20 Gauge Shot Size

EdgeWater

New member
What shot do you recommend for a 20 gauge for pheasants.

I am taking my son with me for his first hunt and he will be using an 870 youth 20 gauge
 

david0311

Member
What shot do you recommend for a 20 gauge for pheasants.

I am taking my son with me for his first hunt and he will be using an 870 youth 20 gauge
JMO—But I believe #6 would be best -especially early season-again JMO-but like #5’s as best all season keep it simple size

Remember to get first class ammo for him—Fioccie,Federal-copper-platted ect.

Enjoy your time with your son—Remember having my little guy out when he was 12– He Turning 40 this year-will never forget the look on his face when dog brought back his first bird-and we still hunt and fish together all the time-:10sign:
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
That's kind of a "loaded" question. Lots of variables, probably the biggest one being shot material - lead, steel, some other non-tox? With steel, velocity matters more so than with others.
Let's assume you want him to be able to poke at a 40-yd bird & bring it down if he manages to connect.
Lead 5's (6's OK if you know shots will be close-ish). 1250-1350 fps. IC or MOD choke.
Steel.... IC or SK choke. 1350-1450 fps....3's. 1450-1550....3's or 4's. If below 1350....2's.
Bismuth 4's or 5's (4's pack a little more punch past 35 yards). 1250-1350 fps. IC or MOD choke.
 
I have been shooting Fiocchi Golden Pheasant #5 the last 2 years and they seem to be the best 20 gauge load for roosters I have found. I tried shooting the federal pheasants forever loads both the prairie storm and the wing shok. I felt the penetration on the Fiocchi's was much better, very few pcs of shot with balled up feathers and mainly pass through's.
 

hunter94

Active member
I have been shooting Fiocchi Golden Pheasant #5 the last 2 years and they seem to be the best 20 gauge load for roosters I have found. I tried shooting the federal pheasants forever loads both the prairie storm and the wing shok. I felt the penetration on the Fiocchi's was much better, very few pcs of shot with balled up feathers and mainly pass through's.

Fiocchi Golden Pheasant #5
 

JMc

Super Moderator
I killed more pheasant's with 7.5's long before 6's and 5's got popular. I agree the bigger shot hits harder but if he's a beginner, more shot in the air may help. Also, the higher end loads with 5's will have much more felt recoil with an 870. Either way they're all good and most of all...Good Luck to the young man.
 

akp

Member
I have gone with the Golden Pheasant #6 instead of #5 for more density in my son's 20. Probably didn't need the extra pellets. I prefer 5's in everything else. Having said that, the 6's worked fantastic on pheasants. Fiocchi Golden Pheasant are excellent shells no matter what gauge.
 

EdgeWater

New member
Thanks everyone for the feedback and I am looking forward to the trip. I come up every fall from Florida to hunt with family and it means more having the boys there since my dad passed.
 

birdshooter

Active member
What shot do you recommend for a 20 gauge for pheasants.

I am taking my son with me for his first hunt and he will be using an 870 youth 20 gauge
That's always a special time for father and son, hope you guys create some lasting memories. I assume these will be wild birds rather than preserve?

Now on to the shot size question and something to consider when selecting your ammo. With 12 gauge IMO 2-3/4 inch #5 lead in a 1-1/4 oz load is kind of the gold standard all around shot/load size for Pheasants. If you can find 1-3/8 oz possibly even better. #5 shot really does split the difference from #6 and #4 with regards to effective pattern vs pellet energy for clean kills. However, when talking 20 gauge we now have to take into account that any 2-3/4 inch 20 will contain fewer pellets because the load size will be either 1 or 1-1/8 oz, so pellet count will be reduced, meaning fewer pellets (larger #5 shot) in the pattern. Case in point a 1oz. load of #5 shot has roughly 170 pellets and the 1-1/4oz having 212, some 42 more usable pellets in the pattern. I know this may seem a bit technical, but if you were to pattern the two you would see a noticeable difference.

So how do we compensate while still using the 20 gauge. We'll... a couple things. If using a 2-3/4 inch shell you can use #6 to up the pellet count which will hinder somewhat for clean kills at longer distances but will have an effective pattern and sufficient pellet energy out to near 35 yards. Any further your cripple percentage skyrockets. Or... you could go to a 3" 1-1/4 oz load of #5 which will effectively extend your range by giving you a "Sweeter" pattern (than 2-3/4" #5)and larger shot for penetration. Basically giving you the equivalent of that gold standard 12ga loading I previously mentioned. It makes the 20 more usable at a wider range of distances.

That being said.... depending on how old or how big he is you will have to decide if the added recoil of the 3" will be too much or not. I will say the recoil will not be bad at all, but that is my opinion and not his. You be the judge. If the gun fits him reasonably well, felt recoil will be mitigated more so than an ill fitting gun would. Ultimately decide how far you should allow him to take shots and select the ammo accordingly. I do know that Fiochhi makes such a loading in 3": https://www.ganderoutdoors.com/fiocchi-golden-pheasant-loads-20-gauge-3-1-1/4-oz.-#5-200822.html
 
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EdgeWater

New member
Great input from everyone. I have them scheduled for a preserve the first day to "get their feet wet" in a controlled environment and then wild birds after. My 12 year old has 50 lbs on my 15 year old, so he may shoot my montefeltro since it has such little recoil and my older son with with the 20 gauge. I plan to hit the range a few times before the trip shoot and figure out which gun is the right fit, but more importantly, hold the gun, load and unload and just get comfortable.

Be grateful for public land in South Dakota, it is limited here in South Florida...
 

BRITTMAN

Active member
Sixes and maybe fives ... I have found nothing larger in size patterns very well in the couple of 20s that we own ... especially in 3 inch shells.

Use 7.5s for grouse and steel 7s when I need to use steel shot.

Maybe worth patterning
 
Edge -- Here's some info I've posted before on 20-gauge pheasant loads.

If choked appropriately, 20-gauge 1- to 1 1/4-ounce loads of lead #6s or #5s should take care of any pheasant shooting out to about 40 yards. Here are a few of my pattern numbers from loads I've shot pheasants with to give you an idea of how a couple of my reloads perform, in my gun anyway!

Patterns from a 20-gauge Browning Citori with 28" Invector-plus barrels and Briley flush chokes (patterns average of five, 30" post-shot scribed circle, yardage taped muzzle to target, and in-shell pellet count average of five).

20 GA 2 3/4" RELOAD (BLUE DOT)
1 oz #6 lead (233 pellets) 1200 fps
30 YARDS – SK / pattern 147 (63%)
30 YARDS – IC / pattern 168 (72%)
40 YARDS – M / pattern 146 (63%)
40 YARDS – IM / pattern 163 (70%)

20 GA 3" RELOAD (BLUE DOT)
1 1/8 oz #5 lead (190 pellets) 1220 fps
30 YARDS – SK / pattern 140 (74%)
30 YARDS – IC / pattern 149 (78%)
40 YARDS – M / pattern 138 (73%)
40 YARDS – IM / pattern 147 (77%)

Some public lands require nontoxic shot, so if you need nontoxic go with 20-gauge 3-inch 1-ounce loads of either #3 or #2 steel. Steel shot lethality research on pheasants conducted by Tom Roster showed #2 steel to be more effective (at all ranges) than either #6 or #4 steel. Yes, you can kill pheasants with #4 or #6 steel loads, but a little extra pellet energy is a good thing on wild pheasants where shots tend to be going-away and can get on the long side. The research also showed #2 steel resulted in fewer cripples than both #6 and #4 steel; and Roster also speculated that the #3 steel pellet would be a good compromise between pellet count and downrange energy.

Here are a few of my pattern numbers to give you an idea of how these loads perform, in my gun anyway!
Pattern numbers from a 20-gauge Browning Citori with 28" Invector-plus barrels and Briley flush chokes (patterns average of five, 30" post-shot scribed circle, yardage taped muzzle to target, and in-shell pellet count average of five).

20 GA 3" WINCHESTER DRYLOK SUPER-X STEEL LOAD
1 oz #3 steel (145 pellets) @ 1330 fps
30 YARDS -- SK / pattern 114 (78%)
30 YARDS -- IC / pattern 123 (85%)
40 YARDS -- IM / pattern 106 (73%)
40 YARDS -- LF / pattern 110 (76%)

20 GA 3" REMINGTON NITRO-STEEL MAGNUM LOAD
1 oz #2 steel (118 pellets) @ 1330 fps
30 YARDS -- SK / pattern 101 (86%)
30 YARDS -- IC / pattern 105 (89%)
40 YARDS -- IM / pattern 99 (84%)
40 YARDS -- LF / pattern 102 (86%)

Good luck!
 
I do not shoot a 20 gauge but I do use a 16 gauge most of the season for pheasants.

I use steel shot almost exclusively. I have used some bismuth.

For steel, I really like 7/8 oz loads of #4 for my right barrel. I use 7/8 oz of #3 in my left barrel.

When it is really windy or the birds are flushing wild, I use #3 shot in both barrels.
 

mgorvi

Member
Might want to consider Federal Heavyweight 7s in 2 3/4 inch 1 1/8 oz. It’s a soft shooter, 1100fps, and will get the job done to about 40 yards. It’s a very tight shooting load, so IC would be the most constriction you would want to use. It’s been a good load for me and my grandson when we go with our 20s.
 
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