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12 Gauge vs 20 Gauge Shotguns: Which One to Choose?

You may be aware of the hype surrounding the advantages and disadvantages of 12-gauge and 20-gauge shotguns.
12-gauge shotguns are popular because of their unmatched firepower, which makes them a great choice for hunting and self-defense applications.

Lately, however, people have claimed 20-gauge shotguns to be a comparable, and possibly even better, alternative to 12-gauge shotguns.

What you need to know about 12-gauge and 20-gauge shotguns is this: both firearms can get the job done, but, depending on what the specific job is, one of them can always do it better than the other.

So, if you are someone who is on the fence trying to determine which firearm is right for you, then allow Discount Enterprises to give you a hand. This article addresses the numerous benefits and drawbacks of each weapon.

What’s So Great About 12-Gauge Shotguns?

12-gauge shotguns are generally preferred over the 20-gauge shotgun, because there are more ammunition options available for it and it has more power. However, the argument against the 12-gauge shotgun is the gun has too much recoil and is therefore not the easiest to operate by everyone.

In addition to having a larger assortment of ammunition options to choose from the 12-gauge is more common than the 20-gauge shotgun because it is considered more effective for shooting specific types of game, like upland birds and waterfowl. For shooting smaller animals though, using the 12-gauge shotgun is sometimes thought to be unnecessary: why use a more powerful firearm when you don’t need to?

The Run Down on 12-Gauge Shotguns

Compared to 20-gauge shotguns, 12-gauge shotguns are bigger and heavier. The bore diameter of 12-gauge shotguns is .729 inches.

Because 12-gauge shotguns are heavier than 20-gauge shotguns, this is why they produce larger recoil, especially when shooting bigger shells.

The standard shot load for a 12-gauge shotgun is 1-1/8 ounces, but a heavier load size of 1-1/4 ounces is more effective for shooting longer ranges and at more difficult targets.

The Run Down on 20-Gauge Shotguns

20-gauge shotguns deliver approximately 60 to 75% less power than 12-gauge shotguns and 50 to 60% of the 12-gauge recoil.

Less recoil on a gun typically makes it easier to shoot and increases shooter confidence, which makes it more likely for the shooter to hit the target he or she is shooting at.

The bore diameter of 20-gauge shotguns is .615 inches and the standard shot is 7/8 ounces. Load sizes ranging between 1 ounce and 1-1/4 ounce are best for shooting longer ranges, but the range of the 20-gauge shotgun is shorter than the range of the 12-gauge.

20-gauge shotguns are typically lighter than 12-gauge shotguns, because 20-gauge shotguns generally have smaller barrels, smaller magazine tubes, and smaller receiver requirements than 12-gauge.

All in all, 20-gauge shotguns are more compact than 12-gauge shotguns, but they are similar in price and range. Plus, more rounds can usually fit in a 20-gauge compared to a similarly sized 12-gauge.

Which Gun To Choose if You’re Buying For Self-Defense

In the self-defense world, the 12-gauge shotgun is highly respected and is considered one of the best weapons for self-defense. But, the argument for the 20-gauge shotgun is that it is a better option for the majority of shooters, because it is smaller, thinner, more maneuverable, holds more rounds, and has less recoil.

Plus, consider this: 1 shot of buckshot in a 20-gauge shotgun is equivalent to 2 rounds from a .44 Magnum handgun. So, although a 20-gauge shotgun is not as powerful as a 12-gauge shotgun, it is still more powerful than any handgun used for self-defense.

The only disadvantage for 20-gauge shotguns purchased for self-defense purposes is that it can be hard to find 20-gauge shotguns assembled for self-defense. In other words, 20-gauge shotguns do not typically feature extended magazines, shortened barrels, etc. This might require a little extra work on your end if you’d like to buy a 20-gauge shotgun for self-defense purposes.

Furthermore, there is the issue with ammunition. There is not a large variety of 20-gauge ammunition out there, so it is often difficult to find inexpensive ammunition to practice shooting a 20-gauge shotgun.

Which Gun To Choose if You’re Buying For Hunting

12-gauge and 20-gauge shotguns are both effective for hunting, especially hunting birds and small games; however, the 12-gauge is more popular because of its longer range. Plus, the 12-gauge is more likely to kill large game than the 20-gauge, but that doesn’t mean a 20-gauge can’t get the job done.

One argument for choosing a 20-gauge shotgun over a 12-gauge is if you are shooting small animals that you want to eat. In this case, you wouldn’t want to obliterate an animal with a too powerful shot; therefore, a 20-gauge shotgun is more advantageous.

Furthermore, because 20-gauge shotguns are lightweight and have less recoil than 12-gauge shotguns, they are easier to shoot and easier to carry. This means 20-gauge shotguns are typically a better option than the 12-gauge for beginner shooters and hunters who cover a lot of ground.

The 20-gauge shotgun is often preferred over the 12-gauge shotgun for bird hunting and sports shooting; however, a proficient hunter shouldn’t have a problem taking on big game with a 20-gauge shotgun.

Disputing the Advantages of 20-Gauge Shotguns

Do you know the song that says: ‘anything you can do, I can do better’? Well, that’s kind of the 12-gauge shotgun’s anthem singing to the 20-gauge shotgun.

The 12-gauge shotgun will always be more powerful than the 20-gauge shotgun. The only real advantages the 20-gauge shotgun can have over the 12-gauge is that it weighs less and has less recoil; however, you can buy a 12-gauge shotgun that has less recoil than normal. It’s called a reduced power load. A 12-gauge shotgun with a reduced power load is still more powerful than a 20-gauge shotgun, but the recoil is similar.

Choosing Your Shotgun

Hopefully you have a better idea of which shotgun is better for your shooting purposes. You can ask anyone what kind of gun you should buy, but at the end of the day what it comes down to is you. You need to buy a firearm you are comfortable shooting and one that you will be able to shoot effectively.

Contact Discount Enterprises

If you have questions regarding which firearm is right for you or you’d like to learn more about buying firearms online, then reach out to Discount Enterprises. Give us a call at 402-875-6500 or fill out our online contact form to speak to a knowledgeable gun expert today.

Be sure to visit our website to view our selection of 12-gauge and 20-gauge shotguns.
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