This entry was posted on 10/12/2021.
By Chris Parkin
The essential differences between game and sporter shotguns are the designs of the barrels. Lighter shorter barrels offer faster handling and a physically lighter gun to transport and carry around. This matters for what may be a ten-minute stand at the start of a pheasant drive or several hours of walked up shooting. Game guns will most often have the safety catch set to automatic meaning every time the gun is broken, it will set itself to safe whereas a sporter is usually totally manual in that you must set or unset it forward or backward yourself when required. Most guns allow this to be changed with the action out of the stock so it is not an absolute design factor yet may be a consideration for some. A sporter may have exposed extended chokes that can be changed without tools, the game gun most likely to have flush fitting chokes, if multichoked at all, whereby a small tool is supplied and required to unscrew and change them. This is not huge detriment, but large extended chokes do tend to set a sporter apart visually on your peg.
A game gun most commonly sees a narrow rib around 6-8mm with the sporter becoming a little wider, sometimes either will taper toward the muzzle with a variety of beads to top them. The traditional bead is a small brass sphere on a game gun with more commonly seen fibre optic dots in green or red on a sporter, often in extended format to amplify their luminescence in your peripheral field of view against disruptive backgrounds.
Regardless of barrel length, the joining rib is more likely to show ventilation on a sporter to reduce weight, rather than heat dissipation on what is more that likely a longer barrel set. Sporters are most commonly 30-32” as a minimum whereas the game gun is most likely a 28-30” depending on calibre and shooter preference for balance and barrel speed. A shorter barrel on any type of shotgun will feel sprightlier and whippier, yet the longer heavier barrel feels a little slower but more assured and continues to swing through a little more with residual momentum from its length and mass. Picking up and mounting a selection of guns in a shop will soon display the balance characteristics and length isn’t the only factor, short barrels with a full rib can weigh more than lighter rib, long barrels and it all comes down to shooter preference. To some extent you will get used to the gun you shoot and adapt to it but if your technique is ingrained, you will soon notice how differing barrel weight and speed are quickly concerning and draw your attention.
Although actions across a specific manufacturer’s range are usually very similar in appearance, subtle additional width is not unusual built into the action walls and materials play a key point with ultra-light game guns occasionally resorting to aluminium, rather than steel here. The stock itself is a factor balancing offsetting the weight of the barrels and a set of heavy barrels, to remain neutrally balanced will retain more timber in the stock, perhaps with lesser internal material a removal. The grip on a sporter will often show more of a palm swell with a tighter radius but these are by no means definite. Full competition guns may show adjustable cheekpiece and length of pull, heavier recoil pads and even recoil suppression ampers for long days on the range. In terms of cartridges like for like, the greater wight of the sporter will usually deaden felt recoil more, yet competition rules usually restrict the mass of lead in the cartridge to 24 or 28 grams anyway, whereas in a sporting scenario, it’s common to see 32 gr cartridges and heavier.
The feel of a gun and it’s inherent fit into your physique can’t really be described without physical experimentation but it’s interesting to know a few key points to look out for, when scanning a dealer’s shelves although there really are no hard and fast rules dictating the differences, it’s all about finding the gun that fits your style and physique because a shotgun, unlike a rifle, really has to fit you more naturally in what is a more natural, intuitively reflexive sport with less time to adjust yourself to a gun for each shot.