Probably the most common question that I get asked when females come to look at guns is ‘which calibre should I go for’? Yes you could argue that a lady should opt for a lightweight gun and there for should choose a 20 gauge……  well read on. 

What exactly is a gauge/calibre? 

Historically a shotgun gauge or calibre is determined by 1lb of lead being divided into a number of equal spherical balls. Therefore a 20 gauge derives from 20 balls, 28 gauge from 28 balls and .410 gauge is actually classed in this instance as 36 gauge. So that should give an indication that the barrel and subsequently the size of a 20 gauge shotgun is considerably smaller than a 12 gauge version. 


The most important decision you need to make is what do you want to use the gun for? For game a twenty is lovely and light (6lb ish) for wandering about the field with. However as most modern game shooting is on a peg, the gun will spend quite a bit of time in a slip being carried so perhaps the weight is not as critical. How about on the clay ground? Due to the development in modern cartridges it is pretty much the norm now to shoot lighter load cartridges at clays. Many shooters favour 21 and 24 gram loads over a traditional ‘ounce’ (28gr) load when using a 12 gauge. This is because they are not only lighter on the shoulder but on the pocket too. 


The next thing to consider is your build and physical attributes. It is not uncommon for me to meet ladies who are just not able to handle a 12 gauge. They maybe of very petite or slight build or even have really small hands. After all everyone is different. If this is the case there is little option but to go for a 20 or even 28 gauge. On the other hand many of the ladies that I meet are already involved in other country pursuits and think nothing of throwing about big bags of feed or even small animals on a daily basis! Regardless of whether you are the female equivalent of Hulk Hogan (yes I am that old!) or really small, I would always recommend that you choose a slightly heavier gun than you think you can handle. This means that when you build up that all important muscle memory through dry mounting and practise that the gun does not become too ‘whippy’ and you have less control of it. By doing this you will be able to keep the gun longer and become a more proficient shot as it is the weight of a gun that provides it’s steadiness. Quite often it can be something as simple as a slightly longer barrel that will provide this.  Please don’t take this as me suggesting that you choose a gun that you can barely lift as that will potentially end in disaster. 


This is a massive consideration because there is a vast difference in the cost between 12 and 20 gauge shells. This is due to lower levels of production in the small gauges. To put things into perspective there can be as much as 35% premium for twenties which soon mounts up if you are blasting away at the clay ground. In terms of recoil produced by different cartridges then a lighter gun will absorb less recoil than a heavier one. So bare this in mind when choosing what to ‘feed’ your shotgun. 

I have no doubt that most of you reading this blog are still completely perplexed. So…


If I had to give a definitive answer I would have to say 12 gauge for clays (simply because of running costs). However that 12 gauge still has to fit and be set up accordingly. That kind of leaves 20 gauge for game. They are light and very capable plus there is such an array of cartridges available for them these days at either end of the spectrum they are great on a simulated day but just as handy with 30gr shells on tall Pheasants.

The final point I want to make is that aside of all the opinions and comparisons here is that you must feel comfortable with the gun you choose. Shooting is very much a psychological game (pardon the pun!) and if there is a niggle in your mind about the gun then you may as well throw stones as it is going to affect your performance. 

If you really aren’t sure then my advice is to try both. Come and see me at Premier Guns. We are offering free gun fitting sessions (worth £90) throughout the month of November. So treat yourself to an early Christmas present and get your gun fitted and ask as many questions as you like at the same time. 

To book your FREE gun fit session please contact me at [email protected]

Blog Written by Matt Morgan from Premier Guns Doveridge