choice.  Generally trap shooting calls for a tight choke constriction, Modified, Improved Modified, Full, or for 27 yard handicap, perhaps Extra Full.

High Ribs on Trap Guns.  Competition Trap guns often have high ribs for three reasons:  First, a high rib reduces the heat mirage effect that sometimes occurs with heavy rapid shooting.  Second, a high rib can have more downward slope toward the front, which means that keeping the normal figure 8 sight picture between the back and front bead, the gun will shoot higher than if it had a flat, non sloping, rib.  One can see this on a BT99.  This means that you can have a rising target above the bead, you don't have to blot out the target with the barrel to create the necessary upward lead.  An adjustable comb, which raises your sighting eye, will produce the same effect, but you will see a lot more rib between the beads.  Third, serious trap competitors will want an adjustable rib so they can fine tune the percentage of hits above and below the line of sight.  For handicap double trap at long distances you might want a 95%/5% pattern, at shorter distances a 60%/40% pattern, and for sporting clays where there may be descending targets a 50%/50% pattern.

Rifleman Syndrome  Many of us grew up shooting a 22 rifle, some learned to shoot in the military. The mantra was “front sight aligned over/in rear sight, the target balanced just on top, take a deep breath, let it half out, hold it, and squeeze the trigger.” This is sound advice for rifle shooting, and for shotgun shooting where the target is stationary or moving slowly. So if you are shooting a turkey or a standing deer with buckshot or a rifled slug, go ahead and make a figure 8 of your sights, you are basically rifle shooting. For clay target and wing shooting it is a recipe for missing. Before adjustable combs and ribs a “trap gun” just had a Monte Carlo stock, which raised the shooters head, and the muzzle of the gun, resulting in a gun that shot above the point of aim to anticipate the rising trap target. Obviously the barrel is tilted up, as is should be. Trap shooters with “Rifleman Syndrome” look at the expanse of rib they can see between the front and mid beads, and try everything they can to get their head down so they can see the figure 8. This causes them to shoot under their rising target, or to have to “cover” the target to have a chance of hitting it. In shotgunning you are shooting a cloud of pellets, elongated in the direction the muzzle is moving. There is a significant delay in the time it takes for the shot to get to the target so you have to “lead” the target. Whether the target is rising, falling or going sideways it helps to be able to see it so you can put the elongated cloud of shot over the target's path. Thus for most target sports it makes sense for the gun to shoot above the point of aim so the shooter can “float” the target, see it, and swing in the direction it is going. The sights on a shotgun are useful before you shoot, to be sure the gun is lined up, but after the target is in the air you watch the target, not the sights. Generally, unless you are cross-eye dominant, you shoot with both eyes open, focusing on the target, and the sights are just a blur. Eliminating “Rifleman Syndrome” is not easy, but necessary for success.

Skeet always involves doubles so a gun capable of two shots is a necessity.  Most skeet shooters favor over-under, or perhaps side by side shotguns, because they do not throw their shells on the ground as pumps and semi-autos are wont to do.  Bending over and picking up shells slows down the round, and gets old after a while.  Barrel lengths of 26, 28 or 30 inches are common, and the choking is minimal, cylinder or skeet is normal as almost all shots are within 22 yards.  Skeet competitions involve all four gauges, 12, 20, 28 and .410 so there is logic in buying a four gauge set (you only have the stock fitted once, all gauges point and swing the same), or buying a sub-gauge tube set which allows the 12 gauge with tubes installed to be used in all competitions.

Sporting Clays and Five Stand involve many different types of shots and varying rules which sometime allow 3 shots.  Aside from the need for a heavier gun for high volume shooting it is difficult to specify specific gun characteristics.  Many Sporting Clay shooters favor 30 and 32 inch barrels, and often use Improved Cylinder chokes as the best all-round compromise. Exception: Some Sporting Clays shooters change their choke tubes at every station to fit the situation, and carry a battery powered choke wrench to do it.

Home Protection shotguns may have to be be used within a house at short distances.  A short barreled gun is easier to maneuver and has a slightly wider spread at short distances, so a pump with an 18" cylinder bore barrel or a coach gun with skeet or more open choking is the preferred weapon.  Having a light on the gun allows you to be sure of your target.  Hero's Arms recommends that whatever you choose for home protection be of good quality (e.g., Remington, Winchester, Mossberg), rather than the cheapest possible imported pump.  You don't use a fire escape very often either, but you wouldn't build your escape stairs out of rotten wood just to save money. Shoot a few boxes of shells through it to be sure it works and that you are familiar with it, then clean it and store it safely, considering your circumstances.

