Types of Shotguns For Hunting: A Comprehensive Guide

With the use of sharpened wood, animal horn, or stones, hunting has been a part of the earliest skills that humans possess. Nowadays, modern age hunting involves the use of shotguns. There are three major types of shotguns used in hunting: autoloaders or automatic shotguns, pump-action shotguns, and break-open shotguns.

The type of shotgun that’s best for you depends on your personal preference and hunting style. And, if you want to make the most out of your hunting experience, choose and use the best features, such as the right shotgun shot size.

To help you make an informed decision when buying a shotgun, learn more about these types of shotguns below.

The Autoloader Or Automatic Shotguns

With slight adjustment between shots, autoloading shotguns can carry out multiple shots while firing in a hurry. This type of shotgun obtains its power from the shotshell, ejecting the spent round, resetting the firing pin, and loading a new round from the shotgun’s magazine. While older versions of this type of shotgun tend to malfunction and jam, newer versions are more reliable.

Pump-Action Shotguns

Here are the advantages of autoloader shotguns:

  • High Fire Rate: When the trigger of this shotgun is pulled, it fires and cycles automatically.
  • Low Recoil: The recoil for this type of shotgun is less than break-open and pump shotguns.
  • Ease of Follow-Up Shots: Since semi-auto shotguns cycle without the assistance of the shooter, shots are more efficient because they’ll involve less shooter movement during shots.

When it comes to the drawbacks, autoloaders have different cycling systems, so adjustments should be made when shifting between shell lengths and loads. There’s also a greater possibility of shooter injury because of the recoil spring tension when closing the bolt.

As a hunter, you need to use your gun safely to prevent unexpected accidents. If the shooter isn’t knowledgeable about the mechanics of an autoloader shotgun, unintentional shots may occur.

Pump-Action Shotguns

This shotgun is also called slide-action shotguns, and it’s operated manually by sliding the forearm, ejecting the spent shell, cocking the firing pin, and loading a new shell from the shotgun’s magazine.

Here are some benefits of pump-action shotguns:

  • Inexpensive: Pump-action shotguns are easy on the pocket, wherein you can buy a new one that’ll last a lifetime for only a few hundred dollars.
  • Versatile: Pump-action shotguns are manually operated, cycling ammunition even from the lightest target as long as the shell has the proper length and gauge with specialty loading to the heaviest slug loads or buckshot. This type of shotguns can be easily modified because it comes with plenty of components for a customized look.
  • Great Capacity: Pump-action shotguns have one magazine capacity in the chamber and five shells.

Pump-action shotguns also have a fair share of drawbacks. Since the shooter needs to manually cycle the shotgun, follow-up shots take longer, resulting in a slow fire rate, especially with inexperienced shooters. Also, aiming for follow-up shots is slower since follow-up shots need to be realigned.

Break-Open Shotguns

Break-action or break-open shotguns are equipped with barrels on a hinge, in which the gun breaks open, allowing manual loading of shells. Since it’s considered beginner-level shotguns, you’ll find some models of break-opens with a single barrel.

Professional break-open shotguns come with two barrels, either mounted vertically or horizontally. A horizontally paired barrel shotgun is called a double-barrel or side-by-side shotgun. On the other hand, a vertically paired barrel shotgun is called over or under shotgun.

Here are the advantages of using break-open shotguns:

  • Easy To Use: Break-open shotguns are compact and lightweight. They’re easier to carry during long walks and faster shoot in thick brush.
  • Mechanically Simple: The lack of internal moving parts of break-open shotguns makes them easy to troubleshoot and easy to clean.
  • Safe: A break-open shotgun is a favorite for young shooters, wherein they can be instructed to use this shotgun to ‘break open action’ the shotgun when they’re not shooting. You can tell at a glance if the shotgun is in a safe position regardless of distance.

Break-open shotguns also have drawbacks, such as limiting the shooter to one to two shots. It’s more difficult to accessorize than automatics and pumps. Also, this type of shotgun is more expensive than others.


Now you’ve learned the various types of shotguns used for hunting. Whatever your preference is, you can make a final decision by considering the pros and cons of each type. Consider your shotgun mechanics, hunting knowledge, and skills so you can choose the best type of shotgun suitable for you.

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