Best 12 Gauge Shotguns of 2020 – Complete Guide

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The 12 gauge is absolutely the most common shotgun gauge used for almost every application you can think of. These shotguns are the most versatile and power variants of the shotgun lineage, and hence the market is crammed with a ton of models. Here we will dig deeper into this subject and review some of the best 12 gauge shotguns available today.

Comparison Chart of the Best 12 Gauge Shotguns

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Semi-automatic action with chrome plated chamber finish
  • Fiber optic front sight and mossy oak bottomland camo finish
  • Beautiful aesthetics, textured grip and large inflex recoil pad
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  • Tactical pistol grip stock and top picatinny rail
  • Adjustable ghost ring rear sight & weatherproof NP3 finish
  • Semi-auto action with auto regulating gas system
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  • Traditional SXS coach gun design with 20 inch barrel
  • Chambers 2.75 & 3 inch shells and has traditional double trigger
  • Suitable for cowboy action shooting, hunting and home defense
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  • Single shot 12 gauge shotgun with blued finish
  • Limbsaver airtech recoil pad mitigates recoil properly
  • Suitable for close range hunting and clay shooting sports
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  • Durable shotgun with impeccable finish and performance
  • Fiber optic fron sight and coated in camouflage
  • Perfect for hunting turkey and upland game
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Are All 12 Gauge Shotguns The Same? 

The difference is like buying a car. You know that all cars work on the same concept and engines, but there are differences in quality and design. The same goes for a shotgun. The basic classification is a type of action. A shotgun can be a pump-action, semi-auto, double barrel, lever action or single shot. Plus, shotguns will also differ in factors like magazine tube capacity, stock, ergonomics, barrel length, sights, and some other characteristics. 

Another important factor is the intended application of a specific model. Plus, some companies offer a good warranty and impeccable quality of finish. While others may manufacture a sturdy workhorse. 

What Should I Look For When Buying a 12 Gauge Shotgun? 

There are certain considerations you must keep in mind before choosing a 12 gauge shotgun. 

Action

Shotguns come in a variety of different actions. These include pumps, semi-auto, and break-open. Each of them has its own benefits and drawbacks. For example, pump actions are very reliable and require less maintenance, but have a nasty recoil. Whereas semi-auto’s are faster with low recoil but need maintenance. 

Application

Somewhat connected to the above factor, your intended application should be the prime driver for your buying decision. Shorter guns are good for defense, whereas longer guns are great for waterfowl hunting. If you want a more versatile option, a pump-action with a 24-26 inch barrel will be a nice overall fit.

Barrel and Chokes

As mentioned above, longer barrels offer good swing and are great for waterfowling, whereas mid-sized barrels are good for a game like a deer. A good shotgun must have a vent rib barrel with a wide rib. Plus having a wide set of interchangeable chokes is also an appreciable factor. 

Ergonomics

Whether you prefer a bird grip, pistol grip or straight English grip. A wooden stock or a synthetic stock. Your shotgun must feel comfortable with you at all times. Observe the LOP and prefer adjustable stocks. 

Quick Take - The Best 12 Gauge Shotguns

These are our recommendations for the best 12 gauge shotguns:

  1. Browning A5
  2. Benelli M4 Tactical Semiauto
  3. Stoeger Coach Gun 20"

Review of the Best 12 Gauge Shotguns

While the market is overloaded with hundreds of different 12 gauge shotguns. There are only a few that have withstood the test of users and time.

Here we have compiled a list of the best 12 gauge shotguns available on the market today. The guns have been shortlisted based upon customer reviews, their features, and opinion of experts. 

Best Overall:
Browning A5

Pros

  • Durable composite stock with camo finish
  • Fiber optic sight and lightweight profile barrel
  • Good for hunting waterfowl and skeet shooting
  • Recoil operated inertia based action shoots smooth
  • Shock is adjustable for a drop, cast and LOP using shims
  • World’s first successful semi-auto shotgun & still going strong

Cons

  • Disassembly is a bit complex

​​What Recent Buyers Report

Many buyers quote the A5 as the best wing shooting shotgun on the market. The gun has to be stripped and oiled straight out of the box, which ensures flawless cycling. The price tag may be a deterrent for some people, but the history associated with this gun enhances its value. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Browning A5 is a legendary semi-automatic shotgun that hit the market almost a century ago. The inertia operated action creates a significant reduction in recoil while attracting less fouling than gas-fed actions. The gun has an ergonomic and slim profile. Plus the stock is adjustable for the drop, cast, and LOP which allows every shooter to adjust the gun according to their convenience. 

