Women’s Shotguns—The Art of Usability

women's shotguns

Usability and practicality develop the true art of women’s shotguns.

Upland hunting is the closest I have ever come to getting into the “art” of something. Women’s shotguns are no exception. I have always viewed activities by their function as a tool for end results. For example, I grew up riding horses but did not enjoy showing them in the arena. I didn’t like the fancy clothes, belt buckles, trophies, makeup, or chromed saddles. In my mind, horses were for gathering cattle, trail riding to a destination, or hunting while in a comfortable saddle on a dependable horse. I also enjoy canoeing when scouting, hunting, fishing, or exploring—but it’s an old aluminum canoe with basic gear and a plastic paddle. This is no beautiful handmade laminated paddle or Kevlar canoe with the latest technical gear.

My approach to guns used to be much the same. I started out using a 12-gauge 870 Special Purpose (turkey hunting) that was dipped in some sort of camouflage paint. The gun is heavy, long, mechanical, cold in the hands, and freighted with sentimental value. It’s great for waterfowl and waiting on turkeys—activities that allow for a lot of sitting and resting of the gun. When I first handled a nice over-under on one of my early Minnesota grouse hunts, I knew that I might have been wrong about guns being just tools. After a couple more times out with the little over-under, I did not miss carrying my turkey gun. I found that the light and agile 20-gauge, despite the price tag, had greatly improved my experience in the field.

It was light enough to carry through thick and grabby grouse coverts all day, simple but elegant, easy to clean, and the break action made for a comfortable carry over long distances. Not to mention that break actions are also left-eye dominant friendly, which is important to me and a good portion of other women shooters. Today, my shotguns are tools, but they are nice tools. Women’s shotguns are part of the art of upland hunting.

The recent increase in availability of high quality shotguns designed specifically for women is encouraging. Although most are out of my budget, the thought that they are out there reassures me. In my experience, it is worth paying for a decent shotgun if you are serious about spending a significant amount of time in the field. Work smarter, not harder. Just be sure that you really enjoy the sport first, because the purchase will be an investment. Fortunately, it doesn’t lose a lot of value. I think the weight difference alone between shotguns makes a big difference.

I have read articles featuring other women shooters who scoffed at the need for a lighter gun. However, I think just about anyone would choose a lighter gun for a full day of busting brush in the grouse woods. Whether it’s a women’s shotgun or not! I now have several 20-gauges from a range of manufacturers and grades. There is never a day when I am headed out to hunt that I decide to take my heavier shotguns. Now I mainly use them for training dogs.

A word on purchasing. Whether you are a woman doing the purchasing or a male counterpart, be sure the gun is one they like and are comfortable with. Don’t let the salesman talk you into something you aren’t sure about. If you are a male, don’t assume the gun you like or pick will be the right one for her. The right gun can impart confidence and makes a big difference in the success of a new shooter or hunter.

Expect to spend between $1,000 (used) to $5,000 for decent shotguns. There are other functional options at lower price points, but you will sacrifice qualities like smooth actions and craftsmanship. I bought my favorite over-under used on an auction gun site for a few dollars shy of a grand. It is the same gun as the one I first carried on those first serious grouse hunts. Yet the forearm is cracked, the stock looks like it was dragged through a scree field, and the receiver appears to have been reassembled by an impatient child. And it works perfectly. I’m not worried about marking it up in the field. I love it.

Interested in getting into wingshooting? Check out the Women’s Intro to Wingshooting Program.

Last modified: December 2, 2018

8 Responses to :
Women’s Shotguns—The Art of Usability

  1. Ed Belak says:


    I think you should do a follow-up piece that digs deeper into the attributes that make a shotgun effective for women. For example stock fit, thickness of wrist, recoil pads, straight ,Prince of Wales or pistol grip. Slimness of receiver, over/ under or side by side, balance point, chokes, barell length and gauge selection. All of these when adapted to a woman’s physique make a shot gun more comfortable and shoot able, so to speak!

  2. Ray Craemer says:

    Gun fit is something Americans just plain resist. I shot on the U.S. Navy Skeet Team for 7 years and know that fit is important. I have taught Instinctive Shotgun Shooting for 30 years and just gave up on getting people to go to a gun fitter.
    I used to be a gunner for NAVHDA, and have gunned 4 Invitationals – people talk about me seldom if ever missing a pen raised bird, but I still cannot get them to have a stock made. Perhaps you can do better.

    1. Meadow Kouffeld says:

      To tell you the truth I am planning on getting one of my side by sides fitted professionally. I am really looking forward to it!

      1. Mike palmiscno says:

        Do you have a suggestion on where to get a shotgun professionally fitted?

        1. Meadow Kouffeld says:

          I don’t have co-workers that do. There is a particular fellow in Michigan that I keep hearing whispers about.

  3. Meadow Kouffeld says:

    *but have co-workers that do

  4. You’ll want to find someone with a “Try Stock” and the ability to either alter your existing stock or make a new one to fit you and your particular gun. You should be allowed to actually “shoot” the gun with the Try Stock at a “rising target” until you are comfortable with both fit and sight picture. Good Luck.

  5. Sue Ellen Fox says:

    You said break action guns are friendly for left eye dominant shooters. What do you mean? I’m left eye dominate and shoot with a 20g Syren and a 20g 1913 Fox Sterlingworth.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: