Choosing The Right Firearm

by Patricia Mclelland-Merydith

She pulled the trigger and her face lit up with joy. This 32-inch barrel trap shotgun fit her and the light 2 ¾ dram, one-ounce number eight shot shells didn’t kick like her husband’s 26-inch barrel field grade shotgun did a week before when shooting heavy dove loads. She is like so many women I’ve taught in northern California, either through my shotgun instruction business, or as a clinic director over the past ten years for the NRA Women On Target Instructional Shooting Clinics.

Some women want to go hunting with their husbands, protect their family and property, buy a firearm in a show of support of our Second Amendment, or their bucket list includes shooting a 12 gauge shotgun. Many of these women were introduced to shooting a shotgun by their husband, brother or friend not recognizing a woman’s diff erent needs.

The truth is every person, whether man, woman, or child, has specific needs when shooting a shotgun. Those needs are not always identified by the salesperson at the gun counter. I know because I was a firearm sales associate and saw many people who bought a shotgun they heard was good, or looked good in an advertisement, but left them feeling disappointed.

Avoid the frustration of buying the wrong firearm. Purchase a few lessons from a certified shotgun instructor with shotguns to loan. These will help you decide which shotgun to purchase: a pump, break-open, or semi-automatic. Perhaps a shotgun you can use shooting trap and take hunting as well; one that will handle both lead shot for upland game and trapshooting and steel shot for waterfowl. You will learn about gun fit. For example, most shotguns have a standard length of pull of 14 ¼ to 15 inches. This means a small framed person would need a gunsmith to measure and modify the shotgun.Capture

Also, the drop from the rib (or barrel) to the comb on the stock where you place your face is not the same on all shotguns. One shotgun may fit right out of the box, yet another may require modification. I’ve seen too many people frustrated with a shotgun barrel too short for trapshooting, or one that is poorly designed that kicks like a mule.

Learning which shotgun and shells work best for you will make a world of diff erence. At five-footthree and just over 100 pounds, this 57-year-old grandma can shoot 1200 rounds of light eight shells required when competing at the Pacific International Trapshooting Association five-day State Shoot. Trapshooting helps prepare me for pheasant hunting where heavier loads are used. I learned this from my
father Bud McLelland, who gave me a passion for shooting.

My dad took me hunting when I was a little girl, and I’ve passed our family tradition along to my sons Jason and Ben, and daughter Elizabeth. I have good memories of shooting with my dad, my children and now my husband Rod, and I am happy to see many of my students have gone on to create memories shooting with their families.


Patricia McLelland-Merydith is Owner/Instructor of McLelland-Merydith Shotgun Instruction National Rifle Association (NRA) Women On Target Instructional Shooting Clinics NRA Life Member NRA Certified Shotgun Instructor Amateur Trapshooting Association Certified Shotgun Instructor Member Coon Creek Trap & Skeet Club, Lincoln, CA If you have questions for Patricia, you may email her at
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