Double barrel shotgun muzzle
The lower barrel of an over-under shotgun is usually fired first, using a more open choke

Over-under shotgun patterns don’t meet

Q Someone told me that with an over-under shotgun there is a point at which the two shot patterns meet, which is from 40 yards to infinity.

If there is a converging point, would the pattern from the lower barrel of my over-under cross this point and actually pass in front of my target at long range?

And would the upper barrel be shooting behind an incoming bird as it passes overhead?

I’ve also been told that the lower barrel of an over-under should be fired first because it is more accurate. Is this true?

— Morris Sims

A: Most over-under and side-by-side shotguns have barrels with bores that are more or less parallel. There are some exceptions to this rule, and even parallel barrels may not shoot to the same point of aim.

However, the barrels are as likely to diverge as converge and may not cross at all. There is no ‘correct’ point of convergence as far as double-barrelled shotguns are concerned.

The lower barrel of an over-under shotgun is usually fired first because the recoil it generates moves it approximately along the centreline of the gun, directly back toward the shooter’s shoulder.

The upper barrel is slightly offset from the centreline, and its recoil causes a more pronounced pivoting action, throwing the barrels upward.

Simply put, you can recover more quickly from the recoil of the lower barrel, which lets you get a second shot away slightly faster.

Consequently, most over-under guns are made with the lower barrel having a more open choke than the upper barrel.

Most upland hunting shots are taken at birds flying away from the gun, and the more open barrel is fired first. For incoming birds, this sequence should be reversed.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.