November 2003

28-Gauge 2.75-inch Over/Unders: The Browning XS Sporting Versus Beretta’s 686 Silver Pigeon

The tiny 28 gauge has been around for decades, and this shotgun continues to gain popularity among those who like to turn clay targets into puff balls or spend a pleasant hunt in the field.

Particularly among the hunting crowd, who like to pit their wingshooting skills against those gray ghosts of fall — darting and diving aerobatic mourning doves and their white-winged cousins — more and more 28s are replacing their larger 20- and 12-gauge cousins. There is still a time and a place for big guns, but a growing number of hunters and clay target shooters are finding out that a smaller gauge can mean more shooting with less punishment.

One veteran outdoor observer, Foard Houston of the Sandy Oaks Ranch Hunting Lodge and Resort near Devine, Texas, is an unwavering 28-gauge convert. After putting hundreds of hunters each year on thousands of dove and quail, he has yet to find a shotgunner returning to a 12-gauge thunder boomer after trying out a 28.

With less weight and less recoil to their credit, the 28-gauge shotguns can get the job done while being a pleasure to handle. Putting the question in highway lingo: “Why drive a massive tractor-trailer rig when you can get from here to there behind the wheel of a sleek sports car?”

Seasoned outdoor enthusiasts point out that the 28s are also a good idea for both youngsters and women, who can be recoil sensitive, and provide nearly identical knock-down power as a 12 on most birds and targets. The tiny scatterguns might even keep shooters from becoming sky blasters, throwing shot at targets well out of range.

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