Women's Shotguns.  Most people at around ten or twelve years of age realized that men and women have differently shaped bodies. (vive la différence)  Most shotgun manufacturers only saw shorter arms, so they made cutoff stock and painted the guns pink. Syren shotguns have stocks made to fit women's bodies.  With their 13 7/8" Length of Pull, 3.1/2" Trigger Reach, Monte Carlo, 8 degree Pitch, 1/4" cast off at heel and 3/8" cast off at toe it is made for a woman's shoulder and won't punch her in the chest.

Youth shotguns are distinguished by having shorter Length Of Pull (LOP) than other shotguns.  They may also be chosen for lighter weight, lower cost, lesser recoil, etc.  Ideally, the short length of pull can be lengthened by adding spacers or putting back a cut-off piece of stock as the youth becomes an adult.  The least expensive are single shot, followed by pump, followed by semi-auto followed by double or over/under shotguns.  Generally, I recommend 20 gauge shotguns for young people because the ammunition is relatively inexpensive and the pattern is dense enough for serious shooting.  If the gun weighs 7 pounds or more the recoil will be acceptable for most. The 28 gauge is nice, and has less recoil, but the ammunition is expensive.  The .410 is really an expert's gun, and possibly frustrating to learn with.  Some of the same considerations apply for shorter and lighter adults.

Left Handed shooters, in general, are not well served by gun manufacturers, exceptions being Caesar Guerini, Fabarm, and SKB. For other brands, very occasionally, one can find a shotgun with "Cast On" from the manufacturer, or a pump or semi-auto that ejects to the left and has a safety that disengages from the left.  There are several things which make a gun left handed, cast on being the principal one, but it includes left handed palm swell, stock comb adjustment holes on the left side of the comb, left eject in semi-autos., etc..  Top lever opening to the left I have found only in Blaser shotguns as a $600 or so option, and in a $12,000 Westley Richards English best shotgun.  The SKB has everything left handed except the top lever opening left.  Browning calls a gun left handed if it has a left hand palm swell. The first thing that a left handed shooter should watch out for is not to buy a gun that is set up for a right hander, with cast off.  Generally a gun with no cast is acceptable, and an over/under or side-by-side, or bottom ejecting pump with the safety on the tang is the best a left hander can expect out-of-the-box.  A stock fitter is recommended for a left handed shooter who wants a gun that actually fits.

NOTE:  Briley Manufacturing, well known for choke tubes, also offers a stock bending service. For $140 plus the cost of two way shipping they will give your stock cast on (for Left Handed Shooters) of  1/8", 3/16", 1/4", 5/16" or 3/8", cast off (for right handed shooters) in the same increments, and/or raise or lower the comb in the same increments.  Occasionally, depending on your gun's wood, the bending may not be permanent.  Briley has a "Stock Bending Form" on their web site which includes "terms and conditions" which should be read before deciding on this service. 

Some Frequently Seen Differences between "Field" and "Sporting" Over/Under Shotguns

 Not all characteristics apply to all shotguns, this is a general guideline.




Possible Reasons

Barrel Length

26", 28", some 30"

28" to 34"

Shorter barrels swing faster, longer more smoothly.

Barrel Mid-Rib



Solid keeps out debris, vented aids in cooling.

Barrel Porting

Not Ported


Porting reduces muzzle jump, increases noise.  Target shooters all wear hearing protection.

Chamber Size

3" or 3 1/2"

2 3/4"

Magnum Shells for hunting, light loads for clay targets.

Choke Tubes Flush Extended Target shooters may change chokes for different target presentations, hunters don't get the chance.



Adjustable Comb

Adjustable allows for refined fit to shooter.

Comb configuration

More Drop

Less Drop even level

A comb with more drop shoots straight ahead, one with less drop shoots high for rising targets.


$1500 to $2000

$2000 to $4000

Nicer wood, more engraving, more features.




More people look at sporting guns.

Gun Weight

5 to 7 pounds

8 to 9 pounds

Light for carrying, heavy for recoil reduction and smooth swing.

Length of Pull

14 1/4 to 14 3/8

14 1/2 to 15"

Shorter LOP for hunting clothes.  Target Shooters adjust LOP to fit them.

Palm Swell



Palm swell allows for positioning hand in exactly same place every time.




Auto to avoid accidental discharge in hunting, Non-Auto to avoid failure to fire in competitions.


Single Bead

Two sights

Two sights allow for aligning barrel before calling for target.


Single Bead

Fiber Optic

Interchangeable Fiber Optic sights allow for variations in light.

Sling Swivels

European Field

Not seen

Upland hunters in Europe may use slings, not common in U.S.


Fixed Position

Adjustable Position

Adjustable allows for refined fit to shooter.

Wood Grain



Utilitarian versus aesthetic.

