Shotgun
Overview
 
A shotgun is a firearm
Firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

 that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot
Lead shot
Lead shot is a collective term for small balls of lead. These were the original projectiles for muskets and early rifles, but today lead shot is fired primarily from shotguns. It is also used for a variety of other purposes...

, or a solid projectile called a slug
Shotgun slug
A shotgun slug is a heavy lead projectile, that may have pre-cut rifling, intended for use in a shotgun and often used for hunting large game. The first effective shotgun slug was introduced by Wilhelm Brenneke in 1898, and his design remains in use today...

. Shotguns come in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from 5.5 mm (.22 inch) bore
Gauge (bore diameter)
The gauge of a firearm is a unit of measurement used to express the diameter of the barrel. Gauge is determined from the weight of a solid sphere of lead that will fit the bore of the firearm, and is expressed as the multiplicative inverse of the sphere's weight as a fraction of a pound . Thus...

 up to 5 cm (2 inch) bore, and in a range of firearm operating mechanisms, including breech loading, single-barreled, double or combination gun
Combination gun
A combination gun is a break-action hunting firearm that comprises at least two barrels, a rifle barrel and a shotgun barrel, often but not always in an over and under configuration; side-by-side variations are known as cape guns. A ' refers to a combination gun that has three barrels...

, pump-action
Pump-action
A pump-action rifle or shotgun is one in which the handgrip can be pumped back and forth in order to eject a spent round of ammunition and to chamber a fresh one. It is much faster than a bolt-action and somewhat faster than a lever-action, as it does not require the trigger hand to be removed from...

, bolt-, and lever-action, semi-automatic, and even fully automatic variants.

A shotgun is generally a smoothbore
Smoothbore
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a barrel without rifling. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars.-History of firearms and rifling:...

 firearm, which means that the inside of the barrel is not rifled
Rifling
Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis...

.
Encyclopedia
A shotgun is a firearm
Firearm
A firearm is a weapon that launches one, or many, projectile at high velocity through confined burning of a propellant. This subsonic burning process is technically known as deflagration, as opposed to supersonic combustion known as a detonation. In older firearms, the propellant was typically...

 that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot
Lead shot
Lead shot is a collective term for small balls of lead. These were the original projectiles for muskets and early rifles, but today lead shot is fired primarily from shotguns. It is also used for a variety of other purposes...

, or a solid projectile called a slug
Shotgun slug
A shotgun slug is a heavy lead projectile, that may have pre-cut rifling, intended for use in a shotgun and often used for hunting large game. The first effective shotgun slug was introduced by Wilhelm Brenneke in 1898, and his design remains in use today...

. Shotguns come in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from 5.5 mm (.22 inch) bore
Gauge (bore diameter)
The gauge of a firearm is a unit of measurement used to express the diameter of the barrel. Gauge is determined from the weight of a solid sphere of lead that will fit the bore of the firearm, and is expressed as the multiplicative inverse of the sphere's weight as a fraction of a pound . Thus...

 up to 5 cm (2 inch) bore, and in a range of firearm operating mechanisms, including breech loading, single-barreled, double or combination gun
Combination gun
A combination gun is a break-action hunting firearm that comprises at least two barrels, a rifle barrel and a shotgun barrel, often but not always in an over and under configuration; side-by-side variations are known as cape guns. A ' refers to a combination gun that has three barrels...

, pump-action
Pump-action
A pump-action rifle or shotgun is one in which the handgrip can be pumped back and forth in order to eject a spent round of ammunition and to chamber a fresh one. It is much faster than a bolt-action and somewhat faster than a lever-action, as it does not require the trigger hand to be removed from...

, bolt-, and lever-action, semi-automatic, and even fully automatic variants.

A shotgun is generally a smoothbore
Smoothbore
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a barrel without rifling. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars.-History of firearms and rifling:...

 firearm, which means that the inside of the barrel is not rifled
Rifling
Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis...

. Preceding smoothbore firearms, such as the musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

, were widely used by armies in the 18th century. The direct ancestor to the shotgun, the blunderbuss
Blunderbuss
The blunderbuss is a muzzle-loading firearm with a short, large caliber barrel, which is flared at the muzzle and frequently throughout the entire bore, and used with shot and other projectiles of relevant quantity and/or caliber. The blunderbuss could be considered to be an early form of shotgun,...

, was also used in a similar variety of roles from self defence to riot control
Riot control
Riot control refers to the measures used by police, military, or other security forces to control, disperse, and arrest civilians who are involved in a riot, demonstration, or protest. Law enforcement officers or soldiers have long used non-lethal weapons such as batons and whips to disperse crowds...

. It was often used by cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 troops due to its generally shorter length and ease of use, as well as by coachmen
Coachman
A coachman is a man whose business it is to drive a coach, a horse-drawn vehicle designed for the conveyance of more than one passenger — and of mail — and covered for protection from the elements...

 for its substantial power. However, in the 19th century, these weapons were largely replaced on the battlefield with breechloading rifled firearms, which were more accurate over longer ranges. The military value of shotguns was rediscovered in the First World War, when American
American Expeditionary Force
The American Expeditionary Forces or AEF were the United States Armed Forces sent to Europe in World War I. During the United States campaigns in World War I the AEF fought in France alongside British and French allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial German forces...

 forces used 12-gauge pump action shotguns
Winchester Model 1897
The Winchester Model 1897, also known as the Model 97, M97, or Trench Gun, was a pump-action shotgunwith an external hammer and tube magazine manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Model 1897 was an evolution of the Winchester Model 1893 designed by John Browning. From 1897...

 in close-quarters trench fighting
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 to great effect. Since then, it has been used in a variety of roles in civilian
Civilian
A civilian under international humanitarian law is a person who is not a member of his or her country's armed forces or other militia. Civilians are distinct from combatants. They are afforded a degree of legal protection from the effects of war and military occupation...

, law enforcement
Law enforcement agency
In North American English, a law enforcement agency is a government agency responsible for the enforcement of the laws.Outside North America, such organizations are called police services. In North America, some of these services are called police while others have other names In North American...

, and military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 applications.

The shot pellets from a shotgun spread upon leaving the barrel, and the power of the burning charge is divided among the pellets, which means that the energy of any one ball of shot is fairly low. In a hunting context, this makes shotguns useful primarily for hunting birds and other small game
Game (food)
Game is any animal hunted for food or not normally domesticated. Game animals are also hunted for sport.The type and range of animals hunted for food varies in different parts of the world. This will be influenced by climate, animal diversity, local taste and locally accepted view about what can or...

. However, in a military or law enforcement context, the large number of projectiles makes the shotgun useful as a close quarters combat weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

 or a defensive weapon. Shotguns are also used for target shooting sports such as skeet
Skeet shooting
Skeet shooting is one of the three major types of competitive shotgun target shooting sports . There are several types of skeet, including one with Olympic status , and many with only national recognition.- General principles :Skeet is a recreational and competitive activity where...

, trap
Trap shooting
Trap shooting is one of the three major forms of competitive clay pigeon shooting . The others are skeet shooting and sporting clays. There are many versions including Olympic trap, Double trap , Down-The-Line, and Nordic trap. American trap is most popular in the United States and Canada...

, and sporting clays
Sporting Clays
Sporting clays is a form of clay pigeon shooting, often described as "golf with a shotgun" because a typical course includes from 10 to 15 different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain...

. These involve shooting clay disks, known as clay pigeons
Clay pigeon shooting
Clay pigeon shooting, also known as clay target shooting, and formally known as Inanimate Bird Shooting, is the art of shooting at special flying targets, known as clay pigeons or clay targets, with a shotgun or any type of firearm....

, thrown in various ways.

Characteristics

Shotguns come in a wide variety of forms, from very small up to massive punt gun
Punt gun
A punt gun is a type of extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for shooting large numbers of waterfowl for commercial harvesting operations and private sport. Punt guns were usually custom-designed and so varied widely, but could have bore diameters exceeding and fire...

s, and in nearly every type of firearm operating mechanism. The common characteristics that make a shotgun unique center around the requirements of firing shot. These features are the features typical of a shotgun shell
Shotgun shell
A shotgun shell is a self-contained cartridge loaded with lead shot or shotgun slug designed to be fired from a shotgun....

, namely a relatively short, wide cartridge, with straight walls, and operating at a relatively low pressure.

Ammunition
Ammunition
Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war , but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery. The collective term for all types of ammunition is munitions...

 for shotguns is referred to in the USA as shotgun shells, shotshells, or just shells (when it is not likely to be confused with artillery shells). The term cartridge
Cartridge (firearms)
A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head or at its rim . Electrically...

s is standard usage in the United Kingdom.

The shot is usually fired from a smoothbore barrel; another configuration is the rifled slug barrel
Slug barrel
A slug barrel is a barrel for a shotgun that is designed primarily to fire slugs.-Origins:When slugs are fired in a standard, choked barrel, the slug is deformed by the choke as it exits. The degree of deformation is most acute with fuller chokes, which were among the most widely used in stock...

, which fires more accurate solitary projectiles.

Uses

The typical use of a shotgun is against small and/or fast moving targets, often taken while in the air. The spreading of the shot allows the user to point the shotgun close to the target, rather than having to aim precisely as in the case of a single projectile. The disadvantages of shot are limited range and limited penetration of the shot, which is why shotguns are used at short ranges, and typically against smaller targets. Larger shot size, up to the extreme case of the single projectile slug load, results in increased penetration, but at the expense of fewer projectiles and lower probability of hitting the target.

Aside from the most common use against small, fast moving targets, the shotgun has several advantages when used against still targets. First, it has enormous stopping power
Stopping power
Stopping power is a colloquial term used to describe the ability of a firearm or other weapon to cause a penetrating ballistic injury to a target, human or animal, sufficient to incapacitate the target where it stands....

 at short range, more than nearly all handgun
Handgun
A handgun is a firearm designed to be held and operated by one hand. This characteristic differentiates handguns as a general class of firearms from long guns such as rifles and shotguns ....

s and many rifles. Though many believe the shotgun is a great firearm for inexperienced shooters, the truth is, at close range, the spread of shot is not very large at all, and competency in aiming is still required. A typical self-defense load of buckshot contains 8-27 large lead pellets, resulting in many wound tracks in the target. Also, unlike a fully jacketed
Full metal jacket bullet
A full metal jacket is a bullet consisting of a soft core encased in a shell of harder metal, such as gilding metal, cupronickel or less commonly a steel alloy. This shell can extend around all of the bullet, or often just the front and sides with the rear left as exposed lead...

 rifle bullet, each pellet of shot is less likely to penetrate walls and hit bystanders. It is favored by law enforcement
Police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 for its low penetration and high stopping power
Stopping power
Stopping power is a colloquial term used to describe the ability of a firearm or other weapon to cause a penetrating ballistic injury to a target, human or animal, sufficient to incapacitate the target where it stands....

.

On the other hand, the hit potential of a defensive shotgun is often overstated. The typical defensive
Self-defense
Self-defense, self-defence or private defense is a countermeasure that involves defending oneself, one's property or the well-being of another from physical harm. The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of force in times of danger is available in many...

 shot is taken at very close ranges, at which the shot charge expands no more than a few centimeters. This means the shotgun must still be aimed at the target with some care. Balancing this is the fact that shot spreads further upon entering the target, and the multiple wound channels of a defensive load are far more likely to produce a disabling wound than a rifle or handgun.

Sporting

Some of the most common uses of shotguns are the sports of skeet shooting
Skeet shooting
Skeet shooting is one of the three major types of competitive shotgun target shooting sports . There are several types of skeet, including one with Olympic status , and many with only national recognition.- General principles :Skeet is a recreational and competitive activity where...

, trap shooting
Trap shooting
Trap shooting is one of the three major forms of competitive clay pigeon shooting . The others are skeet shooting and sporting clays. There are many versions including Olympic trap, Double trap , Down-The-Line, and Nordic trap. American trap is most popular in the United States and Canada...

, and sporting clays. These involve shooting clay discs, also known as clay pigeons, thrown in various ways. Both skeet and trap competitions are featured at the Olympic Games
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

. Skeet shooting usually deals with 25 shots, while sporting clays can be a course up to 100 shots.

