Best Shotgun Option for New Hunter?


Hey everyone:

I've just posted in the general area with some background on me (here). I'm a new hunter, and fairly new to shotguns. I know the basics about gauging, action types, different types of ammo..... But there's way more to know about shotguns than I ever thought.

Anyway, so I'm trying to do my research and look into an appropriate pump for me to start with. My research and conversations with friends have led to believe that an 870 would be a nice "opener" shotgun. I've not heard good things about the Express models, and I'm really looking to start middle of the road, pricewise. I don't need a bargain option per se, but I also don't need to spend four figures on my first shotgun either.

An opportunity presented itself to pick up a Wingmaster 12 gauge from a widow in my neighborhood. If I dated the receiver number correctly, it's a '78. It has a short barrel on it now with rifle sights on it. She also has the long smooth bore barrel with a bead sight on it. After leaving her house and looking more things up, I'm a little unsure whether the short barrel is a slug barrel, which may or may not be rifled, or if it's maybe the police barrel. So I think she'd take just about any offer, so it could be a nice chance to pick up an American classic, but it also might not be the right gun for me. As in, what if I wanted to add a scope? Apparently some folks make an aftermarket mount that uses the extractor pin holes to mount to the receiver, or I can look at a cantilever barrel..... But is this the right thing to do?

Anyway, I'm on the fence about whether I should make her an offer, or just buy a deer gun. If I go that route, which one? It almost seems that the only 870's that are specifically setup for deer are the Express models, which don't really excite me all that much. I'd love to hear any advice that anyone may have to offer!

If choosing between those two guns I would personally go with the Wingmaster. If I was looking to get a good slug gun, If anything ever happen to my H&R slug gun I would be hunting down a new one that day. As far as slug guns go I own several different ones and have never shot one with the accuracy of my H&R. They used to be cheap but now they are hard to find.
870 is a good shotgun.

Save your money and avoid future grief by avoiding that type of aftermarket mount you mentioned. I could write a book on this, but won't. Just take my word for it.

But, a solidly attached cantilever mount works great.
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I've never actually touched one of the cantilever barrels for scope mounting, but I've eyeballed them while window shopping. Maybe I'm crazy, it just seems like it could be a fragile setup easy to mess up. Am I wrong, are they solid and rugged?
I've never actually touched one of the cantilever barrels for scope mounting, but I've eyeballed them while window shopping. Maybe I'm crazy, it just seems like it could be a fragile setup easy to mess up. Am I wrong, are they solid and rugged?

It depends on what you are talking about. If you are talking about cantilevers that are attached to the barrel at the factory, then they should serve the purpose they are designed for unless someone at the factory messed up during manufacturing it. As for a cantilever that is added later, it depends on the quality of the device and the ability of the person who mounts it.

Saddle mounts have a notoriously bad reputation in the competitive shotgun shooting world that I live in.

I have no idea where you are from, but if rifle hunting is legal, set up a good rifle and forget about deer hunting with a shotgun. If you must deer hunt with a shotgun, then there are reasonably good options. The absolute best setup (in my opinion) would be a professionally drilled and tapped, receiver mounted, scope base, with a shotgun barrel that has been "pinned" for the purposes of improving accuracy and holding POI (by someone who knows his stuff). If I was going to be deer hunting with a shotgun, that's what I would have. Can you do it with less than that? Of course, people kill deer with shotguns not set up that way all the time. It all depends on what accuracy and the extent of POI stability that is necessary for the hunting you are doing.

PS: Best Wishes, and welcome to the forum. I hope I haven't confused you with any of this. If you will be deer hunting with a shotgun, there are others here who can give you better advice. My experience with scopes on shotguns is mostly with tight shooting turkey guns, which is a similar sport but a little different. And, I deer hunt with a rifle.
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Thanks all! I'm in Illinois, so no rifle hunting for deer here. I may want to shoot shot someday, so I wouldn't mind picking up this Wingmaster just to have it. But it seems like it may be more exercise than what it's worth to try to turn it into a deer gun.....
Thanks all! I'm in Illinois, so no rifle hunting for deer here. I may want to shoot shot someday, so I wouldn't mind picking up this Wingmaster just to have it. But it seems like it may be more exercise than what it's worth to try to turn it into a deer gun.....

Not necessarily that difficult. If you went with a cantilever mount on the deer barrel, you would essentially just be able to change barrels when going from deer hunting to shot shooting or vice versa. You wouldn't have to pin the barrel like I was talking about. That's just something I personally would do because I'm such an accuracy nut, and its not an essential thing to do.

