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My Name is Scott, and I’m a Shotgun Snob

by Scott E. Mayer   |  May 31st, 2011 29

by Scott E. Mayer

I’ve always been very practical about guns–I just want them to work–and admitting to being a shotgun snob is tough. But I’m not your “typical” shotgun snob who fawns over trifles such as intricately engraved receivers. Instead, my snobbery goes the other way.  I pretty much hate shotgun engraving unless it’s really, really good engraving on a high-end shotgun.

My experience, and yours may differ, is that a lot of shotgun engraving these days is an attempt to make a cheap shotgun look more expensive than it is. That is nothing new. Manufacturers used to put faux Damascus finishes on fluid steel barrels to make those guns look finer than they were. In some cases, it works. For example, I have a Syracuse Arms double barrel with faux Damascus barrels that looks rather classy combined with its casehardened receiver. Trash it up with some cheap engraving, though, and I’m going to pass. Save the cheap engraving on cheap shotguns and take the difference off the price.

Another thing I’m snobbish about is shotgun sights. Like Gil Ash says, “If you’re looking at the sights, you’re looking at the wrong thing,” so I really don’t understand the reasoning behind fiberoptic sights on guns for wingshooting. The sight exception for me is on a shotgun for turkey hunting or personal defense.

For a turkey gun, iron sights are fine, but I favor a compact, lightweight red dot, or a low magnification scope with a wide field of view and a reticle that subtends the turkey’s head to help you determine if it’s in range or not. On a fighting shotgun, give me a solid ghost ring. You can’t just point a shotgun into a room and blast everything in there with a yank of the trigger. At fighting distances, a shotgun has to be aimed every bit as much as a carbine, and a bead just doesn’t cut it–especially under the stress of a fight.

So I guess all that makes me a shotgun snob. Which way does your shotgun snobbery lean?

  • LMLarsen

    Scott, I so seldom shoot my shotguns I can't afford to be a snob. I have my 870 in the closet and my H&R Excell that you recommended, and am happy with both.

    Now, if you wanted to send me a Perazzi double to do an extended T&E on, I might find time to shoot more…

  • smayer

    Perazzi? Sure. I was going to send you a Piotti. Your loss smarty pants. :D

    • LMLarsen


    • Tim Sheahon

      LOL-when I was 2 or 3,every time I had to Perazzi, my moma sat me on the Piotti till I went. :)

  • Jayhawker

    For me, upland bird guns come in one flavor…side by side, and not just any side by side…forget those short barreled, clunky, economy rigs…for me it has to be straight stocked, with a splinter fore end and 28 inch barrels; at least, 30 inches are better….double triggers are a plus as well….screw in chokes are gravy…In a few minutes I can go from gunning quail to late season pheasants. so in that vein, I am a shotgun snob…

    As far as turkeys are concerned, kill 'em with what you got…though, I prefer them tightly choked and short…my current turkey gun is a Benelli M1S90 with an 18 1/2" barrel, a Carlson's ported turkey choke, and ghost ring sights. With a choke change this shotgun does triple duty as a coyote gun and a fighting shotgun.

  • Bob Kenney

    Hi Scott;

    I like the ghost rings on home defense shotguns.

    As you know, the spread of a load of buck shot at 5 yards is not enough to make it an area weapon. It is best to be pointed at the target.

    Just for grins, I have a flashlight on my 870. I can push it on for an instant. (Not saying this is what should be done, just saying it gives me the option).

  • smayer

    Nothing at all wrong with a light on your shotgun. I think folks should!

    • LMLarsen

      I mounted a Surefire on my 870 with a clamp-on mount from one of your advertisers; works great and I didn't have to change the forend to a cheese grater.

  • Bob Kenney

    Off topic; I;ve been gone for a while.

    How do I get back logged in?

    • smayer

      I think you are, or your post would not have shown up :?

  • Denny

    I don't know if this is snobbery or not but I like my shotguns old, with a bit of wear and that will shoot where I point it. There just isn't much better than an old sxs with external hammers that'll break clays all day long.

