The Gun I Always Wanted

It’s worth saying publically, at the beginning of this blog that the team at have asked me to pen, that I’m grateful to them for the opportunity. I’m also grateful to you, the reader, for being interested in the musings of – essentially – a nobody. I am a competent shooter, but hardly talented. I am not vastly experienced. I certainly do not possess a name well-known in the shooting community.

Really, my only qualifications for writing are my enthusiasm for shooting – particularly small gauge shooting – and my mathematical and scientific abilities, which lend themselves usefully to the understanding of the behaviour of shotguns and cartridges. I hope that in writing this diary of a life with a .410, I can put both of these things to good use.

The purpose of this blog is to record, for, my experiences with a soon-to-be-acquired .410 – a Yildiz Elegant A4 side-by-side, which I intend to use for hunting wood pigeon. I mean “hunting” in the far older, more general sense of the word: I will use the gun to shoot birds for the purposes of eating them, rather than the peculiar English form of “hunting” – pursuing foxes on horseback.

In fairness, the use of the word “always” in the title might be a slight exaggeration. I have wanted a double .410 for as long as I’ve been shooting seriously – a number of years now – and really since I first fired a .410 at the age of 12, blasting apples placed atop a dustbin, under the supervision of my friend’s father in their back garden. Three rounds of Eley’s old faithful “Fourlong” loading opened my shotgunning career – as, no doubt, it did for so many of us – and cemented a passion for all things shooting which continues to this day.

For most of the time I’ve been shooting regularly, I’ve known that the .410 I would eventually buy would be one or other of the current Yildiz models. I’ve dithered over whether a side-by-side (the “A4”) or an over-and-under (the “SPZM”) would better suit me, but today I walked out of my local gun dealer’s premises, having placed an order for the side-by-side, no doubt appearing ridiculous because of the beaming smile on my face.

Perhaps that seems a strange image. One could argue of course, that many men of a certain age regress – sometimes temporarily, sometimes not – to their childhood years, in an attempt to live out all the dreams which were impossible then. I do not think that the purchase of a reasonably affordable .410 shotgun constitutes a mid-life crisis, but it is a throwback to my childhood and an acknowledgement of a personal history of “not buying the .410”. It’s also something of a personal achievement.

The last time I had £500 all in one place, ready to spend on a gun, I was faced with a choice between two guns. I knew, as I stood in the shop, that I was happy to take a punt on a Yildiz – then a relatively unknown, but apparently promising brand – but the question was, which one – a 28 gauge or a .410?

Acknowledging that I had only one opportunity to spend the money and that, back then, I had even more trouble hitting the pigeons than I do now, I opted for the 28 gauge. I made that decision on the basis that it would shoot a slightly more sensible quantity of shot than the tiny .410, which would no doubt quickly frustrate me with my inability to shoot it well.

A short time later, I found I had a couple of hundred quid sitting around. Did I put it aside in the hope of finally getting the .410 to go with the 28 gauge? No – stupidly, I was impatient and bought a single-barreled Baikal to play around with. I thought that having the wrong .410 would be more satisfying than having no .410, but I was wrong. The gun didn’t fit, kicked like buggery with all but the lightest loads and the trigger length of pull was ridiculously long – altogether an uncomfortable failure.

Later still I discovered deer stalking and the prospect of buying anything useful for pigeon shooting quickly receded as I piled my money and time into chasing that particular branch of hunting for a year or two.

Now my focus has shifted back to where it should really always have stayed: pigeon shooting. Deer stalking is no longer a major part of my hunting – it was only ever “borderline practical” at the best of times – and some of the proceeds from the disposal of my stalking kit will pay for the new .410 which, I’m told, will arrive on Monday.

I can hardly wait.