I guess that is a fitting title, as there really is really not one that exists; not from the factory that is. Some are awful close but each has their own history of flaws. That being the case let us examine what it takes to build it.
First and foremost the ultimate gun must shoot where are looking in order to have the ability to cleanly kill at normal ranges. Since there are a wide range of hunters in their physical size, this in itself is a quality that gun manufacturers would never be able to solve totally. The manufacturers try to fit the gun for the average size hunter but some customizing must be done to fit everyone. In order for a gun to fit you properly it must first be patterned to see where the gun shoots for point of impact. If the gun shoots off of center there are a number of things that your local gunsmith can do to correct this. Some manufactures such as Beretta offer guns with adjustable stocks. There are also many gun manufactures offering replacement stocks that you may have custom sized for you. Check with your local sporting goods dealer.
After this how does the gun feel? I like to close my eyes and mount the gun as if a quick flight of teal were passing at first light. Then open your eyes and see if in fact that you are looking straight down the rib. If not some adjustment may be necessary. I would stress fitting with your hunting coat on as some length may need to be cut of the stock The gun must come up smoothly without snagging your coat! Again your local gunsmith should be able to take care of this.
What does the pattern actually look like? Are there any holes in the pattern? How does it look at different ranges and loads? Different chokes and load combinations will solve these type problems. It is a lengthy process and mostly “trial and error”. Some of the specialized chokes on the market may seem like a waste of money but some are well worth the expense. They may actually pay for themselves through a reduction in the number of shells it takes to bring a bird down. A lot of hunters I have talked with seem to be shooting too tight a choke which may be part of the problem especially in not hitting a bird at all. We at Haydel’s have recently started offering replacement tubes especially for the waterfowler for this reason.
In a typical shotgun shooting a modified choke your shot string is approximately 12 feet long at 40 yards. If you hit a bird with the front edge of your pattern at that range on a crossing shot he is out of the way when the back edge of the pattern catches up! By adding the rearward facing ports to our tubes we can slow the wad down; cutting our shot string in half thereby DOUBLING shot density! We have also constricted our tubes for specific situations such as shooting over decoys, passing shots, and extended range for geese. We have now maximized our shot density while offering more forgiveness in shot placement by throwing a wall of pellets instead of a string!
Will the gun function flawlessly? Most automatics do not take the cold temperature without a little TLC. Single-shots, pumps and doubles are better but as long as we are talking ultimate lets stick with the autos. One thing that helps is keeping the top end of the gun (above the receiver) dry of any oil. Oil builds accumulates powder residue and slows the guns from cycling. Be sure that any O-rings are in top shape and replace if necessary. The lower end must be free and loves a little oil. One part that is often neglected is the recoiling spring tube inside the stock of the gun. Most autos that I am aware of have these spring tubes. Over time they become rusted and sluggish. Don’t neglect this tube and oil it about twice a year. If neglected you will eventually only be able to get one shot off and the gun will not push the second round completely into the chamber.
There are many manufactures that offer products that in many cases exceed the manufactures. Sure Cycle is one of these. They make after-market recoil tubes out of stainless steel. They never need oil nor wear. In many cases they have faster cycle times than the original. They are currently about 20 percent more than factory replacements but if you ever have to replace it again it’s money well spent. Well worth the peace of mind. This is cheap insurance to keep you blood pressure in check! I have had these replaced on two of my own guns and have never had a problem even after several years’ worth of dunkings.
Now that we have a gun that functions properly and shoots a good pattern where we are looking we need to be sure we are LOOKING in the right place. Some hunters have really increase there hit ratio by adding fiber optic sights. Many companies offer these. HI VIZ and TRU GLO come to mind. I do not particularly shoot them myself because honestly to correctly shoot a shotgun you should never CONSCIOUSLY look at your sight. Your subconscious however does. This may be the reason that some have found these items successful. I tend to concentrate on the sight and not the bird with these.
Now that we have the ultimate duck gun we should never miss. Right???