Types of Shotguns
Types of Shotguns

Types of Shotguns

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Purchasing a shotgun can be a little confusing if you are a new gun owner, as there are many types of shotguns suitable for different purposes. Which style suits you the most? You have probably heard of pump shotguns, but do you know what “over and under” means? In addition, what is the use of a single-shot?

First, let us familiarize you with what precisely a shotgun means. Shotguns, sometimes known as scatterguns, are long-barreled firearms that fire shotshells. Shotguns have gained popularity in sporting contests, hunting, and as a solid home defense firearm over the years. For example, some shotgun rounds include a slug (a single massive projectile), whereas others contain many spherical “shot” pellets.

A smoothbore barrel fires the shells, while the bore refers to the internal space of a shotgun barrel. Shotguns aren’t very accurate, but the pellets enhance the chances of hitting the target.

This breakdown will address the most frequently asked questions concerning standard shotgun models.

As a result, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for and how to find the suitable shotgun.

What Are the Types of Shotguns on the Market?

There are primarily 7 types of shotguns on the market suitable for your various needs. So let’s tell you about each one by one.

Pump Action Shotguns

Pump Action Shotguns

Even if you don’t own a gun, you’ve probably heard about it; that is because a shotgun racking the pump appears to be the default sound for practically every gun sound in movies and on TV.

Moving the fore-end and sliding it back and forth chambers the next round, as implied by the name of the mechanism. This procedure inserts a new shell into the tube magazine. The most common capacity of a pump-action is 4+1. In other words, the weapon contains four shots in its magazine and one in its chamber. Specific models have higher capabilities according to their use.

The pump-action shotgun is akin to a pickup truck in terms of weaponry. You can use it for a variety of applications due to its adaptability. For example, many people prefer a pump-action rifle loaded with buckshot for home defense. It is an excellent shotgun for hunting small game, waterfowl, and deer. 

Semi-Automatic Shotguns

Semi-Automatic Shotguns

An additional trendy shotgun action is the semi-automatic. Compared to a pump gun, a semi-automatic will fire at the speed you can depress the trigger. The spent gas from the previous round is used to expel and cycle the next cartridge.

John Moses Browning developed this design in 1898, as he did with many other notable firsts in the history of weapons.

Most people think of autoloaders when they think of bird hunting, but they’re also commonly used for clay pigeon shooting and trap shooting. Ammo capacity is mostly the same as a pump-action barring some exceptions. Semi-auto shotguns have a reputation for being more suited to hunting and sports shooting.

A high-quality semi-automatic shotgun is an investment that will pay off in the long run. The only drawback is that these firearms are more expensive than pump guns due to their more complicated construction.

Bolt Action Shotguns

Bolt Action Shotguns

In recent years, this sort of shotgun has lost a lot of favor. In a world when shotguns limited the range of hunters, bolt-action shotguns, along with sabot plugs which were precision ammunition, made it possible for hunters to extend their coverage to over 200 yards for the first time.

Bolt action shotguns perform as their name says. Bolt action revolvers move ammunition from the magazine to the firing pin. These firearms frequently come with rifled barrels and are pre-drilled and pre-tapped for mounting a high-quality optic for long-range accuracy and precision shooting performance.

Single Shot Shotguns

Single Shot Shotguns

These rifles are typically ignored in a period when most people are looking for guns that can fire quickly and contain a lot of ammunition. So it’s safe and straightforward to use these break-action shotguns.

Once the hammer is pulled back, the gun fires a shot. It is reliable, and you can kill a lot of woodchucks and muskrats with a single-shot shotgun. The smoothbore barrel is equally adept at handling slugs and birdshot, enhancing its versatility.

A single-shot shotgun is an excellent choice for introducing someone to shotgun hunting in a non-intimidating manner. Compared to other firearms, this one is the simplest to maintain and the most affordable.

Lever Action Shotguns

Lever Action Shotguns

It is an even rarer variety than bolt-action. There is a good chance you’ve seen one on the big screen. In the early 1990s, Arnold Schwarzenegger made the traditional Winchester Model 1887 look stylish by using it in “Terminator 2.”

