"Over the centuries, mankind has tried many ways of combating the forces of evil... prayer, fasting, good works and so on. Up until Doom, no one seemed to have thought about the double-barrel shotgun. Eat leaden death, demon..."
- – Terry Pratchett
A shotgun is a large caliber smoothbore firearm which is designed to fire a cluster of small projectiles (once commonly lead pellets but for environmental reasons steel is more common, either way they're known as shot) in one shot, though most shotguns can also accept solid slugs. The cluster of bullets spread out to cover a wide area after exiting, taking some of the burden off of aiming and causing considerable damage to an unprotected body. It comes at the expense of hitting power and precision at long range due to the sheer spread. The earliest shotguns were large caliber muskets known as blunderbusses. Today shotguns remain widely used by police, hunters and sport shooters and see some use as a secondary weapon by soldiers. Modern-day shotguns are extremely reliable, fairly accurate (for what they are) and relative simple to produce and operate, while being devastating in close combat. The "gauge" used to measure the size of the shot used in a shell. 12 gauge means that it takes 12 lead balls of the diameter of a 12-gauge shotgun to equal one pound in weight. So 16, 20 and 28-gauge take 16, 20 and 28 lead balls of the diameter of a matching shotgun to equal one pound. This means that the higher the gauge, the smaller the shot is. 12-gauge is the most commonly used in combat, with the smaller gauges being used when hunting small prey. When in doubt, carry two. If you still have doubts, attach two to your fists and two to your boots, then carry two in your hands again.
- Double Barrel: One of the most common shotguns available, the double-barrel is a very basic, no-frills firearm that, instead of having any sort of magazine or ammunition tube, simply has two barrels with one shot each. The vast majority of these are breech-loaded/break-action, where the gun's barrels and stock are attached by a hinge; they lock closed when it's time to fire and can be unlocked to reload. This hinge and the trigger mechanism itself are the only moving parts, making the gun very easy to maintain. This simplicity and the generally low price tag makes it popular with farmers and hunters. The double-barrel is typically used for hunting and can come in side-by-side or over-and-under configurations, the latter being popular in sports shooting. Rare triple-barrel shotguns exist, but at this point you're getting a heavy hunk of metal. Double-barreled shotguns can have a part of the barrels shortened (hence the colloquial term "sawed-off shotgun") to create a nice personal defense weapon, though this modification is oftentimes illegal. Note that sawing off the shotgun's choke also drops the gun's accuracy down from "respectable grouping up to 40 meters that can knock a bear on its ass" to "abysmal 45-degree spread more at home in a video game that may scare a deer". Low market demand, doubling the most expensive part, and the difficulty of aligning the two barrels means these are now actually more expensive than pump shotguns are.
- Winchester 1887: The shotgun made famous by Terminator 2, this is a 10-gauge lever-action shotgun, giving it a strong Old West vibe to it. Firing it one handed is not recommended unless you really are a terrifying robot assassin. A trick associated with this weapon is spinning it around to chamber a new shell, but unless you have an extra-wide lever that is at least as wide as two fingers you're only going to break your fingers trying to do this, which almost happened to Arnold Schwarzenegger while filming Terminator 2. Not to mention that this is very dangerous.
- Winchester M97: an oldie but one hell of a goodie, as the Germans in WWI could have attested if they'd survived. Nicknamed the 'trench sweeper', because it did exactly that: clear a trench of assailants/defenders nice and fast as you please so hard the German High Command actually officially protested its use, threatening to execute any captured enemy soldier caught using one. Allied forces simply responded that if they did that they'd start executing all prisoners, so the Germans backed down. Production stopped back in the fifties, but the M97 is still in regular use a half century later.
- Remington 870: Was pretty much the pump-action shotgun. Used by everyone from hunters and sports shooters to police and elite special forces units. Tough, durable and simple to use; there's a good reason the Remington is as popular as it is. Because of this there are oodles of aftermarket parts available so that you can make your shotgun as tacticool as you want. Unfortunately Remington was bought by Cerberus in 2007, and they proceeded to gut quality so bad guns literally shipped from the factory with rust on them. If you really want one now you have to get it used (one that does not say "New York" on the barrel) or a Chinese clone.
