A shotgun (also known as a scattergun) is a firearm 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 or a solid projectile called a slug. Shotguns come in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from 5.5 mm (.22 inch) bore up to 5 cm (2 inch) bore, and in a range of firearm operating mechanisms, including breech loading, double, pump-, bolt-, and lever-action, semi-automatic, and even fully-automatic variants.
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. However, in a military or law enforcement context, the large number of projectiles makes the shotgun useful as a close quarters combat weapon or a defensive weapon. Shotguns are also used for target shooting sports such as skeet, trap, and sporting clays. These involve shooting clay disks, known as clay pigeons, thrown in various ways.
Precursors to the shotgun, such as the musket were widely used by armies in the 18th century. However, in the 19th century, shotgun-type weapons were largely replaced on the battlefield with rifles, which were more accurate over longer ranges. The decline in military use of shotguns reversed in World War I, when American forces used 12-gauge pump action shotguns in close-quarters trench fighting. Since the end of World War II, the shotgun has remained in use with modern armies mostly in specialist roles, such as door breaching or for naval boarding parties. On the other hand, shotguns have become a standard firearm for law enforcement use in many countries. Police often use specialty less-lethal or non-lethal ammunitions, such as tear gas shells, bean bags, stun rounds, and rubber projectiles.
Ammunition 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 cartridges is standard usage in the United Kingdom. Single projectile loads are generally called shotgun slugs or just slugs.
The shot pellets from a shotgun spread upon leaving the barrel which makes it easier to hit small targets at suitable ranges than with a rifle. The shot is usually fired from a smoothbore barrel; another configuration is the rifled slug barrel, which is used to fire a single projectile (though some slugs can also be fired from smoothbore weapons).
Since the power of the burning charge is divided among the pellets, the energy of any one ball of shot is fairly low, making shotguns useful primarily for hunting birds and other small game. However, the large number of projectiles makes the shotgun useful as a close-combat weapon or defensive weapon, where the short range ensures that many of the projectiles of shot will hit the target (see riot shotgun and combat shotgun).
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 at short range, more than nearly all handguns and comparable to most rifle cartridges. The wide spread of shot produced by the gun makes it easier to aim and to be used by inexperienced marksmen. A typical self-defense load of buckshot contains 8-27 large lead pellets, resulting in many wound tracks in the target. Also, unlike a rifle bullet, each pellet of shot is less likely to penetrate walls and hit bystanders. It is favored by law enforcement for its low penetration and high stopping power.
On the other hand, the hit potential of a defensive shotgun is often overstated. The typical defensive shot is typically taken at very close ranges, at which the shot charge expands no more than a few centimetres. 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
Some of the most common uses of shotguns are the sports of skeet shooting, trap shooting, and sporting clays. These involve shooting clay disks, also known as clay pigeons, thrown in various ways. Both skeet and trap competitions are featured at the Olympic Games.
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 of the particular make of ammunition to ensure a humane killing shot on a deer. Shotguns are normally used to hunt whitetail deer in the thick brush and briars of the south-eastern and upper midwestern US, where, due to the dense cover, ranges tend to be very close--25 m or less. 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. A typical 12 gauge shotgun slug is a blunt piece of metal that could be described as a 18 mm (.729) caliber that weighs 28 grams (432 grains); for comparison, a common deer-hunting rifle round is a .308 (7.62 mm) slug weighing 9.7 g (150 grains), however the dynamics of the rifle cartridge allow for a different type of wound, and also a much further reach.
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 (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, with finned rifling designed to spin the bullet and stabilize it in order to improve its accuracy, is an example of a single projectile. Some shotguns have rifled barrels and are designed to be used with a "saboted" bullet, one which is typically encased in a two-piece plastic ring (sabot) designed to peel away after it exits the barrel, 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 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. 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 has long been a synonym 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 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 shotguns. The introduction of rubber bullets and bean bag rounds ended the practice of using shot for the most part, but riot shotguns are still used to fire a variety of less than lethal rounds for riot control.
A sawed-off shotgun (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" (in Italian a generic reference to the word "Lupo" ("Wolf")) in Southern Italy and Sicily.
Coach guns 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 Arms M6 Scout, a .410 / .22 backpacker drilling 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 guns 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.
Since early firearms, such as the blunderbuss, arquebus and musket 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 defines a fowling piece as:
For example, the contemporary Brown Bess musket, 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 1/2 feet). On the other hand, records from the Plymouth colony show a maximum length of 137 cm (4 1/2 feet) for fowling pieces, shorter than the typical musket.
Shot was also used in warfare; the buck and ball 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. It was noted as part of the "frontier language of the West" by James Fenimore Cooper.
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 guns, were used for commercial hunting. The double-barreled shotgun, 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, trap shooting, and sporting clays, as well as with many hunters. A double from a well respected maker, such as Krieghoff or Perazzi, 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. The shotgun has fallen in and out of favor with military 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.
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. The famous lawman Cody Lyons killed two men with a shotgun; his friend Doc Holliday'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 messengers, 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; the term "riding shotgun" 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, requiring less skill on the part of the user than a revolver.
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, the world's first semi-automatic shotgun. The Browning Auto-5 remained in production until 1998.
The decline in military use of shotguns reversed in World War I. 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 by the United States Army. 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, the American shotguns were extremely effective. Germany even filed an official diplomatic protest against their use, alleging they violated the laws of warfare. The Judge Advocate General 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, 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, such as the French Resistance. 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 used pump shotguns as well to guard ships when in port in Chinese harbors (e.g., Shanghai). The United States Army Air Forces 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 and Model 12.
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 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 and Australia, 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 in these countries.
