Shotguns For Beginners: Henry's Single-Shot Scattergun & Champion's Wheelybird

To get the best start, get the best equipment.

posted on December 19, 2022
henry shotgun imposed on wheelybird pigeon thrower

It might surprise some to find out that my go-to arm for introductory trapshooting is a simple single-shot shotgun. Call it nostalgia, call it tradition, call it whatever you like—but the proof is in the pudding when you see how fast a new shooter catches on. Single-barrel guns benefit from an inherent weight reduction due to the elimination of a magazine system or a second barrel, and this makes it much easier for a new shooter to learn a stance that definitely feels awkward the first few times that they assume it. Plus, only having one shot at a shooter's immediate disposal encourages better fundamentals rather than accuracy through volume.

When it comes to single-shot scatterguns, I insist on quality for my training needs. Recently we started using a Henry H015 chambered in 20 gauge to help a new shooter fire their first shots. We start all training with safety, and break-action guns aid understanding how to identify an unloaded gun for beginners. One thing I like as an instructor is that the H015 opens up easily; all the shooter has to do is slide the release over, and it cracks in half without any intervention. The Henrys come fitted and polished and don’t require any “break-in” period for this level of operational simplicity.

The H015s are also fitted with an ejector, instead of just an extractor, which aggressively kicks the spent hull out of the chamber. I know it has nothing to do with good instruction, but I haven’t met a child nor adult who didn’t giggle a little the first time a fired cartridge came flying out! Henry’s single-shot also has an exposed hammer that must be manually cocked before firing. I like incorporating this into an early training session because it allows us to introduce new shooters to cocking and decocking, and it better illustrates the firing process. Also unlike many budget single-shots, the Henry includes a choke system allowing you to use it for many different tasks and styles of shooting. Ours came with a modified choke, but it’s easy to find Rem-Chokes which can be switched in for whatever type of shotgunning you have up your sleeve that day.

While I default to old-school guns with new shooters, I opt for the most modern of clay throwers. Yes the foot throwers are inexpensive and maybe even a little easier to transport, but the closer you can stay next to a new shooter the better off you (and any bystanders) will be. Being able to put the trap further away from the two of you is also a safety bonus in the event of arrant clay fragments during lift-off.

Again, go with quality equipment in your selection. We had a bad experience with a cheap thrower that saved us a few bucks out of the gate, but ultimately wound up left out on the range with a note that said: “Free to a good home, or to somebody you absolutely hate.” Finally, we reached out to Champion and got set up with a Wheelybird 2.0. The Wheelybird 2.0 comes standard with a remote control. That allows me to line up the thrower, shooter and myself without tangling anyone with the corded foot pedal. This also enables me to watch their form and the clay at the same time, making feedback that much better and their improvement that much faster. I also like to use Flash Clays from the same company whenever I can get them. These clays are filled with a bit of orange chalk and not only make a hit that much more visible, but the dust yields much more hang time, allowing me to watch a shooter swing and shoot and still have enough time to confirm that they broke a clay, even if it's just a chip.

Training a new shooter is probably the most rewarding experience that I get to enjoy on a daily basis. For those of you looking to introduce a friend or loved one to the sport, I urge you to do so with the best equipment that you can afford. I have unfortunately had to walk back to the car to get the “backup” equipment more times than I wish to admit in the earlier days and I’ll never forget the look on a newcomer’s face, almost invariantly thinking it was something that they did! Spend your time on the range enjoying yourself…puzzling over malfunctioning equipment feels too much like work to me.


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