  • cpj

    I want function over form. If it works, and I can hit with it, Im cool. I do like big fat fiber sights on turkey or HD guns. I agree with you on the engraving, its even more annoying than the stupid gold triggers that Browning puts on their guns.

  • robert38-55

    Scott M!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You read my mind!!!!!!! I agree with ya 200%.I love a good relaible,dependable fully functional shotgun. I have owned them all at one time except the 28 gauge. One of these days I will buy me a 28 gauge.. As far as the facny dancy engraving, I don't care for that either, never have and never will…..I used to shoot trap on a regular bases, when I lived in Co. I tried them all. The best trap shotgun, for me is my 870 Remington wingmaster 12 gauge. Currently I have some "off brand" shotguns, they were somewhat cheap to buy, but are functional, dependable, relaiable, etc. So I am happy with them…I have single,double, barrels, bolts, the only other type of shotgun I have never owned is the over/under, and would like to aquire a few of them. I can't see spending the money for the fancy engraving because as far as I am concerned it doesn't help one with accuracy nor does it make one shoot a better trap score. Its just for looks, and conversation, and status symbols….

    …. Not to sound arrogant, but the fact is that when I did shoot trap on a regular bases, I stood beside many a folks, on the trap range, that used the expensive Perazzi, Piotti, and Brownings, while I was using the plain old fashion Remington 870, and I actually had better overall scores,and hits than they did… Not blaming their guns, and not to sound boastful, the point is that they were not shooting any better with those fancy dancy expensive shotguns, than I was with my handy 870. A lot of times after two or three rounds of trap, we would introduce ourselfs to each other, and some of these fambouyant, trap shooters,would ask me how do you score 24 and 25 hits, with that cheap Remington 870? hahhahah I would just laugh and smile and politely say that "It ain't the gun, its the shooter" and I practice a lot… I got the feeling they were a little embarassed, but never the less, "It is what it is" I mean some of these folks had shotguns made for trap, that cost more than everything I own combined!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and the atire that they wore,, well I could not afford that either, I just shot trap in a tee shirt and bluejeans, with a bag of shells, across my shoulder!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, with that being said, thats why I agree with ya Scott!!!! There was a few times some of these folks would offer to let me try their 2000.00 dollars shotgun, but I would inform them, Sir if something happened to your shotgun while I was using it, I couldnot afford to replace it or have it fixed, but thank you just the same..then I would offer up my simple 870 for one of them to use, and they did, and you know a lot of times, these fellows would actually end up with a better score after using my simple plain 870 than the expensive shotgun they were using,,,hahahah I guess they were either embarassed or humbled,,, I don't know… but by diplomatically and politely refusing to try their expensive shotguns, was my way of saying "I don't care for fancy dancy shotguns"………………….

    • Steve

      I had the same experience in skeet shooting yrs ago. Fella shows up at our club with a Hi-grade Browning O/U with about $6000 of gold inlay. As it turned out, he & I were in the same class for competition, as well as on the same squad. At first I felt somewhat inferior with my B grade Rem 1100 till I saw him shoot. I kicked his but by 12 birds in a 100 bird round. Just like golf cliubs, just because you have a top of the line set of Ping doesn't make you a good golfer.

  • Gene L

    Are all you writers under a "500-words-or-less" requirement? These articles on the "Latest and Greatest", and not just yours, are pathetic. They tell us NOTHING. I have no idea about what you are writing, and it sounds like you don't either. Not enough info there for any purpose at all. They apparently assume we have such a low attention span that any detailed article is beyond our understanding. Either that or you guys are marching in place until the site is restored?

    I'm disappointed, but remember now why I don't subscribe to G&A.

  • Tim Sheahon

    I like a good serviceable sxs. !2 g, full & mod. My first was an old Stevens 311, which I suppose some folks would call just plain ugly, but it went bang and delivered the shot to where it was supposed to go. I traded that for a M65 Winchester 30-30. The Winchester lasted less that one season, just didn't care for it. My dream gun is a Winchester M 21, field grade, 12 g, with modified and IC, 28" tubes. All the fancy crap in the world does not make it shoot any better, and more often than not, maybe causes some missed birds, for fear of messing up all pretty stuff, or scratching the super gloss finish. I miss that ugly old 311, she was reliable and got the job done.