Lever action shotgun uses a rolling block and lever for cycling expended shells rapidly. Since the 1990s, lever-action shotguns haven’t seen a lot of advancement. This shotgun’s integral magazine holds multiple rounds of ammunition, allowing it to fire faster. When the shooter pulls back the lever, a new game is loaded into the shotgun, and the old one is thrown out. It was just one of those models that didn’t get popular. Autoloaders and pump guns are probably to blame for this.

Over/Under Shotguns

Over/Under Shotguns

It is a gun with two barrels. As opposed to lining up next to each other, the barrels have been piled on top of each other. As a result, it’s a little more manageable than side-by-side. So even though the theory is very much the same, the loading and unloading mechanism isn’t.

Over/under shotguns have largely replaced side-by-side for clay pigeon shooting and trap shooting. Although you can use them for bird hunting, most hunters choose the pump-action and semi-auto. You can use over/under shotguns in competition shooting, giving them an edge over others. Everyone should be able to see that your gun is safe when you aren’t firing, especially if you are a newbie.

An over/under can be quicker to reload than a semi-automatic with practice. Within an hour of receiving appropriate guidance, almost any novice will be able to shoot flying clays. Another advantage is that each barrel can be fitted with a separate choke tube for varied shooting distances. As an illustration, there are turkey guns with short-range and long-range choke. You can pull the right trigger for the space when the prey comes into focus.

The drawback is the high price tag. In many cases, the over/under is astronomically priced. It is because gun makers place a greater focus on craftsmanship and materials in the case of over-and-under-shot guns. A skilled gunsmith probably hand-tooled them.

Side By Side Shotguns

Side By Side Shotguns

The double-barrel shotgun, another name for this type of firearm, has made its way into the popular culture even though it is no longer as widely used as it once was.

These types of break actions are risk-free and easy to operate. Loading and unloading can be done by pressing a lever that releases a pin. Specific models side-by-side have an extractor that dispenses shells for you. The design of these guns makes it easy to tell if they are loaded or not. Furthermore, you can use these guns for a wide variety of bird hunting, although the design is no longer popular among many hunters.

Hunters and sport shooters alike prefer the simplicity of double-barrel shotguns, which is one of the most straightforward designs in the shotgun family. Compared to other shotguns, they have a significant advantage in terms of overall length while maintaining the same barrel length.

What Is the Best Type of Shotgun for a Woman?

Generally, women are smaller in stature and body proportions than men. It means that men’s shotguns aren’t very comfortable or easy to handle for ladies. 

Most shotguns are constructed for males, and none is female-specific. Because you are a female, you need shotguns specifically designed for you. You may not be aware of this if you’re a female shooter, but there are some things to keep in mind as you shop for a gun. Smaller-framed individuals should seek out shotguns with more compact overall designs. You must take into consideration the below-mentioned factors:


Women are more sensitive to recoil when it comes to shotguns. That is why a gun with a comfortable recoil is essential. 

Eye Dominance 

It’s important to consider eye dominance when choosing a shotgun, which is frequently overlooked. Women are more likely than men to have cross-dominance, which means they are right-handed but have left-eye dominance as their dominant eye. To take advantage of your dominant eye, you should learn to shoot left-handed to avoid having to battle cross-dominance while aiming your gun at where you’re looking.


Male, 5-foot-10, weighing 180-pound, right-handed, is the typical user of a shotgun purchased off the shelf. Although people come in different shapes and sizes, gun manufacturers have determined that these dimensions offer them the best chance of making money from a production shotgun. You must think yourself lucky if you fall into this category. However, if you aren’t a part of that category, you will need to find a gun that best fits you. There are several options if you can’t find a weapon that’s a good match for your body dimensions: either you adapt the gun to fit you (which is a monumental task in itself), or you do some research and find the weapon that was meant to serve you better.

Women prefer smaller size shotguns. Shooting a gun with a low profile, especially at the grip, is more comfortable for women. Women may have difficulty gripping a bloated grip or thick stock because they have a smaller palm-size than men.


