Suggestions for new duck gun

Guys, looking for some input. I recently bought a duck boat and I've been hunting Lake O. I've had a couple of decent hunts, but I think I'm lacking on the firepower.

I've been using a Mossberg 500 pump (26" barrel) and what I think is a modified choke. I'm using #6 shot. As of late, it just seems like a can't the broad side of a barn.

Need suggestions on barrel length and choke. Also, would an auto help? I did knock down 4 hooded Mergansers the other day, but I still think I'm missing out on my full potential. I could possibly drop $300-400 on a new Thunder stick if there are any deals out there.
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Sounds like your problem is much more about choke and shot selection than anything else.

Before I ran out and dumped $1000+ on a new semi-auto, I'd say start with a good aftermarket choke for the shotgun you already have. There are plenty of good ones on the market, but my favorite is the Patternmaster classic short range. Their Code Black Timber is basically the same choke except with a protective coating on it. Both chokes are rated to 40 yards (plenty of distance for most hunters), and they're perfect for 2.75 and 3" loads. If you decide to stick with factory chokes, the full choke is too tight of a constriction for steel shot and over time will damage your shotgun barrel. It's the reason that manufacturers tell you not to shoot steel or non-toxic shot (all of which are made either of steel or metallic compounds) through anything tighter than a modified. They're simply too tight of a constriction for steel/nontoxic, and it will ultimately result in you paying almost the cost of a new gun in the form of a barrel replacement.

The most popular barrel lengths for waterfowling are 26" and 28". You'll run into some people who are shooting 24 and 21" barrels, but the other hunters in just about any blind or setup you'll find yourself in will thank you for using the longer barrel lengths.

The next thing I'd suggest is trying Hevi-Shot's Hevi metal shotshells. #3's are very popular for a reason. They're versatile and are deadly if you do your part.

The last thing I'd suggest is to practice on shooting clays in the offseason. Once you've worked through the mechanics and become a good shot, the rest will take care of itself.

I have about 45 years of duck hunting and worked as a guide for several years. Let's break it down and see if we can fix your problem.

Gun - No issues with your gun. That Model 500 is a good dependable gun. Side note..My main duck gun has a 3 1/2" chamber. I have shot less than a box of 3 1/2's out of the gun and I have had that gun to close to 20 years now. I find no need for the long shells. I hunt with guys that have between 30-50 plus years of serious waterfowl hunting and none of them use 3 1/2" shells, even for heavy goose hunting. Just food for thought.

Choke - MOD choke is good choke. BUT....You need to get that gun out and pattern it with the IC and MOD tubes. You will be surprised at what happens when you change out tubes. My Browning GH loves the IC tube. It hammers ducks and geese. When I put the MOD tube in the patterns are spotty. My A5 loves a MOD tube and blows out patterns with the IC tube. Each gun is different. You need to find the "sweet spot" with your tubes matched to your shells.

Shells - #6 steel is pretty much useless unless you are hunting early season teal. It just doesn't have the energy on target to reliably kill full size birds. It will do the job, but there are much better options out there. Again, you need to pattern you gun. One gun I have loves Kent FastSteel 3" 1 1/8 #2's. I have another that loves 2 3/4" 1 1/4 #3's, and so on. I would recommend starting with #4's, 3's, & 2's. I like 3's & 2's as they will do the job over decoys. September teal I love #4's as the BWT are in your face. Main point, go buy different shells and pattern them with our IC & MOD tubes.

Range - You will be surprised at how far out ducks are when you think they are really close. Put decoys in the yard at 10, 15, etc out to 50 yards and you will be surprised at how far you have been shooting at ducks. I try not to shoot at bird past 35yds. I let them pass if they are outside of my range. Learn your range estimation. One thing I will do is set my decoys up and place a big pintail drake at the limit of my spread. If anything pass that point flies by it gets a free pass. Get the decoys in close, cover up, DO NOT MOVE, and wait for the shots you are confident with.

Shooting - Big mistakes I have seen over the years with clients are keeping your head down on the stock, maintaining stock-weld, and looking down the barrel. Too many people have the tendency to look over the top of the barrel to watch the ducks. KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN ON THE GUN! Another one is follow-through. When you press the trigger keep the gun swinging. Most people have the tendency to jerk the trigger and stop the swing. Just keep the gun moving and press the trigger. You will be surprised at how many birds will fall when you are looking down the barrel and keep the gun moving. If more than one bird comes in focus on just one bird. Too many people have a tendency to look at the group and fire at them. Pick a bird, focus on that bird, if you drop it, pick another bird.

If you got questions ask!

T Gunn,

Sorry I didn't read this back when it was relevant. But, if advice is better late than never, then here goes:

Switching to auto will not give you any benefit as far as range, pattern or power. In fact, all this will be less due to the fact that autos use much of the recoil power to reload. With a pump, bolt or lever action, all that potential power is put squarely back into the load. That means you get more velocity, more range and more energy in the projectiles when they hit target. The only real advantage you get from autos is reduced recoil and faster shooting. All this holds true for shot guns as well as rifles.

Now you can take the rest of what I'm saying with a grain of salt, because I don't duck hunt.

The Mossberg 500 is a fantastic weapon! I am a big fan of Mossberg. I own Winchesters, Remingtons, Brownings and a Weatherby. My Mossbergs are my go to weapons if I'm wanting to do some serious hunting. I own a 500 in 20 gauge and a 535 in 12.

When I was looking to purchase a gun chambered for 3 1/2 inch I was looking at the Mossberg 535 and Mossberg 835. The 835 was the one that all the salesmen told me was designed for duck hunting. It has an overbored and ported barrel. But, I could find no one who has actually compared the two in side by side test. The salesmen could not convince me that the overboered barrel would have the same range as the regular. My understanding of plain physics would not allow me to believe that power is not lost as gasses escape around the shot load.

As far as choke is concerned, I've had duck hunters tell me that they shoot modified choke. Then again, these same hunters I know miss a lot of ducks. My old school thinking tells me that full choke will give you a better range while holding the shot in a tighter pattern. The modified will give you a better shot spread but at a shorter range. Open choke is what we hunt rabbits with. That's close range shooting with wide shot patterns.

I hunt deer. Through my childhood and most of my adult life I hunted deer with hounds. A shotgun is the required weapon for this type hunting. I carried either a breech loader or a pump with full choke. I have taken deer at some impressive ranges. Once I took a mature buck at 120 yards with a 20 gauge. Many in the 100 to 110 yard ranges with 12 and 20 gauges. And once I took a buck so far out you would not believe me anyway, so we'll save that story for another time. All with buckshot. No slugs.

Now. Long barrel verses short. Back to my own understanding of physics. The longer the barrel, the more energy the shot will absorb from the charge, giving you a greater range. That's why all the old school goose guns had barrels that would poke hole in the clouds. Sorter barrels the energy is lost when the shot leave the bore and all the propelling gasses escape around the sides. It's easy to understand, just hard to explain.

Now. My recommendation. And remember, I'm a deer hunter. Not a duck hunter. BUT, if I were to start hunting duck and gees, I would go with the Mossberg 535. I will concede this much. I'd get a full choke and a modified and test it before I went hunting to see what range and pattern I could get with each. Try shells in 2 3/4, 3 and 3 1/2 inches and compare them as well.

The more you shoot before the hunt, the better your chances of hitting target when you hunt.

Hope this helps.