Shotgun Facts Everyone Should Know

The firearm known as a shotgun is a weapon designed or made to fire from the shoulder area. It uses a fixed shotgun shell with explosive energy that fires a number of pellets or a slug through a smooth bore barrel, one shot at a time.

The shotgun comes in a wide range of sizes and types and serves a variety of purposes. There are also different operating mechanisms used in various models. Shotguns are a favorite choice by amateur and professional hunters, homeowners, the military, and law enforcement agencies.

Some Historical Facts About Shotguns

In history, the shotgun evolved from weapons known originally as the blunderbuss, fowling piece, musket, or arquebus. The weapon used to hunt birds was the fowling piece. The Brown Bess musket used by the British was roughly equivalent to the modern 10-gauge shotgun.

The first use of the term shotgun was in Kentucky in 1776, the year of the founding of the nation of the United States of America. The shotgun is a weapon of choice by law enforcement officers, security personnel, and bird hunters. It is also used extensively in the clay shooting sports.

All About the Modern Shotgun

modern double barrel shotgunThe shotgun, as we know it, has taken many different forms over the years. Today, despite the many different makes and models, there are common types and gauges of shotguns with a variety of operating mechanisms available.

No matter which shotgun you choose, however, there are three basic parts: the stock, barrel, and the action. These parts further break down into pieces.


The stock includes the butt, which sits into your shoulder, and the comb, which presses against your cheek. Also included in stock are the grip and the forearm.

You hold the grip with your trigger hand, while you hold the forearm with your non-trigger hand.


The barrel of the shotgun is where the shot travels through. It is the metal tube and is that part’s measurement which determines the shotgun’s gauge. Inside the barrel is the bore, which is typically smooth.


As you may have guessed, the action is where all the action takes place. The action consists of all the shotgun’s moving parts.

Shotgun Types

The basic types of shotguns used by most sportsmen are for clay sporting games and for hunting purposes. Shotguns are also in use for personal defense purposes in many instances.

1. Side-by-side

This version of a break-action shotgun is a double-barrel where both barrels are arranged next to each other horizontally. The barrels are parallel to each other. Typically, there are two triggers for a side-by-side, each one controlling its corresponding barrel.

This gun is difficult to aim for beginners, and the two barrels do not provide equal instinctive feedback for the shooter. Modern production of these weapons is limited, and older weapons are not sufficient for steel shot. They, thereby, disqualify for competitions, such as clay shooting.

2. Over-under

The other type of break-action shotgun is the over-under. This shotgun is also double-barreled, but on this type, the barrels are arranged one on top of the other, vertically.

These shotguns have one trigger with a switch on top, so you can choose from which barrel you will shoot. You can only load two shotgun shells at a time in break-action shotguns like the over-under and side-by-side.

3. Semi-auto

The semi-automatic or auto-loading shotgun uses gunpowder energy to load each shell. As each shell automatically loads, the spent shell automatically ejects from the weapon. This firearm has a single barrel and can hold between three and nine shells at a time. But, you can buy an extender, allowing the shotgun to hold 12 or more shells.

Lightweight in design, this weapon has a reduced recoil feature that makes it easier to shoot multiple times without stress. Semi-autos are popular among hunters and clay shooters and are perfect for beginners.

4. Pump-action

This single barreled shotgun reloads its shells from a tubular shaped magazine. It typically holds three shells at a time but can be adjusted to hold five or more. Check your laws before adjusting your weapon for this purpose.

The shooter slides a pump grip along the side of the shotgun and back towards them. That is where the pump-action got its name. These shotguns are one of the most common in the United States.

Although the pump-action makes your shots slower than a semi-automatic, some hunters and clay shooters prefer this choice.

5. Lever-action and bolt-action

These types of shotguns are uncommon, and most gun enthusiasts only use them for collection purposes.

The lever-action shotguns can hold up to five shells. It gets its name from the way the weapon loads the ammo — by moving the lever.

Bolt-action shotguns use a bolt, similar to a bolt-action rifle, to load its ammunition. This type can hold up to three shells at a time. The shooter loads the bolt manually.

6. Other classifications

Other classifications of shotguns by type include:

  • Sawed-Off: This indicates a shotgun whose barrel is deliberately shortened, making it more maneuverable, easier to conceal and wield at close range. In the U.S., the minimum length to prevent easy concealment is 18 inches. This gun sometimes is known by the name of “lupara” in Italy.
  • Combat: These shotguns are primarily the choice of military or law enforcement personnel for offensive and defensive purposes.
  • Riot: These shotguns typically have shorter barrels and are used by police and military personnel to disperse large crowds of rioters. Before the invention of rubber bullets and bean bags, police would fire on the surface of paved roads to create a wider spray of pellets that would cause no fatalities.
  • Coach: These are sawed-off shotguns that are 18 inches long and meet the legal requirements in many jurisdictions.
  • Backpacker: These are similar to a sawed-off shotgun or coach gun with barrels as short as 25 inches.

Gauge of Shotguns

different gauges of shotguns
Image via Pinterest

The gauge number that indicates the size of a shotgun is related to the fraction of a pound of a solid sphere of lead within the barrel of a shotgun. For example, a 10-gauge shotgun has an interior diameter equal to the mass of one-tenth of a pound of lead.

There are a number of different gauges that make up the available shotgun selection. The most common gauges are 12 and 20-gauge shotguns. Also, there are 10, 16, 24, 28, 32, and 67-gauge models all in all.

Choosing Your Perfect Shotgun

With so many shotguns to choose from, it may be difficult for you to decide which one to add to your gun collection. But who says you have to decide?

Start with the shotgun that most fits your needs at the moment, and add to your collection as you can. Are you a hunter? Do you shoot clays? Are you a collector? Answering these questions will give you a good idea about where to put your focus.

Now that you know all there is to know about shotguns, it should be easy for you to decide.

Dakota R.

My name is Dakota, Since I was a little boy, hunting has been my favorite things to do. Being outdoors meant I got to spend more one on one time with my father. I've learned so much from my dad over the years, and I hope you can learn and enjoy following my blog!

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