duplex scope crosshairs logo in orange color
duplex scope crosshairs logo in orange color

The Different Shotgun Types

Shotguns are a popular choice when looking at firearms. While the first ancestor of today’s shotgun was developed over 450 years ago, the first recorded use of the term “shotgun” was in Kentucky in a James Fenimore Cooper publication called Frontier Language of the West. It was this 1776 publication that first recognized the advancement in technology which changed firearm action and barrel designs and separated shotguns from the rifled musket.

What is a Shotgun?

In basic terms, a shotgun is a firearm that is usually fired from the shoulder and that has one or more long barrels. They generally have a smooth bore which reduces friction, and they fire a shotgun shell that is filled with a single projectile or ball shot.

The bore of a shotgun is made for only one specific gauge of ammunition, but ammunition manufacturers offer many different load choices. Most of these loads fire multiple projectiles, like pellets, which increases your chance at hitting your target. When fired from the shotgun these pellets spread out in a cone.

What are the Different Shotgun Gauges?

There are many different common shotgun gauges. The most popular include, 10 gauge, 12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, and 28 gauge. The smaller the gauge number the larger the bore is.

To determine the gauge, the inside bore or barrel of the shotgun is measured. Once they determine the diameter of the bore, they see how many same sized solid lead balls it takes to weigh one pound. So a 10-gauge shotgun would take 10 lead balls of the same size as the inside of the barrel to reach a weight of one pound.

Shotgun Actions

Besides gauges, the mechanism a shotgun uses to fire (the action) is another thing that sets different varieties apart. There are many types of shotgun actions. The action of a shotgun is the part of the gun that loads, fires, and ejects a cartridge.

Popular shotgun actions include:


A semi-automatic shotgun uses a spring-operated mechanism that automatically cycles through cartridges in one of two ways, either through a gas system like the AR-15 or through inertia using the recoil. Semi-auto shotguns typically can hold three to nine shells, but you can also get extenders to hold 12 or more. Semi-automatic shotguns are becoming popular for skeet and target shooting, as well as hunting.

Break-Action or Single-Shot

The single-shot break-action shotgun has been overshadowed in popularity by the pump-action shotgun, but it remains a great choice for first-time shotgun users. It is simple in design, affordable, and easy to operate, yet is still powerful enough to use for hunting small game. The barrel is set on a hinge so that when a release is pressed, the stock drops downward. When it is “broken” down it opens the receiver to enable loading or unloading of the shells. In some models you have to cock the hammer manually to fire a round.


This shotgun holds one shell and uses a bolt to cycle the ammunition from the magazine to the chamber. These shotguns usually feature a rifled barrel and are known for their outstanding accuracy. They are used as slug guns, which shoot a solid projectile and are most popular in “shotgun only” hunting grounds, where high-powered rifles are prohibited.


A pump-action shotgun is easy to use and requires little skill to hit your mark because of its wide shot pattern. It works by having the user manually slide the fore-end, where you cock the gun, which uses a spring-operated mechanism to simultaneously eject a spent cartridge and load a fresh one. It is a good choice for home defense and most can hold three to eight shells, and even more with a magazine extender.


You cannot talk about shotguns without mentioning the iconic lever-action shotgun. The lever of this firearm is typically located on the underside, around the trigger. When pushed down, it opens the action of the gun to eject spent cases and load new ones. The famous Winchester 1873 lever-action rifle, popularly known as “the gun that won the West,” contributed greatly to this shotgun’s design and the first lever-action shotgun was released in 1887. Today’s lever-action shotguns are mostly used as hunting guns.

Side-by-Side or Double-Barrel

Double-barrel shotguns have two barrels and almost always are break-action. These rifles come in two configurations: side-by-side where the barrels are on either side, and over-under, where the barrels are on top of each other. These guns are popularly used for target and skeet shooting, as well as hunting, especially bird hunting.

Shotgun Types at The Hub

At The Hub, you can find a wide selection of shotguns as well as other firearms and accessories.

Visit us in Lakeside, Tucson, or online to shop our collection of shotguns and shotgun accessories.
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