Photo from http://gal2.piclab.us/key/10 gauge shotgun manufacturers
Many consider the 10 gauge shotgun obsolete, but it is an effective weapon that can attain multiple kills when in one downrange shot. This is not a gun you HAVE to buy if you have a 12 gauge 3 1/2. Either gun will get the job done in terms of kills. The best guns for hunting bird will be your 10, 12 or 20 gauge shotguns, but the 10g will be the heaviest, and this is where many people have a bit of a problem with the weapon. The gun started with a short 2 7/8 barrel, but it still retained the standard .775 inch bore, which is the largest bore diameter size of any American shotgun. It is known for its high energy and range, fierce spread, and heavy kick in its recoil, but with a recoil pad and proper positioning of the gun, the recoil is no different than the 12. However, the recoil can bite extra hard through lead shots, and not necessarily steel. If you're looking for a big gun that can pack lots of steel, while shooting with lighting speed, then the 10 is your prime choice. Get a view of the pump action version:
The 10 gauge was developed in the 1870s, and was a popular gun for lawmen and carriage riders. But the 10 gauge began to fall out of style in the 1890s, as the 12 gauge shotgun became the spreader of choice throughout the late 1800s and into the 1900s. Bullets and the gun itself became harder to find, and the 10 piece was very much restricted to hunting waterfowl. It seemed as if the 10 gauge would become a relic of the past, until the U.S. government mandated non-toxic shots when bird hunting beginning in 1987, but was issued nationwide in 1991.
10g vs. 12g?
When it comes to the question of a 10 vs. 12, the truth is that both guns are suitable for water fowler hunting, and it depends very much on the hunter's preference. Some use only the 10 or 12 gauges only, while other hunters use them interchangeably. The law certainly the kept the manufacturing of the 10g into play, but where the 10 truly remains competitive is the addition of the 10 gauge magnum autoloader.
Courtesy of Remington
The autoloaders in the 10g are gas-powered, which is effective in reducing recoil, and it feels no different than a 12 gauge when shooting. The 3 inch steel load was also enough for the 10 to keep up with the upgraded 12g 3 1/2.
However, this does not mean the 10g will outgun the 3 inch 12-gauge.
The 12 gauge can hold as much steel shot as the 10, has non-toxic loads with better handling, and there was the higher PSI upgrade of 14,000 with the 3 1/2 . But, both gauges are on par with the 10 in terms of velocity. For instance, Remington's Hypersonic Steel 10g 3 1/2 ammunition can shoot anywhere from 1350 to 1700 FPS, some of the fastest hitting velocity on the market, which perfect for pass-shooting and instant kills, but these perks are also offered in the 12g.
You can find other versions as well: over and under, side by side, single barrel, pump-action, and you're more likely to see the lever action among the antique variety.
10 Gauge Ammunition
When it comes to shells, you're most likely to get the non-toxic variety, steel being the most common, since this is a gun relegated to waterfowl hunting. For a list of approved non-toxic shots, click here. If you're buying from large manufacturing companies like Remington, Winchester or Federal, you'll get a standard 3 inch 10g loads. And, depending on the brand, 10g loads can come in 1 3/4, 1 5/8 and 1 3/8 ounces of shot. Steel shot sizes range from 1, 2 and 3, along with T, BB and BBB. Lead shot sizes are usually reserved for turkey hunters, and may come in 2 and 2 ounces of shot. Shot sizes for lead are BB, 4, 5 and 6, and they are fairly heavy and they also come cheap. How many pellets you get will depend on the brand, and 4 Buck (54 pellets) and 00 Buck (18 pellets).
When it comes to the 10, you can get better patterns, more shot and longer range, and it is a good gun to use for turkey or geese hunting. However, it can get expensive to use, with the factory loads are getting harder to find. This is not a fowler piece that every store will have, but you can get your hands on one, and it will be a great addition on hunting campaigns and personal collections.