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20 Gauge vs. 12 Gauge For Waterfowl Hunting: Which is Better?

Updated: Sep 21, 2022




20 gauge vs 12 gauge for hunting is a debate that has been around for many years. Waterfowl hunters are always looking for the best weapon to take down these fast and elusive birds. So, which is better? 20 gauge or 12 gauge waterfowl shotgun?

There are pros and cons to both guns, and it really depends on the situation in which you will be hunting. However, let's take a closer look at each one to see which might be the better choice for you.


20 Gauge vs. 12 Gauge For Hunting: Breakdown


This short breakdown will help you understand the key differences between 20 gauge and 12 gauge shotguns.


Popular Features


If you started shooting at a young age you likely started with a 20 gauge waterfowl shotgun. Largely due to the lighter recoil on young shoulders. The 12 gauge you graduated to will have the most diverse but with today's better-performing non-toxic loads you can effectively shoot 20 gauge for waterfowl!


Shooting Conditions

Like with most things with waterfowl, the 20 gauge vs 12 gauge for hunting debate boils down to the shooting conditions. Shooting tight quarters and close ranges in flooded timber or in your favorite slough or pothole, the 20 gauge is going to be lethal. However, you are more often than not reaching for the 12 ga on big wind and big water days.


Shots & Loads


The heavier loads and shots from the 12 gauge are not going to be ‘pushed’ as much by strong winds as that from the 20 ga. The larger shell size means more powder which equals heavier impact at a greater lethal range. At the same time, if using heavier loads from the 12 gauge at close range, that green head fluttering above the decoys is going to evaporate.


Weather Conditions


Before the seasons begin, pattern your shotguns in either gauge with various rounds to find the best effective round for that gun. When you know your conditions of the day before you go, select the right tool from the gun safe, give the proper lead and shoot straight!


So, 20 Gauge vs 12 Gauge For Hunting: Which is Better For You?


As you can see, there are pros and cons to both 20 gauge and 12 gauge waterfowl shotguns. It really depends on the situation in which you will be hunting as to which one is the better choice. Weigh your options and the conditions in which you will be hunting to make the best decision for you.


Before your next guided waterfowl hunt, be sure to consult with your professional hunting guide on which gun and load will work best for you. They will have the most experience and knowledge in these types of situations and can help you make the best decision for your next hunt!





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