The 5 Shotgun Types

Guide to Shotgunning

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.

By Michael Crites

Michael Crites is el jefe around here. He has spent more than 30 years shooting, learning about guns, and collecting firearms old and new. He holds his Oregon Concealed Handgun License, and enjoys testing products in the back 40 of his farm.

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