Many shooters know the 16 gauge shotgun cartridge as the "Sweet Sixteen." Dedicated followers appreciate the versatility this gauge offers. The recoil is manageable recoil and the payload is reasonable, contributing to the appeal of the 16 gauge in comparison to 12 gauge and 20 gauge shotguns.
Most 16 gauge shotguns weigh around seven pounds, but the lightest 12 gauge shotguns weigh 7.5 pounds and get heavier from there. The inertia of the gun affects the recoil felt by the shooter, so a lighter gun with the same charge will kick harder than a heavier gun. The recoil of the 16 gauge would therefore tend to be higher than a 12 gauge, yet is somewhat moderated by reduced loads for most bird hunting shells, so the feel is about the same. The real benefit of the lighter gun becomes apparent after long hikes across fields and over fences when hunting upland birds. The reduction of the weight of the gun by one or two pounds is welcome.
The 16 gauge enjoys another important advantage when comparing its performance versus the 12 gauge. The numbers are about the same, although most loads for 16 gauge max out with 1 1/4 ounces of shot, and they generate a muzzle velocity slower than equivalent 12 gauge loads by only about 200 feet per second. Muzzle velocity for the 20 gauge is another one hundred feet per second slower, and payload is reduced twenty percent, making it is easy to understand what advantages the 16 gauge offers.
Ammunition for the 16 gauge is not always easy to find on the shelves in the average big box store, but it is available at most sporting goods stores and of course through online retailers like ammo.com. Federal, Remington and Fiocchi, among many different manufacturers in America and Europe, produce many different shells for 16 gauge. The size of shot ranges from #2 to #8; slugs can be found also.
Many hunters overlook the 16 gauge because it is not as abundant as the 12 gauge or 20 gauge, but consider taking a second look. The cartridge is powerful and can do the work of a large gauge, just in a lighter gun. That fact alone ought to make a 16 gauge shotgun worth considering for your next purchase.