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In Praise of the Pump

Revered for its toughness and reliability, the pump shotgun is part of the fabric of American waterfowling
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  • photo by Avery Outdoors
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by Doug Larsen

Shoot. Pump. Repeat. The operating instructions for the iconic pump shotgun are as easy as the wash, rinse, repeat instructions on the back of your shampoo bottle. Yet, the pump seems to have fallen from grace in recent years as the semiautomatic moves to the forefront in waterfowling. Let's hope we have not collectively become so semiauto-centric that we look past the many charms of the dependable pump. It is not only one of history's most legendary fowling pieces but also one of the most reliable and cherished gun designs of all time.

The pump gun has earned its reputation for being as tough as a banquet hall steak and as reliable as a rail conductor's watch. And while they are just plain fun to shoot, pumps also offer a nostalgic link to duck hunting's past. From our fathers and grandfathers to post-war duck club sports, the pump has been the one shotgun that crossed economic lines and suited every man.

Back in the years when someone said "crank down the truck window" and you actually used a handle rather than an electric button, my duck season travels took me to many different duck clubs and public boat launches, and in those days, I would see pump guns on virtually every gun rack. Today, I see fewer and fewer of them as they have been elbowed out by sleek autoloaders. But in the centers of waterfowling, from Eastern Shore goose pits to moss-draped duck blinds in the Mississippi Delta, the pump is still the workhorse for many hunters.

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