The Do-All Shotgun Lives On

Purpose-built shotguns have taken over, but all-around models still exist and sales aren’t so seasonal.

The Do-All Shotgun Lives On

On the fourth station of the skeet range one of the older club members mentioned something about my semi-automatic 12-gauge. It sported a battered camouflage finish and well-used sling. Nothing fancy. At the time it was one of two scatterguns in my safe and my go-to for almost everything I pursued while hunting. 

Another club member told the first to shush, remarking that I’d only missed two clays so far in the round. I was holding the gun and shouldering it as I would for dove or quail, instead of shouldering before calling “pull.” Apparently, that wasn’t copacetic to the Skeet Gods or something. But that was my familiar routine. I only shot skeet a few times a year. I shot how I hunted: reactionary, finding the bird and, hopefully, smoothly shouldering and shooting in an easy motion. At the finish, I’d hit 21 of 25 with misses on the low and high houses (of course) and two others from midfield. I also miss doves, ducks and quail. 

Point being, that old shotgun and a couple of others I’ve acquired since then are my all-around guns. I don’t have a shotgun for ducks in a timber hole, one for open water and one for geese. I don’t have a specific turkey gun, and one for coyotes and another for quail. My gun for sporting clays, trap and skeet is two decades old, a blocky over/under that probably should be sold for a newer model, but I resist. The two I primarily use today, a Mossberg 930 and Stoeger M3500, may draw a side-eye or two from the quail and clays crowds. I still have the old Remington 11-87, now ancient at 27 years old, that gets the job done, too. 

But I don’t care about any giggles or high eyebrows. Neither will many of your customers, either, who seek a shotgun that can do just about anything in the field, at the range or, if need be, at home in a situation involving snakes that slither or have two legs and bad intentions. These do-all, All-American shotguns still exist and they can generate strong sales. Nostalgia about the good ol’ days when Grandpa’s 16-gauge or A-5 humpback did the deed might twang a buyer’s heartstrings. But they’ll be more focused on what the all-everything shotgun can do for them now in the field.

Those Olden Days

Somewhere in my past is a Model 12 that my father owned and hunted with, but now it’s a safe queen despite my desire to hunt with it. Generational thing, you know. He says I shouldn’t and so far I have not. Also in the family tree is an A-5 humpback, which when I was 7 or 8 years old delivered a shoulder-punch of recoil that elicited a trigger flinch for years. I didn’t care for that beast at the time, but of course now would like to add it beside the Model 12. Perhaps one day, maybe. 

Our go-to shotguns when I became a teenager and began more regularly dove and duck hunting with my father were Smith & Wesson-branded pump shotguns. They were plain, with blued metal and wood stocks, neither of which were high-dollar or built for long lifespans. They were dunked in duck ponds, dusted in dove fields, dragged into hot early-autumn squirrel woods, wiped down with a rag sprayed in WD-40 and put in the safe. His eventually required removal of years of melted plastic filler buildup that seized the hull after a shot. My gunsmith called to ask when it had been cleaned. “Probably never, with any serious measure,” I said. He huffed and grunted and said it would take a while. It provided a few more years until I bought my father a Benelli Nova, followed by the gift of a Remington 1100 that I won in a sporting clays contest. He reverted to a Benelli SBE, though, and the old S&W pump gathers dust. 

The commonality of all of these? Like many others throughout the country, they were and still are do-all shotguns. That old A-5 humpback — weighing what felt like half a ton — could probably throw slugs at deer, if we’d had to do that back then, along with dropping mallards and chasing grouse out of the brush. This was in the pre-steel days, of course, when lead shot reached out and hammer-smacked ducks and geese. The S&W pump was lighter, shucked shells with speed and authority (until it didn’t) and could shake off the muddy water in the flat-bottom after a day in the blind. Those and the others withstood rain, mud, dust, dirt, being left overnight in the corner after a long day, supposed cleaning methods (remember the WD-40?) that probably didn’t help much, and yet … they produced game for the table and memories for generations. 

My first duck, a hen mallard, hangs on my office wall some 40 years later. That’s a testament to good taxidermy, of course, and the memory of me with my father and cousin remains, too. We stood knee-deep in a little hardwood treeline by a flooded creek bottom. It was so cold I couldn’t shoulder my S&W pump because of all my thick clothes. But I pointed the muzzle at the duck and smashed the trigger, and that duck smacked the water. Neither of them shot, giving me the option. That old pump did the trick. Today’s semi-automatic shotguns and pumps might do the same for one of your customers, or their kids.

Semi-Autos Rule 

Selling points for today’s do-all shotguns are simple. They are going to be semi-autos, which thankfully are more technologically improved than decades ago. The gist is the same, of course: gas or inertia operating systems, less recoil, ammo cycling is better than a pump, and they can get the job done in the field or on a clays range. What’s not to love about that? 

Purists, of course, may desire an over/under or side-by-side, or even a pump. That’s fine. If I was shooting upland birds in the vast expanses of South Dakota or Montana, I’d want a hard-hitting 12-gauge over/under. If I lived in Oklahoma or Georgia and fancied quail, I might take the same but in 20-gauge, or go for a dandy side-by-side. I’ve hunted all those with over/unders and semi-autos, and enjoyed all the experiences. Personally, I’m happiest with a semi-auto and its wider range of possibilities. I believe most hunters feel this way, too. Based on your annual sales, you likely believe the same. Manufacturers churn out more semi-auto shotguns each year than anything else. They sell better, are more accepted by today’s generation of hunters and can add punch to your autumn and holiday sales revenue.

Semi-autos have multiple upsides you can use as selling points. Many have inertia-driven systems that handle ammunition from light field and target loads to the barking 3 ½-inch magnums favored by goose and some turkey hunters. Most have oversized bolt handles, releases and trigger guards that are a plus for waterfowl hunters wearing gloves. With some models you can adjust the length of pull and comb drop, so a hunter can customize the stock to fit better. Better coatings such as the Benelli BE.S.T. system and Cerakote protect from harsh elements. Additional options such as camo patterns, barrel lengths and more are solid selling points. 

All-American shotguns still exist, albeit with new updates from yesteryear’s nostalgic scatterguns. Be sure to have a good supply before and during hunting seasons, and definitely before the holidays. Hunters will be coming in to find a new partner to make more memories in the field.


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