Hunting

The shotgun is very popular for bird hunting
Hunting
Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

, it is also used for more general forms of hunting especially in semi-populated areas where the range of the rifle bullet may pose a hazard. Use of a smooth bore shotgun with a rifled slug or alternatively a rifled barrel shotgun with a sabot
Sabot
A sabot is a device used in a firearm or cannon to fire a projectile, such as a bullet, that is smaller than the bore diameter, or which must be held in a precise position. The term is also applied to a battery stub case, a device used similarly to make a small electrical battery usable in a...

 slug improves accuracy to 100 m (110 yards) or more. This is well within the range of the majority of kill shots by experienced hunters using shotguns.

However, given the relatively low muzzle velocity of slug ammunition typically around 500 m/s (about 1600 feet per second) and blunt, poorly streamlined shape of typical slugs (which cause them to lose velocity very rapidly, compared to rifle bullets), a hunter must pay close attention to the ballistics
Ballistics
Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles, especially bullets, gravity bombs, rockets, or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.A ballistic body is a body which is...

 of the particular ammunition used to ensure an effective and humane kill shot.

At any reasonable range, shotgun slugs make effective lethal wounds due to their tremendous mass, reducing the length of time that an animal might suffer. For example, a typical 12 gauge shotgun slug is a blunt piece of metal that could be described as a 18 mm (.729 inch) caliber that weighs 28 grams (432 grains). For comparison, a common deer-hunting rifle round is a 7.62 mm (.308 inch) slug weighing 9.7 grams (150 grains), but the dynamics of the rifle cartridge allow for a different type of wound, and a much further reach.

Shotguns are often used with rifled barrels in locations where it is not lawful to hunt with a rifle. Typically, a Sabot slug is used in these barrels for maximum accuracy and performance. Shotguns are often used to hunt whitetail deer in the thick brush and briers of the Southeastern and upper Midwestern United States, where, due to the dense cover, ranges tend to be very close - 25 m or less.

Sabot slugs are essentially very large hollowpoint bullets, and are streamlined for maximum spin and accuracy when shot through a rifled barrel. They have greater ranges than older Foster and Brenneke-type slugs.

Law enforcement

In the US and Canada, shotguns are widely used as a support weapon by police forces. One of the rationales for issuing shotguns is that even without much training, an officer will probably be able to hit targets at close to intermediate range, due to the "spreading" effect of buckshot. This is mainly a myth, due to the already stated fact that the spread of shotgun at 25 ft, averages 8 inches, being very capable of missing a target. Some police forces are replacing shotguns in this role with carbine rifles such as AR-15
AR-15
The AR-15 is a lightweight, 5.56 mm, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle, with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation. It is manufactured with the extensive use of aluminum alloys and synthetic materials....

s. Shotguns are also used in roadblock
Roadblock
A roadblock is a temporary installation set up to control or block traffic along a road. The reasons for one could be:*Roadworks*Temporary road closure during special events*Police chase*Robbery*Sobriety checkpoint...

 situations, where police are blocking a highway to search cars for suspects. In the US, law enforcement agencies often use riot shotgun
Riot shotgun
A riot shotgun is a shotgun designed or modified for use as a primarily defensive weapon, primarily by the use of a short barrel. The riot shotgun is used by military personnel for guard duty and was at one time used for riot control, and is commonly used as a patrol weapon by law enforcement...

s, especially for crowd and riot control where they may be loaded with less-lethal rounds such as rubber bullets
Rubber Bullets
"Rubber Bullets" is a song by 10cc from their debut self-titled album.Written and sung by Kevin Godley, Lol Creme and Graham Gouldman and produced by 10cc, "Rubber Bullets" was the band's first number one single in the United Kingdom, spending a single week at the top in June 1973. It fared worse...

 or bean bags
Flexible baton round
A bean bag round, also known by its trademarked name flexible baton round, is a baton round fired as a shotgun shell used for less lethal apprehension of suspects.-Description:...

. Shotguns are also often used as breaching devices to defeat locks.

Military

Shotguns are common weapons in military use, particularly for special purposes: see combat shotgun
Combat shotgun
A combat shotgun is a shotgun that is intended for use in an offensive role, typically by a military force. The earliest shotguns specifically designed for combat were the trench guns or trench shotguns issued in World War I...

. Shotguns are found aboard Naval vessels for shipboard security, because the weapon is very effective at close range as a way of repelling enemy boarding parties
Boarding (attack)
Boarding, in its simplest sense, refers to the insertion on to a ship's deck of individuals. However, when it is classified as an attack, in most contexts, it refers to the forcible insertion of personnel that are not members of the crew by another party without the consent of the captain or crew...

. In a naval setting, stainless steel
Stainless steel
In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 or 11% chromium content by mass....

 shotguns are often used, because regular steel is more prone to corrosion in the marine environment. Shotguns are also used by military police
Military police
Military police are police organisations connected with, or part of, the military of a state. The word can have different meanings in different countries, and may refer to:...

 units. U.S. Marines
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 have used shotguns since their inception at the squad
Squad
In military terminology, a squad is a small military unit led by a non-commissioned officer that is subordinate to an infantry platoon. In countries following the British Army tradition this organization is referred to as a section...

 level, often in the hands of NCOs
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...

, while the U.S. Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 often issued them to a squad's point man. Shotguns were modified for and used in the trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 of WWI
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, in the jungle combat
Jungle warfare
Jungle warfare is a term used to cover the special techniques needed for military units to survive and fight in jungle terrain.It has been the topic of extensive study by military strategists, and was an important part of the planning for both sides in many conflicts, including World War II and the...

 of WWII
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 and are being used today in Iraq, being popular with soldiers and Marines in urban combat
Urban warfare
Urban warfare is combat conducted in urban areas such as towns and cities. Urban combat is very different from combat in the open at both the operational and tactical level...

 environments. Some U.S. units in Iraq use shotguns with special frangible
Frangible
A material is said to be frangible if through deformation it tends to break up into fragments, rather than deforming plastically and retaining its cohesion as a single object...

 breaching round
Breaching round
A breaching round or slug-shot is a shotgun shell specially made for the purposes of door breaching. It is typically fired at a range of 6 inches or less, aimed at the hinges or the area between the doorknob and lock and door jamb, and is designed to destroy the object it hits and then disperse...

s to blow the locks off doors when they are making a surprise entry into a dwelling.

Home/personal defense

Most pump-action and semi-automatic riot shotgun
Riot shotgun
A riot shotgun is a shotgun designed or modified for use as a primarily defensive weapon, primarily by the use of a short barrel. The riot shotgun is used by military personnel for guard duty and was at one time used for riot control, and is commonly used as a patrol weapon by law enforcement...

s in common law enforcement use are also available on the civilian market, and such shotguns are a very popular means of home defense for many of the same reasons they are preferred for close-quarters tasks in law enforcement and the military.

Design features for various uses

Compared to handguns, shotguns are heavier, larger, and not as maneuverable in close quarters (which also presents a greater retention problem), but do have these advantages:
  • They are generally much more powerful.
  • The average shooter can engage multiple targets faster than with a handgun.
  • They are generally perceived as more intimidating.
  • On average, a quality pump-action shotgun is generally less expensive than a quality handgun (self-loading shotguns are generally more expensive than their pump-action counterparts).
  • Shotguns are, in general, not as heavily regulated by legislation as handguns are.
  • When loaded with smaller shot, a shotgun will not penetrate walls as readily as rifle and pistol rounds, making it safer for non-combatants when fired in or around populated structures. This comes at a price, however, as smaller shot may not penetrate deeply enough to cause an immediately incapacitating wound; those who recommend birdshot for minimizing wall penetration also suggest backing it up with a larger buckshot if the first shot fails to stop the threat.

Types

The wide range of forms the shotgun can take leads to some significant differences between what is technically a shotgun and what is legally considered a shotgun. A fairly broad attempt to define a shotgun is made in the United States Code
United States Code
The Code of Laws of the United States of America is a compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal laws of the United States...

 (18 USC 921), which defines the shotgun as "a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder, and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger."

A rifled slug
Slug (projectile)
A slug is a term used for a solid ballistic projectile. It is "solid" in the sense of being composed of one piece; the shape can vary widely, including partially hollowed shapes...

, with finned rifling designed to enable the projectile to be safely fired through a choked barrel, is an example of a single projectile. Some shotguns have rifled barrels and are designed to be used with a "sabot
Sabot
A sabot is a device used in a firearm or cannon to fire a projectile, such as a bullet, that is smaller than the bore diameter, or which must be held in a precise position. The term is also applied to a battery stub case, a device used similarly to make a small electrical battery usable in a...

ed" bullet, one which is typically encased in a two-piece plastic ring (sabot) designed to peel away after it exits the barrel
Gun barrel
A gun barrel is the tube, usually metal, through which a controlled explosion or rapid expansion of gases are released in order to propel a projectile out of the end at a high velocity....

, leaving the bullet, now spinning after passing through the rifled barrel, to continue toward the target. These shotguns, although they have rifled barrels, still use a shotgun-style shell instead of a rifle cartridge
Cartridge (firearms)
A cartridge, also called a round, packages the bullet, gunpowder and primer into a single metallic case precisely made to fit the firing chamber of a firearm. The primer is a small charge of impact-sensitive chemical that may be located at the center of the case head or at its rim . Electrically...

 and may in fact still fire regular multipellet shotgun shells, but the rifling in the barrel will affect the shot pattern. The use of a rifled barrel blurs the distinction between rifle and shotgun, and in fact the early rifled shotgun barrels went by the name Paradox for just that reason. Hunting laws may differentiate between smooth barreled and rifled barreled guns.

Also, many people would likely call a fully automatic shotgun a shotgun, even though legally it would fall into a different category
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

. Amongst the general populace, any gun that fires shotgun shells could be considered a shotgun. This might include the rare shot-pistol (a pistol designed to fire a standard shotgun shell).

Riot gun
Riot shotgun
A riot shotgun is a shotgun designed or modified for use as a primarily defensive weapon, primarily by the use of a short barrel. The riot shotgun is used by military personnel for guard duty and was at one time used for riot control, and is commonly used as a patrol weapon by law enforcement...

has long been a synonym
Synonym
Synonyms are different words with almost identical or similar meanings. Words that are synonyms are said to be synonymous, and the state of being a synonym is called synonymy. The word comes from Ancient Greek syn and onoma . The words car and automobile are synonyms...

 for a shotgun, especially a short-barrelled shotgun. During the 19th and early 20th century, these were used to disperse rioters and revolutionaries. The wide spray of the shot ensured a large group would be hit, but the light shot would ensure more wounds than fatalities. When the ground was paved, police officers would often ricochet
Ricochet
A ricochet is a rebound, bounce or skip off a surface, particularly in the case of a projectile. The possibility of ricochet is one of the reasons for the common firearms safety rule "Never shoot at a flat, hard surface."-Variables:...

 the shot off the ground, slowing down the shot and spreading pattern even further. To this day specialized police and defensive shotguns are called riot shotgun
Riot shotgun
A riot shotgun is a shotgun designed or modified for use as a primarily defensive weapon, primarily by the use of a short barrel. The riot shotgun is used by military personnel for guard duty and was at one time used for riot control, and is commonly used as a patrol weapon by law enforcement...

s. The introduction of rubber bullets
Rubber Bullets
"Rubber Bullets" is a song by 10cc from their debut self-titled album.Written and sung by Kevin Godley, Lol Creme and Graham Gouldman and produced by 10cc, "Rubber Bullets" was the band's first number one single in the United Kingdom, spending a single week at the top in June 1973. It fared worse...

 and bean bag
Flexible baton round
A bean bag round, also known by its trademarked name flexible baton round, is a baton round fired as a shotgun shell used for less lethal apprehension of suspects.-Description:...

 rounds ended the practice of using shot for the most part, but riot shotguns are still used to fire a variety of less lethal rounds for riot control
Riot control
Riot control refers to the measures used by police, military, or other security forces to control, disperse, and arrest civilians who are involved in a riot, demonstration, or protest. Law enforcement officers or soldiers have long used non-lethal weapons such as batons and whips to disperse crowds...

.

A sawed-off shotgun
Sawed-off shotgun
A sawed-off shotgun also called a sawn-off shotgun and a short-barreled shotgun , is a type of shotgun with a shorter gun barrel and often a shorter or absent stock....

