I think it depends on your size and the load. The magnum loads and slugs recoil more than light bird shot. I gave my two younge3r sons shotguns--a twelve gauge for the older and a twenty for the younger. The twenty is adequate for most purposes, and he uses it to hunt birds and rabbits. The older used his mostly for bear defense when he lived here, but now he lives elsewhere and I don't know if he uses it at all. He was a pheasant hunter when he first moved, but he is newly-married, with a new house and a baby on the way, so I don't think he has time for other stuff.