The Decline of 10 Guage & 16-Gauge Shotgun

It has been years since I last saw a 10 gauge shotgun. If I had not read Kyle Wintersteen latest article at Shotgun News it might have been a few more years before I gave them some thought. Kyle writes

Americans have no qualms with purchasing an assortment of specialized firearms. In terms of rifles, what gun safe is complete without a rimfire, a bolt-action and a semiauto carbine? And who could do without a compact handgun for summer carry or a full-size model for plinking?

Yet, when it comes to shotguns, so many consumers opt for one, do-it-all firearm — generally a pump or semiauto 12-gauge shotgun chambered for 3- or 3-½-inch shells.


The 16-gauge enjoyed popularity into the early 20th century, perhaps not coincidentally in conjunction with the golden age of American shotgun manufacture.

Perhaps the real nail in the 16-gauge’s coffin came in 1954, when Winchester introduced a Model 21 side-by-side chambered for its new 3-inch, 20-gauge Western Super-X Magnum shotshells. The 20-gauge was now capable of 1-¼-ounce payloads, which consumers — rightly or wrongly — perceived as an advantage over 2-¾-inch, 1-ounce, 16-gauge shells. So, the 16-gauge was essentially dethroned as the lightweight alternative to the 12-gauge.

Read the full article here.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Sweet Hephaestus do I love my 10 gauge double. Sure, she might be an odd little Spaniard bur she vanquishes old furniture and birds with equal finesse.

  • Sulaco

    My dads .16 gauge pump Rem is my son’s favorite field gun. Finding ammo is really getting to be a challenge.

  • Nicks87

    I think in most people’s opinion 10 gauge is too much and 16 gauge is not enough, or too much in some cases, so it gets left behind in favor of 12 or 20 gauge.

    • Anonymoose

      I’m eyeing that 4 gauge up there…y’all can have your little kiddy 10 gauges.

    • NewerHCE

      Yeah, a 16 seems like you’d give up the range of a 12, but not get the break on weight of the 20. (just guessing here)

  • SP mclaughlin

    $15 a box of 28ga for my M11-48 makes me a sad panda.

  • Many 16 gauge shotguns are gorgeous, light, well-balanced pieces that really do make me yearn for an earlier time.

    …Having said that, 20 gauge seems basically superior.

  • allannon

    Dunno if this is generally true, but I’ve been seeing 16ga shotties around recently. Dad’s got a O/U 16ga that’s now his favorite field gun (kicks like a mule due to low weight, but less than a 12ga, and it’s a light and easy field carry).

  • Vhyrus

    I have a Browning sweet 16 my grandfather gave me. It is an excellent clay gun, but lack of ammo has caused it to be more of a show piece than anything now.

  • Cameron Bissell

    I long for both. even more i would like ammo for them.

  • marathag

    If 16 Gauge had its own class in Trap and Skeet, it would still be popular

  • Gary

    As a teen I bought a Remington 870 pump in 16 gauge because my beloved Grandfather had a 16 gauge, and I was a 97 pound weakling and my Dad’s double barrel 12 gauge was a bit much for me. And 20 gauge seemed a bit too wimpy for me at the time.

  • JP Andrews

    I think the decline in popularity of the bigger bore shotguns has more to do with the decline of our taste for duck and goose, and that we commercially raise what we need. The10 gauge guns were for bringing down those high flyers. We don’t see many, or any, punt guns either these days.

    Having said that, my grandfather also had a over and under 16. Not that he ever shot it.

  • Mystick

    I think someone did that in AR format with proprietary rounds that cost $2 a piece.

    • Anonymoose

      That’s still less than most non-military rifle rounds.

  • Jim Osburn

    I have my great grand dads Winchester Model 12 in 16 gauge. It is chambered in either 2 1/2″ or 2 9/16ths, can’t remember, but they are paper non expanding shells which can only be found at gun shows or people getting rid of old shells. Over the years I have managed to pick up quite a few loaded rounds, but I save them for rare occasions. It is also a very sweet shooting shotgun.

  • Y-man

    I have NEVER SEEN 20ga ammo in my LIFE. And yes, I think I qualify for “living in the middle of nowhere”.
    But 12ga? YES: open market, black market, everywhere…

    • lol

      alot of that probably is due to military adoption of the 12 guage right?

    • iksnilol

      Open market, black market, gray market, it is all good to me. Though the black market is a bit more expensive.

      If you are getting a shotgun that isn’t 12 gauge you might as well just do it right and get a 16 gauge and start reloading.

      • Y-man

        Man, where have you been!? Good to see your post…

        • iksnilol

          Been where I usually am, that is Norway. Maybe I have posted less lately but that was because I had a lot of schoolwork last week. Though now I have free from school until 5. January.

          So how are you? I am still trying to make things work, things aren’t easy but I guess that is normal. Especially for my age. Though I did manage to shoot three shots touching eachother (more like overlapping) from the knee using only a sling for support. I’ll see if I can post a pic.

  • Allen Mathis

    A browning gold 10ga purchase is on my list for 2015. certainly some advantages for large/heavy steel shot loads over the 12ga 3.5″

  • NewerHCE

    I find myself using my 20G more and more. On the clay course, the 12G rules, but the pheasants have felt the power of the “little gun” in the field. The 20G still swings easy after hours of tramping thru briars and marsh. The 12? not so much.