(or "sawn-off") refers to a shotgun whose barrel has been shortened, leaving it more maneuverable, easier to use at short range and more readily concealed. Many countries establish a legal minimum barrel length that precludes easy concealment (this length is 18" (457 mm) in the U.S.). The sawed-off shotgun is sometimes known as a "Lupara
Lupara
Lupara is an Italian word used to refer to a sawn-off shotgun of the break-open type. It is traditionally associated with Cosa Nostra, the Italian organized crime group dominant in Sicily for their use of it in vendettas, defense—such as its use against Mussolini's army when he decided to break up...

" (in Italian a generic reference to the word "Lupo" ("Wolf")) in Southern Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

.

Coach gun
Coach gun
A coach gun is a double-barrel shotgun, generally with barrels approximately 18" in length placed side by side . The name comes from the use of such shotguns on stagecoaches by shotgun messengers in the American Wild West and during the Colonial period of Australia.-History:The term "Coach gun"...

s
are similar to sawn-off shotguns, except they are manufactured with an 46 cm (18") barrel and are legal for civilian ownership in some jurisdictions. Coach guns are also more commonly associated with the American Old West or Australian Colonial period, and often used for hunting in bush, scrub, or marshland where a longer barrel would be unwieldy or impractical.

A backpacker shotgun has a short barrel and either a full-size stock or pistol grip, depending on legislation in intended markets. The overall length of these weapons is frequently less than 90 cm (36 inches), with some measuring up at less than 63 cm (25 inches). These weapons are typically break-action .410 "gauge" (caliber), single-barrel designs with no magazine and no automatic ejection capability. They typically employ a cylinder bore, but infrequently are available in modified choke as well. One example of a backpacker shotgun is the Verney-Carron Snake Charmer or the pistol grip Snake Charmer II.

Backpacker shotguns are popular for "home defense" purposes and as "survival" weapons. Other examples include a variety of .410 / rifle "survival" guns manufactured in over/under designs. In the drilling arrangement, a rimfire or centrefire rifle barrel is located beneath the barrel of a .410 gauge shotgun. Generally, there is one manually cocked external hammer and an external selection lever to select which caliber of cartridge to fire. A notable example is the Springfield Armory M6 Scout
Springfield Armory M6 Scout
The M6 Scout is a multipurpose firearm, combining rifle and shotgun. It has been in and out of commercial production several times since the late 1970s . The latest models were manufactured by Česká Zbrojovka Uhersky Brod and sold by Springfield Armory. Other variations of this firearm are the...

, a .410 / .22 issued to United States Air Force personnel as a "survival" gun in the event of a forced landing or accident in a wilderness area. Variants have been used by Israeli, Canadian, and American armed forces. Shotgun/rifle combination gun
Combination gun
A combination gun is a break-action hunting firearm that comprises at least two barrels, a rifle barrel and a shotgun barrel, often but not always in an over and under configuration; side-by-side variations are known as cape guns. A ' refers to a combination gun that has three barrels...

s with two, three, and occasionally even four barrels are available from a number of makers, primarily European. These provided flexibility, enabling the hunter to effectively shoot at flushing birds or more distant small mammals while only carrying one gun.

History

Since early firearms, such as the blunderbuss
Blunderbuss
The blunderbuss is a muzzle-loading firearm with a short, large caliber barrel, which is flared at the muzzle and frequently throughout the entire bore, and used with shot and other projectiles of relevant quantity and/or caliber. The blunderbuss could be considered to be an early form of shotgun,...

, arquebus
Arquebus
The arquebus , or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. The word was originally modeled on the German hakenbüchse; this produced haquebute...

 and musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

 tended to have large diameter, smoothbore barrels, they would function with shot as well as solid balls. A firearm intended for use in wing shooting of birds was known as a fowling piece. The 1728 Cyclopaedia
Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences
Cyclopaedia: or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences was an encyclopedia published by Ephraim Chambers in London in 1728, and reprinted in numerous editions in the eighteenth century...

 defines a fowling piece as:
Fowling Piece, a portable Fire Arm for the shooting of Birds. See Fire Arm.
Of Fowling Pieces, those are reputed the best, which have the longest Barrel, vis. from 5 foot to 6; with an indifferent Bore, under Harquebus: Tho' for different Occasions they shou'd be of different Sorts, and Sizes. But in all, 'tis essential the Barrel be well polish'd and smooth within; and the Bore all of a Bigness, from one End to another...


For example, the contemporary Brown Bess
Brown Bess
Brown Bess is a nickname of uncertain origin for the British Army's Land Pattern Musket and its derivatives. This musket was used in the era of the expansion of the British Empire and acquired symbolic importance at least as significant as its physical importance. It was in use for over a hundred...

 musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

, in service with the British military from 1722 to 1838, 19 mm (.75 inch) smoothbore barrel, roughly the same as a 10 gauge shotgun, and was 157 cm (62 inches) long, just short of the above recommended 168 cm (5 feet). On the other hand, records from the Plymouth colony
Plymouth Colony
Plymouth Colony was an English colonial venture in North America from 1620 to 1691. The first settlement of the Plymouth Colony was at New Plymouth, a location previously surveyed and named by Captain John Smith. The settlement, which served as the capital of the colony, is today the modern town...

 show a maximum length of 137 cm (4 feet) for fowling pieces, shorter than the typical musket.

Shot was also used in warfare; the buck and ball
Buck and ball
Buck and ball was a common load for muzzle-loading muskets, and was very commonly used into the early days of the American Civil War. The load consisted of a .69 caliber round lead musket ball combined with three buckshot pellets.-Construction:...

 loading, mixing a musket ball with three or six buckshot, was used throughout the history of the smoothbore musket. The first recorded use of the term shotgun was in 1776 in Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

. It was noted as part of the "frontier language of the West" by James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper was a prolific and popular American writer of the early 19th century. He is best remembered as a novelist who wrote numerous sea-stories and the historical novels known as the Leatherstocking Tales, featuring frontiersman Natty Bumppo...

.

With the adoption of the smaller bores and rifled barrels, the shotgun began to emerge as a separate entity. Shotguns have long been the preferred method for sport hunting of birds, and the largest shotguns, the punt gun
Punt gun
A punt gun is a type of extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for shooting large numbers of waterfowl for commercial harvesting operations and private sport. Punt guns were usually custom-designed and so varied widely, but could have bore diameters exceeding and fire...

s, were used for commercial hunting. The double-barreled shotgun
Double-barreled shotgun
A double-barreled shotgun is a shotgun or combination gun with two parallel barrels, allowing two shots to be fired in quick succession.-Construction:...

, for example, has changed little since the development of the boxlock action in 1875. Modern innovations such as interchangeable chokes and subgauge inserts make the double barreled shotgun the shotgun of choice in skeet
Skeet
Skeet may refer to:* Clay pigeon shooting, a target sport** Skeet shooting, a discipline of the sport*** Olympic skeet, a variant of the discipline*** Skeet Shoot, a skeet shooting video game for the Atari 2600 produced by Apollo...

, trap shooting
Trap shooting
Trap shooting is one of the three major forms of competitive clay pigeon shooting . The others are skeet shooting and sporting clays. There are many versions including Olympic trap, Double trap , Down-The-Line, and Nordic trap. American trap is most popular in the United States and Canada...

, and sporting clays
Sporting Clays
Sporting clays is a form of clay pigeon shooting, often described as "golf with a shotgun" because a typical course includes from 10 to 15 different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain...

, as well as with many hunters. A double from a well-respected maker, such as Krieghoff or Perazzi
Perazzi
Perazzi is a manufacturer of precision shotguns from Brescia, Italy. The company sells hunting and sporting models of shotguns in the over-and-under and side-by-side varieties. The manufacturer is noted for their removable trigger groups, high quality, and high prices . The founder of Perazzi is...

, can cost US$5,000 to start, and reach prices of US$100,000 for presentation grade examples.

During its long history, it has been favored by bird hunters, guards and law enforcement officials
Police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

. The shotgun has fallen in and out of favor with military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 forces several times in its long history. Shotguns and similar weapons are simpler than long-range rifles, and were developed earlier. The development of more accurate and deadlier long-range rifles minimized the usefulness of the shotgun on the open battlefields of European wars. But armies have "rediscovered" the shotgun for specialty uses many times.

19th Century

During the 19th century, shotguns were mainly employed by cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 units. Both sides of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 employed shotguns. American cavalry went on to use the shotgun extensively during the Indian Wars
Indian Wars
American Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between American settlers or the federal government and the native peoples of North America before and after the American Revolutionary War. The wars resulted from the arrival of European colonizers who...

 throughout the latter half of the 19th Century. Mounted units favored the shotgun for its moving target effectiveness, and devastating close-range firepower. The shotgun was also favored by citizen militias and similar groups. The shotgun was used in the defense of the Alamo during Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

' War of Independence with Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

.

With the exception of cavalry units, the shotgun saw less and less use throughout the 19th Century on the battlefield. As a defense weapon it remained popular with guards and lawmen, however, and the shotgun became one of many symbols of the American Old West
American Old West
The American Old West, or the Wild West, comprises the history, geography, people, lore, and cultural expression of life in the Western United States, most often referring to the latter half of the 19th century, between the American Civil War and the end of the century...

. The famous lawman Cody Lyons killed two men with a shotgun; his friend Doc Holliday
Doc Holliday
John Henry "Doc" Holliday was an American gambler, gunfighter and dentist of the American Old West, who is usually remembered for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and his involvement in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral...

's only confirmed kill was with a shotgun. The weapon both these men used was the short-barreled version favored by private strongbox guards on stages and trains. These guards, called express messengers, became known as shotgun messenger
Shotgun messenger
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a shotgun messenger was a private "express messenger" and guard, especially on a stagecoach but also on a train, in charge of overseeing and guarding a valuable private shipment, such as particularly the contents of a strongbox or safe...

s, since they rode with the weapon (loaded with buckshot) for defense against bandits. Passenger carriages carrying a strongbox usually had at least one private guard armed with a shotgun riding in front of the coach, next to the driver. This practice has survived in American slang
Slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

; the term "riding shotgun"
Calling shotgun
Riding shotgun refers to the practice of sitting alongside the driver in a moving vehicle.The expression "riding shotgun" was apparently not used in the days of actual stagecoach travel. At that time, the position next to the driver was said to be occupied by an "express messenger" or sometimes...

 is used for the passenger who sits in the front passenger seat. The shotgun was a popular weapon for personal protection in the American Old West
American Old West
The American Old West, or the Wild West, comprises the history, geography, people, lore, and cultural expression of life in the Western United States, most often referring to the latter half of the 19th century, between the American Civil War and the end of the century...

, requiring less skill on the part of the user than a revolver
Revolver
A revolver is a repeating firearm that has a cylinder containing multiple chambers and at least one barrel for firing. The first revolver ever made was built by Elisha Collier in 1818. The percussion cap revolver was invented by Samuel Colt in 1836. This weapon became known as the Colt Paterson...

.

Hammerless shotguns

The origins of the hammerless shotgun are European but otherwise obscure. The earliest breechloading shotguns originated in France and Belgium in the early 19th century (see also the history of the Pinfire
Pinfire
A pinfire firearm cartridge is an obsolete type of brass cartridge in which the priming compound is ignited by striking a small pin which protrudes radially from just above the base of the cartridge....

) and a number of them such as those by Robert and Chateauvillard from the 1830s and 1840s did not use hammers. In fact during these decades a wide variety of ingenious weapons, including rifles, adopted what is now often known as a ‘needle-fire’ method of igniting the charge, where a firing pin or a longer sharper needle provided the necessary impact. The most widely used British hammerless needle-fire shotgun was the unusual hinged-chamber fixed-barrel breech-loader by Joseph Needham, produced from the 1850s. By the 1860s hammerless guns were increasingly used in Europe both in war and sport although hammer guns were still very much in the majority. The first significant encroachment on hammer guns was a hammerless patent which could be used with a conventional side-lock. This was British gunmaker T Murcott’s 1871 action nicknamed the ‘mousetrap’ on account of its loud snap action. However the most successful hammerless innovation of the 1870s was Anson and Deeley’s boxlock patent of 1875. This simple but ingenious design only used four moving parts allowing the production of cheaper and reliable shotguns.