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Old vs New Shotguns

A customer asked me, “Aren’t the old English and Belgium shotguns much higher quality than the current production ones?”  In my opinion, the short answer is “no”.  Advances in metallurgy, computer controlled machining, and statistical quality control mean that current production guns from Japan, Italy and Germany are of a quality unmatched by older guns. This evolution is parallel to that of automobiles.

In the nineteenth century shotguns mostly had Damascus barrels and case hardened receivers.  These are now interesting collectibles, and if vetted by a competent gunsmith, good for fun at a black powder vintage shoot.  But you wouldn’t use them in competition skeet or trap shooting.

Up until 1929 there was little standardization, many 12 Gauge shotguns were chambered for 2”, 2 ½”. or 2 5/8” shells, the 2 ¾” chamber only became standard in 1929.  Shooting a modern shell in a gun with too short a chamber can knock the gun loose, break a stock or give a nasty smack of recoil.

Quality guns made between 1930 and 1970 frequently employed a great deal of hand fitting, and hand engraving.  These are often very beautiful, but the parts don’t always interchange.  British “best” guns were frequently sent back to the maker every winter for cleaning and parts replacement, something today we would think intolerable.  These guns are still good for upland hunting if not for high volume year round shooting or steel shot.

In the 1960s guns started being made by CNC machining, increasing inter-changeability. Beginning around 1980 two developments: screw in choke tubes and steel shot, led to a dramatic increase in barrel quality.  Chrome lined bores became common.  Automation became standard in gun production. Advances in steel making and alloys allowed for lighter, stronger guns.  Laser and CNC engraving brought decoration formerly reserved for “best” guns to more affordable guns.

Today most quality production guns with screw in chokes are safe for steel shot, which is a good thing because steel shot is sure to be mandated in more and more situations.  Guns which do not have screw in chokes probably should not be used for waterfowl hunting because their barrels may be made with softer steel and might be damaged by steel shot.

Today it is not unusual for trap, skeet, or sporting clays competitors to shoot tens of thousands of rounds a year and their guns hold up with only the occasional broken spring.  The Caesar Guerini Invictus is estimated to be able to shoot a million rounds.

So, the older guns are often beautiful, and still have some uses, but the new guns are better made for long service.

On a related issue, the position of the top lever on a used gun is often taken as an indicator of wear.  If it has moved left of the center the gun is probably due for a refit.  The top lever moves from right to left with wear on guns which have a bottom wedge lockup, such as Browning Citori and Caesar Guerini.  As the wedge and matching slot wear down from recoil the lever moves from right to left, and when it is left of center it is time for a refit/repair.

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For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is no way to reduce the amount of recoil, all we can do is change it from a sharp snap to a strong push by changing the length of time it works on our shoulders.  Imagine a prize fighter punching your shoulder with a roundhouse right clenched fist, then imagine the same force being applied over a half-second as a flat handed push.  What a semi-automatic gun, a recoil reducer, a thick soft recoil pad, a hydraulic stock absorber, or a heavy gun all do is lengthen the time the recoil is applied to you. In the 19th century W. W. Greener stated that a shotgun should be ninety-six times heavier than the shot charge it fires, for the comfort of the shooter and the longevity of the gun.  Modern steel and alloy formulations allow guns to take more recoil, but our bodies have not evolved as quickly. 

Some people are more tolerant of recoil than others, but prudence suggests that you will have more fun for longer if you minimize the recoil you experience.  A day's hunting with a six pound gun shooting 1 1/8 ounce loads five or ten times may be tolerable, shooting 100 rounds of skeet with the same combination may leave you punch drunk.  At the extreme, I have a skeet gun, which, with its extended stock, recoil reducer, thick recoil pad, and Briley sub-gauge tubes, weighs just short of 10 pounds.  The recoil is only 4 feet per second for .410, 6 feet per second for 28 gauge and 7 feet per second for 20 gauge, as you can see from the table below.

Fixed breech guns, pumps, over-unders, side-by-sides, have sharper recoil than semi-automatics where the mechanism spreads out the recoil. A stock that fits you, over-boring, porting, and long forcing cones all may have some minor effect in reducing perceived recoil.  Porting may reduce recoil or barrel jump, but it also makes for an extra loud report - tolerable in clay target shooting where everyone is wearing hearing protection, but disconcerting in a duck blind.

