An Essential Guide to the Different Types of Shotguns and How to Choose the Right One for You
Shotguns are an incredibly versatile weapon, making them a top choice for hunting and even for home defense. From the semi-automatic shotgun to the double barrel shotgun, they come in a wide variety of action types and gauges, with each different type being the ideal choice for a different purpose.
Read on as we discuss how shotguns work, the different types of shotguns, the different gauges, and the best uses for the variety of different shotguns available.
What are Shotguns and How Do They Work?
A shotgun is a type of long gun that can fire multiple projectiles at one time. They are designed to shoot a cartridge called a shotshell, which has straight walls and contains numerous small, pellet-like projectiles known as shot. While rifles have spiral grooves inside of their barrels (these grooves are called rifling), shotguns usually have a smooth bore. Due to this, they are less accurate than rifles. However, since they are shooting multiple projectiles, you have a higher chance of hitting your target.
There are different calibers and gauges of shotguns available, each with a different application.
Breakdown of the Most Popular Shotgun Types and Their Uses
Shotguns come in a wide variety of types, and each type has a different use. Read on to learn more about each type of shotgun and what it might be used for!
For every trigger pull on a semi-automatic shotgun, a single shot is fired. When the shell is ejected, a new one enters the chamber automatically. The recoil of the shot is used to eject the empty shells and automatically cycle the next round.
Semi-automatic shotguns are known for their higher shooting speed compared to other shotguns. They also tend to produce less recoil than other shoguns. They are a weapon of choice for duck hunters and upland hunters.
A pump-action shotgun can hold multiple rounds, which enables the user to spend more time shooting and less time reloading. They function by manually pumping the action to eject a spent shell and allow a new round to enter the chamber.
Pump-action shotguns are one of the most popular shotgun types available, as well as one of the most affordable. They are a great option for hunting, home defense, and law enforcement.
Double Barrel Shotgun (Break-Action Shotgun)
Unlike a pump-action or semi-automatic, the double barrel shotgun, also known as break-action shotguns, uses two different barrels. They have a hinge between the barrel and the stock that lets them break open and expose the breach, which lets the user load the shells.
This type of shotgun comes in two varieties: side by side and over under. These terms are in reference to the configuration of the two barrels.
One of the cons of this type of shotgun is that you must reload after two shots, and the process of reloading is relatively slow. They also have a lot of recoil compared to other styles, and they can be on the expensive side.
Double barrel shotguns are one of the simplest shotgun designs, and they are favored by hunters and sport shooters.
This less common shotgun style works similarly to a bolt-action rifle. The bolt is a rod that is affixed to a spring and has a handle sticking out. To load, the user twists the bolt handle up and then pulls it back, exposing the chamber and cocking the firing mechanism. The user must then load a magazine into the chamber and pull the bolt into place, preparing the weapon to fire.
This type of weapon is used for population control of small animals and hunting small game.
A lever-action shotgun has a metal lever that is positioned behind the trigger. In order to open the action, the user must push the lever downward and forward, which extracts the cartridge case from the chamber and ejects it. It can be difficult to tell whether this type of shotgun is loaded, so take extra care when using a lever-action shotgun.
Lever-action shotguns are often used for hunting or sport shooting.
The single-shot shotgun is not commonly used. This type of shotgun can only carry one round of ammunition, and it must be reloaded manually after each shot. They are commonly viewed as starter guns or youth guns.
Shotgun Gauges: Understanding the Different Types
There are six gauges that are in common use today. Each gauge has its own special features, making each one ideal for a different activity.
The 10 gauge shotgun is the largest bore allowed for hunting in North America. It works well for long range shooting. This type of shotgun gauge is rather uncommon, but it can be used to hunt waterfowl.
This gauge of shotgun is the most popular choice around the world, and it can be used for a wide variety of uses, including self-defense, hunting waterfowl, hunting large upland birds, and turkey hunting. This gauge is also a standard choice for home defense, police work, and military work.
Formerly popular for hunters, the appearance of the 3-inch 20 gauge made this shotgun type less popular. This gauge of shotgun is ideal for hunting mid-sized upland birds, like grouse.
This gauge is the second most popular, with guns that are light weight and have less recoil. The 20 Gauge shotgun is popular for hunting mid- to small-sized upland game, such as rabbits, grouse, quail, or chukar. They are also used for skeet and sporting clays.
The 28 gauge shotgun has a mild recoil and is very efficient and lightweight. This gauge of shotgun is ideal for hunting smaller upland birds, like quail and dove.
A .410 Gauge shotgun is small and has a low recoil, so it’s often used as a youth shotgun. It can also be used for skeet and sporting clays.
Shotgun Ammunition: Understanding the Different Types
Shotguns are great because they can shoot ammunition of different weights and sizes. This ammunition usually lands in one of three categories, which are discussed below.
Birdshot is a type of shotgun ammunition that is loaded with small 5-millimeter pellets. It is categorized by number – as the size of the shot gets larger, the number designation increases as well. The smallest is the #12 shot and the largest is six FF. It is most often used for hunting birds.
Buckshot is also categorized by a number that gets lower as the size of the pellets gets higher. The smallest available is #4 and the sizes increase to include OOO (triple-ought), OO (double-ought) and O (ought). It’s a popular choice for home defense, as well as hunting whitetail deer and medium-sized game.
A slug is a large bullet that is loaded into a shotgun shell. One large projectile is fired, rather than multiple smaller pellets. They are used to hunt large game, as well as for military and law enforcement.
What are the most common types of shotguns?
The semi-automatic, the pump-action, and the double-barrel are the most common types of shotguns.
What is the difference between a 12 gauge and a 20 gauge shotgun?
The 12 gauge shotgun is the most popular choice around the world, and it can be used for a wide variety of uses, including self-defense, hunting waterfowl, hunting large upland birds, and turkey hunting. The 20 gauge is the second most popular, with guns that are lighter in weight and have less recoil. It’s a popular choice for hunting mid- to small-sized upland game, such as rabbits, grouse, quail, or chukar.
What’s the most powerful shotgun?
A 12 guage shotgun is heavy and delivers the most power. You can get a harder hitting shot at a greater distance.