Another, less commonly encountered type of break-action shotgun is the combination gun, 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, but examples do exist with different caliber barrels, usually a .22 Long Rifle and a centerfire cartridge. Although very rare, drillings with three and even four (a vierling) shotgun barrels were made.
In pump-action shotguns, 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, Remington 870 and Mossberg 500/590.
Pump-action shotguns are common hunting, fowling and sporting shotguns. Hunting models generally have a barrel between 600-700 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 their 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 guns. 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, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, .45ACP and similar), a shotgun has far more power and damage potential (up to 10 times the muzzle energy of a .45ACP cartridge), allowing a "one-shot stop" 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.
Early attempts at repeating shotguns invariably centred around either bolt-or lever-action 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 1800s 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 of China and ADI Ltd. of Australia) producing versions of the Winchester Model 1887/1901 designed for modern 12-gauge smokeless shotshells with more durable plastic casings.
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 autoloaders 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. Well-known examples include the Remington 1100, Browning A-5, Benelli M1, and Saiga-12.
Some, such as the Franchi SPAS-12 and Benelli M3, 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.
Some of the more interesting advances in shotgun technology include the versatile NeoStead 2000 and fully automatics such as the Pancor Jackhammer or Auto-Assault 12. These combat shotguns have recently begun to gain popularity with the American army and firearms enthusiasts alike.
In 1925, Rodolfo Cosmi produced the first working 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 shell casings 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 shell casings) with those of the semi-automatic (low recoil, low barrel axis position hence low muzzle flip).
The caliber of shotguns is measured in terms of gauge (U.S.) or bore (U.K.). The gauge number is determined by the number of solid spheres of a diameter equal to the inside diameter of the barrel that could be made from a pound of lead. 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 (= 36), 32, 28, 24, 16, and 10 (19.7 mm) gauge and 9 mm (.355 in.) and .22 (5.5mm) rimfire calibres have also been produced (although 10, 12, 16, 20, 28, .410, and .22 are the only legal hunting gauges/calibers in most U.S. states). To further complicate matters, typical handgun chamberings such as 9 mm Parabellum, .45 ACP, .38 Special/.357 Magnum, .44 Special/.44 Magnum, and .45 Colt and others bearing a "shot" load have been brought to market by CCI/Speer--either crimped in or in a plastic casing replacing the bullet. These are not generally considered "shot shells" by shotgun users, and the patterning performance is questionable since they are fired through rifled barrels. Thompson/Center makes special pistol barrels in .38/.357, .44 and .45 Colt that have "straight rifled" chokes in them to reduce the spin of the shot column and produce better patterns, but they are still suitable only for pest control at very short ranges. Larger gauges, too powerful to shoulder, have been built but were generally affixed to small boats and referred to as punt guns. These were used for commercial water fowl hunting, to kill large numbers of birds resting on the water. Although relatively rare, single and double derringers 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 themselves.
The .410 bore (10.4mm) 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 quails 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 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 themselves 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.
|Size||Diameter||Pellets/10 g Lead||Pellets/10 g Steel|
|TT||5.84 mm (.230")||8||12|
|T||5.59 mm (.220")||10||14|
|FF||5.33 mm (.210")||11||16|
|F||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|
|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|
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, 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 top 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). There is no good mathematical model that describes how chokes work, making the design and manufacture for chokes more art than science. 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 0.005 inches (127 micrometres) of constriction to produce a 76 cm (30 inch) diameter pattern at a distance of 19 m (21 yards). A trap 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
|American Name||percentage of shot|
in a 76 cm (30 in) circle
at 37 m (40 yd)
|Total spread at 37 m |
|Total spread at 40 yds |
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 are designed to provide a shot pattern wider than it is tall, are sometimes found on combat shotguns, primarily those of the Vietnam War era. 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.
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. The longer barrels have more inertia, 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.
The extremely large caliber of shotgun shells has led to a wide variety of different ammunition. Standard types include:
Globally, shotguns are generally not as heavily regulated as rifles or handguns, likely because they lack the range of rifles, yet are not easily concealable as handguns are; thus, they are perceived as a lesser threat by legislative authorities. The one exception is a sawn-off shotgun, especially a Lupara, as it is as highly concealable as a handgun and has had a long history associated with crime.
(a) has a barrel not less than 24 inches in length and does not have any barrel with a bore more than 2 inches 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.
Shotguns intended for defensive use have barrels as short as 46 cm (18 inches) for private use (the minimum shotgun barrel length allowed by law in the United States without special permits). Barrel lengths of less than 46 cm (18 inches) 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 66 cm (26 inches) are classified as short barreled shotguns (AKA "sawn-off shotguns") under the 1934 National Firearms Act and are heavily regulated.
Shotguns used by military, police, and other government agencies are exempted from regulation under the National Firearms Act of 1934, and often have barrels as short as 30 to 36 cm (12 to 14 inches), 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 or will have a folding stock to reduce overall length even more when required.
If a shotgun has a barrel length greater than or equal to 457 mm (18 inches) and if its overall length when firing cannot be reduced to less than 660 mm (26 inches) then it is considered non-restricted. Non-restricted shotguns may be possessed with any Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) or Possession-Only License (POL) and may be transported throughout the country without special authorization and may used for hunting certain species at certain times of the year.
A shotgun with barrel shorter than 470 mm (18.5 inches) is considered restricted if it is capable of discharging centre-fire cartridges in a semi-automatic manner. A shotgun that has been altered so its barrel is shorter than 457 mm (approximately 18 inches) or if its overall length is less than 660 mm (about 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 (ATT).
The Canadian gun 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.