Break Action vs. Autoloader

by Kate Ahnstrom

  Do you happen to know the right number of shotguns to own? One more. 

   This was an actual question from a student and my response. And I truly meant it. People ask me all the time about shotguns. Specifically, what type or style of shotgun should they get. My response is always the same. What do you plan to do with your new shotgun?

  Are you shooting strictly clays? Are you hunting birds? A combination of both clays and birds? Waterfowl or Upland? All of those questions and more will lead you through your decision-making process. The most personal decision is whether you want to shoot a cracking or break action (double barrel) gun or a semi-automatic (autoloader). As a sidenote, I have intentionally left out pumps as they are more niche and not usually in the running by the majority of shooters. 

Break Action Guns 

Pros & Cons

• Always has two chokes at the ready which allows for a split-second change with the barrel selector, depending on the presentation. For clays, this is valuable when dealing with a pair that offers a close bird (IC/Skeet choke) and a farther bird (Light modified/Modified) in the pair and also works well for RABU or rabbit targets

• Can shoot any load suitable to the gun, especially lighter loads which alleviates felt recoil

•Lower incidents of malfunction

Multiple barrel sets are usually available (higher end shotguns) or you can match up aftermarket tubes to a single set of barrels that will allow you to shoot different gauges

• Majority of break action guns are wood, making alterations that require cutting the stock a possibility which is not possible on synthetic stocks

• Tend to be heavier (sporting guns) to absorb felt recoil/field guns are lighter but that makes recoil even more obvious

• Only holds two shells (unless you throw down the money for the TriBarrel or QuadBarrel!)

• Recoil is more noticeable unless a recoil reducer system has been added to the stock


Pros & Cons

• Available in gas operating system which disperses majority of recoil

• Lighter as most are created from a synthetic material

• Holds more than two shells

• More tedious cleaning procedures especially in gas operating systems with pistons

• Have to shoot heavier loads in order for gun to cycle (there are some guns that will cycle lighter loads but they are few and far between)

• Higher percentage of malfunctions caused by shooting too light of a load, not shouldering the gun properly, etc.

   The above pros and cons are just a quick list and things that always seem to stand out for both options. At the end of the day, it’s your decision, your wallet, your gun. Take your time and take advantage of manufacturer demo days, renting different models at a gun club or even trying a friend’s or family member’s gun. 

  VSS is hosting Syren/Caesar Guerini/Fabarm on Saturday, May 6th at Old Forge Sporting Clays. C’mon out and try a bunch of great shotguns and be sure to bring a friend or family member!

Kate Ahnstrom, owner of Virginia Shooting Sports is a certified, professional instructor of the Paragon School of Sporting, pro staff Syren/Caesar Guerini, resident pro Orapax Hunting Preserve, Artemis ambassador for Virginia and field staff member of the Sisterhood of the Outdoors. Her tireless dedication to her students’ success is obvious in each and every lesson.

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