When you went from the shot barrel to the deer barrel, it would be important to get the barrel nut tightened down to about the same pressure every time (use a white marker to line it up and get it pretty tight). Then, the most important thing would be to shoot it again on paper before hunting with it. Just because it was hitting perfect before when you had the deer barrel on doesn't mean that it will still be that good when you put the barrel back on again. Even if you get the pressure (nut tightness) the same, it may not go back to the exact same POI. Chances are it will be close, but some minor scope adjustments will likely be needed.

So, using the same gun for both purposes isn't really that difficult. The only step you add other than changing barrels is just checking the scope again like I described above. You should always check that anyway, even if you are using a rifle and have put it away for a while. Once again, good luck....
Buy the wingmaster. Get a Hastings cantilever rifled slug barrel. Feed it different kinds of quality slugs and you'll probably find a winner. The 870 is a great gun, the older the gun the better it was made. The newer model 870s don't really compare....
I have a 870 wingmaster in every gauge they were offered in all in the 70's and 80's vintage. Great guns as long as you don't need to shoot 3" shells. No experience with scope shotguns or even deer hunting with one. Sounds like you could get in it cheap enough and pick up a cantilever barrel and be setup for anything from quail to deer. Welcome aboard!
I shot a mossberg 500 pump gun for nearly 2 decades now to hunt deer with. It isn't fancy and it has seen it's use. I originally bought it new as a "combo" with a field barrel and a smooth slug barrel, with rifle sights on it. This gave me the ability to shoot 2 3/4 and 3 inch shells and to hunt deer, small game and birds as well. Now the smooth slug barrel sucks. It limits your range simply because of the accuracy of the ammo. I tried a side mounted scope bracket without much luck and finally stepped up to a cantilever barrel with a fully rifled barrel and have been very pleased since. The scope stays fixed on the barrel and even if I switch barrels now I don't have to spend near the time re-sighting the gun. Something else to consider is if your regulations allow you to use a muzzleloader during your general firearms season. My state allows this and as such I could buy 1 gun and get 2 different hunting seasons out of it.
I would recommend a Savage 220 for deer hunting. 2 3/4" Remington accutips group very nicely from this gun
I had the 870 with thumbhole stock, cantilever barrel and Leupold setup in 12ga. First of all, 12 slugs in that gun were BRUTAL especially on new scope sight-in day. Killed a lot of deer with that setup, but accuracy past 70yds just plain sucked. Got a Savage 220F and use 3" AccuTips exclusively in it.....I can stack slugs on top of each other at 100yds.

For wingshooting or clays, shoot a Benelli once and you will never want anything else.
Savage 220, great groups. Semi auto? Less recoil, scope mounted on barrel is the key. Every slug gun shoots tighter groups with certain slugs. My rem 1100, scoped was good to a pie plate 100 yards with a flyer now and then. Sbe2, deadnuts to 150, but never had any slug over 1500 fps group. I spent $1,000 on 15 slugs from multiple brands off a leadsled. Copper sabots grouped well. But again the 220 out shoots them all. Goodluck

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A Savage 220 is bolt action, not semi auto and is a very accurate slug gun, but is a dedicated slug gun. If you need bang for the buck an older 870 with a good quality cantilever mount rifled slug barrel along with regular barrel is hard to beat, as others have said. A few years ago you could've bought an H&R Ultra Slug for about the price of a rifled slug barrel and bought the Wingmaster and had two great guns for dedicated purposes. I'd recommend trying the used market for just that. A dedicated slug gun like the H&R or Savage 220 will be more accurate than any slug barreled shot gun. That said, buy what fits your budget and get out in the woods! I shot plenty of deer with smoothbore rifled choke guns back in the day.

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Wingmaster, 870, Mossberg (Lik J-bird, I shot a Mossberg 500 for 27yrs... killed a TON of stuff with that simple little gun), all great guns and easy to buy a new barrel for whatever configuration you want for any of them. Which one shoulders best for you? That's my "game changer". If it fits and shoulders on target without thinking about it then I tend to shoot well with it.
Hey everyone, thanks for all your posts. Sorry it's taken me so long to get back in here and post, but I've literally been working on hunting stuff for months and have been too busy!

As for my gun, I did end up buying that 870 from my neighbor and I'm pretty happy with it. I ended up finding a fully rifled barrel for it used, so that helped. I've put a Bushnell scope on it that goes up to 4.5X. I've shot maybe 25 sabots thru it. The groups aren't as tight as I'd like, but I can pretty much pick up any Remington or Winchester sabot slug and put it in an 8" ring at 100 yards with confidence. Haven't picked out my favorite slug yet, hope to get out shooting a few more times before opening day.

Going out to hang my stand on Sunday with a buddy, getting pretty excited.....

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