The hump on the receiver’s rear end is an amazing aid for sighting for many shooters. This specific model has a camo finish and a fiber optic sight with a 28-inch barrel. Making it perfect for waterfowl hunting.

Bottom Line

The Browning A5 is the re-developed version of the original A5 with some tweaks to suit the modern shooter. The gun obviously has a high price tag, but the build quality is well worth it. Great gun for bird hunting and competitions. 

Best for the Money:
Benelli M4 Tactical Semiauto

Pros

  • Pistol grip and top Picatinny rail
  • Auto-regulating gas system cycles flawlessly
  • Extended magazine tube with 5 round capacity
  • Adjustable ghost ring rear sight and front blade sight
  • Cerakote and NP3 finish for weatherproof performance

Cons

  • High price

What Recent Buyers Report 

This shotgun is renowned for its reliability and quick action. Being one of the most tactical shotguns available on the market today, the M4 is loved by buyers. Everything ranging from fit to finish is perfect with this gun. The price tag is a deterrent for some. But if you can afford it, you’ll definitely not look for another shotgun. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Benelli M4 is the most tactical shotgun on our list. Having been used by USMC and John Wick, the reputation of this gun precedes the gun itself. This specific model has been coated with NP3 and cerakote which makes it totally impervious to damage. The ghost ring sight is adjustable and great for backup. Plus you can mount optics on the top Picatinny rail. 

The pistol grip improves ergonomics and the gun feels right in the hands. This shotgun is perfect for home defense and hunting. While some users have also extended its use to clay sports. 

Bottom Line

If there was one semi-auto shotgun you could depend on in an SHTF situation. It will be a Benelli M4. With a self-adjusting gas system, the shotgun cycles every load flawlessly. The price may seem a little steep, but the gun is worth it by every inch. 

Best 12 Gauge Double Barrel Shotgun:
Stoeger Coach Gun 20"

Pros

  • Traditional double trigger design
  • Very compact and maneuverable design
  • Look and feel of classic double-barrel shotguns

Cons

  • Low capacity

What Recent Buyers Report

The gun is a marvel to shoot and patterns perfectly at 25-30 yards right out of the box. The finish is excellent and the triggers are what they should be. The gun kicks a bit, but the thick recoil pad absorbs the pressure very well. It is a fun gun to shoot with a lot many uses. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Stoeger Coach gun is a perfect reincarnation of the traditional wild west scatterguns used for fending off bandits. The gun has a good metal-to-wood finish. Good enough to justify the price. The shotgun has double triggers that allow you to fire each barrel independently at your will. Giving you instant options for switching chokes. 

The 20-inch barrel is compact enough for the gun to be used as a home defense shotgun. Being a double barrel, cleaning and maintenance are out of the question. It is a perfect shotgun for people who like traditional weapons and know how to use the double barrel to its maximum capability.

Bottom Line

This Coach gun is a perfect option for home defense, cowboy shooting events, fun shooting, and some close-range hunting. The gun has traditional double triggers and a very durable, and reliable action with low maintenance.

Best Rossi 12 Gauge Shotgun:
ROSSI Mod.s12

Pros

  • Tough and durable design 
  • Long 28-inch barrel for accuracy
  • Significantly low recoil than expected
  • Synthetic stock with ergonomic patterning
  • Classic single-shot design carries emotional value

Cons

  • Safety switch seems unnecessary

What Recent Buyers Report

The S12 has a very limited number of users due to its low production and availability. The shotgun performs at par with other single-shot shotguns and costs way too less. The blueing is perfect and the extra safety switch is a good addon but seems unnecessary to some users. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Rossi S12 is a plain and simple single shot shotgun with a 28-inch barrel. Perfect for bringing down waterfowl, turkey, and other mid-sized game. The gun has an exposed hammer design that’ll impress classic gun lovers. The extra safety switch on the side is a good addition for teaching young shooters the basics. Or for situations where the shooter is too dedicated to remember cocking the hammer. 

