This week we’ll begin looking at individual shotgun types starting with the very simple and reliable single shot, external hammer, hinged, or as it is often called “break open” gun. I really like this type of shotgun for they are great starter guns for new and novice shooters. In fact, my very first shotgun was a Stevens single shot. I still have that gun and though I rarely use it, when I pick it up, memories come to mind of the warm autumn days of my youth that I spent chasing sharptail grouse with my family and friends.
One of the best things about this type of shotgun is the inherent safety of the gun. Simply press the opener lever or button, break the gun open, and it is safe. Look into the chamber and one can immediately see if the gun is loaded or not. No worries about how many shells are in the magazine. A quick look at the hammer will show the shooter if the gun is cocked and ready to fire.
Single shots work extremely well for new shooters. They are simple to operate; there are only three controls to master (opener lever, hammer, and trigger). No complicated safeties, bolt, slide, or magazine releases. The guns are light, usually well under six pounds, and youngsters and small framed adults find them easy to handle and carry in the field. With only one shot, shooters learn to really concentrate on their target. Another asset of these guns is the cost. I’ve found excellent quality new guns available for about $160.00. Back in the day, my little Stevens cost $23.00.
Drawbacks? Yes, there are a few. The positive attributes of being light and easy to carry also contribute to greater perceived felt recoil, but a good recoil pad can mitigate that. Being a single shot gun, follow up shots are practically non-existent. One can compete in trap singles and handicap, but the other clay target disciplines are pretty much off limits.
If you want to own an easy to maintain and use, long lasting gun; hunt just a few days a year; maybe bust some clays once in a while; and not spend a lot of money, a 12 or 20 gauge single shot just might be all you need.
Be safe and good shooting.