Types of Shotguns

By Ryan Kirby

When buying a shotgun, there are many different factors to consider.  Gauge, size, type and brand to name a few, but one of the first things you must consider is what type of shotgun is best for you.  There are four basic types of shotguns, all of which accomplish the same goal which I have briefly described below.  Each type has its own pros and cons; you must carefully consider each type and what the gun will be used for.

Single shot

A single shot shotgun is a gun that only holds one shell at a time. They are typically the least expensive type of shotgun available, mainly because you only get one shot before you have to open the breach and reload a new shell before it may be fired again. These types of guns are great for the inexperienced or youth as they tend to be safer with only one shot at a time.


Pump-action shotguns are the most common type of shotgun, they are reliable and typically on the lower end of the price range. These guns hold multiple shells and require you to pump the forend after each shot to eject the spent shell and load a new shell.


These guns are also known as semi-automatics and use a variety of different automatic systems to eject the spent shell and load a new shell with only the pull of the trigger. This type of shotgun also tends to have less recoil (about 30% less) due to the automatic cycling action absorbing some of the recoil. Automatic loading shotguns generally are more expensive than pump-action and depending on the quality of the gun, they can be as reliable as a pump-action.

Double Barrel

A double barrel shotgun is a gun that only holds two shells at a time and can be found in one of two styles; over/under or side-by-side. One of the main advantages of a double barrel is that a hunter or shooter can insert a different choke into each barrel; this increases the chance of a successful shot which can depend on the distance of the target. Due to reliability and usability, double barrel shotguns tend to be the most expensive of all the shotgun types. Magazine fed guns need about 3 extra inches of barrel to allow for the action cycling of the gun which makes the barrel of a double barrel shotgun shorter and lighter. These guns are usually well balanced and swing effortlessly with a natural feel to them. Without a place to hide, a shell can be seen at a quick glance, making this gun type one of the safest. Due to the fact that the barrel is not connected to the firing action, double barrel guns may be broken open when you're carrying your gun around camp or to your hunting spot without the chance of an accidental discharge.

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