Daniel Myron LeFever

Daniel Myron LeFever
Daniel Myron LeFever
Daniel Myron LeFever was an American gun maker, popularly known as "Uncle Dan LeFever". He is best known as the inventor of the hammerless shotgun, first introduced in 1878.-Biography:...

 is credited with the invention of the American hammerless shotgun. Working for Barber & LeFever in Syracuse, N.Y. he introduced his first hammerless shotgun in 1878. This gun was cocked with external cocking levers on the side of the breech. He formed his own company, The LeFever Arms Co., in 1880 and went on to patent the first truly automatic hammerless shotgun in 1883. This gun automatically cocked itself when the breech was closed. He later developed the mechanism to automatically eject the shells when the breech was opened. The LeFever Arms Co. went on to make some of the finest double barrel shotguns in America until they were bought by The Ithaca Gun Co.
Ithaca Gun Company
The Ithaca Gun Company is a manufacturer of shotguns and rifles originally established in Ithaca, New York in 1880.-Production:Ithaca became famous for building firearms based on expired patents owned by Remington Arms...

 in 1916.

John Moses Browning

One of the men most responsible for the modern development of the shotgun was prolific gun designer John Browning
John Browning
John Moses Browning , born in Ogden, Utah, was an American firearms designer who developed many varieties of military and civilian firearms, cartridges, and gun mechanisms, many of which are still in use around the world...

. While working for Winchester Firearms, Browning revolutionized shotgun design. In 1887, Browning introduced the Model 1887 Lever Action Repeating Shotgun
Winchester Model 1887/1901
The Winchester Model 1887 and Winchester Model 1901 were lever-action shotguns originally designed by famed American gun designer John Browning and produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company during the late 19th and early 20th centuries....

, which loaded a fresh cartridge from its internal magazine by the operation of the action lever. Before this time most shotguns were the 'break open
Break open
A break-action firearm is one whose barrels are hinged, and rotate perpendicular to the bore axis to expose the breech and allow loading and unloading of ammunition. A separate operation may be required for the cocking of a hammer to fire the new round...

' type.

This development was greatly overshadowed by two further innovations he introduced at the end of the 19th century. In 1893, Browning produced the Model 1893 Pump Action Shotgun, introducing the now familiar pump action to the market. And in 1900, he patented the Browning Auto-5
Browning Auto-5
The Browning Automatic 5, most often Auto-5 or simply A-5, is a recoil-operated semi-automatic shotgun designed by John Browning. It was the first successful semi-automatic shotgun designed and remained in production until 1998...

, the world's first semi-automatic shotgun. The Browning Auto-5 remained in production until 1998.

World wars

The decline in military use of shotguns reversed in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. American forces under General Pershing employed 12-gauge pump action shotguns when they were deployed to the Western front in 1917. These shotguns were fitted with bayonets and a heat shield so the barrel could be gripped while the bayonet was deployed. Shotguns fitted in this fashion became known as trench guns
Combat shotgun
A combat shotgun is a shotgun that is intended for use in an offensive role, typically by a military force. The earliest shotguns specifically designed for combat were the trench guns or trench shotguns issued in World War I...

by the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

. Those without such modifications were known as riot guns. After World War I, the United States military began referring to all shotguns as riot guns.

Due to the cramped conditions of trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

, the American shotguns were extremely effective. Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 even filed an official diplomatic protest against their use, alleging they violated the laws of warfare. The Judge Advocate General
Judge Advocate General's Corps, U.S. Army
The Judge Advocate General's Corps of the United States Army is composed of Army officers who are also lawyers and who provide legal services to the Army at all levels of command. The Judge Advocate General's Legal Service includes judge advocates, warrant officers, paralegal noncommissioned...

 reviewed the protest, and it was rejected because the Germans protested use of lead shot (which would have been illegal) but military shot was plated. This is the only occasion the legality of the shotgun's use in warfare has been questioned.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the shotgun was not heavily used in the war in Europe by official military forces. However, the shotgun was a favorite weapon of Allied-supported partisans
Partisan (military)
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity...

, such as the French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

. By contrast, in the Pacific theater, thick jungles and heavily fortified positions made the shotgun a favorite weapon of the United States Marines. Marines tended to use pump shotguns, since the pump action was less likely to jam in the humid and dirty conditions of the Pacific campaign. Similarly, the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 used pump shotguns as well to guard ships when in port in Chinese harbors (e.g., Shanghai). The United States Army Air Forces
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 similarly used pump shotguns to guard bombers and other aircraft against saboteurs when parked on airbases across the Pacific and on the West Coast of the United States. Pump and semi-automatic shotguns were used in marksmanship training, particularly for bomber gunners. The most common pump shotguns used for these duties were the 12 gauge Winchester Model 97
Winchester Model 1897
The Winchester Model 1897, also known as the Model 97, M97, or Trench Gun, was a pump-action shotgunwith an external hammer and tube magazine manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Model 1897 was an evolution of the Winchester Model 1893 designed by John Browning. From 1897...

 and Model 12
Winchester Model 1912
The Winchester Model 1912 is a hammerless slide-action, i.e., pump-action, shotgun with an external tube magazine. Popularly-named the Perfect Repeater at its introduction, it largely set the standard for pump action shotguns over its 51 year high-rate production life...

. The break-open action, single barrel shotgun was used by the British Home Guard and U.S. home security forces. Notably, industrial centers (such as the Gopher State Steel Works) were guarded by National Guard soldiers with Winchester Model 37
Winchester Model 37
- Overview :The Winchester Model 37 Single Shot Shotgun is an American firearm. It was in production from 1936-1963 with 1,015,554 units made. This model was developed by Winchester with a standard visible hammer action for many years. The Winchester Model 37 uses a top-cocking lever, breakdown...

 12 gauge shotguns.

Late 20th century to present

Since the end of World War II, the shotgun has remained a specialty weapon for modern armies. It has been deployed for specialized tasks where its strengths were put to particularly good use. It was used to defend machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

 emplacements during the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, American and French jungle patrols used shotguns during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, and shotguns saw extensive use as door breaching and close quarter weapons in the early stages of the Iraq War, and saw limited use in tank crews. Many modern navies
Navy
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

 make extensive use of shotguns by personnel engaged in boarding hostile ships, as any shots fired will almost certainly be over a short range. Nonetheless, shotguns are far less common in military use than rifles, carbine
Carbine
A carbine , from French carabine, is a longarm similar to but shorter than a rifle or musket. Many carbines are shortened versions of full rifles, firing the same ammunition at a lower velocity due to a shorter barrel length....

s, or submachineguns.

On the other hand, the shotgun has become a standard in law enforcement use. A variety of specialty less-lethal or non-lethal ammunitions, such as tear gas shells, bean bags, flares, explosive sonic stun rounds, and rubber projectiles, all packaged into 12 gauge shotgun shells, are produced specifically for the law enforcement market. Recently, Taser International
TASER International
Taser International, Inc. is a developer, manufacturer, and distributor of the Taser less-lethal electroshock guns in the United States. It is based at Scottsdale, Arizona, United States. Taser is the most common brand of electroshock gun.-History:...

 introduced a self-contained electronic weapon which is fired from a standard 12 gauge shotgun.

The shotgun remains a standard firearm for hunting throughout the world for all sorts of game from birds and small game to large game such as deer. The versatility of the shotgun as a hunting weapon has steadily increased as slug rounds and more advanced rifled barrels have given shotguns longer range and higher killing power. The shotgun has become a ubiquitous firearm in the hunting community. The prevalence of the shotgun's use in hunting can be easily shown by the number of hunting incidents reported to wildlife and game officials. Of the thirty-four hunting accidents reported in Wisconsin in 2005, sixteen involved shotguns, making them the most common hunting firearm. The second most common was rifles of various calibers. (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 2005 )

In 1994, shotguns made up 9.7% of gun traces relating to criminal investigations in the United States and were the weapon of choice in 5% of homicides according to United States Justice Department statistics. Shotguns are not the preferred weapons for criminal activity, since criminals prefer weapons which are more easily concealed, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. However, the comparatively easy availability of double-barrelled shotguns compared to pistols in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, coupled with the ease with which their barrels and stocks can be shortened, has made the sawn-off shotgun a popular weapon of armed robbers
Robbery
Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear....

 in these countries.

Action

Action is the term for the operating mechanism of a gun. There are many types of shotguns, typically categorized by the number of barrels or the way the gun is reloaded.

Break-action

For most of the history of the shotgun, the break-action breech loading double was the most common type, typically divided into two subtypes: the traditional "side by side" shotgun features two barrels mounted one beside the other (as the name suggests), whereas the "over and under" shotgun has the two barrels mounted one on top of the other. Side by side shotguns were traditionally used for hunting and other sporting pursuits (early long barreled side-by side shotguns were known as Fowling Pieces for their use hunting ducks and other birds), whereas over and under shotguns are more commonly associated with sporting use (such as clay pigeon/skeet shooting). Both types of double-barrel shotgun are used for hunting and sporting use, with the individual configuration largely being a matter of personal preference.

Another, less commonly encountered type of break-action shotgun is the combination gun
Combination gun
A combination gun is a break-action hunting firearm that comprises at least two barrels, a rifle barrel and a shotgun barrel, often but not always in an over and under configuration; side-by-side variations are known as cape guns. A ' refers to a combination gun that has three barrels...

, which is an over and under design with one shotgun barrel and one rifle barrel (more often rifle on top, but rifle on bottom was not uncommon). There is also a class of break action guns called drillings, which contain three barrels, usually 2 shotgun barrels of the same gauge and a rifle barrel, though the only common theme is that at least one barrel be a shotgun barrel. The most common arrangement was essentially a side by side shotgun with the rifle barrel below and centered. Usually a drilling containing more than one rifle barrel would have both rifle barrels in the same caliber
Caliber
In guns including firearms, caliber or calibre is the approximate internal diameter of the barrel in relation to the diameter of the projectile used in it....

, but examples do exist with different caliber barrels, usually a .22 Long Rifle
.22 Long Rifle
The .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridge is a long established variety of ammunition, and in terms of units sold is still by far the most common in the world today. The cartridge is often referred to simply as .22 LR and various rifles, pistols, revolvers, and even some smoothbore shotguns have...

 and a centerfire cartridge. Although very rare, drillings with three and even four (a vierling) shotgun barrels were made.

Pump-action

In pump-action shotguns
Pump action shotgun
Pump-action shotguns, also called 'slide action repeating shotguns' or 'slide action shotguns' are a class of shotguns that are distinguished in the way in which spent shells are extracted and fresh ones are chambered. The weapon has a single barrel above a tube magazine into which shells are...

, a sliding forearm handle (the pump) works the action, extracting the spent shell and inserting a new one while cocking the hammer or striker as the pump is worked. A pump gun is typically fed from a tubular magazine underneath the barrel, which also serves as a guide for the pump. The rounds are fed in one by one through a port in the receiver, where they are lifted by a lever called the elevator and pushed forward into the chamber by the bolt. A pair of latches at the rear of the magazine hold the rounds in place and facilitate feeding of one shell at a time. If it is desired to load the gun fully, a round may be loaded through the ejection port directly into the chamber, or cycled from the magazine, which is then topped off with another round. Well-known examples include the Winchester Model 1897
Winchester Model 1897
The Winchester Model 1897, also known as the Model 97, M97, or Trench Gun, was a pump-action shotgunwith an external hammer and tube magazine manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Model 1897 was an evolution of the Winchester Model 1893 designed by John Browning. From 1897...

, Remington 870
Remington 870
The Remington Model 870 is a U.S.-made pump-action shotgun manufactured by Remington Arms Company, Inc. It is widely used by the public for sport shooting, hunting, and self-defense. It is also commonly used by law enforcement and military organizations worldwide.-Development:The Remington 870 was...

 and Mossberg 500
Mossberg 500
Mossberg 500 is a series of shotguns manufactured by O.F. Mossberg & Sons. The 500 series comprises widely varying models of hammerless, pump action repeaters, all of which share the same basic receiver and action, but differ in bore size, barrel length, choke options, magazine capacity, and...

