The Perfect Quail Gun

f0746149-2776-48f0-9538-fedb67e0ef32 Story and photo by Chad Love

A friend and I were recently talking about that most nebulous and mythological of creatures, the “perfect” quail gun. Depending on your point of view (or perhaps your capacity for self-delusion) it’s either the difficult-but-achievable Holy Grail of shotgundom or an unobtainable will-of-the-wisp.

Whatever the case, it’s something I’ve been chasing for years, and I am no closer to figuring out what exactly it is than I was a kid, when the perfect quail gun was whatever I happened to have at the time.

When I was a teenager I received a Winchester Ranger 20-gauge pump with a 28-inch vent-rib modified barrel. As a kid’s one-gun squirrel-rabbit-duck-quail-dove battery it worked perfectly well, which meant, of course, that I thought I needed something else.

So began a lifetime (and counting) of buying, selling, trading and lusting after shotguns of all types, makes, gauges and configurations, all to find that elusive One Ring of quail guns.

I went through my light-as-a-feather-and-kick-like-a-mule phase, my proletarian pump-guns phase, my synthetic space-gun phase, my tactical gun phase, my gas auto phase, my over/under phase and am now deep in the throes of a classic English side-by-side phase.

I shot horribly with some of them, passably with others, and a few I managed to shoot, if not well, then at least in a not-quite-embarrassing manner.

Funny thing was, I never managed to identify any discernable pattern to which guns I shot well and which guns I didn’t. So if there’s a formula to the perfect quail gun, I haven’t yet found it.

My current favorite quail gun is an old (made in 1923) Joseph Lang boxlock 16-gauge in the classic English game gun configuration (straight-stock, double-trigger, a hair over 6 pounds) choked skeet and skeet, shooting a 1-oz. load of 7.5s.

But depending on my mood I’ll also use another SxS, (yet another almost-centenarian, a Continental guild gun of unknown provenance but very high quality), a vintage SKB SxS 12-gauge, an old Beretta Bl-4 20-gauge O/U, yet another Beretta, a BL-5 12-gauge, an Ithaca/SKB 20-gauge O/U, an old (really old, first-year production) Remington 870 20-gauge, one of the old Miroku Charles Daly 12-gauge over/unders, a 50’s-vintage Browning Light Twelve, or, when I’m feeling especially adventurous (or foolhardy) a single-shot .410.

In fact, I’ve shot quail with pretty much every shotgun I’ve ever owned, and whatever gun I was using at the time seemed to get the job done, so I guess, when it comes right down to it, the perfect quail gun is the one you’re holding when a quail gets up in front of you.

Still, it’s always fun to debate, and pontificate, on such matters, so what’s your almost perfect quail gun(s)?