At one time, 16-gauge shotguns enjoyed a fair amount of popularity. Many said the “Sweet 16” came close to perfection in terms of gun weight and shot pattern. While a some folks still own 16-gauges today, and Browning added one to their lineup recently, fewer use them. Is it just nostalgia that keeps them around? Or something else?
I have a confession to make.
At about age 7, I shot my first shotgun: my dad’s 16-gauge. A year or so later, I found a pair of loaded 16-gauge magnum shells while walking the railroad tracks outside Taylorville, Illinois with my grandfather. Thinking I was “man enough” to shoot a magnum shotgun shell, I asked my dad if I could shoot them. He laughed and said no.
After pleading with the old man for weeks, he relented. That experience pretty much ruined me on shotguns for several years.
My paternal grandfather, though, had higher hopes for me. He gave me his 16-gauge Remington Model 11 humpback for my 15th birthday. You know, the one that looks like a Browning Auto 5. To this day, it still has the “Polychoke” on the end of the barrel.
In high school, with field loads, that gun shot a lot of birds, squirrels and bunny rabbits. It also dispatched its share of opossums and a ground hog or three. I even shot my first rounds of trap with it, missing more than I hit. I blamed the gun for the misses at the time, of course.
Sadly, I haven’t shot that gun in 30 years. I really need to fix that. One 16 I have shot recently brought a big grin to my face.
Guns Save Life continually collects junkers and clunkers for the next big Chicago gun buyback. The last time we went up, we didn’t have the right skin color to participate.
But the time before that, we brought back $6200. We gave them mostly broken-assed junk, and they gave us perfectly good money.
We used that money to send kids to the nation’s longest running NRA Youth Shooting Camp and we bought a few guns to give away to some of the luckiest attendees. The mainstream media picked up the story, giving Chicago’s do-gooders a major black eye.
Anyway, I found an ugly old Riverside Arms (of Chicopee Falls, Mass) 16-gauge single-shot amongst the unwanted junk we’re accumulating. It had seen better days — and then some. Someone who owned it took a hacksaw to it, front and back, and applied a generous amount of friction tape. But when I test-fired it, it worked.
Then my friends wanted to shoot it. Pretty soon, we all wore grins from ear to ear and ran about 50 rounds through the thing.
Just for giggles, I’ve pressed the Riverside into service as a “hideout” gun loaded with a round of #1 Buck in the pipe and two more banded to the stock. Because I can.
My friends and I affectionately call the taped-up tool my “Mad Max” gun. They loved shooting it as much as I did.
We know it makes no sense as a self-defense gun. And we all agree other boomsticks would make better hideout guns. Something like a Mossberg Shockwave or any double-barrel coach gun would do a better job, but something about this gun makes it special to all of us. It’s almost like I rescued an old dog from the local animal shelter and now everyone wants to play with it.
My love of this piece seems nonsensical and borderline irrational. I know it will never be one of Nick Leghorn’s obscure objects of desire, but that’s okay. It doesn’t matter to me or my friends.
Plenty of shooters hang on to their Sweet 16’s for nostalgia or sentimental reasons. Twelve gauge guns continue to get lighter and modern 20-gauge ammo can effectively duplicate 16-gauge payloads.
Finding 16-gauge ammo can pose its own difficulties for casual users. The Internet helps, but you’ll pay for it. One can find reloading gear for 12s or 20s almost anywhere. What to roll your own 16s? Good luck with that.
There’s just something about a Sweet 16 that’s right. Is there a 16-gauge lingering in your safe?