It was roughly 3 years ago that I remember reading the comments from a forum or FB group where a group of keyboard warriors went back and forth as to whether a 28 gauge was ethical for chukar hunting.. It sparked my interest and down the rabbit hole I went..
Having carried and enjoyed some very nice 20 gauge shotguns over the years, I felt the 20 was the optimal shotgun for the uplands and offered a wide versatility in load weights, shell sizes and all around offerings. I honestly still feel that way for the most part. It is hard to beat a 6 lb over under 20 gauge that fits you well..
That said, I’ve always been a ‘proof is in the pudding’ kind of guy and if numbers make sense and the gun patterns well, I don’t argue with them. So, I scored my first 28 gauge. A sleek little Franchi Instinct L.
I owned the same model in a 20 gauge and knowing how well that gun fit me, I knew I would be purchasing a gun that fit me. I still shoot that 20 gauge for all my waterfowling to this day. For the money and quality of guns, you can’t beat those little Franchi Instincts.
Upon receiving the gun I grabbed a few different loads that I’d sourced during my waiting time and headed out to my back field with some cardboard boxes and paper to pattern them. I’d bought 3 brands and 2 shot sizes in each brand (6’s and 7.5s).
I’m a big believer in pattern density and having as many hits as possible on a bird, especially chukar. I’ve golden bb’d a few birds and watched them lock wings, sail the canyon and flutter out and fall to the bottom. Unmarked by a dog, that’s a lot of elevation to lose and I’m not leaving the bird behind.. I believe that if I’m selective in my shooting and can produce multiple hits that potentially break wings, feet, body hits, etc. all while having a denser pattern for forgiveness at good shot distances, I’ll put more birds in the bag and reduce the number of cripples.
I’ve taken many a friend to the range to pattern their guns and converted them from shooting ⅘ shot to 6’s and 7.5s. Once you see the difference and find the right shell.. Man, it’s hard to want to shoot anything else.
After patterning every shell, in both shot sizes, in every choke, I was honestly amazed at the pattern densities. It was even more surprising at the difference each shell and choke produced. Don’t believe for a second that every shell you put in your gun will produce the same patterns.
With enough proof in my hands, I was confident that the 28 gauge could do whatever I needed it to, as long as I was within my limits and chose good shots. My choke and load combination is IC over Skeet choke, shooting a 15/16oz B&P Heavy Upland load of 7.5s. Phenomenal shells.
Now I know that ¾ oz is the purest shot weight that can travel a 28’s barrel, but having shot them all out of my personal gun, this was a combination that I knew would produce the results I hoped for out of the gun.
For me, hunting over pointing dogs, 90% of the shots I’m taking are under 30 yards. I primarily hunt with an over/under and while doubles are always awesome, I want to shoot birds on the rise and my first shot is often my only shot. At 20-30 yards, the 28 gauge wasn’t leaving any performance on the table.
Ultimately, if there’s one thing I hope you take away from this is that you go and pattern your gun and know exactly what it does with certain combinations of chokes, brands of shells, shot sizes and how it performs at ethical hunting distances.
It’s been several years now and after hunting almost exclusively with my 28’s I can’t say enough good things. I’ve even taken the majority of my turkeys this past few springs with a 28. Zero issues in the least!
For those who are contemplating trying a 28 out, fortunately many manufacturers of guns and ammo are leaning towards the sub gauges and despite some of the ammo shortages, you can still score boxes at most sporting goods locations.
If you’re looking for a great all around upland gun and enjoy being selective in your shooting, low recoil and great results on birds, give a 28 a gander. I’m doubtful you’ll regret picking one up.
If you’re interested in reading about how I like to pattern my guns and the steps I go through, here is a short article you might be interested in.
Thanks for reading, God Bless and Safe Hunting.
Please enjoy a few pictures from some memorable hunts with my pups and a couple of my 28 gauges..
* A quick walk before the morning heat caught us. Ruger Red Label 28 gauge. Lovely gun!
* Late season hike with good friend and upland artist Alan Rassmunsen, one of my hunting partners I've covered to the 28 gauge
* The final hunt of the 21-22 season. Extremely fun day!
* Phenomenal day with my dear friend Derek Alan on an out of state adventure. Fast and furious. A hunt I'll always remember!
* Sage grouse with my great hunting partner Carson Ward. We mixed in some early season waterfowl and upland. Can't wait to be back.
* Fantastic day with a handful of my close friends. We started off with sharptail and went to explore some new country for pheasant. The Red Label was on that day.