- KAC Masterkey: Developed by Knight's Armament Company, the Masterkey is an underbarrel attachment for the M16/M4 assault rifle. It is essentially the business end of a Remington 870 shotgun intended for breaching doors that can be slapped to the underside of a rifle so that soldiers do not need to carry around an entire separate weapon. To fire it the user has to shift their hands so that they hold the shotgun as normal, using the magazine of their rifle as a makeshift stock. Because of its lack of grip or stock firing a Masterkey as a stand-alone weapon is a very bad idea. For that reason, and the ease of reloading, the M26 MASS was chosen over the Masterkey.
- Mossberg 500: The Pepsi to the Remington's Coke. The two are very similar and arguments between fans of the two were sources of major skub amongst firearm enthusiasts. In practice they are pretty much the same, with the Mossberg being lighter and cheaper than the Remington, but it does not come in as many different variants. With Remington's destruction and Mossberg improving variety of offerings, it has become the definitive American made shotgun.
- Mossberg 590 An improved but slightly more expensive version of the 500. Uses a different style of tube which holds an extra shell in the same space and comes in more tacticool variants. The 590A1 is a variant of that with a thicker barrel (useless unless you're closing bulkhead doors on it) and more metal parts.
- Maverick 88 A cheap variant that's only "assembled" in the US with some or all parts made in Mexico. Feels cheap and less features.
- Mossberg 900 A semi-automatic shotgun by Mossberg.
- Benelli M4: Made by the Italian Benelli corporation, the M4 is famous for its wedge-shaped stock and being the spray-and-pray stick in Counter-Strike. While used by civilians it is more commonly used by special forces units and police.
- Saiga 12: A Russian-made shotgun derived from the popular AK layout. It is a semi-automatic shotgun loaded via a detachable box magazine unlike the two above. Used by Russian security forces it is also popular amongst hunters because the required licence is far easier to obtain than that for a rifle. Factory-made box magazines go up to 8 and the aftermarket makes magazines for 12, 20 and even 30 shells, but the latter is very heavy, expensive and bulky.
- USAS-12: Built by a subsidiary of the Korean Daewoo (the car manufacturer) based on the AA-12, the USAS-12 is an automatic combat shotgun exclusively used by militaries. A semiautomatic version was put on the American market in the early 90's, but it was declared as to "having no sporting purpose" and was branded a "destructive device", immensely limiting its potential buyers. It has a nice 400+rpm rate of fire, allowing it to empty a 20-round drum in 3 seconds or less.
- AA-12: The Atchisson Assault Shotgun is a fully automatic shotgun most famous for its low recoil: through some clever engineering the user gets only 10% of the recoil they'd normally feel from a 12-gauge shell. This makes the AA-12 highly controllable even with its 300rpm rate of fire. It has also been associated with the FRAG-12 round, a miniature grenade the size of a 12-gauge shell. While the FRAG-12 fits in any 12-gauge shotgun, there is something alluring about being able to hold your shotgun on target while shooting 20 grenades at it in 4 seconds flat.
- SPAS-12: A shotgun with a capital SHOTGUN. It is a big honkin' piece of metal capable of double-action: it is both a gas-operated semi-automatic and a pump-action shotgun at the same time. This allows it to both act as a semi-automatic weapon with lethal shells and a pump-action weapon capable of firing bean bags, tear gas and other less-lethal shells that do not generate enough pressure to cycle the action. This is also how they are used in movies because blanks are too light as well. Movies and games almost always show the shotgun with its bulky folding stock folded in on top of the weapon, likely due to its distinctive silhouette. While no longer in production the SPAS-12 retains its reputation as a big, menacing son of a shotgun and fetches quite a bit on the second-hand market, even with its failure-prone safety.