  • nn

    I'm not a snob as such, To each is own; I just hate to see a rusty shotgun or one thrown in the back of a pickup and left to bounce around.

  • Bigslug

    Engraving equals crevices for water, dust, crud, and rust to build up in. I don't have a lot of use for the stuff. Actually, putting all that time into embellishing a gun, only to forget to rifle the inside of the barrel seems a little strange ;)

    What I do like is properly finished and fitted milled steel. Look at the trigger guard on a Winchester Model 12 and you'll see what I'm on about. Such a gun doesn't need to be attacked with a chisel to be attractive, and it's easier to care for too.

    What we have today is a whole lot of CHEAP. The Remington 870 is a great example; from day one, the 870 was a cheap shotgun – cast aluminum trigger guard, brazed-on magazine, lots of rivets or stakes in place of screws. It worked as well as a Model 12 or 97 for substantially less money, so one would be hard pressed to complain. Now they're even cheaper – more plastic, more castings, magazines that now require retrofitting to older-style parts if an extension is desired – all to lower production – but not selling – cost. They still work, but the line between economy and cheesy has unquestionably been crossed. And Big Green is far from alone.

    I'm OK without engraving – JUST MAKE IT RIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE!

  • Wambli Ska

    Aftre playing with a boatload of shotguns over the years I'm down to three guns I have really learned to love. An old but beautiful 870TC for trap, a REALLY old '87 for my wing shooting and my Beretta 391 for turkey. Someday I will have a nice 20 ga OU but somehow it keeps sliding down the list…

  • BPsniper


    The fiber optic bead is so I can focus on the bird and still SEE where my gun is pointing at the same time. But I'm no shotgunner by any stretch of the imagination.

  • ericb

    I guess I am a true shotgun snob. My tastes lean towards fast handling side by sides for upland hunting, high end autos for the duck and goose blinds, and ported over/unders for skeet and sporting clays. After totally destructing 2 Remington 1187s shooting clays, I have found the durability of Browning and Beretta stack barrels to be what I need for a competitive shooting. The Benelli inertia design is best for cold, wet, waterfowl conditions. I just really don't have a use for a manual shellshucker. There are better options out there.

    Call me a snob…I don't care. LOL

  • Tom Archer

    "I have a Syracuse Arms double barrel with faux Damascus barrels that looks rather classy combined with its casehardened receiver."

    Brother Scott, don't know anything about your background, and could care less about what kind of gun snob you may be; but if you're professing to be a vintage gun authority, then you'd be well advised to do some reseach before you go posting such comments as those above and spreading misinformation to unfortunate people who just happen to be more ignorant than yourself. I can assure you beyond any doubt that any gun bearing the name The Syracuse, or The Hollenbeck by the Syracuse Arms Comapny that either have the words "Twist" or "Damascus" roll-stamped on engraved atop the barrels; and the very early examples with no barrel markings but exhibiting twist or Damascus patterns are indeed the REAL ARTICLE. The Syracuse Arms Company make quality guns and NEVER produced a "faux" Damascus barrels on any kind, even on their lowest grades. So get your facts straight friend; and then maybe you can profess to be an "expert".

    • Scott E. Mayer

      Brother Tom, I do not, have not, and will not profess to be a vintage gun authority, however you seem to know a lot about a gun you've never seen or even had fully described. ;)

      I agree that the Syracuse Forging and Gun Co. made wonderful shotguns–but I assure you, this is not one of those Syracuse guns Baker was making up in New York. It is a cheap catalog brand with fake Damascus probably applied as an acid etch. I have a hunch it's a Meriden, based on the Syracuse/Baker/Folsum/Meriden trail.