The majority of women use a 20-gauge shotgun. However, because it is less difficult to handle than 12 gauge and has less recoil, women with a more robust build or other personal preferences may prefer a larger gauge. 20 gauge is the most common size available.

For the average female’s build, a shotgun with a concise length of the draw is required (distance from the trigger to butt end). However, 12 to 13 inches is typical. It is a frequent feature of juvenile shotguns in the United States. If you’re having trouble determining the correct size, consult a sizing chart for assistance.


You should find a weight that is comfortable for you. Long-distance hunting expeditions necessitate a heavier shotgun. The heavier the gun, the less recoil is felt, but the additional weight might be a nuisance for long periods. Shotguns in the 20-gauge class are a great deal because of their lightweight.

What Type of Shotgun Pellets Are Allowed For Waterfowl?

As far as we know, many of you are concerned about the new regulations governing the types of shotgun pellets that can be used for waterfowl hunting in the United States because you have been hunting waterfowl with lead pellets in the past. There are new rules in place, and you cannot do that anymore.

It would help if you used non-toxic shots that have been approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for waterfowl:

  • Steel pellets in which the plating is less than 1% of the total copper, zinc, or nickel content
  • Bismuth-tin shotgun pellets
  • Tungsten pellets (tungsten-iron, tungsten-matrix, tungsten-polymer, and so on)

Besides that, the shot must be T-size (approximately 0.2 inches in diameter) or more minor. Hunting waterfowl with lead pellets (bullets) is expressly prohibited.

What Type of Shotgun Shells Are Used for Clay Shooting?

Using clay targets (also known as clay pigeons) is common practice for hunters and competitive shooters alike. A shooter must aim and shoot at a pigeon as it flies through the air, thrown or launched. Shotguns can be filled with pellets of varying sizes and shapes (or shots). For shooting clays, some ammunition is more effective than others.

Number 7-1/2 and number 8 shots are the most effective on clay pigeons. Because shots in this sport are fired from distances ranging from 16 to 27 yards, a good spread of small pellets with a large number of them is the essential trait to look for in a helpful load. Most clubs allow the number 7-1/2 shot, which is the heaviest that they allow, to be used for long-distance shots.

There are restrictions on heavier pellets in the club when they are fired in the air; their inertia carries them further, posing a threat to people standing hundreds of yards away.

What Type of Shotgun is Suitable for Duck Hunting?

20-gauge guns can be effective for duck hunting, especially when loaded with non-toxic pellets. Although the 20-gauge is slightly limited in its shooting range when using steel pellets, it’s not necessarily detrimental to a novice’s progress.

The most popular shotguns for duck hunting are 12 and 20 Gauge shotguns because they are powerful enough to take down any bird. In recent years, 20-gauge shotguns have gained popularity among duck hunters as new ammo innovation increases the efficiency of each round fired.

The 12 Gauge Shotgun

You may find a 12 gauge shotgun hard to beat if you are into waterfowl hunting. Besides waterfowl, You can use a 12 gauge shotgun to take down rabbits, turkeys, deer, pheasants, doves, and squirrels, so we recommend it if you only have the budget to buy one. The majority of states now restrict deer hunting to the use of shotguns.

Ammunition in the 12 gauge bore is also widely available. You can find 12 gauge ammo in almost any store that sells ammunition. Loads in 12 Gauge ammo are as varied as the caliber itself, allowing for a wide range of uses. For example, you can shoot anything from a 2 34-inch shell to a 3 12-inch magnum. 

The 20 Gauge Shotgun

The 20 gauge can deliver similar patterns and knockdown power to the larger 12 gauge with less recoil, and it’s quickly becoming more popular thanks to recent advances in ammunition technology. Reduction in the amount of recoil means better and more consistent follow-up shots, which results in more limits and more duck delicacies for you! The 20-gauge is a good choice for duck hunting because of recent advancements in ammunition and choke technology, which have resulted in faster bullets with better patterning.

16, 28, and 410 Gauge Shotguns

Because these gauges are less standard, finding good ammo for them can be difficult. A 16, 28, or 410 gauge shotgun can indeed be used to take ducks, but for your first shotgun, we recommend that you stick with a 12 or 20 gauge because they are more versatile. The ammo for these less popular gauges is usually more expensive as well.

