Is there a true all-round shotgun? The latest Q&A

Let us know if you have any questions – we have the experts to answer them

Your clay shooting experts

A true all-round gun?

Question: I’m thinking of buying a 3½ in chambered semi-auto shotgun, having seen one at a good price in a local gun shop. I’m looking for a gun I can use for everything: clays, pigeons and maybe even wildfowling. Although this gun is large compared with clay models, it isn’t too heavy and feels nice to me. Is there anything I should be aware of, or look out for?

Richard Atkins says: There are a few things to be aware of. The gun will be larger than the shorter-chambered clay models, because it has to have a longer cycling stroke to handle the longer cartridges. Semi-autos do not always feed and eject reliably when using shorter cartridges.

The feed ramp geometry, dimensions and operation cannot be maximised for every cartridge type and length combination so feed issues are the first problem. Most clay cartridge cases are 70mm long, with some 67mm. Some 3in chambered semi autos will cycle 70mm cartridges well, but less with 67mm. 

Shotguns usually give their very best performance when cartridge length matches the chamber, and this is especially so with fibre wad ammunition. Using cartridges shorter than the chamber means the shot and wad emerge from the cartridge case into the barrel chamber, not the forcing cone.

In a 12-bore gun the chamber diameter is basically 10-bore. A 12-bore fibre wad cannot expand enough to form a gas seal in the chamber, and that means hot gas escapes. This leads to reduced velocity, disrupted patterns, and in worst case conditions, shot balling.

In the era before plastic wads we had guns with 2, 2½, 2¾ and 3in chambers. The guns were built to work best with suitable length and shot weight cartridges; they also had short forcing cones and what we call ‘standard’ bore sizes of around 0.729in (18.5mm) or less. The guns’ weights and handling were optimised for their intended purpose too. 

Many people choose a gun that is suited to their main type of shooting, such as Sporting clays, and can also do a competent job at game or rough shooting. With heavier wildfowling-type loads, however, I would always suggest buying a second gun that’s built for the job.

Will my past stop me shooting?

Question: I am applying for a Shotgun Certificate. I have started lessons at a local shooting ground and have most of the equipment I’ll need, including a gun cabinet. I am required to give details of two previous convictions which I received decades ago. They were minor offences and I received a fine but no custodial sentence. I am soon to retire after a long professional career. Do you think these old convictions are likely to prevent me from obtaining a licence?

Stuart Farr says: The police take each case on its own merits; their role is to assess whether you are fit to possess a shotgun. You are right to declare the convictions on the application form, as it would be an offence not to do so, and that would lead to refusal.

They are classed as ‘spent’ because they occurred so long ago. It sounds as if they were minor offences which should not result in a ban on firearm possession under the legislation.

The process involves an interview where the Firearms Enquiry Officer will go through your application and inspect your cabinet. He will want to discuss your offences, but your long career should stand you in good stead.

I would be surprised if the spent convictions play a highly significant role. If you are concerned, seek legal advice on your circumstances and situation.

My eyes aren’t what they were

Question: I am 46, live in the States, and shoot rifle, pistol, and shotgun. My daughter is a competitive shooter and I love to compete alongside her. I had laser eye surgery 15 years ago, having worn corrective lenses from 18 months old. I am also red-green colour blind. 

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with a wrinkled retina in my right, dominant shooting eye. My left eye started taking over my sight picture. My eyes feel dryer that they used to. All in all I’m a mess when it comes to my eyes and I hate the thought of lenses.

I have some Nordic Naturals vitamins and I’m interested to try your eye exercise kit. I want to give the girl a run for her money again, but her younger eyes leave me in the dust! Do you have any suggestions?

Ed Lyons says: I’d like to hear more about your wrinkled retina, particularly what caused it. If it’s an epiretinal membrane, there is a procedure to have a ‘peel’ that is worth discussing with your specialist.

I think of the eyes as video cameras that have to point, focus and capture both static and dynamic data. We have six pairs of muscles that move our eyes laterally, vertically and torsionally, in addition to muscles for focus. As we reach our 40s we lose muscle efficiency, especially for near focus, so we require corrective lenses for close work.

Glands that secrete an oily lipid element of our tears, which helps stop the tear film evaporating, can become blocked, which leads to ‘dry eye’. An EyeBag is a warm eye compress which helps melt gland blockages and improve the lipid flow of the tear film. Over-the-counter drops such as Systane, HycoSan and Thealoz Duo improve eye hydration.

The Nordic Naturals stuff is good as it contains antioxidants such as Lutein and Xeaxanthin which have been shown to have a protective effect to the macula – the area which provides central vision. 

Is your red-green colour blindness troublesome for clay shooting? There are online tests you can do to grade your level, and lens colours we use to enhance orange clay targets which can become lost.

I hope this allows you to continue your shooting! For an eye training kit to customers in the US, place an order on my website at

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