Santa might bring my 91/2-year-old son an 870 compact junior 20 gauge, which has an 183/4-inch barrel and is chambered for 3-inch shells. We will want to put an extended turkey choke tube (ported is preferred to lessen recoil) on it. I am looking for the best choke tube/shell combination. I have been looking on the internet to see if anyone has any current combinations that have worked well, but have not found anything yet. I am partial to Federal No. 6s with the flight-control wad (I shoot 31/2-inch magnums in my Mossberg) but am open to any proven shell and choke tube combination. Any help would be greatly appreciated. — Frank James
Thanks Frank. We put that question to our forum shooting expert, Clark Bush, of All About Shooting. Here's his response:
Those compact 20-gauge shotguns can work very well for younger shooters or even adults who do not fit the "average American man" model. They can also present some very real challenges for patterning and recoil management. Most of those have to do with the very short barrels that manufacturers put on those guns.
A short barrel will generate more "barrel whip" than a longer one, and this causes the shooter to feel a pretty good whack from the stock comb. This can be helped with the addition of a thin pad on the comb. I often recommend a Cheek Eez or similar product. Keeping your cheek firmly on the comb is vital for good shooting, and a thin pad will help.
Short barrels, especially those 20 inches or shorter, present a challenge when it comes to throwing good, even patterns. The most important thing to do is to deep clean that barrel before ever taking it to the range, field or woods. You can read about that process at http://allaboutshooting.com/article_info.php?articles_id=282
After shooting a variety of shells and chokes in 20-gauge guns for the past decade-plus, I've found a few combinations that work exceptionally well. The hands-down best shells on the market today all have tungsten-based shot. I can not find any better than the Hevi-13 shells made by Environ-Metal and recommend the 3-inch shell with 1.25 ounces of No. 6 or No. 7 shot. Both will allow clean, ethical killing shots at up to 40 yards when paired with the proper turkey choke.
There are two turkey chokes that I recommend for Remington 20-gauge guns. The first is the Swarm and the second is the SSX. They will yield very similar results using the Hevi-13 shells in Remington 20-gauge shotguns. They have quite different internal designs but very similar results. With just a little time spent at the range, either of those will allow that gun to throw excellent patterns.
Last, recoil management has a lot to do with gun fit and also with using the best hearing protection possible at the range. When introducing a new shooter to a shotgun, both are vital to keep him/her from developing a flinch. I recommend the use of ear plugs (the foam ones are fine) and some low profile muffs. Loud noises can cause a flinch as easily as getting kicked. We never feel the recoil when hunting, but if we develop a flinch at the range, we can easily miss in the field.