The values in the Table below were calculated from a calculator on the website of  huntamerica.com

Recoil Velocity in Feet Per Second for Various Charge Weights and Gun Weights

Constants: 20 Grains of Powder, 1200 Feet Per Second Muzzle Velocity
Ounces Gun Weight in Pounds               minimum
of  Shot 5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 9.5 10 12 Weight:
 1/2 8 7 7 6 6 5 5 5 4 4 4 3 3
 3/4 12 11 10 9 8 8 7 7 6 6 6 5 4.5
 7/8 14 13 11 11 10 9 8 8 7 7 7 5 5.25
1    16 14 13 12 11 10 10 9 9 8 8 6 6
1 1/8 18 16 15 13 12 12 11 10 10 9 9 7 6.75
1 1/4 19 18 16 15 14 13 12 11 11 10 9 8 7.5
1 3/8 21 19 18 16 15 14 13 12 12 11 10 9 8.25
1 1/2 23 21 19 18 16 15 14 13 13 12 11 9 9
2    31 28 26 24 22 20 19 18 17 16 15 13 12

Greener's Rule of ninety-six states that for shooting comfort the gun should weigh at least

96 times the weight of the shot charge. These weights have a yellow background.



Combinations heavier than Greener's Rule of 96 have a red background.




Combinations lighter than Greener's Rule of 96 have a green background.


















For calculations with different weights of powder, different speeds or gun weights go to:

























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Chamber and Shell Length can affect recoil.

Shell Lengths, stated in Inches, are approximations of the length of a fired shell with the crimp unfolded.  They are useful to know because you should not shoot a shell whose length (when fired) is longer than the chamber length of your gun, because the crimp will unfold in the barrel creating a constriction which will raise the chamber pressure, perhaps to a dangerous level, and increase the recoil.  You can shoot a shorter shell than the chamber will accommodate without any problem. Thus a gun with a 2 ¾” chamber could shoot 2”, 2 ½” or 2 ¾” shells.  A gun with a 3” chamber could shoot any of those and 3” shells as well, a gun with a 3 ½” chamber could shoot any of those and 3 1/2” shells as well

A 12 Gauge Winchester AA shell with a Nominal Length of 2 ¾” is 2.33” long when unfired, and 2.68” when fired, just short of the nominal 2.75”.  A 2 ½” .Winchester AA .410 is 2.37” unfired and 2.59”, slightly over the Nominal 2.5”, when fired.

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Release Triggers.

Release triggers are installed by people who have developed a strong flinch from recoil when they pull the trigger, they think it will help to avoid the flinch. With a release trigger you pull the trigger back then call for the bird, when you want the gun to fire you release the trigger. If you decide not to shoot for any reason you will have a loaded gun that will fire when you release the trigger, not safe in my mind.

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Shotgun Fit

On a shotgun, your eye is essentially the rear sight.  When you raise a shotgun quickly to your shoulder the two beads on the rib (if you have two) should line up on the target and be stacked on top of one another in a figure 8 as you see them.  There are numerous adjustments to shotgun stocks which may be necessary to make this happen.

The best way to be sure you have a shotgun which fits you is to have a professional stock-fitter such as Klaus Hiptmayer adjust the stock for you.  There are many possible adjustments, drop at comb (DAC), drop at heel (DAH), cast-on cast-off (Cast) which can be carved into your stock, or which can be set in a stock with an adjustable comb.  In my opinion the most important dimension, however, is the Length of Pull (LOP), which is the distance between the center of the trigger and the center of the buttplate/pad.  Some few guns come with, or can have added, adjustable Length Of Pull mechanisms.  Others, such as the Browning Cynergy have different recoil pads which can adjust the Length of Pull.  Frequently Length of Pull is adjusted by cutting the stock to a shorter length or adding a spacer or a thicker recoil pad, jobs which most gunsmiths do frequently. A trigger which moves forward or backward can adapt to different sized hands.

The classic method for estimating Length Of Pull is by holding your shooting arm down at your side, elbow bent at a right angle so that your forearm is parallel to the floor, and measuring from the inside of the elbow to the first joint of the trigger finger.  Unfortunately this is hard to do consistently, one can push a yardstick back into the elbow a half inch, the fingers can be differentially crooked, etc.

I measured a number of shooters at the Franklin County Sportsmen's Club who had had their stocks professionally fitted (mostly by Klaus Hiptmayer because he was the closest stock-fitter around here).  I measured the length of their arms, the LOP of their guns and asked their height and weight.  I then did a regression analysis to see what the relation between Height, Arm Length, and Length Of Pull was.  I found that Height, measured in Inches, which is displayed in the following chart, was a slightly better predictor than arm length of the actual fitted Length Of Pull.  This is handy, because everyone knows how tall they, or their wives, husbands, or children are, while almost no one knows their arm length measurement. 

