The Great Shotgun Debate. SBS, O/U or S/A?

SBS O/U or S/A

So here is the shotgun debate that has cost friendships and many a pint!

What’s the best gun for me? Semi-auto? Side by side? Over and under? Well, they all, in my opinion, have their own merits.

Side by Side

side by side

The old faithful. The gun you always remember grandad having. The gun you remember dad and uncle Eric using. Strange how one certain type of gun can trigger such nostalgic memories.  I often wonder just how many other types of guns would leave that sort of impression in the mind? Not many, I’m sure.

The side by side, in my opinion, is a trusted lightweight gun that in a lot of cases does not cost the earth. Over the years, I have had many a side by side, always struggling to get on with one down to me being a lefty. It was for my birthday a few years ago now, that my best friend of many a year gave me his little side by side. It truly is a real peach. Sidelock ejector, with little 25 inch barrels and the most beautiful bit of wood you could ask for on a rough gun.

My friend had already had it re-cast, as he too is a lefty. It fitted like a glove. Here is where that the tale of this little side by side turns south. It’s choked ¼ ¾ and with 2 ¾ inch chambers. It’s a great walk round gun, however, it loses its lustre on the clay ground. For sure as night is dark and the day is light I could never bring myself to even take it near a tide line! Therefore, the side by side has a place in my cabinet and always will. Whether I’m planning a walk around the field or pushing out a goyle with the dog, it will be over my arm. If I’m going for an hour on the pigeons it will still be with me even though it normally rests in the case.

Over and Under

over and under

As you will already have noticed, I am a south paw. You wouldn’t credit how small a market there is with second hand left handed shotguns. I tried the whole shooting from the “wrong” shoulder once or twice but it just didn’t compute. Once, I managed to find a straight cast over and under. I think it was a Lincoln and I seemed to shoot reasonably with it but found myself being drawn back to the little side by side. Many years later, I stumbled across an over and under which was a left cast ejector, 28 inch barrelled cheap field gun, choked quarter and half. Perfect! The gun shoulders great. It swings great, BUT… Man, that thing is heavy in comparison. It’s like pointing a cannon compared to the little side by side.

When clay shooting, the over and under comes alive, as it does with shooting from a hide. However, for walking around the fields for half the day it does get heavy. That said, if you were on a driven day, it’s not an issue so I suppose it’s not really a problem in that instance. I have taken the over and under on the foreshore a few times, wigeon shooting, and yes, it’s good for the task but believe me when I say you have to religiously scrub it down after. You can quite literally watch the corrosion and rust forming as you sit in the hide. So for these reasons, the over and under also has a place in my cabinet.


semi auto

We have all been there I’m sure. Wanting the semi auto or the pump action shotgun. It’s every man’s fun gun. I am no different, I have had a silly amount of them over the years. My excuse being, they tend to be a straight cast Shotgun. In truth, I just liked them for all the wrong reasons. When I joined my local wildfowling club, I knew I was going to need something robust, reliable, lightweight, cheap and with a 3-inch chamber and multi-choke. Along came my MK1 Hatsan Escort 3 shot semi auto with matt black metal and synthetic furniture. Multi choke, lightweight, left cast and left eject. It ticked all the boxes!

Now, I clean my guns like its going out of fashion. However, with the escort having so many mixed reviews and it going to have a very hard life, I opted to not clean it for an entire wildfowling season! That gun never missed a beat! Sub-zero temperatures, salt, mud, rain, it just cycled and fired. When the weather is rubbish and I don’t want to get the wooden guns dirty and wet (hmm that gives e an idea for another post wood vs synthetic!). Yes, if I don’t want to get the others wet and grubby, I will take the semi-auto out in the fields. Sometimes, when the birds are rife, I  will take the semi-auto for maximum effectiveness. For these reasons, the semi auto will always also have a place in my cabinet.


Reading back through this, all I have done is give a reason why each gun deserves its space in its own unique way. Overall, I think every cabinet should have a trustworthy, faithful side by side but don’t try to make it do the jobs that others can do easier. Firearms have evolved massively in the last 100 years and yet we still see a side by side and it invokes a great memory. I wonder if in 30 years I will be saying the same about my semi auto? Time will undoubtedly tell.

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