The synthetic stock is impervious to harsh weather conditions and will last for years. The gun has a significantly lower recoil despite being a single shot. 

Bottom Line

The Rossi S12 is a good buy for fun shooting or hunting. It will give you that classic feel of hunting with a single shot. Plus, it is also a great option to improve your shotgun skills. 

Best Winchester 12 Gauge Shotgun:
Winchester SX4 Hybrid Hunter

Pros

  • Easy and quick to disassemble and clean
  • LOP adjusting spacers and covered by camo finish
  • Unique self-adjusting gas system for flawless cycling
  • Oversized components for easy operation with gloves
  • Inflex recoil pad reduces recoil and improves accuracy
  • Back bored barrel for ideal patterning. Plus fiber optic sight

Cons

  • The trigger isn’t very good

What Recent Buyers Report

The SX4 is an impressive upgrade to the SX3 for many buyers. It is a fast shooting shotgun and swings perfectly. As a result, many buyers use it for waterfowl and upland bird hunting. The gun is very soft to shoot and cycles great with everything you feed. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The SX4 has features that surpass the performance of any similarly priced semi-auto shotgun. The SX4 is the fourth installment in the popular SX line of shotguns from Winchesters. This shotgun has a slim profile with a self-adjusting gas system plus valves for phasing out extra gasses. Resulting in reliable cycling of all loads you feed. The inflex technology makes it a super-soft shooting weapon. Plus the fiber-optic sight and vent rib barrel help with the acquisition. 

The gun has a 28-inch barrel making it suitable for birds and clays. The LOP can be adjusted using spacers and the camo finish makes it ready out of the box for waterfowling. Plus, the oversized parts ensure easy handling with gloves on. 

Bottom Line

The Winchester SX4 is a fast shooting, reliable, low-recoil, and accurate shotgun with a perfect swing and balance. The gun is a complete semi-auto shotgun with ideal POI and space for upgrades according to personal taste. 

Pros

  • Non-reflective matte black finish 
  • All-weather synthetic black stock
  • Best selling and trusted shotgun of all time
  • Sturdy and reliable design with twin action bars

Cons

  • Time-consuming to clean

What Recent Buyers Report 

The good ‘ol Remington 870 is in no need of approval from buyer reports to prove its mettle. The shotgun is tough as a rock and has been used for everything from hunting to sports for decades. It has and will be an inexpensive and reliable shotgun. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Remington 870 express is an all-purpose shotgun that can handle every 12 gauge load from 2.5 to 3.5-inch shells. The gun has a tough steel receiver with twin bars for reliable action. A long ribbed 26-inch barrel for a good mix between maneuverability and accuracy. Plus a non-reflective matte black stock suitable for home defense or hunting. 

The gun holds enough rounds to fend off invaders and is durable enough to be used as a steel club if things go hand-to-hand. A great shotgun with a perfect price tag. 

Bottom Line

The Remington 870 has been a trusted shotgun for years. It is an inexpensive buy and works as a jack-of-all-trades. This specific model is perfect for hunting and home defense. 

Best 12 Gauge Pump Action Shotgun:
Browning BPS Field Composite

Pros

  • Floating rib barrel for enhanced accuracy
  • Super durable design. Will last for generations
  • Downward ejection and an ambidextrous design
  • Inflex recoil pad system also helps with adjusting LOP

Cons

  • A tad heavy
  • Takes extra effort for cleaning

What Recent Buyers Report

One prodigious claim about the buyer reviews is that people either love the BPS, or they don’t buy it at all. As shown by a lack of negative reviews. People like the durability, positioning of safety, and the ambidextrous design of this shotgun. However, some users did mention that the gun was a PITA to clean. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Browning BPS has a sturdy construction, made for heavy-duty steel. The gun, if cared for, will definitely last for generations. This gun has a very slim profile, which makes handling a lot easier. The downward ejection port makes the gun ambidextrous and also helps with collecting spent shells. The pump action is very smooth and reliable as well. 

