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Gauge, or Bore, as the Term Relates to Shotguns


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Many people may not know what the terms "gauge" or "bore" mean. 

First of all, they are synonyms, so you can substitute one for the other. For the purposes of this discussion, I'll use "bore" simply because it has less letters to type.

"Bore" is a measurement of the *inner* diameter of the barrel, but it may not be what you think it is, as a 12-bore shotgun has a much larger barrel than a 20-bore shotgun. How is this?

It's because the term is defined by the number's inverse. A 12-bore shotgun is one which has barrels that accommodate a ball (a sphere, not an oval) of lead weighing 1/12th of a pound. In other words, there are 12 of these lead spheres in 1 pound. (A bullet is not necessarily a lead sphere unless you're dealing with 18th-century muskets.)

A 20-bore shotgun has smaller barrels which can only accommodate lead spheres that weigh 1/20th of a pound.

PS - muzzle is to breech as bow is to stearn.

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