I have a 870 Express 28 gauge that I use for rabbit hunting.......it has a fixed modified barrel, they shoot a pattern somewhat comparable to a 20 gauge low brass shell...it is great for rabbits, and squirrels......I have killed a few grouse and woodcock with it also....
I picked up a Red Label 28 last year. Since I never owned or shot a 28 gauge I wasn't sure what to expect. I usually shoot a 16ga. I hunted most of this season with it and have shot 11 grouse with it. I really like it. I also have a 20 ga. If I was to have only one o/u in a lighter ga it would probably be a 20.
I have a 28ga o/u and pump. Love them both. I have never had a problem with hunting grouse or woodcock with them. I also use them for pheasant over my GSP. With the 1oz loads put out by Winchester and other ammo companies they are very close to the performance of a 20ga.
These are my analytical thoughts on a 20 vs 28 for upland game hunting.
The 28 has a few positives...cool factor, lighter than equivalent in 20, and a slimmer feel.
The 20 has more advantages...more options in guns, cheaper ammo, easier to obtain ammo, more versatile, and most importantly puts more shot in the air, which allows you to shoot a more open choke and keep the pattern density the same.
in your particular situation with a flushing dog and a limited budget, I would recommend the twenty.
With the price of ammo, over the life of your shotgun, you can own and feed a citori 20 gauge for the same price as a cheap 28.
I've had several 28's and 20's and have used both for grouse and woodcock. Given what I've learned over the years I'll take the 20 over the 28 every time and here are a couple reasons why.
Many of the 28's offered today are made on 20 gauge frames. The browning citori is a good example of this. When manufacturers do that the 28 will always weigh more than the same gun in 20 gauge. There are guns made on smaller 28 gauge frames but there are lots of guys toting around 28's that weigh more than their gun would in 20 gauge.
The cost of off the shelf ammunition for the 28 gauge is significantly higher than either 20 ga or 12 ga. ammo. The selection and availability of different load offerings in 28 is also much more restricted than either the 20 or 12. You'll find most 28 ga shooters become reloaders eventually if they are cheap like me.
I think part of the lure of the 28 gauge is that guys think it would be neat to carry around a really light weight gun while hunting. Before you invest your hard earned cash my advice would be to find out if you can shoot a really light weight (5lb +/-) shotgun well in a hunting situation. I've learned that I can't. I need a 6lb gun, so all my guns regardless of bore are right around that 6lb mark. Your experience may be different, some guys shoot really light guns well.
As far as effectiveness goes I'd say that both the 20 & 28 perform about the same out to around 30-35 yards when using the same size shot charge.
I have a .28 ga SXS, I use it for everything, including pheasants over a setter. The .28 ga. is under estimated. My gun is built on a .28 ga frame and is is my favorite double gun and I have one in every ga.
I shoot a 28 ga sxs for nearly everything except pheasants. I use it on the prairies for sharptails and huns and here at home for woodcock and grouse. Mine is a custom made gun built on a true 28 ga frame and I ordered it with 30 inch barrels. It carries and swings like a dream and seems to be plenty of gun for the shooting I do. I do, however, go to my 16 for pheasants and I also use it sometimes for late season grouse.
The 28 ga is a gun that's said to shoot better than it really should. Like the 16 with one ounce, a 28 with 3/4 ounce give a pattern that doesn't string much at all, which I'm told is one of the reasons for its effectiveness.
All that being said, if you are going to use it for nearly everything and if the cost of ammo is a factor, then you'd probably be better served with a 20.
The cost for hunting shells wouldn't be too bad, but it can be quite expensive if you plan on doing much practicing on clay birds with a 28 gauge. Unless you plan on reloading, you'll have a tougher time finding shells and you'll pay a premium for the 28 gauge (just like the 16 gauge).
Interesting information wingshot...thanks. I admit I don't know much about the guns and ammunition I use and hunt with. I hunted with a 20-ga stevens sxs for most of my hunting career. A few years ago, my dad and I bought 2 ugartachea's...I got a 20-ga and he got a 28-ga. and based on what you said wingshot, they look and feel identical. The 28-ga shells are somewhat more expensive. My dad seems to do fine killing birds as well as I do with his gun. I have always thought that moving to a 12-ga made a huge difference though.