Critical Features for Your Next Waterfowl Scattergun
March 01, 2019
My all-time favorite waterfowl gun is now more than 40 years old.
The Browning BPS is as relevant to the waterfowl market today as it was when it was released in the late 1970s. These shotguns are extremely durable and reliable thanks to a solid steel receiver and twin steel action bars, and the enclosed receiver prevents gunk and debris from jamming the action in the blind. That steel receiver makes the BPS a bit heavier than competing shotguns, but that’s not always a bad thing — extra weight makes the BPS a smooth-swinging scattergun and the added heft reduces recoil for fast follow-up shots.
The bottom-feeding design and tang safety make this gun equally suited for both right- and left-handed shooters, and there’s even a 10-gauge model available if you hunt big birds and want the maximum payload possible.
The Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades 12-gauge model is my personal favorite and is available with a full camo dip with your choice of a 3 or 3 1/2-inch chamber. MSRP for the BPS starts at $700, which is a good price for a gun that’s built to Browning’s high standards.
Features to consider
A rundown of the critical features you’ll need to consider before buying your next waterfowl scattergun.
- Action: Semi-autos offer the ability to fire three shots with three successive trigger pulls, and gas guns will help reduce felt recoil. Pumps require more effort on follow-up shots, but pumps have a reputation for dead-nuts reliability, and once you’re familiar with it you can cycle a pump very fast. Double guns aren’t as versatile as semi-autos and pumps, but they’re a great option, and affordable waterfowl models include CZ’s sleek Swamp Magnum.
- Price: For many hunters, the list of potential duck guns is limited based on budget. Pump shotguns are, in most cases, less expensive than semi-autos or double guns because they’re simpler to build. You can purchase a new camo-clad pump repeater like Winchester’s SXP, Remington’s 870 or a Mossberg 500 for around $500, and those three guns have accounted for a boatload of birds.
- Finish: I like a camo dip on my waterfowl guns for two reasons: it helps reduce glare and it adds an extra level of protection against the elements. Can you hunt with a blued gun? Certainly, but you’ll need to protect the metal with a layer of gun oil and keep highly reflective finishes out of sight of incoming birds.
- Chokes: Don’t overchoke. Many shooters immediately lean toward tighter constrictions (namely modified chokes) with steel shot, but patterning is extremely important. Test your guns with your favorite ammo on a patterning board and see how the gun performs for yourself. I’ve switched to IC chokes, and that has worked well on a wide range of waterfowl hunts.
- Gauge: Many 12-gauge waterfowl guns offer the versatility of 2 3/4-, 3- and 3 1/2-inch loads, and 12-gauge non-toxic ammo is widely available. Undoubtedly, 20-gauges offer less recoil, but they aren’t capable of handling 3 1/2-inch loads if you hunt large ducks and geese. For big birds, 10-gauge guns are fine, but they’re not as versatile as the ubiquitous 12 bore.