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"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.

Notable shotguns[edit]

A pair of SPAS-12 Shotguns. The lower has a fixed stock and a shorter magazine tube, while the upper has its signature folding stock unfolded.
  • 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" to "abysmal 45-degree spread more at home in a video game". 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. 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. 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. 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're too stupidly large to use for combat.

Ammunition Types[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Frag-12: Mini-explosives crammed into a shotgun shell. Incredibly dangerous.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 suprisingly 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[edit]

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, ironically, Doom) 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 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 shot gun "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; assault rifle is more versatile than shotgun, hence AR gets used.

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[edit]

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.

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.

  • 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[edit]

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, well, they are not gonna do jack shit. Slugs however, are probably more deadly. It is a large heavy object with a lot of momentum. Upon impact with Kevlar, it'll snap ribs apart, and maybe punch through. On impact with hard armor, it'll still feel like a sledgehammer. 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/heavy gruesome injury. It'll also bounce off the floor apparently, and still be deadly. As well, the spread of a shotgun can make odd effects: a couple pellets not getting stopped and hitting the face is going to hurt.

Weapons of the Imperium of Man
Sidearms: Arc Pistol - Autopistol - Bolt Pistol - Flechette Blaster - Gamma Pistol - Grapnel Launcher
Grav-pistol - Hand Flamer - Handbow - Helfrost Pistol - Hellpistol - Inferno Pistol - Kinetic Destroyer
Laspistol - Needle Pistol - Phosphor Blast Pistol - Phosphor Serpenta - Plasma Pistol
Radium Pistol - Reductor Pistol - Stub Pistol - Volkite Serpenta - Web Pistol - Neural Shredder
Basic Weapons: Arc Rifle - Autogun - Bolter - Bow - Crossbow - Hellgun - Lasgun
Radium Carbine - Shotgun - Storm Bolter - Stubber - Webber
Special Weapons: Combi-weapon - Conversion Beamer - Flamer - Grav-gun - Grenade Launcher
Long-Las - Meltagun - Needle Sniper Rifle - Plasma Caliver - Plasma Gun - Adrathic Destructor
Radium Jezzail - Sniper Rifle - Transuranic Arquebus - Volkite Charger - Photon Thruster
Galvanic Caster - Galvanic Rifle - Psilencer
Heavy Weapons: Autocannon - Grav-cannon - Harpoon Gun - Heavy Arc Rifle - Heavy Bolter
Heavy Flamer - Heavy Stubber - Heavy Webber - Helfrost Cannon
Lascannon - Missile Launcher - Mortar - Multi-Melta - Multi-laser
Phosphor Blaster - Plasma Cannon - Volkite Caliver - Volkite Culverin - Seismic Cannon
Darkfire Cannon
Battle Cannon - Conqueror Cannon - Demolisher Cannon - Heavy Phosphor Blaster
Helfrost Destructor - Hydra Autocannon - Magma Cannon - Nova Cannon - Pulsar-Fusil
Punisher Gatling Cannon - Vanquisher Cannon - Volcano Cannon - Volkite Carronade
Heavy Seismic Cannon - Laud Hailer - Adrathic Devastator - Gatling Psilencer - Ferrumite Cannon
Ordnance: Accelerator Cannon - Baneblade Cannon - Colossus Siege Mortar - Deathstrike Missile
Dreadhammer Cannon - Earthshaker Cannon - Griffon Heavy Mortar - Belleros Energy Cannon
Hellhammer Cannon - Manticore Missile - Medusa Siege Cannon - Quake Cannon
Stormshard Mortar - Stormsword Siege Cannon - Tremor Cannon
Apocalypse Missile Launcher - Doomstrike Missile Launcher - Gatling Blaster
Hellstorm Cannon - Inferno Gun - Laser Blaster - Macro Cannon - Melta Cannon
Plasma Annihilator - Plasma Blastgun - Plasma Destructor - Plasma Obliterator
Turbo-Laser Destructor - Vengeance Cannon - Vortex Missile - Vulcan Mega-Bolter
Sonic Destructor - Sonic Disruptor - Thundercoil Harpoon - Arachnus Magna-Blaze Cannon
Melee Weapons Chainweapons - C'tan Phase Weapons - Force Weapons - Power Weapons
Transonic Weapons - Basic Close Combat Weapons - Miscellaneous Weapons