The three major parts of a shotgun are the stock, action and barrel. Other parts that may be found on a shotgun include the trigger guard, safety mechanism, magazine, sight and forestock. Shotguns are generally loaded with shells or shotshells.
The stock, also known as the butt, is the large portion at the rear end of the shotgun that the user holds. It is balanced against the body to help stabilize and aim the firearm.
The action is the mechanism that loads, unloads and fires shells. The exact components vary between types of shotguns. Break-action shotguns require opening the action away from the barrel to load shells. Pump-action shotguns cycle shells when the forearm is pumped. Autoloaders make use of recoil to load from a magazine. The trigger is also part of the action mechanism, along with a trigger guard to prevent accidental firing. The shotgun may also have a safety mechanism, such as a switch or bolt, that prevents it from being fired when activated.
The barrel is the means of conducting the shotgun ammunition to the target. A barrel is usually equipped with a front sight at the tip to aid in aiming. A shotgun can have one or two barrels.