Often called “golf with a shotgun”, sporting clays is the closest a shooter can get to actual field hunting. Each course is unique and typically built into existing land features. Clay birds can be thrown in an infinite variety of ways and in any direction; even rolled across the ground in some cases. To increase the variety, six different size clay birds can also be used.
Each field uses between 10 and 15 shooting stations and the game is shot with a squad of two to six shooters.
Why an Over Under Shotgun for Sporting Clays
The proficient sporting clays shooter knows that being able to quickly mount and swing their shotgun in the correct direction is the key to getting a ‘dead bird’. Depending on the shooter’s location on the course, these birds can be long shots, crossing shots, or even rolling across the ground shots. In other words, many variables on the same course.
So what shotgun would be best for sporting clays? Semi-automatic shotguns offer the greatest ease of loading and cycling, and pump-action shotguns are just plain fun. Where does the over/under shotgun fit?
Well, let’s dive into the advantages of the over/under shotgun.
For shooting clay pigeons, shooters seem to prefer longer barrels. The unscientific advantage of longer shotgun barrels comes from the weight and ‘swing momentum’. We say ‘unscientific’ because the advantage comes from ‘how the shotgun feels’.
Longer barrel guns are generally heavier, with more of the weight on the muzzle end. As the shooter starts moving the barrel and tracking a bird, the shotgun gathers momentum. The heavier guns maintain that momentum when the shooter fires, helping the shooter achieve solid follow-through. Again, this is an unscientific yet widely agreed-upon fact.
Now the key point here for the over/under is that the over/under shotguns will have longer barrels but shorter overall length. Since the over/under does not have a receiver and action mechanisms like semi-autos or pump-actions, all that space can be allocated to the longer barrel. So a 28-inch over/under will have a shorter overall length than a 26-inch semi-auto shotgun.
Here is the major advantage of the over/under shotgun, and a major reason why this is the shotgun of choice for competitive clay pigeon shooters: multiple chokes.
Choke tubes are a versatile piece of shotgun hardware used to control the pattern of pellets from shotgun shells. Tighter chokes will produce denser pellet patterns and less constrictive chokes will allow that pattern to spread. Depending on the application, shooters can switch their choke tubes out so their shotgun will perform optimally for that situation.
Since the over-under shotgun has two barrels, the shooter can have two different chokes installed at the same time. Hypothetically, the top barrel choke can be a wider choke for closer shots and the bottom choke can be tighter, for shooting at clays further away.
Remember, shotgun pellets spread out over distance. If you fire a tight choke at a close target, the likelihood of missing increases because the pellets did not spread out as much. Similarly, firing a wide choke at a distant target will let the pellets spread out too far, increasing the chances of a miss.
Now, on the sporting clays field, birds will be thrown for close shots and far shots. Shooters won’t be able to switch shotguns depending on how the birds fly, so having the ability to fire the correct barrel with the correct choke for that situation is extremely valuable.
Reliability and Usability
Over-under shotguns are impressively simple machines. There are few moving parts and even less small pieces. This means over-under shotguns are incredibly reliable and very easy to operate. On the sporting clays field, a gun malfunction can cost the shooter points, so having a shotgun that is inherently reliable is a major plus.
Over-under shotguns are also more user-friendly in a group setting. Since the shotgun does not have an ejection port, the shells do not fly out of the gun after the shooter fires. The conscientious shooter can break the action open, remove the spent shell casings, and stow them in a pocket or bag. This keeps the casings off the ground where they can be forgotten or stepped on.
Best Over-Under Shotgun for Sporting Clays
In the world of competition clay pigeon shooting, victory can be determined by a single clay bird in a string of 500. With such a small margin for error, the most reliable shotguns are highly prized, and due to their simplicity, over-under shotguns fit that category. That does not mean these guns are unattainable for the weekend sporting clay shooter; reliable over/under shotguns can be purchased for less than $1,000. Now, if you’re looking to elevate your shotgun collection, it also isn’t difficult to spend $20k+ on a stackbarrel either.
Best Over Under Shotgun for Sporting Clays Under $1,000
If budget is your concern, there are definitely well-performing over/under shotguns on the market for you.
Anyone who has considered a shotgun has heard the name “Mossberg”. Their reputation and manufacturer acumen is legendary. The Silver Reserve II easily lives up to that status in an economical fashion.
Available in 12, 20, 28 and .410 gauges, the Silver Reserve II is an excellent entry over/under for clay bird shooters. The barrels and receiver are chrome-lined for durability, the gun has dual locking lugs for a solid lock-up and it is equipped with an integrated barrel selector/safety.
As part of your purchase, Mossberg provides five different screw-in chokes so you can set your gun up however you choose. A satin black walnut stock and wraparound scroll engraving finish off this beautiful, yet functional, shotgun. Cost: ~$600.00
In case you aren’t familiar with the company, CZ is a Czech firearms manufacturer that has been creating high-quality guns for over a century. The Redhead Premier is no exception to that reputation.
With a receiver CNCed from a solid block of metal, the Redhead Premier is an exceptionally durable over/under shotgun that won’t break your bank. The gun is offered in 12 or 20 gauge, with either 26” or 28” barrels, and features a walnut stock, chrome receiver and a manual safety on the tang. Each Redhead Premier comes with five flush-mount screw-in choke tubes.
At the top of the budget ladder, the Redhead Premier can be had for $959.00
Over/Under Shotguns Over $1,000
So maybe you have a little more money in your budget for an over/under gun, or maybe you want a little more ‘bang for your buck’.
If you want to step your clay pigeon game up, you can’t go wrong by turning to Beretta. Though they are known more for their pistols, Beretta has been manufacturing firearms for over 500 years and their shotguns have won more international competitions than any other brand.
One look at the 686 Silver Pigeon and you’ll see why. Not only is this shotgun simply stunning to look at but the fit and finish simply screams ‘quality’. Offered in 12, 20, 28 and .410 gauges, the Silver Pigeon is equipped with conical locking lugs in a monoblock receiver. According to Beretta, the conical design of the lugs allows the lugs to ‘self-adjust’ after repeated shells.
With the choice of 26”, 28” or 30” barrels, a tang safety and barrel selector, and flush-mount screw in chokes, the Silver Pigeon comes with every feature you’d expect from a more premium gun. This shotgun can easily become your next heirloom gun, with the durability expected to last generations. Expect to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,100.
Perhaps one of the most recognized names in firearms history, the Browning Arms Company has been pioneering guns that set the standard for reliability and durability. Their shotguns are no exception.
The Citori 725 Sporting is offered in 12, 20, 28 and .410 gauges, and 28”, 30” and 32” barrels. It features a steel receiver mounted inside a finished walnut stock, with beautiful engraving adorning the receiver sides. As the latest improvement to the Citori line, the 725 features a narrower receiver and an improved trigger system.
Browning shotguns are favorites amongst competitive clay pigeon shooters and you can own the Citori 725 Sporting for roughly $2,400.
A Shotgun for Your Needs
Over/under shotguns offer dead-on reliability and performance, and can now be had for more economical prices. Whether you are on the sporting clays field or out in the wild hunting pheasants, an over/under shotgun will perform as requested. And since over/unders are built to last, you can expect to pass these guns down to the next generations.