The way to use this chart is to go along the bottom line to find your Height in Inches (say 5'9" or 69") , draw a vertical line up to the slanted line, mark where this vertical line crosses, then draw a horizontal line to the left hand scale of stock LOPs (in this case slightly over 14.4").  This will give you your approximate length of pull, generally accurate within plus or minus a quarter of an inch.  Most guns are, or used to be, made with a 14 3/8" length of pull, which is perfect for a 5'8" person.  a 5'2" person would take about a 13 1/2" stock, a 6' person would take about a 14 7/8" stock. There are, of course, always other factors which may be important, some short people have long arms, some tall people have short arms, some people may have longer necks, narrower or wider heads, some people may have unusual stances, etc., which is why a professional stock fitting is best.  John Rano, shotgun specialist at the Orvis Company in Manchester, Vermont, does shotgun fittings both as part of the Orvis Wingshooting School and individually.  He has a "try-gun" with which he can vary the Length of Pull, the cast, and the drop at heel and comb.  After each adjustment he has you shoot a pattern board until you are hitting dead center.  Then he gives you the measurements so you can have a stock precisely adjusted to fit you.  This process takes into account many factors which affect shotgun fit in addition to your height.

The Browning Cynergy Length Of Pull Adjustment System

The Browning Cynergy, both with wood and composite stocks, is remarkably easy to fit to shorter or taller shooters.  The Cynergy comes with a 14 1/4" LOP, and a 1/4" spacer, which, when installed, makes it 14 1/2".  Widely available from Internet retailers are Short and Long Recoil pads (less than $40), and additional spacers (less than $10).  With just the short pad the LOP becomes 13 3/4", with a spacer 14".  With just the Long pad the LOP becomes 13 3/4", with the spacer, 15".  This takes care of most shooters from just under 5' to just over 6', but additional spacers can be added for even taller shooters.  I am 6'5", wear a 37-38 Shirt Sleeve and have been measured by several stock fitters to take a 15 5/8" to 15 7/8" LOP.  For most guns I add spacers and a thick recoil pad and grind them to fit to get this LOP - which takes hours.  For the Cynergy all I need is a Long Recoil pad, the spacer that comes with the gun, two or three additional spacers, and a Phillips screw driver.  Here are two photos of the same gun, one with a normal 14 1/4" LOP, the other with a 15 1/2" LOP. It took less than 5 minutes from beginning to end.

Cynergy with Medium Pad - Normal 14 1/4" LOP

Cynergy with Long Pad and 3 Spacers 15 1/2" LOP


Custom Length of Pull for Cynergy Shotguns with Inflex Recoil pads purchased from Hero's Arms. Click here

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Barrel Length

There is a great deal of angst, passion and misinformation around regarding barrel length. Extremely short barrels, say 20” or shorter, are basically for home defense, not for hunting or target shooting.  For upland hunting in heavy cover where you may have to use one hand to push the brush aside while holding the gun in the other hand, a 22” or 24” or 26” barrel might be appropriate.  A 26” barrel can also be used for Skeet and some Sporting Clays courses.  The realistic options for most shotgun shooting are 28”, 30”, 32”, and 34” for trap where the arc of swing is generally smaller.  Which you choose is largely personal preference.  There is no significant variation in velocity with longer or shorter barrels, all the powder is burned in the first 24” or so.  There is no difference in range, and the density of the pattern is controlled by the choke tubes installed, not the barrel length.  Pistol and rifle shooters talk about “Sight Radius” but they are aiming, not pointing as with a shotgun.  In any event the difference in sight radius on a pocket pistol, 2” and a target pistol, 8” (300%) is significant, the difference between 28” and 32” (14%) is probably not. A longer barreled gun will have more inertia, thus swinging more smoothly once started in motion. There can also be too much inertia, a long barreled gun may not be able to move quickly enough for some shooters to get the Station 8 Skeet High or Low House targets.  Personal factors may be important.  A tall shooter with long arms may find a longer barrel and stock fit his frame, while a more compact shooter with shorter arms may find that a shorter barrel and stock swing more easily.  One customer, who is 5'7" tall, found that 32" barrels hit the ground if he walked with the gun broken open in his hand at his side.  If a tall shooter has a long LOP and a long barrel, and a shorter shooter has a short LOP and a shorter barrel, the balance of the guns may be similar.  So, try several, find what you like, and then adjust yourself to the nuances of the gun through practice.

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"Regulation" of Shotgun Barrels

All double barreled guns are "Regulated" so that the bullet or shot hits the point of aim at a predetermined distance.  This is more important for double rifles used for African big game, which can kill you if you miss, than it is for shotguns.  For over/under shotguns both barrels fire along the line of aim so it is less critical than in side by side shotguns where the patterns are side by side.  If a SxS shotgun had absolutely parallel barrels the pattern would be like a slightly overlapping sideways figure 8.  As a result SxS shotguns are "Regulated" to have overlapping patterns at a given distance, which varies according to the intended use of the gun.  An upland Field or Skeet gun may be regulated at a distance of 20 yards, a sporting clays, trap,  or waterfowl gun may be regulated at 35 or 40 yards because longer shots are common.  Here is an illustration from the American Rifleman.  The same principal was applied to World War II fighter plane machine guns.