/590.

Pump-action shotguns are common hunting, fowling and sporting shotguns. Hunting models generally have a barrel between 600 and 700 mm (24"-28"). Tube-fed models designed for hunting often come with a dowel rod or other stop that is inserted into the magazine and reduces the capacity of the gun to three shells (two in the magazine and one chambered) as is mandated by U.S. federal law when hunting migratory birds. They can also easily be used with an empty magazine as a single-shot weapon, by simply dropping the next round to be fired into the open ejection port after the spent round is ejected. For this reason, pump-actions are commonly used to teach novice shooters under supervision, as the trainer can load each round more quickly than with a break-action, while unlike a break-action the student can maintain his grip on the gun and concentrate on proper handling and firing of the weapon.

Pump action shotguns with shorter barrels and no barrel choke (or very little) are highly popular for use in home defense, military and law enforcement, and are commonly known as riot gun
Riot shotgun
A riot shotgun is a shotgun designed or modified for use as a primarily defensive weapon, primarily by the use of a short barrel. The riot shotgun is used by military personnel for guard duty and was at one time used for riot control, and is commonly used as a patrol weapon by law enforcement...

s. The minimum barrel length for shotguns in most of the U.S. is 18" (457 mm), and this barrel length (sometimes 18.5"-20" (470–500 mm) to increase magazine capacity and/or ensure the gun is legal regardless of measuring differences) is the primary choice for riot shotguns. The shorter barrel makes the weapon easier to maneuver around corners and in tight spaces, though slightly longer barrels are sometimes used outdoors for a tighter spread pattern or increased accuracy of slug projectiles. Home-defense/law enforcement shotguns are usually chambered for 12-gauge shells, providing maximum shot power and the use of a variety of projectiles such as buckshot, rubber, sandbag and slug shells, but 20-gauge (common in bird-hunting shotguns) or .410 (common in youth-size shotguns) are also available in defense-type shotgun models allowing easier use by novice shooters.

A riot shotgun has many advantages over a handgun or rifle. Compared to "defense-caliber" handguns (chambered for 9mm Parabellum, .38 Special
.38 Special
The .38 Smith & Wesson Special is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge designed by Smith & Wesson. It is most commonly used in revolvers, although some semi-automatic pistols and carbines also use this round...

, .357 Magnum
.357 Magnum
The .357 S&W Magnum , or simply .357 Magnum, is a revolver cartridge created by Elmer Keith, Phillip B. Sharpe, Colonel D. B. Wesson of firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson, and Winchester. It is based upon Smith & Wesson's earlier .38 Special cartridge. The .357 Magnum cartridge was introduced in...

, .40 S&W
.40 S&W
The .40 S&W is a rimless pistol cartridge developed jointly by major American firearms manufacturers Winchester and Smith & Wesson. The .40 S&W was developed from the ground up as a law enforcement cartridge designed to duplicate performance of the FBI's reduced velocity 10mm cartridge which could...

, .45 ACP
.45 ACP
The .45 ACP , also known as the .45 Auto by C.I.P., is a cartridge designed by John Browning in 1904, for use in his prototype Colt semi-automatic .45 pistol and eventually the M1911 pistol adopted by the United States Army in 1911.-Design and history:The U.S...

 and similar), a shotgun has far more power and damage potential (up to 10 times the muzzle energy of a .45 ACP
.45 ACP
The .45 ACP , also known as the .45 Auto by C.I.P., is a cartridge designed by John Browning in 1904, for use in his prototype Colt semi-automatic .45 pistol and eventually the M1911 pistol adopted by the United States Army in 1911.-Design and history:The U.S...

 cartridge), allowing a "one-shot stop
Stopping power
Stopping power is a colloquial term used to describe the ability of a firearm or other weapon to cause a penetrating ballistic injury to a target, human or animal, sufficient to incapacitate the target where it stands....

" that is more difficult to achieve with typical handgun loads. Compared to a rifle, riot shotguns are easier to maneuver due to the shorter barrel, still provide better damage potential at indoor distances (generally 3–5 meters/yards), and reduce the risk of "overpenetration"; that is, the bullet or shot passing completely through the target and continuing beyond, which poses a risk to those behind the target through walls. The wide spread of the shot reduces the importance of shot placement compared to a single projectile, which increases the effectiveness of "point shooting" - rapidly aiming simply by pointing the weapon in the direction of the target. This allows easy, fast use by novices.

Lever-action

Early attempts at repeating shotguns invariably centred around either bolt-or lever-action
Lever-action
Lever-action is a type of firearm action which uses a lever located around the trigger guard area, to load fresh cartridges into the chamber of the barrel when the lever is worked. Most lever-action firearms are rifles, but lever-action shotguns and a few pistols have also been made...

 designs, drawing inspiration from contemporary repeating rifles, with the earliest successful repeating shotgun being the lever-action Winchester M1887, designed by John Browning at the behest of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

Lever shotguns, while less common, were popular in the late 19th century with the Winchester Model 1887 and Model 1901 being prime examples. Initially very popular, demand waned after the introduction of pump-action shotguns at the turn of the century, and production was eventually discontinued in 1920.

One major issue with lever-actions (and to a lesser extent pump-actions) was that early shotgun shells were often made of paper or similar fragile materials (modern hulls are plastic or metal). As a result the loading of shells, or working of the action of the shotgun, could often result in cartridges getting crushed and becoming unusable, or even damaging the gun.

Lever shotguns have seen a return to the gun market in recent years, however, with Winchester producing the Model 9410 (chambering the .410 gauge shotgun shell and using the action of the Winchester Model 94 series lever-action rifle, hence the name), and a handful of other firearm manufacturers (primarily Norinco
Norinco
The China North Industries Corporation , official English name Norinco, manufactures vehicles , machinery, optical-electronic products, oil field equipment, chemicals, light industrial products, explosives and blast materials, civil and military firearms and ammunition, etc...

 of China and ADI Ltd. of Australia) producing versions of the Winchester Model 1887/1901 designed for modern 12-gauge smokeless
Smokeless powder
Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of propellants used in firearms and artillery which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older gunpowder which they replaced...

 shotshells with more durable plastic casings. There has been a notable uptick in lever-action shotgun sales in Australia since 1997, when pump-actions were effectively outlawed.

Semi-automatic

Gas, inertia, or recoil operated actions are other popular methods of increasing the rate of fire of a shotgun; these are generally referred to as autoloader
Semi-automatic shotgun
A semi-automatic shotgun is a form of shotgun that is able to fire a cartridge after every trigger squeeze, without any manual chambering of another round being required...

s or semi-automatics. Instead of having the action manually operated by a pump or lever, the action automatically cycles each time the shotgun is fired, ejecting the spent shell and reloading a fresh one into the chamber. The first successful semi-automatic shotgun was John Browning
John Browning
John Moses Browning , born in Ogden, Utah, was an American firearms designer who developed many varieties of military and civilian firearms, cartridges, and gun mechanisms, many of which are still in use around the world...

's Auto-5, first produced by Fabrique Nationale beginning in 1902. Other well-known examples include the Remington 1100
Remington 1100
The Remington 1100 is a gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun, popular among sportsmen. The Remington 1100 was the first semiautomatic shotgun to feature significant reduction in felt recoil, light weight and reliability.- History :...

, Benelli M1, and Saiga-12
Saiga-12
The Saiga-12 is a Kalashnikov-pattern 12 gauge combat shotgun available in a wide range of configurations. Like the Kalashnikov rifle variants, it is a rotating bolt, gas-operated gun that feeds from a box magazine...

.

Some, such as the Franchi SPAS-12
Franchi SPAS-12
The SPAS-12 is a combat shotgun that was manufactured by the Italian firearms company Franchi S.p.A. from 1979 to 2000. The SPAS-12 is a dual-mode shotgun, meaning it can be calibrated to cycle either semi-automatically or through pump-action. The SPAS-12 has sold well to military and police users...

 and Benelli M3
Benelli M3
The Benelli M3 is a dual-mode shotgun designed and manufactured by Italian firearms manufacturer Benelli. The M3 holds a maximum of seven rounds and uses the proprietary Benelli semi-automatic system first showcased in the M1. The M3 is notable for allowing the user the choice of semi-automatic...

, are capable of switching between semi-automatic and pump action. These are popular for two reasons; first, some jurisdictions forbid the use of semi-automatic actions for hunting, and second, lower-powered rounds, like "reduced-recoil" buckshot shells and many less lethal cartridges, have insufficient power to reliably cycle a semi-automatic shotgun.

Bolt-action

Bolt-action
Bolt-action
Bolt action is a type of firearm action in which the weapon's bolt is operated manually by the opening and closing of the breech with a small handle, most commonly placed on the right-hand side of the weapon...

 shotguns, while uncommon, do exist. One of the best known examples is a 12 gauge manufactured by Mossberg featuring a 3-round magazine, marketed in Australia just after changes to the gun laws in 1997 heavily restricted the ownership and use of pump-action and semi-automatic shotguns. They were not a huge success, as they were somewhat slow and awkward to operate, and the rate of fire was noticeably slower (on average) than a double-barrelled gun. The Ishapore Arsenal in India also manufactured a single-shot .410 bore shotgun based on the SMLE Mk III*
Lee-Enfield
The Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle was the main firearm used by the military forces of the British Empire and Commonwealth during the first half of the 20th century...

 rifle. The Russian Berdana shotgun was effectively a single-shot bolt-action rifle that became obsolete, and was subsequently modified to chamber 16 gauge shotgun shells for civilian sale. Also, the M-26 used by the U.S. military is a bolt action weapon. Bolt-action shotguns have also been used in the "goose gun" application, intended to kill birds such as geese
Goose
The word goose is the English name for a group of waterfowl, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes swans, most of which are larger than true geese, and ducks, which are smaller....

 at greater range. Typically, goose guns have long barrels (up to 36 inches), and small bolt-fed magazines. Bolt-action shotguns are also used in conjunction with slug shells for the maximum possible accuracy from a shotgun.

Other

In addition to the commonly encountered shotgun actions already listed, there are also shotguns based on the Martini-Henry
Martini-Henry
The Martini-Henry was a breech-loading single-shot lever-actuated rifle adopted by the British, combining an action worked on by Friedrich von Martini , with the rifled barrel designed by Scotsman Alexander Henry...

 rifle design, originally designed by British arms maker W.W. Greener.

Some of the more interesting advances in shotgun technology include the versatile NeoStead 2000
NeoStead 2000
The NeoStead 2000 is a combat shotgun developed by Truvelo Armoury of South Africa.The NS2000 has been used in trial runs for a few years by special forces like the British SAS and there are hopes at NeoStead that larger weapons manufacturers will license the production rights...

 and fully automatics such as the Pancor Jackhammer
Pancor Jackhammer
The Pancor Corporation Jackhammer is a 12-gauge, gas-operated automatic shotgun. It is one of very few fully automatic shotguns, and although patented in 1987, it never entered full-scale production. Only a few working prototypes of the Jackhammer were ever built; some sources state that only two...

 or Auto-Assault 12
Atchisson Assault Shotgun
The Auto Assault-12 , originally designed and known as the Atchisson Assault Shotgun, is a shotgun developed in 1972 by Maxwell Atchisson. The current 2005 version has been developed over 18 years since the patent was sold to Military Police Systems, Inc. The original design was the basis of...

.

In 1925, Rodolfo Cosmi produced the first working hybrid prototype semi-automatic shotgun, which had an 8 round magazine located in the stock. While it reloaded automatically after each shot like a semi-automatic, it had a break-action to load the first shell. This design has only been repeated once, by Beretta with their UGB25 automatic shotgun. The user loads the first shell by breaking the gun in the manner of a break-action shotgun, then closes it and inserts the second shell into a clip on the gun's right side. The spent hulls are ejected downwards. The guns combine the advantages of the break action (they can be proven to be safe by breaking open, there are no flying hulls) with those of the semi-automatic (low recoil, low barrel axis position hence low muzzle flip).

