The 16 Gauge Resurgence
By Tom Kelly
The resurgence in lighter, sleeker shotguns has prompted some of the major shotgun manufacturers to introduce some newer versions of the 16 gauge in the last few years.
The 16 gauge was another victim of the magnum craze. It seemed like for a while if it didn’t have a 3” or 3 ½” chamber, it didn’t sell. Well, like many of the other magnums, when people started shooting them, they lost some of their luster. In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a resurgence of the smaller gauge shotguns.
There are even people hunting turkeys with .410 bores. Here in the north country, we still appreciate a good upland game gun. Many 16 gauge shotguns fill this job admirably.
The 16 gauge can fulfill the role of an all around game gun in a very sleek classic style. In places like Massachusetts, where deer can only be hunted with shotguns, a 16 gauge loaded with slugs can be an effective tool. It can also be accomplished in a lighter sleeker shotgun. I have also had bear clients successfully harvest black bears with 16 gauge slugs. The niche where this midsized gauge really shines, however, is for upland game. There are few places a Browning sweet 16 or an Ithica Mod 37 Featherweight swings as smoothly as when following partridge weave through the trees. Countless snowshoe hare have also fallen to a 1 oz load of #6’s from these classic guns.
In the 40s and 50s, approximately 25% of the sporting shotguns sold were 16 gauge models. Sadly, that is no longer the case. There are still many fans of the 16 bore. Unfortunately, most of these fans are now senior citizens. As an example, my lifelong hunting partner and friend Bob, whom you have all heard about, has 3 Browning Sweet 16 shotguns. One is set up with a low power scope for slug shooting, one has a modified choke for pheasants over dogs and the third has an improved cylinder for partridge and hare.
The specs of the 16 gauge are pretty respectable for these aforementioned purposes. The bore measures .662 of an inch. Shotshells can be had in 1 oz or 1 1/8 oz payloads. A 1 1/8 oz load of #6 shot leaves the muzzle at 1423 fps. That will catch a fleeing hare and put his tail over his ears quickly.
The resurgence in lighter, sleeker shotguns has prompted some of the major shotgun manufacturers to introduce some newer versions of the 16 gauge in the last few years. Browning has reintroduced the classic sweet 16 with some modern touches. Browning is also offering the Citori 725 over and under in this gauge. Savage Arms and Franchi, are also making 16 gauge over and under shotguns. CZ is offering a Sharptail side by side in 16 gauge. These all feature a reduced size receiver to add to the lines.
Hopefully, a new generation of 16 gauge fans will respond to these new offerings. Some of the old classics can still be found on used gun racks. The good news is used 16 gauge shotguns usually sell for less than comparable 12 or 20’s. Remember a lightweight Browning Sweet 16 would make a perfect 1st shotgun for that new shooter you are bringing along.
Tom is a Registered Maine Guide. He is the owner/operator of Shamrock Outfitters in Orient Maine with his wife Ellie. He is a retired police officer as well as a retired manager from two major firearms manufacturers. He is an NRA Certified Instructor as well as a Hunter Safety Instructor in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. You can reach Tom at Shamrock Outfitters (207) 694-2473. Please visit our Facebook Page: Shamrock Outfitters and Properties and come visit us on East Grand Lake.
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