Wood Quality

I have never had a customer ask for ugly wood.  While there are different ideas of beauty, generally people prefer more complex patterns and gain in their wood, and various rating scales reflect this.  The lowest grades are straight grain with no figure, the highest are burl woods with incredibly marbled figure.  The lower grades are actually better for stocks, less likely to break, than the highest grades, which often have voids which weaken them.  Fancy wood is increasingly rare, thus expensive.  Here are two examples.  The blank for this Perazzi, on the left, cost $1200 before carving, the stock on this A10, on the right, was a $900 upgrade from an already spectacular stock. 

 One of the good things about Hero’s Arms web site is that you can actually see the wood before you order.  When I order from a distributor, for my inventory or for a customer, I have to take whatever comes.

The shortage and expense of highly figured wood has led manufacturers to try out various enhancement strategies.  They have tried hydrograph dipping, like the camo process, with a wood grain pattern, which is attractive but it leaves a line at the bottom or top of the stock, and it can wear off.  Remington tried using two thin pieces of figured wood glued together to produce a stock, Beretta in its first iteration of “RealWood” (oxymoron) tried painting stripes down the stock which was really ugly.  The most successful of these wood enhancement procedures, in my opinion, are Fabarm’s Triwood, and Beretta’s Xtra grain which apparently use computer generated aniline dye sprays to simulate wood grain.  The only caveat with these enhanced finishes is that they are only skin deep and if one makes alterations to the stock, say by cutting down the comb, the underlying plain wood will show.

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Cast On and Cast Off

In Britain in the 19th Century fine shotguns were made to fit the customer by “Best” gun makers.  Horse drawn carriages, indeed all road traffic, was in the left hand lane.  The curb side, which was on the left, from which you mounted the horse, was referred to as the “On Side” and the road side of the carriage, which was on the right side, was referred to as the “Off Side”.  Gun makers used the same terminology to describe whether a stock was bent to the left of center, “Cast On”, or to the Right “Cast Off”.  Although in the 21st Century we see few horse drawn carriages, and in the U.S. at least, we generally drive on the right side of the road (except for texting teens), the old British terminology persist for shotguns.  It might make more sense to say "Cast Right" and "Cast Left" but nobody has though of it.

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Gun Balance

To a certain extent gun balance is a matter of personal taste.  There are, however, some generally accepted principals.  For example, it is said that for guns intended for upland hunting, where speed of pointing is critical, that 50% of the gun’s weight should be between the shooter’s hands, and 25% in the barrels and 25% in the stock.  (How one would determine this without sawing the gun apart is not obvious.)  It is also said that the balance point on an Over/Under or Side-by-Side should be at the hinge.  Guns intended for clay target shooting where a smooth swing is desirable may benefit from a forward balance point.   

Some competition guns, such as the Caesar Guerini, can come with weights on a Kinetic Balancer in the stock, and sets of weights for the barrels, so the balance can be precisely adjusted.  There are some structural features of guns which can affect balance.  Some less expensive gun have exceptionally heavy and solid barrels to compensate for lower quality steel – these will have the balance point far forward.  Some guns have exceptionally light synthetic stocks – which will also move the balance point forward.  Adjustable Comb mechanisms, heavy recoil reducers mounted in the stock, and stocks with extended Length of Pull will move the point of balance towards the rear.  Barrels of 32” or 34” length will move the point of balance forward.  Sometimes longer barrels and adjustable-comb hardware will combine to leave the point of balance at or near the hinge. Semi-Automatic and Pump guns, with their long receivers have a very far forward point of balance, even more so when there are shells in the magazine.

Here are some examples:

Central Balance Side by Side


Central Balance Over and Under
Forward Balance caused by heavy barrels


Forward Balance caused by light stock


Forward Balance caused by 32" barrels partially compensated by Adjustable Comb Hardware.

Rear Balance caused by extended LOP stock

Far Forward Balance in empty Semi-Auto I-12 even more if loaded Far Forward Balance in empty Semi-Auto 1100 even more if loaded

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Gun Measurements used by Hero's Arms

When Hero's Arms advertises a shotgun on its web site there are around a dozen photos of the gun, as well as a series of measurements.  These measurements will likely differ from the measurements found on the manufacturer's web site because Hero's Arms measures every individual gun and the manufacturer gives a general average for a model.  One of the largest variations from the manufacturer's listings is in Weight because the density of wood varies greatly. I recently measured two identical Browning Citori Satin Hunter 12-28 guns, one weighed 8 pounds, the other almost 8 pounds 8 ounces, close to a half-pound difference. Here is how the measurements are taken.  Click on any hyper-link to see a photograph of that measurement procedure.