Gauge

The caliber of shotguns is measured in terms of gauge (U.S.
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

) or bore (U.K.
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

). The gauge number is the determined by the weight, in fractions of a pound, of a solid sphere of lead with a diameter equal to the inside diameter of the barrel. So a 10 gauge shotgun nominally should have an inside diameter equal to that of a sphere made from one-tenth of a pound of lead. By far the most common gauges are 12 (0.729 in, 18.5 mm diameter) and 20 (0.614 in, 15.6 mm), although .410 (= 67), 32, 28, 24, 16, and 10 (19.7 mm) gauge and 9 mm (.355 in.) and .22 (5.5 mm) rimfire calibres have also been produced. Larger gauges, too powerful to shoulder, have been built but were generally affixed to small boats and referred to as punt gun
Punt gun
A punt gun is a type of extremely large shotgun used in the 19th and early 20th centuries for shooting large numbers of waterfowl for commercial harvesting operations and private sport. Punt guns were usually custom-designed and so varied widely, but could have bore diameters exceeding and fire...

s. These were used for commercial water fowl hunting, to kill large numbers of birds resting on the water. Although relatively rare, single and double derringer
Derringer
The term derringer is a genericized misspelling of the last name of Henry Deringer, a famous 19th-century maker of small pocket pistols. Many copies of the original Philadelphia Deringer pistol were made by other gun makers worldwide, and the name was often misspelled; this misspelling soon became...

s have also been produced that are capable of firing either .45 (Long) Colt or .410 shotgun shells from the same chamber; they are commonly known as 'snake guns', and are popular among some outdoorsmen in the South and Southwest regions of the United States. There are also some revolvers, such as the Taurus Judge, that are capable of shooting the .45LC/.410 rounds; but as with derringers, these are handguns that shoot .410 shotgun shells, and are not necessarily considered shotguns.

The .410 bore
.410 bore
.410 bore, commonly misnamed the .410 gauge, is the smallest gauge of shotgun shell commonly available. It has similar base dimensions to the .45 Colt revolver cartridge, though the .410 is significantly longer, up to , allowing many single-shot firearms and some revolvers chambered in that...

 (10.4 mm) is unusual, being measured in inches, and would be approximately 67 "real" gauge, though its short hull versions are nominally called 36 gauge in Europe. It uses a relatively small charge of shot. It is used for hunting and for skeet. Because of its very light recoil (approx 10 N), it is often used as a beginners gun. However, the small charge and typically tight choke make it more difficult to hit targets. It is also frequently used by expert shooters because of the difficulty, especially in expensive side by side and over/under models for hunting small bird game such as quail and doves. Inexpensive bolt-action .410 shotguns are a very common first hunting shotgun among young pre-teen hunters, as they are used mostly for hunting squirrels, while additionally teaching bolt-action manipulation skills that will transfer easily later to adult-sized hunting rifles. Most of these young hunters move up to a 20-gauge
20-gauge shotgun
The 20-gauge shotgun is a type of smoothbore shotgun that is smaller in caliber than a 12 gauge. It takes 20 lead balls of the diameter of a 20-gauge shotgun bore to equal 1 pound, while it only takes 12 lead balls of the diameter of a 12-gauge shotgun bore to equal the same amount...

 within a few years, and to 12 gauge shotguns and full-size hunting rifles by their late teens. Still, many who are particularly recoil-averse choose to stay with 20-gauge shotguns all their adult life, as it is a very suitable gauge for many popular hunting uses.

A recent innovation is the back-boring of barrels, in which the barrels are bored out slightly larger than their actual gauge. This reduces the compression forces on the shot when it transitions from the chamber to the barrel. This leads to a slight reduction in perceived recoil, and an improvement in shot pattern due to reduced deformation of the shot.

Shot

Most shotguns are used to fire "a number of ball shot", in addition to slugs and sabots. The ball shot or pellets is for the most part made of lead but this has been partially replaced by bismuth, steel, tungsten-iron, tungsten-nickel-iron and even tungsten polymer loads. Non-toxic loads are required by Federal law for waterfowl hunting in the US, as the shot may be ingested by the waterfowl, which some authorities believe can lead to health problems due to the lead exposure. Shot is termed either birdshot or buckshot depending on the shot size. Informally, birdshot pellets have a diameter smaller than 5 mm (0.20 inches) and buckshot are larger than that. Pellet size is indicated by a number, for bird shot this ranges from the smallest 12 (1.2 mm, 0.05 in) to 2 (3.8 mm, 0.15 in) and then BB (4.6 mm, 0.18 in).

For buckshot the numbers usually start at 4 (6.1 mm, 0.24 in) and go down to 1, 0, 00 ("double aught"), 000, and finally 0000 (9.7 mm, .38 in). A different informal distinction is that "bird shot" pellets are small enough that they can be measured into the cartridge by weight, and simply poured in, whereas "buckshot" pellets are so large they must be stacked inside the cartridge in a fixed geometric arrangement in order to fit. The diameter in hundredths of an inch of bird shot sizes from #9 to #1 can be obtained by subtracting the shot size from 17. Thus, #4 bird shot is 17 - 4 = 13 = 0.13 inches (3.3 mm) in diameter. Different terminology is used outside the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. In England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, for example, 00 buckshot cartridges are commonly referred to as "S.G." (small game) cartridges.
Table of American Standard Birdshot Size
Size Diameter Pellets/10 g Lead Pellets/10 g Steel
FF 5.84 mm (.230") 8 12
F 5.59 mm (.220") 10 14
TT 5.33 mm (.210") 11 16
T 5.08 mm (.200") 13 19
BBB 4.83 mm (.190") 15 22
BB 4.57 mm (.180") 18 25
B 4.32 mm (.170") 21 30
1 4.06 mm (.160") 25 36
2 3.81 mm (.150") 30 44
3 3.56 mm (.140") 37 54
4 3.30 mm (.130") 47 68
5 3.05 mm (.120") 59 86
6 2.79 mm (.110") 78 112
7 2.41 mm (.100") 120 174
8 2.29 mm (.090") 140 202
9 2.03 mm (.080") 201 290

Table of Buckshot Size
Size Diameter Pellets/10 g Lead
000 or LG ("triple-aught") 9.1 mm (.36") 2.2
00 ("double-aught") 8.4 mm (.33") 2.9
0 or SG("one-aught") 8.1 mm (.32") 3.1
SSG 7.9 mm (.31") 3.4
1 7.6 mm (.30") 3.8
2 6.9 mm (.27") 5.2
3 6.4 mm (.25") 6.6
4 6.1 mm (.24") 7.4

Pattern and choke

Shot, small and round and delivered without spin, is ballistically inefficient. As the shot leaves the barrel it begins to disperse in the air. The resulting cloud of pellets is known as the shot pattern
Pattern
A pattern, from the French patron, is a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set of objects.These elements repeat in a predictable manner...

, or shotgun shot spread. The ideal pattern would be a circle with an even distribution of shot throughout, with a density sufficient to ensure enough pellets will intersect the target to achieve the desired result, such as a kill when hunting or a break when shooting clay targets. In reality the pattern is closer to a Gaussian, or normal distribution, with a higher density in the center that tapers off at the edges. Patterns are usually measured by firing at a 30 inch (76 cm) diameter circle on a large sheet of paper placed at varying distances. The hits inside the circle are counted, and compared to the total number of pellets, and the density of the pattern inside the circle is examined. An "ideal" pattern would put nearly 100% of the pellets in the circle and would have no voids—any region where a target silhouette will fit and not cover 3 or more holes is considered a potential problem.

A constriction in the end of the barrel known as the choke is used to tailor the pattern for different purposes. Chokes may either be formed as part of the barrel at the time of manufacture, by squeezing the end of the bore down over a mandrel
Mandrel
A mandrel is one of the following:* an object used to shape machined work.* a tool component that grips or clamps materials to be machined.* a tool component that can be used to grip other moving tool components.- Variants :...

, or by threading the barrel and screwing in an interchangeable choke tube. The choke typically consists of a conical section that smoothly tapers from the bore diameter down to the choke diameter, followed by a cylindrical section of the choke diameter. Briley Manufacturing, a maker of interchangeable shotgun chokes, uses a conical portion about 3 times the bore diameter in length, so the shot is gradually squeezed down with minimal deformation. The cylindrical section is shorter, usually 0.6 to 0.75 inches (15 to 19 mm). The use of interchangeable chokes has made it easy to tune the performance of a given combination of shotgun and shotshell to achieve the desired performance.

The choke should be tailored to the range and size of the targets. A skeet shooter, shooting at close targets might use 127 micrometres (0.005 inches) of constriction to produce a 76 cm (30 inch) diameter pattern at a distance of 19 m (21 yards). A trap
Trap shooting
Trap shooting is one of the three major forms of competitive clay pigeon shooting . The others are skeet shooting and sporting clays. There are many versions including Olympic trap, Double trap , Down-The-Line, and Nordic trap. American trap is most popular in the United States and Canada...

 shooter, shooting at distant targets might use 762 micrometres (0.030 inches) of constriction to produce a 76 cm (30 inch) diameter pattern at 37 m (40 yards). Special chokes for turkey hunting, which requires long range shots at the small head and neck of the bird, can go as high as 1500 micrometres (0.060 inches). The use of too much choke and a small pattern increases the difficulty of hitting the target, the use of too little choke produces large patterns with insufficient pellet density to reliably break targets or kill game. "Cylinder barrels" have no constriction. See also: Slug barrel
Slug barrel
A slug barrel is a barrel for a shotgun that is designed primarily to fire slugs.-Origins:When slugs are fired in a standard, choked barrel, the slug is deformed by the choke as it exits. The degree of deformation is most acute with fuller chokes, which were among the most widely used in stock...


Table of shotgun chokes
for a 12 gauge shotgun using lead shot
Constriction
(micrometres)
Constriction
(inches)
American Name percentage of shot
in a 76 cm (30 in) circle
at 37 m (40 yd)
Total spread at 37 m
(cm)
Total spread at 40 yds
(in)
Effective range
(m)
Effective range
(yd)
0 .000 Cylinder 40 150 59 18 20
127 .005 Skeet 45 132 52 21 23
254 .010 Improved Cylinder 50 124 49 23 25
381 .015 Light Modified          
508 .020 Modified 60 117 46 32 35
635 .025 Improved Modified          
762 .030 Light Full   109 43    
889 .035 Full 70     37 40
1143 .045 Extra Full          
1270 .050 Super Full          


Other specialized choke tubes exist as well. Some turkey hunting tubes have constrictions greater than "Super Full", or additional features like porting to reduce recoil, or "straight rifling" that is designed to stop any spin that the shot column might acquire when traveling down the barrel. These tubes are often extended tubes, meaning they project beyond the end of the bore, giving more room for things like a longer conical section. Shot spreaders or diffusion chokes work opposite of normal chokes—they are designed to spread the shot more than a cylinder bore, generating wider patterns for very short range use. A number of recent spreader chokes, such as the Briley "Diffusion" line, actually use rifling in the choke to spin the shot slightly, creating a wider spread. The Briley Diffusion uses a 1 in 36 cm twist, as does the FABARM Lion Paradox shotgun.

Oval chokes, which are designed to provide a shot pattern wider than it is tall, are sometimes found on combat shotgun
Combat shotgun
A combat shotgun is a shotgun that is intended for use in an offensive role, typically by a military force. The earliest shotguns specifically designed for combat were the trench guns or trench shotguns issued in World War I...

s, primarily those of the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 era. They were available for aftermarket addition in the 1970's from companies like A & W Engineering. Military versions of the Ithaca 37 with duckbill choke were used in limited numbers during the Vietnam War by US Navy Seals. It arguably increased effectiveness in close range engagements against multiple targets. Two major disadvantages plagued the system. One was erratic patterning. The second was that the shot would spread too quickly providing a very limited effective zone.

Offset chokes, where the pattern is intentionally slightly off of center, are used to change the point of impact. For instance, an offset choke can be used to make a double barrelled shotgun with poorly aligned barrels hit the same spot with both barrels.

Barrel length

Shotguns generally have longer barrels than modern rifles. Unlike rifles, however, the long shotgun barrel is not for ballistic purposes; shotgun shells use small powder charges in large diameter bores, and this leads to very low muzzle pressures (see internal ballistics
Internal ballistics
Internal ballistics, a subfield of ballistics, is the study of a projectile's behavior from the time its propellant's igniter is initiated until it exits the gun barrel...