Semi-Automatic Shotguns

The most popular shotguns for duck hunting are semi-automatic shotguns. In the last 20 years, there has been a significant shift away from pump actions and toward semi-automatics.

The reasons for this shift are numerous, but here are a few:

  • Semi-automatic firearms are becoming more popular because of the improved reliability of the technology.
  • As semi-automatics became more reliable, more people switched from pumps to semi-automatics because they performed better in harsh conditions in the past.
  • There has been a steep price drop in the case of semi-automatics which has made the price of both pump-action and semi-automatic firearms very similar, and people are buying them more.

Pumping Action Shotguns

True to its name, the forearm is pumped back to eject the spent shell and load a new one in pump actions—an excellent choice for those who want fewer moving parts or hunt in particularly frigid or filthy conditions.

The old Remington 870 Special Purpose shotguns are still dear to a small percentage of guides. Many of their activities occur on or near the water, such as retrieving birds, moving decoys, etc. The 870 may still be preferable in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although the price difference between a pump-action and a semi-auto used to be substantial, we now see fewer and fewer hunters opting for the pump action.

Over/Under Shotgun

Using two different choke tubes is one of the main reasons to use an Over/Under for duck hunting in this day and age. According to theory, most people begin their assault by aiming for the lowest point on the gun. Because of the better mechanical advantage of the bottom barrel and the longer lifespan of the firearm, the bottom barrel is preferred. After that, good luck with that. So we wouldn’t bet on it.

There are a lot of Olympic shooters who use custom over/under (typically priced between $15k and $20k) because they’re incredibly reliable. However, fewer moving parts result in a lower risk of failure.

A pump-action or semi-auto shotgun that can fire three shots in seconds is preferable to an Olympic-style Over/Under for duck hunting.

Some Over/Under shotguns have been updated to reflect current waterfowl shotgun trends. They have water-resistant synthetic stocks, and many of them have been dipped in camouflage in the past few years.

Before the season starts, there’s no better time to test out a new duck hunting shotgun. There is more than enough time to familiarize yourself with it before duck season to make an informed decision about your options. Nothing is more critical in duck hunting and duck hunting gear than your hunting shotgun!

What Type of Shotgun Is Best for Pheasant Hunting?

The 12-gauge shotgun is the most popular choice for pheasant hunting for many reasons. There is a wide variety of ammo for this gauge that is easily accessible and less expensive. The 12 can handle a wide range of loads and has enough potential to bring down longtails in both the early and late season. In terms of 12-gauge rifles, there are many models to choose from; all are light and easy to carry. Upland (dove, grouse, quail) and waterfowl (turkey) hunting are more manageable with the 12’s adaptability.

Shotguns in the 16- and 20-gauge calibers are also popular among hunters, despite the 12-gauge being the most common. Both come in a wide range of options, making them suitable for hunters of all ages and sizes.

The “Sweet Sixteen” had beaten the 12 gauge to the punch. The 12-gauge used to be more popular than the 16-gauge for a time. According to Gun Dog, the 16 was comparable to 12-gauge and could be carried like a “light” 20 gauge. 

Many people believe that the ultimate upland shotgun is a 16-gauge built on a small frame. It has the same ballistics as a 12-gauge but weighs about a pound less. 16-gauge barrels are currently being used on 12-gauge receivers, which is unfortunate.

It is the only flaw in the 16 that wing shooters will have to deal with in the pheasant fields. However, with research, shooters can locate authentic 16-gauge shotguns with authentic 16-gauge barrels.

The 20-gauge, also known as “The Gentleman’s Gun,” is an excellent choice for pheasants and other games. Because 12s have always been so heavy, the 20 has been the standard in the United States for some time now.

During the decline of the 16-gauge shotgun, the 20-gauge shotgun became the most popular. For most bird hunters, the 20-gauge’s ace-in-the-hole is how it feels in their hands. Because it’s lighter, the 20 feels more manageable when it’s placed on your back. A more lightweight barrel, forearm, and receiver make the 20 more comfortable for hunters. The versatility of the shotgun’s ammunition and chokes is key to its efficiency, as it is with all shotguns.

