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We all know that Terminator needed no guns to be the coolest guy in the town. However, they became signature attributes of his image, together with black sunglasses and motorcycles that changed every film. Among all the guns seen in movies, shotguns are probably the iconic ones engraved into the audience's memory. Indeed, shotguns are mesmerizing in their own way, and they look neat. The great thing about shotguns is that not only can you look at them in the movies, but you also can get one right here. We don’t recommend walking around the city and looking for Sarahs with a gun over your shoulder, but there are plenty of other things to do. 

We know what shotguns look like, but what sets them apart from other guns? Can we call a shotgun any gun that shoots? Things are a bit more complicated than that.

Shotguns are long-barreled firearms that are different from other guns in the type of projectiles they shoot. Shotguns fire straight-walled cartridges, commonly known as shells, that discharge smaller sub-projectiles after being shot. These smaller projectiles are also called shots, but shotguns can also fire a single solid projectile called a slug. Shotguns are majorly smoothbore firearms, which means their bores lack rifling of any sort, but rifled barrels are also used, primarily for shooting slug barrels.

As with every firearm, you have dozens of options to choose from. And it’s not about brands and models only, since shotguns also differ in types of actions and gauge. Many people think there is only one type, and more often than not, it’s a pump shotgun that comes to mind, but the menu is much more varied than that.

Types of Action

Break-action shotguns were first to appear but are by no means obsolete. They are single-shot guns, which means they can hold only one round of ammunition and need to be reloaded after every shot. There is no mechanism allowing for automatic recharge, so the task is up to your very own hands. They are also called break open shotguns because the barrels are hinged like a door and can be opened, exposing the breech to allow for loading and unloading cartridges. They can be either single- or double-barreled. Barrels in the latter are arranged in two ways: either one above the other or side by side. Over-and-under shotguns are more commonly associated with recreational use, such as clay pigeon shooting, whereas side-by-side shotguns were traditionally used for hunting purposes.

Pump-action shotguns are probably the most iconic ones, or at least those that are recalled more frequently when somebody mentions shotguns. They feature a sliding handguard, also known as pumps, located on the gun’s forestock and operated manually. Pulling the handguard rearwards ejects any expended cartridges and cocks the hammer while pushing it forward loads a new cartridge into the chamber. The majority of pump shotguns utilize integral magazines located underneath the barrel, but some use detachable box ones. With an integral tubular magazine, rounds are loaded one by one in a port in the receiver making for a slow reloading process. However, the rifle makes up for this slight inconvenience by reliability and cost-effectiveness. Pump-action shotguns are widely used for hunting, fowling, sporting purposes, and home defense. 

Lever-action shotguns were one of the earlier types that gave way to pumps, though have not disappeared from the market completely. Lever-action shotguns utilize the manually operated cocking handle in the form of the lever, located around the trigger area, to move the bolt, which will extract and feed cartridges and cock the firing pin mechanism (since there are hammerless shotguns). Basically, the handle here does the same thing as the pump in pump rifles. They have recently emerged from oblivion and once again entered the competition.

Bolt-action shotguns are different from all other types in that the bolt is operated directly via the handle. In the majority of such guns, the handle should first be rotated upwards to unlock the bolt, then pulled back to open the breech so that an expanded cartridge can be ejected. Pushing the bolt forward extracts a new cartridge from the magazine and forces it into the barrel chamber. Depending on the gun design, either opening or closing of the bolt cocks the striker. Bolt-action shotguns are lighter than pumps but don’t offer other significant advantages.

Semi-automatic shotguns enjoy the advantage of all semi-automatic guns: the action cycles automatically every time the shot is fired, sparing you the need to operate it manually. Semi-auto shotguns are more convenient as they only need you to reload them once they run out of cartridges.


A gauge is a unit of measurement used to express the inner diameter of the barrel. It is measured by the weight of a solid lead sphere that fits the bore of the firearm and is expressed through the relation to one pound of lead. For example, a 16 gauge shotgun has a bore wide enough to fit a one-sixteenth pound lead ball. The smaller the number, the bigger the bore diameter. Today this type of measurement is used exclusively for shotguns. The most common varieties are 12 gauge shotguns and 20 gauge shotguns. There is one exception to the measurement rule: a .410 shotgun has the bore diameter shown in inches.

Gritr Sports has dozens of shotguns for your consideration. Action, gauge, brand - the choice is as wide as ever. We have CZ shotguns, Savage shotguns, Mossberg shotguns, and scatterguns of other popular brands.