) and very little velocity change with increasing barrel length.
According to Remington, modern powder in a shotgun burns completely in 25 to 36 cm barrels.

Since shotguns are generally used for shooting at small, fast moving targets, it is important to lead the target by firing slightly ahead of the target, so that when the shot reaches the range of the target, the target will have moved into the pattern. On uphill shooting, this means to shoot above the target. Conversely, on downhill shooting, this means to shoot below the target, which is somewhat counterintuitive for many beginning hunters. Of course, depending on the barrel length, the amount of lead employed will vary for different barrel lengths, and must be learned by experience.

Shotguns made for close ranges, where the angular speed of the targets is great (such as skeet or upland bird hunting) tend to have shorter barrels, around 24 to 28 inches (610 to 710 mm). Shotguns for longer range shooting, where angular speeds are less (trap shooting; quail, pheasant, and waterfowl hunting) tend to have longer barrels, 28 to 34 inches (863.6 mm). The longer barrels have more inertia
Inertia
Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion. It is proportional to an object's mass. The principle of inertia is one of the fundamental principles of classical physics which are used to...

, and will therefore swing more slowly but more steadily. The short, low inertia barrels swing faster, but are less steady. These lengths are for pump or semi-auto shotguns; break open guns have shorter overall lengths for the same barrel length, and so will use longer barrels. The break open design saves between 9 and 15 cm (3.5 and 6 inches) in overall length, but in most cases pays for this by having two barrels, which adds weight at the muzzle, and so usually only adds a couple of centimetres. Barrels for shotguns have been getting longer as modern steels and production methods make the barrels stronger and lighter; a longer, lighter barrel gives the same inertia for less overall weight.

Shotguns for use against larger, slower targets generally have even shorter barrels. Small game shotguns, for hunting game like rabbits and squirrels, or shotguns for use with buckshot for deer, are often 56 to 61 cm (22 to 24 inches).

Shotguns intended for all-round hunting are a compromise, of course, but a 72 to 74 cm (28-29 inch) barrel pump-action 12-gauge shotgun with a modified choke can serve admirably for use as one-gun intended for general all-round hunting of small-game such as quails, rabbits, pheasants, doves, and squirrels in semi-open wooded or farmland areas in many parts of the eastern US (Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee) where dense brush is less of a hindrance and the ability to have more reach is important. For hunting in dense brush, shorter barrel lengths are often preferred when hunting the same types of game.

Ammunition

The extremely large caliber of shotgun shells has led to a wide variety of different ammunition.

Shotshells
Shotgun shell
A shotgun shell is a self-contained cartridge loaded with lead shot or shotgun slug designed to be fired from a shotgun....

 
are the most commonly used round, filled with lead or lead substitute pellets.

Of this general class, the most common subset is birdshot, which uses a large number (from dozens to hundreds) of small pellets, meant to create a wide "kill spread" to hunt birds in flight. Shot shells are described by the size and number of the pellets within, and numbered in reverse order (the smaller the number, the bigger the pellet size, similar to bore gauge). Size nine (#9) shot is the smallest size normally used for hunting and is used on small upland game bird
Upland game bird
Upland game bird is an American term which refers to those non-water fowl game birds hunted with pointing breeds, flushing spaniels, and retrievers...

s such as dove
Dove
Pigeons and doves constitute the bird family Columbidae within the order Columbiformes, which include some 300 species of near passerines. In general terms "dove" and "pigeon" are used somewhat interchangeably...

 and quail
Quail
Quail is a collective name for several genera of mid-sized birds generally considered in the order Galliformes. Old World quail are found in the family Phasianidae, while New World quail are found in the family Odontophoridae...

. Larger sizes are used for hunting larger upland game birds and waterfowl
Waterfowl
Waterfowl are certain wildfowl of the order Anseriformes, especially members of the family Anatidae, which includes ducks, geese, and swans....

. In Europe and in other countries that use the metric system of measurement, except Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, the shot size is simply the diameter of the pellet given in millimeters.

Buckshot is similar to but larger than birdshot, and was originally designed for hunting larger game, such as deer (hence the name). While the advent of new, more accurate slug technologies is making buckshot less attractive for hunting, it is still the most common choice for police, military, and home defense
Self-defense
Self-defense, self-defence or private defense is a countermeasure that involves defending oneself, one's property or the well-being of another from physical harm. The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of force in times of danger is available in many...

 uses. Like birdshot, buckshot is described by pellet size, with larger numbers indicating smaller shot. From the smallest to the largest, buckshot sizes are: #4, (called "number four"), #1, 0 ("one-aught"), 00 ("double-aught"), 000 ("triple-aught") and 0000 ("four-aught"). A typical round for defensive use would be a 12 gauge 2" (7 cm) length 00 buck shell, which contains 9 pellets roughly 8.4 mm (.33 inch) in diameter, each comparable to a .38 Special
.38 Special
The .38 Smith & Wesson Special is a rimmed, centerfire cartridge designed by Smith & Wesson. It is most commonly used in revolvers, although some semi-automatic pistols and carbines also use this round...

 bullet in damage potential. New "tactical" buckshot rounds, designed specifically for defensive use, use slightly fewer shot at lower velocity to reduce recoil and increase controllability of the shotgun. There are some shotgun rounds designed specifically for police use that shoot effectively from 50 yards (45.7 m) with a 20" diameter grouping of the balls.

Slug
Shotgun slug
A shotgun slug is a heavy lead projectile, that may have pre-cut rifling, intended for use in a shotgun and often used for hunting large game. The first effective shotgun slug was introduced by Wilhelm Brenneke in 1898, and his design remains in use today...

rounds are rounds that fire a single solid slug. They are used for hunting large game, and in certain military and law enforcement applications. Modern slugs are moderately accurate, especially when fired from special rifled slug barrels. They are often used in "shotgun-only" hunting zones near inhabited areas, where rifles are prohibited due to their greater range.

Sabots are a common type of slug round. While some slugs are exactly that—a 12-gauge metal projectile in a cartridge—a sabot is a smaller but more aerodynamic projectile surrounded by a "shoe" of some other material. This "sabot" jacket seals the barrel, increasing pressure and acceleration, while also inducing spin on the projectile in a rifled barrel. Once the projectile clears the barrel, the sabot material falls away, leaving an unmarked, aerodynamic bullet to continue toward the target. The advantages over a traditional slug are increased shot power, increased bullet velocity due to the lighter-mass bullet, and increased accuracy due to the velocity and the reduction in deformation of the slug itself. Disadvantages versus a traditional slug include lower muzzle momentum due to reduced mass, reduced damage due to smaller bullet diameter, and significantly higher per-unit cost.

Specialty ammunition

The unique properties of the shotgun, such as large case capacity, large bore, and the lack of rifling, has led to the development of a large variety of specialty shells, ranging from novelties to high tech military rounds.

Hunting, defensive, and military

Brenneke and Foster type slugs have the same basic configuration as normal slugs, but have increased accuracy. The hollowed rear of the Foster slug improves accuracy by placing more mass in the front of the projectile, therefore inhibiting the "tumble" that normal slugs may generate. The Brenneke slug takes this concept a bit further, with the addition of a wad that stays connected to the projectile after discharge, increasing accuracy. Both slugs are commonly found with fins or rib, which are meant to allow the projectile to safely squeeze down during passage through chokes, but they do not increase stability in flight.

Flechette
Flechette
A flechette is a pointed steel projectile, with a vaned tail for stable flight. The name comes from French , "little arrow" or "dart", and sometimes retains the acute accent in English: fléchette.-Bulk and artillery use:...

rounds contain aerodynamic darts, typically from 8 to 20 in number. The flechette provide greatly extended range due to their aerodynamic shape, and improved penetration of light armor. American troops during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 packed their own flechette shotgun rounds, called beehive rounds, after the similar artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 rounds. However, terminal performance was poor due to the very light weight of the flechettes, and their use was quickly dropped.

Frag-12 shotgun rounds are a series of special purpose shotgun grenades, including high explosive blast, fragmentation, and HEAP grenades intended to be fired from any 12-ga shotgun. They are distinguished from regular shotgun rounds by a green hull. It has been proposed as an armament for modern UAVs and is currently being tested for military deployment.

Grenade rounds use exploding projectiles to increase long range lethality. These are currently experimental, but the British FRAG-12, which comes in both armor penetrating and fragmentary forms, is under consideration by military forces

Less Lethal rounds, for riot and animal control

Flexible baton round
Flexible baton round
A bean bag round, also known by its trademarked name flexible baton round, is a baton round fired as a shotgun shell used for less lethal apprehension of suspects.-Description:...

s
, commonly called bean bags, fire a fabric bag filled with birdshot or a similar loose, dense substance. The 'punch' effect of the bag is useful for knocking down targets; the rounds are used by police to subdue violent suspects. The bean bag round is by far the most common Less Lethal round used. Due to the large surface area of these rounds, they lose velocity rapidly, and must be used at fairly short ranges to be effective, though use at extremely short ranges, under 3 m (10 ft), can result in broken bones or other serious or lethal injuries. The rounds can also fly in a frisbee-like fashion and cut the person or animal being fired at. For this reason, these types of rounds are referred to as Less Lethal, as opposed to less-than-lethal.

Gas shells spray a cone of gas for several meters. These are primarily used by riot police. They normally contain pepper gas or tear gas. Other variations launch a gas-grenade-like projectile.

Rock salt shells are hand loaded with rock salt, replacing the standard lead or steel shot. Rock salt shells could be seen as the forerunners of modern less-lethal rounds. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, rock salt shells were and are sometimes used by rural civilians to defend their property. The brittle salt was unlikely to cause serious injury at long ranges, but would cause painful stinging injuries and served as a warning. Some Spanish police forces, like the Guardia Civil and Cuerpo Nacional de Policía, use special rock salt shells called SAL-90 in their riot control
Riot control
Riot control refers to the measures used by police, military, or other security forces to control, disperse, and arrest civilians who are involved in a riot, demonstration, or protest. Law enforcement officers or soldiers have long used non-lethal weapons such as batons and whips to disperse crowds...

 units.

Rubber slugs or rubber buckshot are similar in principle to the bean bag rounds. Composed of flexible rubber or plastic and fired at low velocities, these rounds are probably the most common choice for riot control. Shapes range from full bore diameter cylinders to round balls of varying sizes, to a patent pending design "star round" that resembles a small koosh ball
Koosh ball
The Koosh ball is a toy ball made of rubber filaments attached to a soft rubber core. It was developed in 1986 by Scott Stillinger to be easy for his 5-year old daughter and 8-year old son to hold and throw, and was named after the sound it made when it landed. Stillinger started OddzOn Products...

.

TASER International
TASER International
Taser International, Inc. is a developer, manufacturer, and distributor of the Taser less-lethal electroshock guns in the United States. It is based at Scottsdale, Arizona, United States. Taser is the most common brand of electroshock gun.-History:...

 announced in 2007 a new 12 gauge eXtended Range Electronic Projectile or XREP, which contains a small electroshock weapon unit in a carrier that can be fired from a standard 12 gauge shotgun. The XREP projectile is fin stabilized, and travels at an initial velocity of 100 m/s (300 ft/s). Barbs on the front attach the electroshock unit to the target, with a tassel deploying from the rear to widen the circuit. A twenty second burst of electrical energy is delivered to the target. This product is expected to be released to market in 2008

Breaching round
Breaching round
A breaching round or slug-shot is a shotgun shell specially made for the purposes of door breaching. It is typically fired at a range of 6 inches or less, aimed at the hinges or the area between the doorknob and lock and door jamb, and is designed to destroy the object it hits and then disperse...

s
, often called Disintegrator or Hatton rounds, are designed to destroy door locking mechanisms without risking lives.

Bird bombs are low-powered rounds that fire a firecracker
Firecracker
A firecracker is a small explosive device primarily designed to produce a large amount of noise, especially in the form of a loud bang; any visual effect is incidental to this goal. They have fuses, and are wrapped in a heavy paper casing to contain the explosive compound...

 that is fused to explode a short time after firing. They are designed to scare animals, such as birds that congregate on airport
Airport
An airport is a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps take off and land. Aircraft may be stored or maintained at an airport...

 runway
Runway
According to ICAO a runway is a "defined rectangular area on a land aerodrome prepared for the landing and take-off of aircraft." Runways may be a man-made surface or a natural surface .- Orientation and dimensions :Runways are named by a number between 01 and 36, which is generally one tenth...

s.