The shotgun has a floating rib to eliminate POI problems. Plus the silver bead front sight helps with acquisition better than brass beads. Fit and finish are just fine and will withstand all weather conditions. It uses flush-fitting invector plus choke tubes and has a 26-inch barrel perfect for hunting turkey and deer. 

Bottom Line

The Browning BPS is a versatile pump-action shotgun, suitable for everything from sports to hunting pheasants. It has a very durable design and the pump feels like butter while racking. A good gun with a perfect price tag. 

Best Mossberg 12 Gauge Shotgun:
Mossberg Bantam 500

Pros

  • Optimal 6+1 shell capacity
  • 24-inch barrel with vent rib
  • Covered by a 10-year warranty
  • Dual bead sights for better acquisition
  • All-purpose shotgun with a wooden stock
  • Compact size with adjustable LOP using spacers

Cons

  • Safety is stiff initially
  • May need some upgrades according to personal taste

What Recent Buyers Report

Many users mention the 500 Bantam to be a perfect field and defense shotgun for smaller shooters. The gun is fairly easy to handle and carries enough rounds to serve the most tedious applications. The gun is worth every penny and is mostly bought for young shooters. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Mossberg 500 is a renowned shotgun widely used by law enforcement and militaries. This specific model has been designed for young shooters, given its short LOP. You can replace the stock to turn it into an adjustable model. The short 24-inch barrel is perfect for hunting and close-quarter defense. Plus the 6+1 shell capacity is the best you can ask from a lightweight shotgun. 

Even though chambered in 12 gauge, the shotgun is very controllable and ergonomic. The price is just perfect and the gun is a workhorse, suitable for almost every purpose except dedicated clay sports. 

Bottom Line

The Mossberg 500 is a versatile and highly maneuverable shotgun that accepts 6+1 shells of 3” 12 gauge loads. The gun is fairly inexpensive and covered by a 10-year warranty for defects. A great option for small shooters. 

Best Remington 12 Gauge Shotgun:
Remington 11-87 Sportsman Field

Pros

  • Long 28-inch barrel for precision
  • Vent rib barrel and dual bead sights
  • Beautiful aesthetics with a great finish
  • Perfect swing and low recoil. Great trap shotgun

Cons

  • Requires rigorous maintenance (if used with cheap loads)

What Recent Buyers Report 

The Remington 11-87 is an amazing trap and waterfowl shotgun with one of the lightest recoils for a semi-auto. It is an affordable shotgun that can compete with more expensive sport shotguns. However, some users reported that the gun needs too much maintenance, especially when used with cheap loads. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The 11-87 is an upgraded version of the legendary Remington 1100. This shotgun depicts the best swing and balance in its class and is an amazing trap shotgun. The long 28-inch barrel with a wide rib and dual beads helps with aiming. The nickel-plated bolt runs smooth and the shotgun features astounding aesthetics to impress bystanders. 

The use of this shotgun is not only limited to just sports or hunting, but this is a versatile weapon. A sturdy build ensures that the shotgun will last for decades to come if looked after. Despite needing regular maintenance, the gun is very easy to disassemble and clean. 

Bottom Line

The Remington 11-87 is a good all-purpose shotgun that will handle anything you feed through it. Being a Remington, it is very easy to find aftermarket parts for it. If you’re looking for an affordable shotgun suitable for sports and hunting. The 11-87 is your answer. 

Best 12 Gauge Semi-Auto Tactical Shotgun:
IWI Tavor TS12

Pros

  • Accepts Beretta/Benelli choke tubes 
  • Holds 15+1 shells with the quick switch
  • M-Lok compatible Picatinny rail and QD points
  • Can be converted to a right or left-handed weapon
  • Compact and balanced design with a 28.34-inch overall length
  • Push-button unloading and autoloading upon rotating the cylinder

Cons

  • Limited uses

What Recent Buyers Report

Space-age, cool, impressive. The essence of all user reviews rotates around these three words. The gun is fun to shoot and a unique design to brag about. The gun is ambidextrous and the rotating mag tubes make reloading very quick. An amazing and affordable shotgun to shoot. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The TS12 has been built based upon the platform of the famous Tavor rifle, which is an acclaimed tactical weapon. The shotgun has a bullpup back leaning design which helps counter fatigue and improves balance. The presence of QD points, M-Lok, and rail allows you to add as many accessories as you would on an AR. The bolt automatically feeds around when the mag tube is rotated, making reloading even quicker.

