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  • Writer's pictureHootey Cline

A Comprehensive Guide to Shotguns: Versatility, History, and Ammunition

Versatility and History

Shotguns are an incredibly versatile platform, more so than most people realize. They have been around since the 1400s-1500s, with the match-lock action being the first type of shotgun. Shotguns are capable of shooting multiple projectiles at a time or a single slug, making them suitable for various applications, from hunting to self-defense.

During the development of the West, more people were armed with shotguns than any other firearm. They were more readily available and used for hunting as well as defense, particularly in close-quarter situations. Every farmer had a shotgun, and any muzzle-loading shotgun could be loaded with various projectiles, including roofing nails.

Iconic Shotguns

Wells Fargo was famous for its 20-gauge sawed-off, double-barrel shotgun. The pump shotgun is perhaps the most iconic type of shotgun, heavily used in World War I as a trench gun. The Germans were terrified of them and complained that they were criminal against humanity.


Shotguns have a wide variety of ammunition types available, including:

- Cindered Rounds:

Encapsulated powdered metal, popular with law enforcement and military for breaching doors.

- Pyrotechnic Rounds:

Formulated for various distances, these rounds are good for distractions but are illegal in Illinois.

- Flachet Rounds:

Steel-dart projectiles, designed by the French and mostly used in cannons and tank armor-piercing rounds.

- Sabot Rounds:

Rifled slugs, another French invention.

- Guraught Rounds:

Lead balls on the end of piano wire, capable of decapitation and amputation.

- Poppers Rounds:

Distraction rounds that make popping noises.

- Chemical Rounds:

Acid encapsulated in glass capsules, used for pesticides and respiratory assault agents.

- Line-Throwing Rounds:

Used for military, law enforcement, and search-and-rescue applications.

- Tear-Gas Rounds:

Canisters used for crowd control.

- Dye-Marker Rounds:

Popular with Navy SEALs, can be used in water.

- Anchor Rounds:

Used to shoot into rock to clear space for artillery in the field.

- Smoke Grenade Rounds

- Bean-Bag Rounds:

Non-lethal rounds for riot control.

- Hunting Rounds:

Steel shot, Foster slugs, and sabot slugs.

- Signal Rounds or Flares:

Noise or light signaling.

- Blank Rounds:

Used for training dogs, practice, theater, and cinema.

- Dart Rounds:

Mostly used for tranquilizer applications.

Small Gauge Shotguns

The 28-gauge shotgun is often misunderstood but is gaining popularity. It can do anything a 20-gauge shotgun can do and is available up to a 3-inch bore. The .410 shotgun, on the other hand, should not be used by kids or beginners, as it is more suited for experts and is very difficult to hit targets with.

The 16-gauge shotgun is still popular in Europe and can do anything a 12-gauge can do but is built on a 20-gauge frame, making it lighter. Its lack of popularity in the US market is mainly due to the iconic status of the 12-gauge shotgun.

By understanding the various types of shotguns, their history, and the wide range of ammunition available, you can better appreciate the versatility and capabilities of this classic firearm platform.

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