12 holes are for men and 20 holes are for women, right? wrong, today’s best ladies insist. gender equality on the pitch seems like a choice and both holes are suitable for sporting targets. So which one should I choose, is the 12 or the 20 better? Janet Menzies weighs her options with the help of our best female photos.
Our sports target column features serious female athletes and offers advice and encouragement for ladies taking to the field. For Victoria Maloch, a passion for rural interests has pushed her to defend them in the political process. Additionally, Tiggy Pettifer raises funds for the Atlantic Salmon Trust and Aoife Bakonyi Byrne is known in hunter circles as a big brother.
Reading: Best shotgun for women
12 or 20 diameters?
according to my shotgun cert, the menzies arsenal currently includes: 1 x beretta silver pigeon 12 gauge over and under; 2 x churchill 20-bore side by side; 2 x 20-bore arietta from side to side. And, since you ask, officer, there’s a very good reason why I need every single one of my five shotguns. churchills are for hunting grouse and partridge early in the season (and for showing off); rams are for pheasants herded as the season progresses and rough shootouts on my dogs; the 12 gauge is for clay pigeon shooting and guest lending of a results-oriented persuasion. so far so incredibly pampered.
What I fear is the next government crackdown that will force me to choose to keep just one of my double-barreled friends. would it be churchills for its beauty, vintage, craftsmanship and fast swing? or the ariettas for the ease of loading one and the other monroe? or the 12-bore, because anyone can use it? should the dreaded day come, you can be sure that one thing will not be considered among my selection criteria, and that is the fact that I am a girl. however, since women began to get seriously involved in shooting in the 1980s, it has been assumed (by men) that gender would be the first element considered when buying a gun. and, worse still, that taking that into account would mean always choosing a 20 caliber.
Warning guys, the steady stream of medals our girls bring home from shooting competitions around the world have been won in 12 calibers. following her recent issf world cup gold medal in siggiewi, malta, amber hill (who is 5ft 2in) commented, “i finally got the issf world cup gold medal… she was definitely one of the toughest competitions I’ve ever shot.” was lavish in her praise of her (pink) cartridge suppliers, eley, and most of all she loved beretta, makers of her 12-gauge skeet shotgun.
Other featured women’s shots from the competition include FitasC Champion Cheryl Hall and Sporting Clay Champion Hannah Gibson. Like all other clay pigeon competition specialists in all disciplines, male or female, they shoot 12 shots. anything else would just be uncompetitive, not a look that would appeal to our girls. perhaps the most competitive of all is nicola garza, multiple champion and national director of the clay pigeon shooting association. however, when asked about the selection of women’s shotguns, she does not consider the choice of 12 gauge to be the most important decision or not. “Any woman can shoot any type of weapon as long as it fits her perfectly,” Garza emphasizes. “The most important consideration is whether you shoot for fun or for competition. for example, if you want to seriously shoot any trap discipline, you won’t make much progress using a sporting weapon. similarly, a long-barreled trap gun would not really be suitable for an Olympic skeet shooter. And actually, as your skills improve, your choice of what you want to photograph may change. so girls, be eager to change weapons or increase the stable.”
fitness for purpose award
There are more uses for a shotgun than shooting the competition clay, the fun clay or the driven pheasant. you might not even be shooting pheasants, but rabbits over a spaniel, grouse over a pointer, or basically anything that moves and is legal. you can have a lot of fun with a big gun in clay disciplines where the target is easily accessible, predictable and pre-mounting is an option. but when the quarry might appear as you weave your way through a thicket of brambles and the build is a bit sketchy, maneuverability is paramount. so women have learned to be flexible in their choice of weapon and to value fitness for purpose over any number of big numbers and technical specifications.
Sports publicist Selena Barr is typical of modern female weapons: “I tend to switch calibers depending on what I’m doing. I’m only 5-foot-3, so I like to surprise people by shooting a 12-gauge. The 12-gauge is great for clay, especially now that manufacturers are bringing out models designed specifically for women. but for walking I prefer a lighter weapon, especially on grouse where the ground can be very rough. the smaller 20 gauge size is easier to transport; some of the longer barreled 12s can be quite awkward in the heather.”
Lucinda from the South is a gaming enthusiast as well as the founder of Gundog Girls. she emphasizes the need for the smaller, quieter holes when training a dog, “especially when it comes to photographing the dogs, she would use a 20 hole. but it really is a matter of preference and depends on the quarry. if the gun fits, so to speak. and a 12 gauge is my choice for the plug.”