- Punt Gun: What if you wanted to shoot an entire flock of birds with a single shot? You could use a punt gun! (Or, you could, back in the day, but you probably wouldn't do it now because it's really, really illegal). Punt guns are shotguns the size of a small boat, and usually mounted to one, hence their name since a punt is a small flat-bottom boat. Usually custom made beasts, they would shoot shells equivalent to a 1 or 2 gauge. Double barreled punt guns were also known to exist, being roughly equivalent to two 8 gauges. They are used for hunting, and only hunting on a commercial scale, because they are both too stupidly large to be used in combat as personal weapons, but are also too small to use in combat as artillery, and were so good at the job they nearly depleted the waterfowl populations they were used on, necessitating their regulation.
- KS-23: The spiritual successor to the Punt Gun in man-portable form. You see, the Russian, they have the ZSU 23-4 Shilka self-propelled AA gun firing high-velocity 23mm cannon shells. But when one of their production runs for barrels proved subpar, some absolutely insane Gopnik decided "Eh, fuck this, they're good enough for lower power ammunition like shotgun slugs!" Enters the 4-gauge(!!!) pump-action KS-23 shotgun built from said cast-off barrels (albeit it really straddles the line between shotgun and grenade launcher). Only four shots, but with such a massive bore you probably won't need more! The TOZ-123 is a slightly modified version for civilian use, presented as a hunting weapon!
- Birdshot: Like buckshot, but the balls are much smaller, and as a result there's less empty space in between each ball when fired. This makes it well suited for shooting birds out of the sky. While each ball individually won't do quite as much damage, you'll definitely give someone a bad day if you hit them with it. Note for writing: birdshot is a terrible choice for use against humans or any substantially sized animal, so unless your characters have a reason for using it specifically (desperation etc) having a character use birdshot for fighting will result in /k/ laughing at you. Dick Cheney shot an old man with some at point blank range, hitting the throat, and the guy is still alive.
- Buckshot: The most commonly associated ammunition used in shotguns. Buckshot is a shell filled with lead balls that fire out from the barrel in a cone; how tight that cone is depends on whether the shotgun has a choke. Buckshot, as the name implies, is lethal to deer, but works just as well on humans. 12 gauge 00 (pronounced double aught) is the most common type, consisting of 9 lead balls .36"(9.1mm) in diameter.
- Dragon's Breath: What do you get when you fill a shell with metal shards and flammable liquid? A giant fireball coming out of a shotgun barrel, that's what! You'd also get a barrel full of afterburner shit, so make sure you don't fire this thing more than twice before you clean the gun, unless you like your gun exploding in your hands (hence why it's almost universally used with cheap throwaway double-barrels).
- Flare: As unusual as it sounds, shotguns can fire flares if you do not have a flare pistol on you. The only caveats are that they must be the same gauge, must be manually loaded if you’re using a pump action shotgun, and must be fired from a none choked shotgun. If the flare propellant isn’t strong enough or if the barrel is choked, you risk having the flare stuck in the barrel and heating it up to cherry red hot temperatures that can warp the metal. So if you want to be safe, double check your instructions on the box to ensure the flares are shotgun compatible. On the other hand, it’s a good back up if you do not have a working flare pistol.
- Flechette: Instead of balls, you fill a shell with long metal needles. Supposed to be more aerodynamic than buckshot, but in practice they can be deflected by things like raindrops and have less stopping power. Also tear up barrels.
- Flexible Baton Rounds: These are the less-lethal rounds typically used by police. It hurts like hell to get hit by one, but at least you don't start bleeding out. Typically contained in a bag (hence the nickname of "beanbag" rounds) so spread in minimal. Rubber slugs are occasionally used as an alternative. Shotguns mean to fire these are typically used only for them and marked in bright colors so nobody loads lethal rounds into them. Can still be lethal, especially on the elderly or if it hits you in the head.
- Frag-12: Mini-explosives crammed into a shotgun shell. It has four spring-loaded fins at the back of the shell to guide it towards its target. Is often associated with the AA-12 because of the inherent awesomeness of turning your shotgun into a fully automatic grenade launcher. Incredibly dangerous, incredibly expensive and incredibly illegal for obvious reasons.