HA Number

SN#: Actual Serial Number of Gun


Manufacturer's Designation

Stock type:

English, Pistol Grip, Monte Carlo


Maker or Importer

Barrel(s)  I. D.





Manufacturer's designation

Bbl. length:

Tape Measure




All "Shotgun"






Over/Under, Side by Side, Pump, Semi-auto, single shot


Automatic Ejectors or Extractor




Blue or Stainless/Wood Finish Oil Finish


As designated by manufacturer




Color, Engraving

Sight(s): Front/Mid

Bead, Fiber Optic

Butt Pad:

Solid, Vented, TSA, Inflex, hard plastic.


Auto, Non-Auto

Rib: Vent, Solid

Taper, Width - measured



Trigger type

Mechanical, Inertial

O/A Length:

Tape Measure

Condition %

Percentage if used, or NIB, NIC

Trigger pull


Gun weight:


Price: MSRP

Hero's Arms Price


Trigger Pull (Back to Table)

Inside Diameter (I.D.) of Barrel (Back to Table)


Measuring Chamber Length (Back to Table)

Rib Width (Back to Table)


Gun Weight (Back to Table)

Length Of Pull (Back to Table)


Drop at Comb (DAC) (Back to Table)

Drop At Monte-Carlo (DAM) (Back to Table)


Drop At Heel (DAH) (Back to Table)

Cast On [left], Cast Off [right], (No Cast in Photo) (Back to Table)

Measuring the Drop at Monte Carlo( DAM) for an Adjustable Comb Stock. Measuring the Balance Point - A thin piece of wood in a wood vise with a slit piece of plastic tube on top for traction.

Oil Finish

When a gun is listed as having an "oil finish" it means the gun has been, or can be, finished with oil the same as a piece of fine furniture.  If a gun is listed as having a "Gloss" "Semi-Gloss" or "Satin" finish it means that it has some type of epoxy or urethane coating.  The photos below show my Browning Cynergy Sporting 28 Gauge gun as it came from the factory, and after having a "Tru-Oil" (Birchwood Casey Brand) finish applied (and a long Inflex pad and spacers installed).  As you can see an oil finish really brings out the grain in the wood, and also provides protection.  The matte finish that comes on the gun need not be changed, it is simply a matter of aesthetic preference.

Forearm Unfinished Forearm Finished
Stock Unfinished Stock Finished

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The photographs you see on each gun's individual web page are taken in a home-made studio with a Nikon D7100 digital camera.  The gun is suspended in mid-air by monofilament fishing line, which accounts for the diagonal lines across the grip and the barrels.  Here is a photo of the photography set-up, surrounding mess and all:


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   Bore and Choke Constriction and Diameter Tables

  For a basic article on Understanding Shotgun Chokes provided by Briley click here.  For an excellent advanced discussion on chokes provided by Briley, click here. 

Choke Constriction These are standard, but European Shotguns tend to be underbored in 12 gauge at .725" and Brownings at .738" and Rugers at .745" are overbored.
Gauge Bore Full Improved Modified Modified Skeet 2 Improved Cylinder Skeet 1 Cylinder
10 .775 .036 .027 .018 .012 .009 .005 .000
12 .729 .035 .025 .019 .012 .009 .005 .000
16 .667 .028 .020 .015 .010 .007 .004 .000
20 .617 .025 .019 .014 .009 .006 .004 .000
28 .550 .022 .016 .012 .007 .005 .003 .000
.410 .410 .017   .008   .004   .000
Choke Interior Diameter
Gauge Bore Full Improved Modified Modified Skeet 2 Improved Cylinder Skeet 1 Cylinder
10 .775 .739 .748 .757 .763 .766 .770 .775
12 .729 .694 .704 .710 .717 .720 .724 .729
16 .667 .639 .647 .652 .657 .660 .663 .667
20 .617 .592 .598 .603 .608 .611 .613 .617
28 .550 .528 .534 .538 .543 .545 .547 .550
.410 .410 .393   .402   .406   .410

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Sub-Gauge Inserts and Sub-Gauge Tubes

There are two basic choices, short gauge-mate or chamber-mate tubes which are not much longer than a shotgun shell, and full length standard or fitted tubes.  The prices go up rapidly.

Short Inserts

Cabella's offers a "Gauge Mate" tube at $34.99 a pair (Product code SD-22-5925).  These do not have an extractor/ejector built in, they are a solid tube which is likely to get ejected with the shell when the gun is open.  You may have to carry a stick to push the spent shell out. They work, but they are not very convenient.

www.cabelas.com and search for "Gauge-Mate"

Briley offers "Sidekicks" which are short tubes with extractor/ejector mechanisms milled into the sides.  They are considerably more expensive than Gauge Mates without ejectors, typically around $349 per pair.

Briley chamber tubes, Side-Kicks, are $799 for a three gauge set.