You can load or eject cartridges from either side after customization. Plus there’s a push-button mechanism to quickly unload the weapon. The gun is just under 29 inches in length and perfect for tactical environments. 

Bottom Line

The TS12 is a perfect tactical shotgun for defensive and offensive situations. It has high capacity mag tubes, customizable design and offers quick loading/reloading. This is by far the best and most advanced tactical shotgun you’ll find. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of 12 Gauge Shotguns 

Every tool has some pros and cons associated with it. 12 gauge shotguns are no different and have their own benefits, along with some repercussions. 

Advantages

First, the general upsides to 12 gauges:

Powe​rful

12 gauge shotguns are extremely powerful for a handheld firearm. The only legal gauge more powerful than it is the 10 gauge. These shells pack enough punch to bring down any game that walks this planet today. More power also means that these shotguns have a longer effective range.

Versatile

A 12 gauge shotgun is a very versatile firearm. You can use it for sports, home defense, waterfowl, upland birds, and every other application you can think of for a shotgun. There are quite a few different types of ammunition available for the 12 gauge. 

Cheap to Shoot

Since this is the most commonly used shotgun gauge, the ammo is very cheap. You don’t have to think about the cost before lighting up a box or two of 12 gauge shells on the range. Another advantage is that 12 gauge ammo is readily available everywhere. 

Disadvantages

Here are the potential downsides to consider:

Harsh Recoil

12 gauge shotguns have the most notorious recoil out there. A 12 gauge 3” shell has about 55 ft. lbs of recoil, that is enough to give you a severely jarred shoulder after a few rounds. Recoil pads and low-recoil ammo definitely help, but the recoil is still substantial. 

Browning BPS Field Composite

Overpenetration

Due to its humongous power, 12 gauge is also somewhat restrictive in the application. Using it indoors for home defense can cause serious drawbacks if the backdrop of your target is made of thin material.

Comparison Overview

A gauge is a metric used to refer to the inner diameter of the barrel of a shotgun. Gauge is also known as bore and caliber for other weapons. A larger gauge number means a smaller barrel diameter and hence a less powerful shotgun compared to the 12 gauge. The only legal gauge larger than the 12 to be used in the U.S is the 10 gauge. However, 12 gauge is the most common, widely used, and versatile gauge of them all.

Other than 12 gauge, you have 16, 20, 28 and .410 bore (technically 67 gauge). Let’s check out the similarities and differences among all these with respect to the 12 gauge. 

Similarities

Design

No matter what the gauge of a shotgun is, the design is always the same. There are different kinds of actions used for shotguns which include pump, semi-auto, break-action, and lever action. 

Ammunition Type

All shotguns use similar kinds of ammo, which differ in diameter, the number of pellets, and the weight of gunpowder. Further translating to differences in performance. But shotguns use shot shells made of hard plastic and a brass base cap. 

Applications

Nearly all shotguns are used for similar applications with the right kind of ammunition. All gauges are used for hunting, however, the game differs in size respective to the power of the gun. But shotguns are mostly used for home defense, hunting, and survival. 

Differences

Profile and Weight​

Since 12 gauge shotguns fire heavier shells, their dimensions obviously are thicker and bulkier than smaller gauges. Plus, handling the recoil of a 12 gauge requires considerable weight which is why these guns are slightly heavy.

Range and Power

Coincident with the above fact, 12 gauge guns shoot with more power and farther than other smaller gauge shotguns. These shotguns are known for their notorious decimating power at short range. Which does limit their application to some extent (factors like overpenetration and recoil).

What Are The Different Types of 12 Gauge Shotgun Shells

Shotgun shells are a wide and versatile topic, but let’s condense this information into layman terms. We will classify shotgun shells based upon some basic factors.

Type

There are 3 types of shotgun shells (for any gauge) available on the market today: birdshot, buckshot, and slugs. Birdshot shells contain a large number of very small pellets called shot (further discussed). These shells are used for killing moving targets (mostly birds so birdshot) and have a widespread. The second type is the buckshot which contains lesser but larger pellets. Buckshot shells have more power and are used for killing game like buck (so buckshot) and turkey. The third type are slugs which are plain or rifled bullet-like projectiles used for longer range and pinpoint accuracy. 

