Buying a Gun for High Pheasants

In Britain, shooting high flying pheasants is considered by many as the top echelon of the sport.

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The selection of shotgun and the right cartridge to do the job is critical to success in this type of top end shooting.

Shotgun Selection

For high birds, most Guns will opt for an O/U 12 bore with 32″ barrels and tight chokes to ensure you have enough “gun” to get the desired amount of shot over the birds at the extended range.

Choke selection generally ranges from 3/4 and full to 1/2 and 3/4 for this type of shooting but it is very much a personal choice.

A higher comb on the gun’s stock will ensure that the shooter has better visibility of the birds as they pass over.

There are some Guns who still prefer to us side-by-side guns, maybe family heirlooms passed down. Preferred barrel lengths in side-by-sides seems to range between 28″-30″.

And of course there are some Guns who are talented enough shots to tackle high pheasants with a 20 bore. Correct cartridge selection becomes very important for those that do.

Cartridge Selection

To ensure the shot has sufficient kinetic energy (killing power) when it hits birds at these extreme ranges, more powder is required. More powder mean more recoil on the shoulder and the gun. This is why “light guns” are not recommended for sustained efforts on high birds.

For shotguns with 21/2″chambers, 30gm and for 3″ chambers, 32gm in No. 4 or 5 shot seem to be the cartridge performance of choice.

Of course cartridge selection should be based on how you particular gun “patterns” at 50 yards and plus and also how much recoil the gun and the shooter can tolerate.


Few can afford a “library” of shotguns to cover the wide variety of shooting conditions which we may encounter in the field. Survey statistics show that most Guns will own one or two guns, possibly even the same make and model but in different gauge. (Guilty Your Honour!).

Therefore it is likely that the shotgun used for a Gun’s occasional foray high bird shooting in Devon or Wales will be the same one he/she shoots hedge-hopping partridges with in Kent.

And that is not a bad thing. In fact, shooting with a shotgun that you know well and have “muscle retention” with so as to get a more consistent mount, is a good thing, indeed a very good thing.

With the O/U style of shotguns being quite dominant in the shooting field these days, and with most Guns opting for variable chokes rather than fixed, a quick change of chokes and some “high performance” cartridges in the bag, and one is set to go.

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