- Frangible Round: Made from metal powder and wax, these rounds are made to shatter on impact, making them safe to use in close quarters or for breaking door hinges and locks, hence their alternate name of Breaching Rounds.
- Slug: A solid piece of lead; this allows shotguns to be used more like a rifle in that you're aiming at a single point in space, though slug shotguns aren't quite as accurate as rifles. They are, however, much bulkier than rifle rounds, making them better suited to hunt large game or for remote organ removal surgery in a firefight.
It's actually quite easy to make custom ammunition for shotguns by cramming whatever the fuck can fit into a barrel into a standard slug shot maybe with some tightening. Most weapon shops even sell custom shotgun ammo kits. Sure, custom slugs more often than not have terrible accuracy, but it's invaluable in urban fantasy/mystic/horror settings where you can shoot whatever the fuck that eldritch abomination you're fighting against is vulnerable to - like wooden slugs for staking vampires from the (relatively) safe distance or saltshot against ghosts or demons. Hell, making silver shotgun slugs against werewolves is a much safer option than silver bullets for rifles or pistols if you're not a proficient smith, as poorly made slug is much less likely to jam your gun than poorly made bullet. Ask /k/ for examples of crazy shotgun loads, up to and including live .22 LR being fired out of a 12 gauge. There are even several old timer tricks for making shot into slugs as 100 years ago the slug game was limited to single, bore wide, ball projectiles. Cut shells are simply bird or buck shot that has had it's case cut a bit to weaken the point below the wadding. Not enough to separate while loading into the chamber (NEVER PUT THESE INTO A MAG OR A TUBE) but the case will separate during firing, launching the contained shot as a single mass held together by the remaining case. Another old trick is to cut the crimp off, pour out the shot into molten wax, and then loaded back with the wax acting as a binder. This results in a round with weight similar to a lead slug but that shatters on impact similar to a frangible or breaching round. It actually is surprisingly accurate and produces a much nastier but not as deep wound than a slug, almost like shooting the target at point blank with normal birdshot.
Since shot is multiple projectiles, how and where it impacts can be changed by altering how tight the end of the barrel is. Double barreled shotguns often have different chokes in each barrel while pump action and semi-auto shotguns have either have detachable chokes or a fixed improved cylinder choke.
- Cylinder: Effectively no choke. Rare on modern shotguns unless the gun takes detachable chokes.
- Improved Cylinder: A slightly narrow choke and concentrates shot a good deal. Generally considered the standard in law enforcement and home defense. If a modern shotgun does not have detachable chokes, it most likely uses an improved cylinder choke.
- Duckbill: used only on combat shotguns, a duckbill choke focuses the spread of shot onto a horizontal plane, in theory allowing it to more effectively clear rooms and trenches by hitting multiple targets at once. Unfortunately, the spread can be a bit too erratic or spread too quickly to use effective.
- Full Choke: A very tight choke that results in a very tight shot pattern. Do not shoot slugs through this, it's too tight for them to clear the barrel.
- Rifled Choke: Also known as "paradox" rifling this was one of the many gun related inventions of George Fosbery. Essentially a bit of rifling at the end of a shotgun that gives slugs greater stability in flight. You can shoot shot through this safely, it won't hurt the gun or anyone on your end of the muzzle, though not very effectively: The pattern will be very erratic, a doughnut shape at best, instead of centered.
The Short-Range Shotgun Fallacy
It's a common belief amongst people that shotguns are strictly short-ranged weapons, that their particular ammunition makes them all but useless at a distance. As the title of this segment suggests, such a belief is pretty much wrong. Here's why. The primary reason this idea exists is because of vidya; because shotguns are preferred for tight confines and urban fighting, most early shooters (other than the original Doom, ironically, though it has its own fair share of the blame discussed below) made shotguns do more damage the closer that you were to the target for balance, and the idea was absorbed into popular culture. The whole shotgun fallacy is similar to the flamethrower fallacy in which both weapons are actually much more accurate and longer ranged in real life rather than being only effective at less than ten feet like most video games.
