For gun enthusiasts, “best” is often heavily debated, and to be honest, it’s really a matter of opinion. The “best” of anything is typically dependent on your situation, your personal preferences, and the other gear which you plan to use with it.

However, some hunters actually believe the 10 gauge is now obsolete! That’s why in this article, we’ll be comparing these two and laying down the facts to help you decide between them.

10 gauge vs 12 gauge – What’s The Difference?

For starters, the 12 gauge is more widely used. This means that you’re not only going to find a wider variety of ammunition, but also a lot more guns on the market for 12 gauge. It’s versatile, and a favorite of many gun enthusiasts and hunters. The 12 gauge also tends to have a much more manageable recoil, while still being powerful enough to take on big game.

However, the 10 gauge does have it’s own merits. Many people are actually surprised to find that the 10 gauge has a superior range to the 12 gauge.

This makes it a favorite among those who hunt birds like duck, geese, and even turkeys. This increased range makes it easier to hit a target that’s on the move and quickly flying away.

The 10 gauge tends to have another disadvantage though which makes it less favorable in the eyes of some hunters. 10 gauge shot guns tend to be much heavier than 12 gauges. This isn’t a big deal sitting in your duck boat, but if you have to stalk a large animal through rough terrain, then you want to reduce your pack weight as much as possible, and so, a 12 gauge will likely be preferred.

So, Should You Get A 10 or a 12 Gauge?

If you can only get one, then the 12 gauge is likely the way to go. This shotgun is far more versatile. You’ll be able to use it to hunt large game, small game, waterfowl, and just about everything else.

Plus, you’ll have near endless choices such as: semi-automatic, pump action, and everything else under the sun, allowing you to find something you truly like.

A 12 gauge is also one of the top guns for self-defense purposes. It has excellent stopping power, it’s easy to use and maintain, and in the case of bird or buck shot, has a wide spread that is easy to hit with, but won’t pierce walls, endangering neighbors or others in your home.

As a bonus, ammunition for the 12 gauge tends to be much cheaper. Why? Well, because there is more of it around. The 10 gauge is a little harder to come by, and thus, you’ll likely pay a premium for it. So, keep that in mind too.

Our Recommended 12 Gauge Ammo

Best 12 Gauge Ammo
Home DefenseWinchester Super X (Buck)
Target ShootingEstate Dove & Quail
Big GameWinchester Super X (Slug)

Who Should Buy A 10 Gauge?

For most hunters, 10 gauges are reserved for bird hunting where additional range is required. However, some people just plain like them better. You should realize though that if you don’t typically practice shooting with a 10 gauge, then the benefits will likely be lost when you get out on the hunt. Practicing with a gun and knowing how it handles are just as important as how powerful it is.

10 gauge vs 12 gauge

A 10 gauge is also not the best choice for home defense for a few reasons. For starters, it’s heavy and hard to maneuver, not something you want in a life or death situation. It also kicks like a mule, and many people are surprised by just how hard.

Even if you can handle the recoil, it’ll slow you down on follow up shots if you need them, which is not ideal. Plus, it’ll be harder for more petite members of your house to pick it up and use it if the need arises. While the 10 gauge does tend to have more power behind it, it’s not needed in this situation, and the trades offs just don’t make sense.

In closing, while in many cases, best is a personal preference, there is a clear winner here. The 12 gauge is a better all around shotgun variety, and if you need a real work horse that will perform well for nearly any task which you can throw at it, that’s the way to go.

While the 10 gauge does have its place, and it’s far from dead in the water, it just can’t match the benefits of the 12 gauge in most situations. For the average home defender, or even hunters looking to bag bucks, the 12 gauge will most likely win out.

What About Shot Patterns?

Shot patterns are certainly something to consider, but they are a little harder to judge, because the specific gun you’re using can also impact them. However, in some cases, increasing the shot weight can give you a denser pattern. This ensures ethical and deadly shots against game.

12 gauge vs 10 gauge
Pictured: 12 gauge bird and buck shot patterns

In most cases, the 10 gauge patterns better than the 12 gauge. This is important when shooting smaller, moving targets like ducks. Though, it’s less important when shooting a home invader up close, and thus, the 12 gauge is preferred here for its many other benefits if you intend to use buck shot for self-defense, which can be quite effective.

That being said, if you do plan to pick up a 10 gauge for waterfowl hunting, it’s important to keep in mind that not all guns pattern the same. You may need to experiment a bit with your targets and different loads to find your ideal. However, this does give you the opportunity to get more practice in.

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