Synthetics are lighter in the field. That makes a big difference as far as I'm concerned. I see the guys out there with their fancy hand checkered wood stocks and beautifully blued and etched barrels and receivers....most of em can't hit the broadside of a barn. I'm all about function.
HOWEVER, if I had the cash...I'd go for a $3K o/u shotgun with all th egold etching etc. If I had the cash.
On the contrary UnBound, those guys with fancy engraved shotguns featuring stunning walnut stocks are some of the finest shots with a scattergun in the world. Discounting those individuals who don't shoot but collect/buy such guns as "investments", or as "art objects"; these scattergunners are deadly serious, they love their sport, enjoy finely crafted guns, and work hard to shoot them proficiently. If you don't think so, I challenge you to attend a vintage shooting event; or perhaps a large clays event of any type (trap, skeet, sporting clays, etc). Believe me, a guy willing to invest $35K in a K-80 skeet gun is SERIOUS!
Personally, I thoroughly enjoy beautiful wood, as it will enhance an otherwise plain; and sometimes even butt-ugly gun. Those who have found themselves in a dove or duck blind; or even in the field on a slow day, often admit that being able to admire and enjoy the beautiful wood stock on their gun made that slow day a lot more pleasant.
Shooters who take care of their equipment easily find a wood stock plenty durable (quite obvious, since we still have hundreds of thousands of vintage guns in regular use); however, should a gun with a wood stock be accidently dropped or tipped over, or be consigned to an individual who is prone to neglect and abuse his equipment, wood will suffer severe damage and/or destruction as it will not withstand as much abuse of a composite stock. That fact acknowleged, I've also seen broken composite stocks; so plastic stocks do have some shortcomings.
On the negative side, although composite stocks can be modified to a limited degree, many are hollow and therefore would never permit the serious hacking and trimming a dedicated target shooter may inflict. On the positive side, they are lighter (which ain't always a good thing when shooting heavy loads), they won't swell, they come in a wide variety of ugly colors and patterns, they are relatively cheap to replace; and, since they are already ugly, they can be repainted in any desired new ugly color or pattern; or hacked, taped, and altered in all manner of creative ways. If such modifications are done by the gun's owner, overall curb appeal of a gun with a composite stock is not negatively impacted because the finished result of all that work will look no worse when completed than the composite stock did when it was new. Being from the "old school", I believe that any gun should be make from steel forgings and walnut; not aluminum, sheet metal stampings, and plastic. That said, I understand and respect the fact that it takes all kinds and tastes to make the world; so good shooting, regardless of your tastes in weaponry!
Thank you ShotgunTom for your insight. I merely gave my opinion based on what i see "in the field". My experience is with hunting with several guys in south Texas. I do not enter competitions or shoot clay targets...they don't taste very good.
What I've seen out hunting...mainly dove and upland game...is workaday guns. Sure, I've seen some hellacious shooters with absolutely stunning guns...but more often it's the every day gun that walks away with a bag full of game. Again, this has only been my personal experience.
Bottom line, I have wood and synthetic stock shotguns. My synthetic is my everyday, bad weather, don't know what to expect, feel most comfy gun. However I agree 100% with your statement about a poor hunt being salvaged by ogling the craftsmanship of a nice walknut stock with quality crafted artwork. And I have modified my wooden stock where I cannot modify my synthetic because it is hollow. It all comes down to personal preference and experience. You say tomato, I say tomato...doesn't really have the same effect in print, HA!
Get outdoors and enjoy any shotgun...better than none at all!
Both wood and synthetic stocks obviously have benefits. I personally favor wood because the stock dimensions of wood stocks can be altered to fit the size and shape of the person shooting it.
Stock fitting, the topic that involves stock dimensions and how well they fit various-sized shooters, is just now beginning to interest those who use their guns for hunting only. Hunters are beginning to suspect that how well their guns fit them affects how well they are able to shoot them.
If you want to ever shoot up to your full potential, your gun mount and shooting posture must be ones that allow the most accurate shooting. Without rewriting my book, Stock Fitting Secrets, here are a few considerations:
The length of the stock affects where your cheek is placed on a field stock with a rising comb (top surface.) So does where you place the butt on your shoulder.
The distance of the comb below the barrel or rib affects the height of your eye relative to the barrel or rib. This is important because the eye serves as the rear sight on a shotgun, the same as does the rear sight on a rifle. Unless it is in the right place and stays there during swings to targets, shooting accuracy will suffer badly.
These things can be changed on a wood stock. For all practical purposes, they cannot be changed on a synthetic stock.
Please place no value on what you see other hunters doing in the field. As I mentioned, this segment of the shooting population is just beginning to realize that their shooting success if closely tied to how well their guns fit.