Since their introduction in the 16th century, shotguns have been built in a huge variety of designs, evolving from early muzzleloading configurations to embrace the introduction of percussion ignition in the 19th century, adding a hinged breech in the 1830s, and eventually, with the advent of modern self-contained cartridges that includes primer, propellant, and projectile — maturing into the modern shotguns we all know and love.
These days you’re less likely to encounter a percussion cap, but you’ll almost certainly come across single-shots, double-barrels (either in a side-by-side or over/under configuration), and multi-barreled guns that use slides, levers, or semi-automatic system to operate the action.
Boiling the above down to what’s likely on the shelf at your LGS, you’ll generally have five options to choose from: single-shot, doubles (side-by-sides and over/unders), pump action, and semi-auto shotguns.
As with any firearm, each type has its strengths and primary application in the shooting world. Just as you wouldn’t want to tackle long-range target shooting with your carry pistol, you’ll need to select your shotgun in accordance with your goals.
Let’s dive in.