Classic Podcast: Tips on Buying a Used Shotgun


Written by: Phil Monahan

If you plan to buy a used double barrel shotgun anytime soon, you’ll want to listen to the latest Double Barrel Podcast with Bruce Bowlen, Orvis’ Head Shooting Instructor at the Orvis Wingshooting School in Manchester, Vermont. It offers invaluable and in depth advice.

If you don’t see the “Play” button above, click here to listen.

Here are some of Bruce’s great tips from the Podcast.

Ask the shop owner or gun owner if the gun has been modified
Most reputable shops will know right away and tell you what, if anything, on the gun has been modified. If you are dealing with an individual gun owner, he may not know if the gun’s been modified. If you have any doubts, consult a gunsmith. There are also easy checks you can do yourself.

1. Check the length of pull
Length of pull is the distance from the rear of trigger to the middle of butt stock and has the greatest influence on whether a gun will fit, and thus shoot well for you or not. It largely determines how comfortably and well the stock will fit to your cheek and shoulder. Most off-the-shelf guns will have a length of pull in the 14.25 to 14.5″ range, a good fit for most average male builds. Again, be mindful that a gun’s stock may have been modified. Perhaps the stock was cut down to a length of pull of 13″. This would be too short for most regular-build guys who wear a 40 or 42 suit, and the gun will fit and shoot poorly. You can check stock length easily by measuring from the trigger to the center of the butt stock.

2. Check for pitch
Stocks should be cut at about 4-degree angle or “pitch.” Check to see if the stock has been cut at a 90-degree angle to the muzzle. If the stock lies flat when set on a floor, this is problematic. The stock will set oddly at the shoulder and result in uncomfortable recoil, which can alter your shooting for the worse.

3. Don’t fall in love with all the bells and whistles of a gun
The lovely hand engraving and handsome walnut grain may be pretty, but remember the gun can still shoot ugly if since it’s the actual fit of the gun that determines how well you will shoot with it. Cosmetics don’t make a gun shoot well; fit does.

4. Check chamber lengths and barrels on older guns
In older guns, chamber lengths may not be adequate for the shooting you plan to do. Or the type of barrel might not be capable of handling modern ammunition. For example, if you are looking for a waterfowl gun but the gun is chambered only for 23/4″-inch shells, for instance, you may not want it and prefer a newer gun that can handle 3″ shells.

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