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The Scattergun

Advice for the Shooter

Grab the scattergun Stumpy. The Gulcher boys are coming to get Dirty Dan out of the jail.” Then old Stumpy would grab the sawed-off, double barrel, break out a window with the muzzle and be ready for the Gulcher boys when they showed up.

The stagecoach would be making its way down an old rutted trail when suddenly 3 masked riders would come out from hiding behind a big boulder, fire a few shots, smoke coming out of their barrels and the stage would speed up, trying to get away. “Grab the scattergun Stumpy, the Gulcher boys are trying to rob the stage.” Stumpy would turn and give them both barrels.

Those were pretty much staples of the Westerns when I was growing up both at the movies and on black and white television in the 1950s.

The “scattergun” was just that. It was made to scatter shot at the bad guys and sometimes just the sight of it was enough to stop them.

That scattergun was also a staple of the real pioneers of the West as they traveled to the promised ground. They used that gun to harvest game of all kinds as well as to protect their family and their property from marauders of all kinds.

Fast forward to the trenches of World War I, to close quarter combat in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and our current war and the scattergun is still a valued asset for close quarter combat and door breaching.

Most sporting uses of the shotgun also emphasize the scattering of the shot from the muzzle. If you're a rabbit hunter, quail hunter, waterfowl hunter or hunt for other upland birds, you're looking for a shotgun that throws a pretty large pattern of shot, scattered enough to allow for errors on your part and for movement of the animal or bird.

If you shoot any of the clays sports, trap, skeet or sporting clays, you also want a somewhat scattered pattern to allow you to break the clay target.

The common theme here of course is the thought that a shotgun is a scattergun, meant to scatter large and small shot. For many people that means point and slap the trigger. Many of us have heard, “You don't aim a shotgun boy, you point it and shoot.”

Now, contrast all of that history and all of our personal experiences with shotguns with how we as turkey hunters use those guns. We of course use a shotgun more like a rifle than an scattergun.

I can still remember an older fellows laughter back in the 1990s when I was talking with a gunsmith friend about scopes on shotguns. All he could get out between deep, almost choking laughter was, “Scopes on shotguns,” in a way that made it sound utterly ridiculous to even consider.

Today, scopes on turkey guns are quite common. The makers of “dot” type sights have really been active in the field as have other optical scope makers and several manufactures make add-on open rifle type sights with fiber optic inserts.

That fellow who told me “You don't aim a shotgun, you point and shoot.” would be amazed to see the selection of sights for aiming our shotguns today.

We also expect much more of our shotguns today that we did just a few years ago.

Over the last few years there has been the development of a group of shooters who are all about shotgun patterning. There are now scores of folks who spend many months each year pursuing ever better and better patterns.

Several Internet sites have forums dedicated strictly to this subject.

I'll write more about this in another article soon.



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