Judging shotguns is a lot like judging music—personal taste figures heavily into the equation. Above all, however, the elements that go into a shotgun’s design and construction must work in harmony to augment our innate ability to track and hit targets on the move.
Unnecessary bulk, poorly thought out stock dimensions, badly placed controls—all these will degrade how a shotgun performs. Whether a shooter is facing an explosive rise of quail or swinging on a hard-crossing clay, the shooter and gun need to move as one in a fluid and instinctual manner.
We take measure of new shotguns by putting them into the hands of our judges, who are experienced shooters. This minimizes the chances of having a single person’s preferences skew the results. (We use this methodology with rifles as well.)
We shoot the guns during a comprehensive set of drills on both clay targets and live birds. This gives us the data we need to accurately assess the feel and basic mechanical functioning (loading, unloading, cycling, etc.) of the guns and arrive at our final scores.