Screechers fire a pyrotechnic whistle that emits a loud whistling sound for the duration of its flight. These are also used to scare animals.

Blank shells contain only a small amount of powder and no actual load. When fired, the blanks provide the sound and flash of a real load, but with no projectile. These may be used for simulation of gunfire, scaring wildlife, or as power for a launching device.

Stinger is a type of shotgun shell which contains 16-00 buck balls made of zytel
Zytel
Zytel is a trademark owned by DuPont and used for a number of different high strength, abrasion and impact resistant thermoplastic polyamide formulations of the family more commonly known as nylon, often with varying degrees of fiberglass, from 13% to 60%, added in for additional stiffness.Some of...

, and is designed as a non-lethal ammunition ideally used in small spaces.

Novelty and other

Bolo rounds are made of two or more slugs
Slug (projectile)
A slug is a term used for a solid ballistic projectile. It is "solid" in the sense of being composed of one piece; the shape can vary widely, including partially hollowed shapes...

 molded onto steel wire. When fired, the slugs separate, pulling the wire taut creating a flying blade, which could theoretically decapitate people and animals or amputate limbs. However, many active shotgun users consider this to be overstated, and view bolo shells as being less effective than conventional ammunition. Bolo shell rounds are banned in many locations (including the US
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 states of Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 and Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

) due to concerns about their potential lethality. The round is named in reference to bolas
Bolas
Bolas are a throwing weapon superficially similar to the surujin, made of weights on the ends of interconnected cords, designed to capture animals by entangling their legs...

, which use two or more weighted balls on a rope to trap cattle or game.

Dragon's Breath
Dragon's Breath
A Dragon's Breath usually refers to a zirconium-based pyrotechnic shotgun round. When the round is fired, sparks and occasionally flames shoot out to about 15 m , beyond 15 metres, the round's already limited effectiveness is drastically reduced....

usually refers to a zirconium-based pyrotechnic shotgun round. When fired, a gout of flame erupts from the barrel of the gun (up to 20 ft). The visual effect it produces is impressive, similar to that of a short ranged flamethrower. However it has few tactical uses, mainly distraction/disorientation.

Flare rounds are sometimes carried by hunters for safety and rescue purposes. They are available in low and high altitude versions. Some brands claim they can reach a height of up to 200 m (600 ft).

Legal issues

Globally, shotguns are generally not as heavily regulated as rifles or handguns, likely because they lack the range of rifles and are not easily concealable as handguns are; thus, they are perceived as a lesser threat by legislative authorities. The one exception is a sawed-off shotgun
Sawed-off shotgun
A sawed-off shotgun also called a sawn-off shotgun and a short-barreled shotgun , is a type of shotgun with a shorter gun barrel and often a shorter or absent stock....

, especially a Lupara
Lupara
Lupara is an Italian word used to refer to a sawn-off shotgun of the break-open type. It is traditionally associated with Cosa Nostra, the Italian organized crime group dominant in Sicily for their use of it in vendettas, defense—such as its use against Mussolini's army when he decided to break up...

, as it is more easily concealed than a normal shotgun.

Australia

Within Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, all shotguns manufactured after January 1, 1901 are considered firearms and are subject to registration and licensing. Most shotguns (including break-action, bolt-action
Bolt-action
Bolt action is a type of firearm action in which the weapon's bolt is operated manually by the opening and closing of the breech with a small handle, most commonly placed on the right-hand side of the weapon...

 and lever-action
Lever-action
Lever-action is a type of firearm action which uses a lever located around the trigger guard area, to load fresh cartridges into the chamber of the barrel when the lever is worked. Most lever-action firearms are rifles, but lever-action shotguns and a few pistols have also been made...

 shotguns) are classed as "Category A" weapons and, as such, are comparatively easy to obtain a licence for, given a legally recognised 'legitimate reason' (compare to the British requirement for 'good reason' for a FAC), such as target shooting or hunting. However, pump-action
Pump-action
A pump-action rifle or shotgun is one in which the handgrip can be pumped back and forth in order to eject a spent round of ammunition and to chamber a fresh one. It is much faster than a bolt-action and somewhat faster than a lever-action, as it does not require the trigger hand to be removed from...

 and semi-automatic shotgun
Semi-automatic shotgun
A semi-automatic shotgun is a form of shotgun that is able to fire a cartridge after every trigger squeeze, without any manual chambering of another round being required...

s are classed as "Category C" weapons; a licence for this type of firearm is, generally speaking, not available to the average citizen. For more information, see Gun politics in Australia
Gun politics in Australia
Gun politics have only become a notable issue in Australia since the 1980s. Low levels of violent crime through much of the 20th century kept levels of public concern about firearms low...

.

Canada

Canada has three classifications of firearms: non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. Shotguns are found in all three classes.

All non-restricted shotguns must have an overall length of 660 mm (26 inches). Semi-automatic shotguns must also have a barrel length of more than 470 mm (18.5 inches) and have a capacity of 5 shells or less in the magazine to remain non-restricted. All other shotgun action types (pump/slide, break open, lever, bolt) do not have a magazine limit restriction or a minimum barrel length provided the overall length of the firearm remains more than 660 mm (26 inches) and the barrel was produced by an approved manufacturer. Shotgun barrels may only be reduced in length to a minimum of 457 mm (18 inches). Non-restricted shotguns may be possessed with any Possession and Acquisition Licence
Possession and Acquisition Licence
A Possession and Acquisition Licence is a licence that allows individuals in Canada to possess and acquire firearms as well as ammunition. Licences are typically valid for five years and must be renewed prior to expiry to maintain all classes. Once licensed, an individual can apply for a firearm...

 (PAL) or Possession-Only License (POL) and may be transported throughout the country without special authorization and may be used for hunting certain species at certain times of the year.

Semi-automatic shotguns with a barrel length of less than 470 mm (18.5 inches) are considered restricted and any shotgun that has been altered so its barrel length is less than 457 mm (18 inches) or if its overall length is less than 660 mm (26 inches) is considered prohibited. Restricted and prohibited shotguns may be possessed with a PAL or POL than has been endorsed for restricted or prohibited grandfathered firearms. These shotguns require special Authorization to Transport
Authorization to Transport
An Authorization to Transport is a permit issued by the Canadian Firearms Program allowing holders of Restricted and Prohibited class firearms to transport them in Canada...

 (ATT).

The Canadian Firearms Registry is a government-run registry of all legally owned firearms in Canada. As of May 2008, the government has provided amnesty from prosecution to shotgun and rifle owners if they fail to register non-restricted shotguns and rifles.

See http://www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca/factsheets/r&p_e.asp for an official Canadian list of non-restricted and restricted and prohibited firearms.

UK

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, a Shotgun Certificate (SGC) is required to possess a shotgun. These cost £50 and can only be denied if the chief of police in the area believes and can prove that the applicant poses a real danger to the public, or if the applicant has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term of three years or more or if the applicant cannot securely store a shotgun (gun clamps, wire locks and locking gun cabinets are considered secure). The round number restrictions apply only to the magazine, not the chamber, so it is legal to have a single-barreled semi-auto or pump-action shotgun that holds three rounds in total, or a shotgun with separate chambers (which would need to also be multi-barrelled). For a shotgun to be held on an SGC, it must be a smooth-bore gun (not an air-gun) which:

(a) has a barrel not less than 24 inches (609.6 mm) in length and does not have any barrel with a bore more than 2 inches (50.8 mm) in diameter;

(b) either has no magazine or has a non-detachable magazine not capable of holding more than two cartridges;

(c) is not a revolver gun.

Prior to a SGC being issued an interview is conducted with the local Firearms Officer, in the past this was a duty undertaken by the local police although more recently this function has been "contracted out" to civilian staff. The officer will check the location and suitability of the gun safe that is to be used for storage and conduct a general interview to establish the reasons behind the applicant requiring a SGC.

An SGC holder can own any number of shotguns meeting these requirements so long as he can store them securely. No certificate is required to own shotgun ammunition, but one is required to buy it. There is no restriction on the amount of shotgun ammunition that can be bought or owned. There are also no rules regarding the storage of ammunition.

However, shotgun ammunition which contains fewer than 6 projectiles requires the appropriate Firearms Certificate (FAC). Shotguns with a magazine capacity greater than 2 rounds also require the appropriate Firearms Certificate to own. An FAC costs £50 but is much more restrictive than an SGC. A new 'variation' is required for each new caliber of gun to be owned, limits are set on how much ammunition a person can own at any one time, and an FAC can be denied if the applicant does not have sufficient 'good reason'. 'Good reason' generally means hunting, collecting, or target shooting - though other reasons may be acceptable, defence is not an acceptable reason.

US

In the US, federal law prohibits shotguns from being capable of holding more than three shells including the round in the chamber when used for hunting migratory gamebirds such as doves, ducks, and geese. For other uses, a capacity of any number of shells is generally permitted. Most magazine-fed shotguns come with a removable magazine plug to limit capacity to 2, plus one in the chamber, for hunting migratory gamebirds. Certain states have restrictions on magazine capacity or design features under hunting or assault weapon
Assault weapon
Assault weapon is a non-technical term referring to any of a broad category of firearms with certain features, including some semiautomatic rifles, some pistols, and some shotguns. There are a variety of different statutory definitions of assault weapons in local, state, and federal laws in the...

 laws.

Shotguns intended for defensive use have barrels as short as 18 inches (46 cm) for private use (the minimum shotgun barrel length allowed by law in the United States without special permits; most manufactures use a minimum length of 18.5 inches, to give leeway in the case of a measuring dispute). Barrel lengths of less than 18 inches (46 cm) as measured from the breechface to the muzzle when the weapon is in battery with its action closed and ready to fire, or have an overall length of less than 26 inches (66 cm) are classified as short barreled shotguns ("sawn-off shotguns") under the 1934 National Firearms Act
National Firearms Act
The National Firearms Act , 73rd Congress, Sess. 2, ch. 757, , enacted on June 26, 1934, currently codified as amended as , is an Act of Congress that, in general, imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandates the registration of those firearms. The...

 and are heavily regulated.

Shotguns used by military, police, and other government agencies are exempted from regulation under the National Firearms Act of 1934
National Firearms Act
The National Firearms Act , 73rd Congress, Sess. 2, ch. 757, , enacted on June 26, 1934, currently codified as amended as , is an Act of Congress that, in general, imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandates the registration of those firearms. The...

, and often have barrels as short as 12 to 14 inches (30 to 36 cm), so that they are easier to handle in confined spaces. Non-prohibited private citizens may own short-barreled shotguns by purchasing a $200 tax stamp from the Federal government and passing an extensive background check (state and local laws may be more restrictive). Defensive shotguns sometimes have no buttstock
Stock (firearm)
A stock, also known as a buttstock or shoulder stock, is a part of a rifle or other firearm, to which the barrel and firing mechanism are attached, that is held against one's shoulder when firing the gun. Stocks are also found on crossbows though a crossbow stock is more properly referred to as a...

 or will have a folding stock
Stock (firearm)
A stock, also known as a buttstock or shoulder stock, is a part of a rifle or other firearm, to which the barrel and firing mechanism are attached, that is held against one's shoulder when firing the gun. Stocks are also found on crossbows though a crossbow stock is more properly referred to as a...

 to reduce overall length even more when required.

See also

  • Antique guns
    Antique guns
    An antique firearm is, loosely speaking, a firearm designed and manufactured prior to the beginning of the 20th century. The Boer War is often used as a cut-off event, although the exact definition of what constitutes an "antique firearm" varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction...

  • Gun safety
    Gun safety
    Gun safety is a collection of rules and recommendations that can be applied when handling firearms. The purpose of gun safety is to eliminate or minimize the risks of unintentional death, injury or damage caused by improper handling of firearms....

  • List of shotguns
  • Double-barreled shotgun
    Double-barreled shotgun
    A double-barreled shotgun is a shotgun or combination gun with two parallel barrels, allowing two shots to be fired in quick succession.-Construction:...

  • Riding shotgun
  • Shotgun wedding

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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