Unbeknown to many, the classic shotgun has taken on a variety of forms over the past few decades. Commonly thought of as a burly hunting weapon requiring a manual reload and cock back after each discharge, newer models of the shotgun have revolutionized loading times and rates of fire.
For clarity’s sake we will divide shotguns into 4 basic groups:single shot, double barrel, pump action, and automatic/semi-automatic. The differing classifications arise due to different mechanisms in the weapons which alter the guns firing rates, and method.
A single shot shotgun only holds one shell at a time, and is considered to be the most traditional form of shotgun. The single barrel shotgun is light, relatively inexpensive, and uses either break action or pump action to fire.
Only capable of firing one cartridge at a time, the single barrel shotgun requires a manual reload for another discharge to take place. These types of shotguns are generally used for hunting, competitive target shooting, and teaching purposes. A classic for of a single barrel shotgun is the Winchester Model 1897-
Characteristics for the Winchester Model 1897-
Produced from 1897 to 1957 the Winchester Model 1897 was offered in 12 and 16 gauges
The 12 gauge model has a 30-inch barrel while the 16 gauge has a 28-inch barrel
Was a pump-action single barrel shotgun and had an effective range of 22 meters
Weighed 8 lbs and was 39 inches in length
Shortly after the inception of the single barrel shotgun, the “Queen of shotguns” was invented in the form of the double barrel shotgun. Traditional and aesthetically pleasing, the double barrel shotgun fires two cartridges consecutively and uses a break action for reloading purposes.
The barrels are parallel to each other on the gun and built on a slight angle so the cartridges will actually converge once they reach about 40 yards. After the shots are discharged the user must flip the fun open (almost as if he were breaking it) to reveal the chamber and reload new cartridges. Newer models have automatic ejectors, which propel the empty cartridges when the gun is “broken.”
Older models came with two triggers to fire the weapon, however, more recent models have one trigger which can allow the operator to fire the cartridges simultaneously although this is not recommended. The double barrel shotgun fires one cartridge at a time, but can be fired rapidly through a clockwork system found inside of the gun.
Semi automatic or automatic shotguns are the latest innovation, and are typically used in the military or law enforcement. Using gas, inertia, or a recoil operations, the automatic shotgun can fire consecutive cartridges with a simple depression of the trigger.
Instead of manually reloading through breaking or pumping, the automatic family of shotguns will cycle each time the weapon is shot, automatically eject the spent shell, and subsequently reload the firearm with a fresh cartridge. Most semi-automatic shotguns have selective fire which can alternate between semi-automatic fire and traditional pump action firing. Although grouped in the same category, there is an inherent difference between semi-automatic and automatic shotguns.
Automatic shotguns are unique and uncommon, they can fire multiple cartridges rapidly with one simple trigger squeeze; semi automatic shotguns fire one shot per trigger squeeze and require a following trigger depression to subsequently discharge. Due to their rapid firing capabilities the use and sale of these weapons are highly regulated by the United States government.
Shotguns are a unique family of firearms because of their varying uses. Traditionally, single pump or double barreled shotguns are used for recreational purposes like hunting or clay shooting; while the more advanced semi-automatic and automatic models are strictly used by the military and law enforcement agencies.