The entire "shotguns are only good at short range" idea is based on the notion that when a shotgun fires, the pellets it expels will spread further and further apart as they travel, until they are so scattered they're incapable of dealing any real damage to whoever they hit. It's not entirely without basis, and in fact this was a well-known issue with the blunderbuss, but it's mostly false when it comes to today's shotguns.
See, unlike blunderbusses, shotguns have small, narrow barrels, rather than the tapering wide-bore muzzle of their predecessor. Thusly, whilst a shotgun shell's contents do have a scattering effect that means it's impossible to get the same pinpoint precision accuracy you would have with, say, a sniper rifle, they don't scatter anywhere near so far as a blunderbuss's shot would, even when using a wide-bore. In fact, this scattering effect is precisely why shotguns are considered the best guns for hunting with; the spread of pellets is much more likely to connect with a fast-moving target, and this is especially important when hunting birds or small game. Further more, some shotguns can also fit a device called a choke. A choke is threaded onto the end of a barrel, the choke has a slightly smaller internal diameter than the barrel. This forces the shot to stay tighter together, farther down range. This is how turkey hunters can kill with neck shots without damaging meat at 40 or so yards. Some shotguns, typically called slug guns, do have rifled barrels. While terrible for shot (the imparted spin spreads the shot dramatically, like video game levels of spread), it shines with solid metal projectiles. Special slugs designed with rifling in mind, provide significant range increases. Practiced shooters can make 150 yard shots rather easily. There are even chokes with partial rifling to allow smoothbore guns threaded for chokes, to shoot some specialized rifled slugs.
This said: compared to the multiple hundreds of meters effective range of rifle-caliber bullets the shotgun "is" a short-ranged weapon. What they don't tell you however is that most fire fights are short-ranged anyway, which is the main reason why after World War Two armies stopped using what we would call "Battle rifles" and swapped to smaller caliber assault rifles (trading in range for a higher rate of fire). For most situations a shotgun is as good as a rifle if not a little better since it's actually easier to hit your target with a shotty. The main disadvantage is that you can't carry as much ammo (the 12ga shells are bigger and heavier than the average rifle bullet), and shot is rather inefficient against body armor. TL:DR; an assault rifle is more versatile than a shotgun, hence the AR gets used.
Although Doom's standard shotgun averted this issue handily (being able to snipe cacodemons at medium range, though it helped that cacos are rather wide targets), the super shotgun introduced in the sequel is probably where this belief took root in gaming. It launched far more pellets than a regular shotgun blast (damage-wise it's almost equal to a rocket's with blast radius taken into account), but it was balanced out by its significant spread, meaning you had to get up close to ensure maximum damage on single targets whether it was an agitated skeleton ready to sock you in the jaw, or your chaingun-equipped buddy running towards you guns blazing during a deathmatch. With the Doom franchise having such a massive influence on 90s FPSes (including id Software's later products no less), this trait was
copypasted followed accordingly, often with the excuse of multiplayer balance if the game could support it, and beyond.
Unfortunately, not all devs and QC teams are created equal, and the spread of some vidya shotguns was better-justified than others (in Doom 2 for instance, the super shotgun's sprite has a sawed-off barrel and you'd fire both barrels at once per trigger(s?) pull, a trick that would generate serious recoil and shorten the lifespan of a real world double barrel). One particularly notorious case was... the shotgun from Doom 3, whose spread was so bad not even a point-blank shot was guaranteed to kill a mook in one hit, even if you aimed for the head. While Doom 3's level design was more claustrophobic, the shotgun's spread was simply too much for anyone to defend (and the super shotgun wouldn't be introduced until the Resurrection of Evil expansion pack, ergo no yardstick to compare the shotgun's spread and damage unless you forked over the dough). Thankfully for Doomguy, id realized the folly of this approach and brought back the shotgun's reasonable spread from Doom 2016 onwards (and made sure to include the super shotty in the base arsenal).
