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Steve Comus – GUN TALK

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Friday, August 25, 2017
Dove hunt is here Sept. 1
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Big blasts with an air blaster

Go light for upland birds
The various upland bird hunting seasons are on the horizon, which means it is time to think about having more fun this year by using a gun that is both light and handles dynamically.

Upland hunts result in a whole lot of walking and a relatively little bit of actual shooting. Although any legal shotgun can work for upland birds, the operative question is: Why lug a boat anchor around when a wand will do the trick?


MOSSBERG INTERNATIONAL 28-gauge semi-auto weighs 6.5 pounds and is ready for upland action.

We’re talking quail, pheasants, chukar partridge and grouse here, which means that a solid hit will bring any to bag. Small, light guns make most sense for those who hunt upland birds over pointing dogs.

But they can work when freelance hunting alone, as well. I know because that’s the way I hunt upland birds most times these days. There is a strange dynamic that one must experience to understand fully, but what happens is that light, lively small gauge guns can be put on-target so quickly that the distance of the shot is less than it would be with a bigger, heavier gun.

When it comes to quail, that difference can mean the bird is bagged before it has a chance to hook around a bush. For other upland birds, it means the hit can happen before the bird shifts into high gear after the initial launch skyward.

Among lighter shotguns, the 20 gauge is most common and it works great. But there is another level of lightness, and that involves 28 gauge and .410 bore guns. Of those two, the 28 is still a real shotgun and has enough of a shot payload to do the trick at normal distances. Consider modified or full chokes for the smaller gauges on upland birds in most scenarios.

In the 19th Century, there were quite a few inexpensive single-shot small gauge guns on the market, including, in addition to 28 and .410, guns chambered for 24 and 32 gauge. Those days are gone, but the 28 is making a return.

For decades, most 28-gauge guns were fairly expensive side-by-side doubles. But the world market has changed all of that, and now very affordable 28-gauge guns are available. To wit: Dickinson and Mossberg. Both offer such guns.

Mossberg’s entry this year is in that company’s International series of autoloading shotguns. It is called the SA-28 Field gun that comes with walnut stock and 26-inch vent rib barrel. This gas-operated, small bore autoloader provides a low-recoiling, lighter weight option without sacrificing performance in the field.

At 6.5 pounds, this is a gun that carries well all day long. It comes with a full set of interchangeable chokes and carries an MSRP of $654.

Unlike the 20-gauge, it is not likely to find a lot of super sales on 28-gauge ammo. But it is closer to standard pricing now than it has been in many years. And, upland bird hunts are not high-volume situations so the overall cost of a hunt isn’t adversely affected significantly when the hunter opts for the 28.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

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