What You Learned
All shotguns have three major parts—the stock, the action, and the barrel.
- The stock helps you hold, point, and fire the gun.
- The action loads, fires, and unloads the shotshells.
- The barrel sends the shot pellets to the target.
Some shotguns are called smoothbores because the inside of the barrel is smooth. Shotguns usually shoot pellets (shot).
Shotguns are another type of long-barreled firearm used by hunters. The pump-action shotgun is a commonly used firearm.
The four common types of shotgun actions are bolt action, pump action, semi-automatic action, and break action. The break action can be single or double barrel.
To use a bolt-action shotgun, lift the bolt handle up and pull it back to open the action. Push the bolt handle forward and turn it down to close the action. Most bolt-action shotguns have a magazine that holds extra shotshells. Working the bolt after firing ejects the empty hull and loads a fresh shotshell from the magazine.
To use a pump-action shotgun, pull the forend back toward the trigger guard to open the action. Push the forend away from the trigger guard to close the action. If the gun is cocked, you must press the bolt-lock lever or button to open the action. Pump-action shotguns usually have a tubular magazine.
To use a semi-automatic shotgun, pull the operating handle back to open the action. Press the release button to close the action. Each time you squeeze the trigger, the semi-automatic shotgun fires, ejects the empty hull, and loads a fresh shotshell from the magazine. Semi-automatic shotguns usually have a tubular magazine.
To use a break-action (hinge-action) shotgun, push the lever to one side and then push down to open the action. Push the forend and barrel upward to close the action. Break-action shotguns do not have magazines.
Shotguns are measured in gauge. The larger the gauge number, the smaller the bore diameter. To find the correct gauge and shell length for your shotgun, look on the shotgun’s barrel. Make sure the gauge stamped on the barrel matches the gauge on your ammunition. It is safe to fire a shell with a shorter length than your shotgun's chamber, but do NOT put a longer shell into a shorter chamber.
Be sure to use the right ammunition in your shotgun. If fed into a 12-gauge gun, smaller shotshells (like 20-gauge shells) will slip past the chamber and lodge in the barrel. This can cause serious personal injury or damage if a 12-gauge shell is fired.
A safety is designed to prevent a firearm from firing. When the safety is “on,” the gun should not fire. When the safety is “off,” the gun is ready to fire. Always use your safety, but remember that a safety is a mechanical device that can fail. A safety is not a substitute for safe gun handling.
The choke on a shotgun controls the spread of the shot and is either a fixed choke or a screw-in, interchangeable choke. The most common types of chokes are full, modified cylinder, improved cylinder, and cylinder. Make sure that your choke is suitable for the wildlife you are hunting.
Since shotguns are pointed at a moving target and not aimed like a rifle, the sight is usually only a small, round bead near the muzzle. When shooting at a moving target with a shotgun:
- Keep your cheek on the stock.
- Keep both eyes open and focused on the target.
- Swing through the target, pull the trigger, and follow through.
Here are some of the Washington laws and regulations that apply to anyone who hunts with a shotgun.
- All shotguns must have a minimum barrel length of 18 inches.
- You must be at least 18 years of age to buy a shotgun from a licensed firearms dealer.
- Minors under 18 years of age may possess a firearm if they are attending a hunter safety course, are hunting or trapping with a valid license, or meet one of the other exceptions.
- Shotguns used to hunt upland birds and waterfowl must not hold more than three shotshells.
- Shotguns used to hunt bear must be 10 gauge, 12 gauge, 16 gauge, or 20 gauge and shoot slugs or #1 or larger buckshot.
- Shotguns used to hunt elk, goats, sheep, or moose may be 10 gauge or 12 gauge if they use slugs.
- Shotguns used to hunt waterfowl must use approved non-toxic shot ammunition.