In terms of full length tube sets Briley offers a choice between universal tubes which they call "Companion", $549 for a set for a single gauge, and fitted full length tubes which are custom length and turned to exact barrel inside diameter.  They cost between $1,595 to $1,895 for a three gauge conversion.

The North American standard for 12 Gauge barrels is .729 ID.  Any of the sub gauge chamber reducers or tubes should work well in a barrel that is close to standard size.  The only guns where I  have had a problem with the tubes are overbored guns like the Ruger Red Label which has a barrel ID of .745, causing the chamber mates to fit too loosely and for blowback to destroy the O rings (particularly in 20 Gauge because there is so little difference in diameter between 12 and 20), and for full length (non-fitted) tubes to rattle around.

In my experience with sub-gauge devices, you get what you pay for.  The shorter tubes do not work nearly as well as the full length custom fit models.  The chamber inserts (in a 12 gauge shotgun) tend to have blowback in the 20 gauge, work acceptably in 28 gauge, and pattern inconsistently with .410s.  The only drawback with full length fitted tubes is that they add about 3/4 of a pound to the gun, so the swing is not exactly the same with the sub-gauge tubes installed.  The answer to this (again you get what you pay for) is to put on a clip-on weight below the barrel, go to a four gauge set, or to a gun which has a carrier tube in place of a barrel and uses tubes for all gauges. These tend to run from $3,000 to $8,000.

The Sub-Gauge tubes made by Claude Purbaugh in the 1970's and 1980's were custom fitted and had fixed skeet chokes.   For a description on how to use them click here.

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Tribore Barrels

 Tribore (Research) barrels are a Fabarm exclusive. They produce higher velocity and better patterns than traditional over-bored barrels. A Vermont Gunsmith, Ernest Broe, of Center Road Guns, tested Fabarm Tribore barrel patterning and found it the best of all he tested.  Read his letter here. Fabarm in Italy has an explanation of the Tribore process on their web site, their English is better than my Italian, but it is a bit confusing.  Read the Fabarm explanation of Tribore technology here.

Adjustable Combs

Adjustable combs provide a method for adjusting the stock of the gun to fit you, and to adjust to different shooting situations.  At some point in your life, perhaps when you have decided that you are going to shoot skeet or trap competitively or professionally,  you may want a stock custom carved for you by a stock fitter.  In the meantime an adjustable comb allows you to experiment until you find out what works for you.

There are two basic styles of adjustable comb, the Single Adjustment system as found in current Browning Shotguns, and a Multiple Adjustment system as found in many other brands and in the Graco Systems.  The "Browning" system adjusts for height, cast and skew with a single Allen wrench inserted from the rear of the stock.  You loosen the mechanism, set the comb where you want it, and tighten it back up.  This is quick and easy, and allows for frequent changes.  It also make shortening the LOP problematic.

The "Graco" System has four adjustment screws, two for height, and two for cast and skew.  It uses plastic washers to keep the height as set.  Generally with a Graco type you find the ideal position and lock it in.

Cynergy 2015 Adjustable Comb
Cynergy 2015 Adjustable comb Post - Post moves left or right, comb clamps on at desired height

Here is what Graco says about adjustable combs which applies to all types, and their system:


The only true way to change the point of impact on your shotgun is to adjust the comb. If you shoot with one eye or two eyes, the dominant eye becomes the rear sight on your gun, and with proper and consistent gun mount you can adjust the rear sight with your adjustable comb.

First, you need to know where the center of the pattern is hitting with the sight picture you are now using. The best way to find this is with a pattern board and a tight choke. We recommend shooting a distance of 30 yards at a spot or mark that you can measure from to check where the center of the pattern is in relationship to the spot, this is very important.

To adjust the comb to correct the point of impact, if you move the comb up the gun will shoot higher and if you move the comb to the left the gun will shoot to the left. The amount to move the comb is approximate, as 1/16 inch will change the point of impact at 30 yards about 1 to 11/2 inches, depending on barrel length.

The white plastic washers we supply with each comb installation are 1/16 inch thick, the package of 20 allows for 10 washers on each post, this is enough for a 15 inch adjustment.


If the center of your test pattern is 4 inches low and 3 inches to the right, you need to raise the comb 3 washers and move the comb post to the left 1/8 inch for a 50/50 point of impact.

GRACO Corporation, Gravette, Arkansas 72736 (479) 787-6520

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Lubrication of Over and Under Shotguns

Here is a lubrication guide published by SKB.  With minor changes it is good for all over/under shotguns:

To have these instructions in a printable PDF format click here.

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P.O. Box 320, South Hero, VT 05486-0320  www.herosarms.com  

E-Mail: sales@herosarms.com   Phone 802-372-4789 Fax 802-372-5900

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