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Thimbleby Estate

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The double-barrelled conundrum – side by side or over and under?

If you’re a regular visitor to Thimbleby Shooting Ground then you’ll know that we’ve held two competitions this year for side by side shooters, and they’ve both been very popular. It seems there are plenty of people in and around North Yorkshire who love a side by side shotgun! We’ve also had people asking our instructors and staff about the difference between the two, so we decided it was a great time to write a blog about it.

The debate about which barrel configuration is the right choice has been bubbling away for decades, but the ‘right’ choice depends on your preferences, intended use and shooting style. Gone are the days when turning up for a day’s driven game shooting with an over and under shotgun would see the old guard sniggering into their morning heart starter. Back then, the most proper style of shotgun for game shooting was a side by side, but thankfully times have moved on. Both over and under and side by side shotguns have their own advantages and considerations, so there’s no definitive right or wrong here. Here’s a breakdown of some factors to consider:

Gun fit

Ask any of our instructors and retail team and they will tell you the same thing – side by sides are so often not quite the right fit for their owner. It’s much easier to fit an over and under, and so people tend to get the right fit and find it more comfortable. The wrong fit side by side will be awkward and impact your shots on target.

Balance and handling

Over and under shotguns typically have a lower profile and tend to balance more evenly between your hands. This can make them feel more natural for many shooters and can make changing from a gun with one configuration to one with the other feel strange. The single sighting plane can also help with accuracy.

Recoil management

The recoil for the first shot from an over and under is felt lower in the shoulder and more easily absorbed, so it’s easier to get the second shot on target. Plus, over-and-under shotguns are usually heavier, and that can help absorb the recoil from the shot. That means a more comfortable experience and, for some, less fatigue to the shoulder over a longer shooting session or day in the field. That extra weight also helps people effectively swing the gun, helping them give appropriate lead to those extra-high birds.


Side-by-side shotguns often have a classic and traditional appearance, while over-and-under shotguns offer a more modern look. Your personal preference for old-school versus contemporary aesthetics might influence your decision.

Tradition and Heritage

Side by side shotguns have a rich history and are associated with traditional hunting and shooting. If you’re drawn to the nostalgic aspect of game shooting and firearms, a side by side shotgun might be more appealing.


Over-and-under shotguns commonly come with interchangeable choke tubes for each barrel, allowing you to customize your shot spread and range for different shooting scenarios. This versatility can be advantageous for various types of hunting and shooting sports.

Shooting Style

Your shooting style can influence your preference. Some shooters find over and under shotguns more intuitive for aiming due to their design, while others appreciate the familiarity and style of side by side shotguns.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your personal preferences and intended use. Luckily, you can try shotguns with both barrel configurations here at Thimbleby to see which one feels more comfortable and effective for you.