One of the few games that ignores the whole 'Shotguns are only useful at close range' trope is hilariously Gears of War, which is one of the most testosterone-poisoning and over the top games made. Whilst its true the Gear's shotgun instakill enemies up close, most players actually use the shotgun at it was intended, which was a mid-range weapon. It is telling when the majority of players prefer the shotgun than the iconic lancer assault rifle in open space firefights as it is amazingly accurate despite the spread and deals decent damage. There are even reports of players sniping with the shotgun better then most snipers.
In Warhammer 40k
Your typical generic weapon found in almost every genre, the Shotgun is a class of pump-action weapons utilized by the Imperium of Man. Like before a shotgun is a short-ranged anti-personnel weapon, and easily fired accurately on the move thanks to its wide spread of fire. Regularly employed by the Adeptus Arbites, the shotgun (also referred to as a scatter gun), have been around since before M3. 38,000 years later the biggest "improvement" is the addition of 50 pounds of metal, allowing it to be used as a club so that after shooting a pissed off Genestealer you have the option of boinking it on the head, but only a Space Marine would consider a 50 pound weapon useful, even as club. Probably the second longest lived weapon in the Imperium (right after anything sharp or heavy), it has appeared on nearly every Imperial world and battlefield. There are also automatic shotguns out there (dubbed "Combat Shotguns") as shown in Necromunda, but few uses them in the actual Imperial armed forces in notable numbers, even where they would make much more sense than pump-action ones. Aside from Kriegers, who arm their Combat Engineers with them.
Shotguns are also commonly employed by Space Marine Scouts and Imperial Guard Veterans, although the Space Marines are equipped with larger guns chambered for more powerful "Manstopper" rounds. Its hail of shot can shred through flesh, but its low velocity causes it to be ineffective against armoured enemies. The Imperial Navy uses them when boarding a ship or putting down mutinies because the nature of its rounds make it unlikely (read impossible) to pierce the hull of the ship, which is a good thing. The Deathwatch have their own shotguns, mainly for the specialist ammunition they use to take down many different types of Xenos at close range.
Imperial shotguns also can use a wide variety of different ammunition, including all types of bolts for maximum firepower (though less effective than an actual bolter) (
for some stupid reason the different barrel length might interfere with close-range muzzle velocity, and carapace armor doesn't have a machine spirit to interface with the gun's), web charges for non-lethal takedowns, blazerer charges, that turn a shotgun into a nerfed flamethrower, talk charges for breaking doors, and really about anything you can fit inside the barrel, making it a great utility weapon in any FFG game or Necromunda: Underhive Wars.
- Range:12 | Str:4 | AP:- | Type:Assault 2 (Space Marine version, 7-th edition)
- Range:12 | Str:3 | AP:- | Type:Assault 2 (Imperial Guard version, 7-th edition)
- Range:12 | Str:4 | AP:0 | Type:Assault 2, becomes Str:5 if fired on range of 6" or less (Space Marine version, 8-th edition)
- Range:12 | Str:3 | AP:0 | Type:Assault 2, becomes Str:4 if fired on range of 6" or less (Imperial Guard version, 8-th edition)
In Real Life Versus Video Games
Shotguns fire a handful of small spherical projectiles, a large slow heavy slug, or a storm of tiny pellets. With that in mind, let's think about what modern armor looks like. Usually, soldiers wear a basically what is a Kevlar vest with an armor plate stuck over it. Birdshot and buckshot? In video games these projectiles become hyper deadly blasts capable of shredding anyone in close range, but in real life they're about as impactful as a solid punch. Slugs, however, are large heavy objects with a lot of momentum. Upon impact with Kevlar, they'll snap ribs apart, and maybe punch through. On impact with hard armor, it'll still feel like a sledgehammer to the gut. Of course, that's assuming armor hits. If a shotgun hits you in the arm, it's not going to hurt, it's going to be limb removal/gruesome injury. It'll also bounce off the floor at a shallow enough angle, while still retaining lethal amounts of force and power. As well, the spread of a shotgun can make odd effects: a couple pellets not getting stopped and hitting the face is still going to hurt.