Emma Perrott’s experience is a practical example of tailoring the gun to shooting requirements rather than the preconception that 12 or 20 gauge is “better.” her main activities are deer control and rough hunting in the britain highlands, and her expertise is behind new wild food restaurants in stratford-on-avon and bath. As a tough stalker, Perrott is unimpressed by the size. instead, her shotgun blast is a 20-gauge. “It was my first gun of my own. I use it for various shooting games and also clays. It fits me very well and I get along well so it has never occurred to me to change it. I’m only 5ft 1in, so it’s much more proportionate to me than my dad’s 12-gauge silver pigeon he used to teach me with.”
professional shooting instructor charlotte morrison agrees: “i get a lot of women who have had bad experiences early on, they’ve had a couple of lessons from their husbands, they shoot their 12 caliber, and it’s not only big and heavy but it won’t fit. so i change them to a 20 cal to get their confidence. once you get started with your shot it’s really a matter of personal preference, from .410 to 28 cal to 20 or 12. but if you’re shooting solo On clays, and especially competition clays, a 12-gauge has a much wider shot pattern which leads to more broken clays. The 20-bore’s tighter pattern lends itself to desirable cleaner kills when shooting game.” Natalie Cannon began shooting primarily as an extension of her work with spaniels, and this has certainly been her experience. “I’m pretty inexperienced at shooting, but I really like my little 20. I’ve been shooting with it all season and have had the pleasure of driving birds, zooming in and out, and even killing a couple of geese. Lately I’ve started using a 12 sometimes, and I can see the advantage, but I think if I had to choose it would be a 20.”
gun maker elaine stewart of longthorne guns points out that modern 12 gauges don’t have to be heavy. “We have a model that we have designed down to just 6 lb 4 oz. we’re using a solid block of steel to make our barrels, so we’ve been able to reduce recoil and muzzle twist on the guns we build. but, to be honest, we have very, very few women coming in for a custom gun. where men are comfortable spending £20,000-30,000 on a gun, women are not spoiled. if you think about it, there is a domino effect because it means there are no women’s firearms for a girl to inherit in the same way that a man might inherit her father’s gun.
anne-marie heelis is contributing a new woman’s weapon to the legacy of the female population by having her own custom-made weapon by boxall & edmiston since heelis hasn’t had to compromise on weapon selection, it’s enlightening to hear her values when making her choice. She explains: “I have friends who shoot 12 holes and male friends who shoot 20 holes. my old gun was from the 1920’s. then i bought a 20 cal beretta and figured i would never need to buy another gun, it will last me forever. though it wasn’t perfect. with shooting experience, I formed a very clear idea of exactly what I wanted in a gun, and nothing out of the ordinary had all the features I wanted. then, at a gun show, I saw a custom-made 20 caliber and it was so beautiful that it also met all the technical requirements. I loved it, it was a work of art. I thought about it for a year, trying to justify myself. my parents died quite young and that has taught me to live in the present. so I’ve given it to myself as a 45th birthday present and hope to enjoy it for at least 30 years.
“For me, it’s as much about how it looks, because you’re handling a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. so even though i wanted an overlay i still wanted all the craftsmanship i would expect from a traditional side-by-side i.e. color hardening and lock plate engraving and gold filigree and when i saw they had produced that with a round action combined with modern functionality, that’s the marriage of form and function I wanted. on my previous 20-bore it was spinning on the barrel, and peter boxall solved it. and he has devised a solution to the problem of reloading so many times that the bottom barrel doesn’t always open all the way for quick reloading. I can also shoot heavier loads through it without noticing any difference in recoil or weapon behavior. I like to be individual and I am very pleased to know that my weapon is equally individual.”
heelis has pointed out what is probably the only real difference between the sexes when it comes to weapon choice. women are not geek about guns. the size itself does not impress them. arts & craft designer william morris said, “have nothing in your house that you don’t know is useful or think is beautiful,” and we feel the same way about what we have in our gun cabinets. gender equality is about the right to choose. many men choose to shoot with a .20 caliber or a .410. Many women shoot a 12 gauge. It’s not about the relative merits of the gauge, it’s about how you identify. personally, i identify as 20 bored, maybe a little 12 curious.
very fun v pocket rocket
12 because it is effective 12 because it can withstand heavy loads 12 because it is consistent 12 because I can
20 because it’s very portable 20 because it’s quiet 20 because it spins fast 20 because I want to