A 12 Gauge versus a 20 Gauge Shotgun (Advantages and Disadvantages)
The 12 and 20-gauge shotgun are very popular and they both are used for hunting, skeet
shooting, and competition shooting and for home defense. There are several models available in
both gauges such as a double barrel, single barrel and over-and-under.
The 12-gauge is the larger of the two with a bore diameter of 0.73 inches/18.5 millimeters. The
range is usually longer and it will have greater recoil. The 12-gauge is chosen for migratory bird
hunting and skeet shooting because of its range. Physically smaller individuals may find the
recoil is not tolerable. The recoil can be considerable for anyone when using certain shells. This
is something that must be considered for extended hunting trips. People that seem to be able to
tolerate the recoil on the practice range may find it more difficult as the hunting trip gets longer
and as they use various sized loads.
If there is more than one person in the home that may use a shotgun as a home defense weapon
you must consider the recoil. Young adults and others must be able to tolerate the recoil of a 12
gauge otherwise, you would need to have a 20-Gauge available or have both weapons available
Because of the heavier loads in a 12-gauge you have to know the damage the loads will do to
small game such as rabbits and squirrels. The heavier loads may very well destroy the animal to
the point where they cannot be used as a food source and the skins would be unusable as well.
The standard 12-gauge load is 1 1/8 ounces of shot. You can load 1 ¼ as well for longer range
and heavier birds but once again the recoil with the heavier load will be considerable for some
individuals. Because the heavier loads carry more pellets, avid bird hunters choose the 12-gauge
because more pellets mean more contact with the bird.
The bore diameter of a 20-gauge is 0.615 inches/15.6 millimeters. The weapon is used for bird
hunting, hunting in general and for skeet shooting. The range according to some is more than
adequate for most bird hunting to include duck hunting. The weapon is also an ideal home
defense shotgun, and typically, in home defense range is not a critical factor. Many hunters will
choose a 20-gauge over a 12 based on the recoil and lightweight especially when they expect to
cover a lot of terrain daily.
The standard shot load for a 2-guage is 7/8 ounces and you can load one ounce shot up to 1
ounces. The range for the 1 ounces for a 20 gauge will be less than the same sized load in a
12-gauge. For home defense many use the heavier loads in their 20-gauage for stopping power
without the recoil associated with the 12-gauge.
Type of Actions
Both the 12 and 20-gauge shotguns come with various actions such as a single shot that is loaded
manually, bolt action, pump and semi-automatic. The 20-guage is traditionally the less expensive
of the two but prices will vary depending on the model and manufacturer.