  • Tom Archer

    Brother Scott, sounds to me like you're the guy whose VERY confused here. Here is your statement "Manufacturers used to put faux Damascus finishes on fluid steel barrels to make those guns look finer than they were. In some cases, it works. For example, I have a Syracuse Arms double barrel with faux Damascus barrels that looks rather classy combined with its casehardened receiver". I sure as heck didn't misread your post Friend, you clearly stated "Syracuse Arms"; again, your statement alleging "faux" Damascus barrels on a Syracuse Arms gun is an ABSOLUTE and TOTAL FALSEHOOD. I won't back off my statement; I challenge you to back-up your statement that your Syracuse gun has "faux" finish barrels; and when you can't, then out of concern for public safety, you should remove that portion of your claim above and apologize to the public. You also stated "you seem to know a lot about a gun you’ve never seen or even had fully described", well to that I say this my Friend; first of all you described the gun as a "Syracuse Arms", did you not? If the gun is question is not a Syracuse Arms, then post a cotton pickin' picture of whatever it is your have and I'll correctly describe that danged piece! But in the event YOU did describe the gun correctly, then I can ABSOLUTELY assure you, and anyone else reading this post, that I know what it is I'm talking about! In fact, I submit to you that I have handled more Syracuse Arms Company guns that anyone alive today; that I have written extensively on the subject of Syracuse Arms (and continue to do so), and anyone wishing to see my work can do so by contacting the Double Gun Journal magazine (offices in East Jordan, Michigan) and request copies of same. Now you didn't list a serial number for your gun, but after about serial number 8,000; any Syracuse Arms gun with Damascus barrels (which is the overwhelming majority produced) will have Damascus type or Twist stamped/engraved on the barrels (New Twist, Improved Damascus, Finest Damascus, etc); but even on the earliest models, Twist/Damascus patterns are clearly visible. And although your lack of knowledge regarding the subject upon which you expound is laughable to those who have actually studied vintage guns; posting that crap to a public forum is extremely dangerous to those who are even more ignorant that you have publicly demonstrated; for the Syracuse Gun and Forging Company NEVER produced a single gun labeled "The Syracuse" (two entirely different companies). And further, the Baker Gun and Forging Company was never associated with the Syracuse Arms Company, nor produced any guns marked The Syracuse: although the original Superintendent of the Syracuse Arms Company, Frank A. Hollenbeck, actually invented The Syracuse gun and also organized the Syracuse Arms Company, whcih commenced gun production in 1893. In fact, the original name of The Syracuse was The Hollenbeck after Mr. Hollenbeck, its inventor; but the gun name was changed to The Syracuse in 1896 after Frank Hollenbeck resigned from the company in July, 1895. And further, The Syracuse gun was also NEVER associated with the Folsom Arms Company, or the Meriden Arms Company, which came along several years after The Syracuse gun had been in production. And further, the Meriden gun was a true side lock action gun, as opposed to a box lock framed Syracuse gun; which further indicates that you may not know your side lock from your box lock when it comes to double guns.

    And finally, I do know whereof I speck because I ACTUALLY research the articles I publish before I stick my foot in my mouth.

    Now for those who think "cheap" doubles have "faux" Damascus barrel tubes; I strongly suggest you don't risk your fingers! Faux pattern barrel tubes do exist; but they are very rare, and were typically painted on the cheapest tubes possible; most of which were used on cheap Belgium imports.that flooded the American market at the turn of the last century. Rest assured that whenever you see a Parker, LC Smith, Ithaca, Lefever, Baker, Colt, Meriden, Baltimore, Arms, Hollenbeck, NR Davis, early Stevens, American Gun Company, Syracuse gun; and all those other obscure "lesser lite" vintage American double guns too numerous to name; if they say Twist or Damascus, or say nothing but have a twist pattern, they are indeed genuine Damascus barrels, as these companies didn't FAKE IT! And as to shooting Damascus barreled guns, if in good condition (and used with ammo of the correct shell length for vintage gun short chambers) they can be safely used with smokeless hand loads, or "vintager" loads below 8,000PSI; and I, and many other vintage double gun collectors shoot our vintage guns regularly at clays and for hunting using period correct loads.


  • steve moriarity

    shotguns begin and end with the sxs, 2 triggers,extracters only,straight & splinter please, well the prince of wales grip does please me also.

  • Roger

    does anyone out there have an opinion about the stevens OU.22-410. Have found one with the plastic stock in 90% . Is it worth $150? Is it a collector? I thought the plastic stock was rediculous 40 years ago, now it has my attention. The 410 was never very practical for hunting.

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