While some people may disagree, it is widely believed that the 16 gauge shotgun was one of the best upland bird hunting guns ever made.
But whatever happened to it? There are not nearly as many models for this once popular gun as there are for its 12 and 20 gauge counterparts. Ammo is not nearly as widely available, either, and can be a bit on the pricey side when found at most sports shops.
There are plenty of theories as to why this trusty shotgun was, for the most part, retired. Some believe it is because of its growing popularity over the other models of shotgun. Others think it was the 3 inch magnum option that became available for the 20 gauge over the years. There are even a few who believe that because it is not used in skeet competition, the gun was just eventually ignored.
No matter what the reason is, it is a shame the 16 gauge shotgun is not as readily available as others. Many hunters have fond memories of their 16 gauges. Some took down their first deer with one, perhaps a Remington or a Winchester. Others were given it as their first gun from a dad or a grandfather.
Those lucky few still have theirs, using them to take down pheasant, quail and grouse. At one time during its hay day, the 16 gauge was said to have the power of a 12 gauge with the handling of a 20 gauge. That is pretty accurate, for the most part, and if the 16 had ever been coupled with 3 inch shells, it would be one of the most truthful statements in the shotgun industry.
The 16 gauge is not impossible to find and, rumors have it, may even be making a comeback with some manufacturers.
It has long been known for having a reputation for outstanding patterns and very modest recoil, making it the perfect gun for quick, multiple shots.
It has some historical significance, too. According to the May 1956 issue of Guns Magazine, Annie Oakley set a world record by breaking 4,772 out of 5,000 thrown balls over the course of nine hours. The sharpshooting phenomenon, called Wan tanyeya Ci sci la, or Little Sure Shot.
There is no doubt Oakley knew her way around a gun, and her choice for breaking the record that day were three 16 gauge shotguns.
Hopefully rumors of the guns resurgence are not exaggerated and there ends up being ammo to spare and a model for every budget.
Each hunter has their own preference as to which shotgun they use when hitting the woods, but do not scoff at the idea of picking up a 16 gauge and giving it a chance if you have never tried one. You never know, it might surprise you.