What Type of Shotgun Shell Is Best for Home Defense?

You can use a shotgun for many different purposes. For example, a 12-gauge shotgun can fire thousands of small pellets at once or a single massive projectile. It is also capable of shooting anything in between those two extremes.

There is a wide variety of shotgun ammunition, making it difficult for homeowners to know what to feed their firearms. You can use the information here to clear up any confusion you may have about shotgun loads for home defense.

To begin, let’s go over the various kinds of shotgun ammo that are available.


In addition to having the tiniest pellets, birdshot also has the advantage of having many shots. Each softshell contains hundreds or thousands of tiny projectiles, even though birdshot is smaller than buckshot.

The lack of lethality compared to buckshot is due to the small size of the projectiles. Smaller shot loads can’t do as much damage as larger ones because of their smaller size. As a result, a small shot does not have the necessary weight and energy to penetrate deep into a target. Although birdshot wounds can be painful, they are usually superficial and don’t result in much internal damage. Although not invariably fatal, birdshot can be lethal when fired at a close distance.

Because of its low penetration rate through walls, birdshot has an advantage in home defense. Penetration of the walls is a critical part of home security, especially when children sleep in the adjacent room.


There is a reason why the term “buckshot” was coined: It is commonly used to kill bucks. Buckshot, which is frequently used in areas where rifle hunting is prohibited, can be lethal when used at close range on these thin-skinned animals.

The human body resembles that of a typical whitetail buck in many ways. For example, the average adult male resembles a whitetail buck in body weight, chest circumference, and depth of vital organs. The weight and structure of their hearts are also virtually identical. Comparing humans to game animals may seem morbid, but it’s a helpful way to narrow down your options for self-defense ammunition. A load that kills whitetails is likely to be effective against dangerous humans, too, according to common sense.

The pellets in buckshot are much larger than those in birdshot. A common choice for large-turkey hunting is #5 birdshot, which has a diameter of #00 buckshot and has .33 inches diameter. Using larger buckshot makes it possible to achieve greater kinetic energy and deeper penetration.

Buckshot is more lethal than birdshot because of its greater size, penetration, and energy. However, most people who want to defend themselves against violent criminals use lethality as their primary weapon of choice. For example, #0 or #00 buckshot is the weapon of choice even for law enforcement officers when confronted with dangerous criminals.

Shotgun Slugs

One metal projectile can be found in the slug of a shotgun. Heavy, deep-penetrating, and causing severe internal damage, these massive projectiles are hazardous. For long-distance shooting, they are more accurate than buckshot or birdshot. Slugs are used by both deer hunters and police officers when they need to shoot at long distances.

Shotgun slugs have a more extended range, but they also have a greater penetration depth. Another reason police may use tactical slugs when dealing with dangerous criminals is this. Gunfights in or around vehicles benefit greatly from their penetrating characteristics. For example, a standard slug can easily pierce a car door with one punch.

Shotgun slugs are more powerful and lethal because of their size and weight, but they aren’t typically recommended for home defense. Though less accurate than the rifle bullet, smooth bore shotgun slugs are rife-coated to increase accuracy and flight stability. 7 to 15 feet is the average distance at which intruders are approached; it is similar to the length of a typical hallway. Using a slug to stop a criminal is unlikely to put you in danger if he’s far enough away.

Slugs can be a significant issue when defending one’s home. Until it runs out of things to devour, slugs are voracious eaters. Difficult materials, like drywall and wall studs, doors, and pieces of furniture, are all included. A slug’s kinetic energy could kill someone on the other side of an exterior wall. There are serious consequences to having a gun in one’s home.

Final Words – Types of Shotguns

It is easy to see that shotguns come in various configurations, each of which can be used for a different task. Because of the differences in design, each type has a distinct set of benefits and drawbacks. Whatever your skill level and intentional use, you’re sure to find a shotgun that’s perfect for you with so many options to choose from!