Case Length

12 gauge shells come in four lengths. 2-½ inch, 2-¾ inch, 3 inch, and 3.5 inch. The longer the shell, the more pellets and powder it holds - hence, more power.

3.5-inch shells were introduced to accommodate steel shot after the ban on lead for environmental reasons. Additionally, a shotgun chambered for 2-¾ inch shells will shoot 2-½ and 2-¾ inch shells but not 3 or 3.5. 

Shot Size

Shot refers to the small metal balls known as pellets inside a shotgun shell. The larger the number of the shot size, the smaller the pellets. The smaller the pellets, the more they are in number to compensate for the weight of a 12 gauge shell’s load. 

Application Specific Loads

With the versatility in application of 12 gauge shotguns. Companies have come up with different types of shells for specific purposes. For example, there are turkey hunting shells, pheasant hunting shells, mini-shells, low-recoil shells, and shells specifically designed for home defense and clay shooting sports. 

How to Use A 12 Gauge Shotgun

Now if you’ve made your buying decision, make sure you know how to properly handle one. We’ll split the procedure into steps for easy comprehension. 

Before you touch a shotgun, remember the 7 golden rules of safety. Or for a one-liner: “ always treat your gun as loaded”. A shotgun won’t need cleaning right out of the box. So you may focus on the basics for now.

Locate the safety on your shotgun. It can be found on the top tang or around the trigger guard. Practice switching the safety on and off. Also practice loading and unloading shells into the shotgun. Prefer using blanks for this.

If you are new with shotguns, head out to the shooting range and test your recoil absorbing skills by shooting a few rounds. Have an instructor or experienced shooter assist you.

12 gauge shotguns are used for hunting game like deer, waterfowl, turkey and upland birds. They are also used for sports, survival, and even home defense. Whatever your intent may be, practice often with the shotgun to improve your skills. 

Learn the use of chokes and different kinds of ammunition with your shotgun. Every situation requires a different solution. 

For more insight on this topic, you may check out this interesting video below:

Conclusion 

12 gauge shotguns are very powerful and versatile long rifles that are used for a wide range of applications. These shotguns are known for their decimating power and range, but also have a nasty recoil. While there are many options to choose from, a good pick will be what suits your needs and taste the best. 

People Also Ask

Let’s find answers to some common questions associated with 12 gauge shotguns. 

What is the Effective Range of a 12 Gauge Shotgun?

While it is a matter of further examination. In general, a 12 gauge shotgun shooting 00 buckshot has an effective range of about 50 yards. Slugs obviously have more range and other factors such as shot size also come into play. But the best bet is around 50 yards.

Is a 12 Gauge Shotgun Good For Home Defense?

It certainly is. If you respect its limitations such as recoil and overpenetration. 12 gauge ammo can severely overpenetrate thin walls any injure unwanted receptors of the lead. Staying aware of the backdrop and using low recoil ammo (like Aguila mini shells) can solve both these problems.

Will 12 Gauge Buckshot Kill a Bear?

Yes, a 12 gauge buckshot can kill any animal that walks this planet. In fact, people living in areas with high bear densities prefer 12 gauge shotguns loaded with 00 or 000 buckshot for countering bears. 

How Far Can You Shoot a Deer With a 12 Gauge Slug?

Somewhere around 100 yards will be your safest bet to eliminate a full-sized adult deer humanely with a 12 gauge slug. Sabot slugs can travel farther. People have reported bringing down deer with slugs at about 125 yards, but you have to be very good with your aim for such kills. Slugs are not rifle bullets and can drop more than 5 inches at 100 yards.

About Ankit

Ankit has been a writer for almost a decade now and has developed a diverse portfolio. His love for writing led him to turn down his lavish and lucrative career as a software engineer, twisting the reins of his life towards being a full-time writing. He only does what he loves. His hobbies include gardening, reading, shooting, and most of all - learning new things in every context (hence why he chose to be a writer). His whimsical nature and love for writing fosters creativity in all of his work

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