how to unload a shotgun

How to Unload a Shotgun

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to unload a shotgun, but have been afraid to take on the task on your own, you’re not alone. Remember: firearms can be deadly if you don’t know what you’re doing! The seemingly overwhelming complexity (it’s not complex, I promise) of the task may make you think twice before pulling the trigger, which is why we decided to write this step-by-step guide on how to unload a shotgun safely.

Shotgun unloading instructions will vary by make, model, and type, but these are the general steps on how to unload a shotgun:

  1. Point the gun in a safe direction away from people
  2. Press aside the bolt release
  3. Release the bolt grip
  4. Open up the hinge to eject the shell
  5. Pull the shell all the way out 
  6. Repeat the process until the magazine tube is empty

When you are sure that the magazine chambers are completely empty, clean the gun and put it away from the reach of people that aren’t you.

At first glance, this may seem like a challenging task, but it’s not. Once you can master the steps and different parts of a shotgun, you’ll find that it is easy.

If you still can’t figure out how to unload your gun after reading this article, we recommend asking your local gun dealer for a physical demonstration.

If you want to do it yourself, read on to find a detailed explanation of all the steps you can adopt to unload your shotgun.

Step by Step Guide For How to Unload a Shotgun

unloading a shotgun

For starters, you’ll need to understand the parts of your shotgun. Once you know the different parts, you can adopt the following steps to unload your shotgun.

Step 1: Point The Gun to a Safe Direction Away From People

Irrespective of your level of shooting expertise, it’s always important to point your gun in a safe direction before doing anything on it. This means turning its barrel to a path where it’ll not face you or anyone around you. Most experts even recommend unloading your gun when nobody is around you.

We are not saying that it’s a deterrent to having people around you; however, it’ll be safer to unload on your own to avoid casualties of your gun misfires.

While trying to unload your gun, keep your fingers off the trigger. Keeping your finger off the trigger would help you avoid shooting the gun accidentally.

Step 2: Press Aside The Bolt Release

Once you’ve faced the gun away from you and you are sure it’s not facing anybody, press aside the bolt release on the shotgun.

Most shotguns have their bolt release located around the trigger guard. So you’ll find it behind or in front of your trigger guard.

When you find the bolt release, pull it aside so that the gun can automatically empty one shell. Once the shell falls off, cycle the gun’s action.

Repeat the process until there are no more visible shells in the magazine tube or the chamber. Always check to be sure that the shells are completely out. You can press the bolt release if you are not too sure that they are entirely out.

Step 3: Release The Bolt Grip

If you are using an auto-loading shotgun, then this is the point where you’ll need to pull the bolt-grip back and release it.

This process would allow the gun to empty one shell per time.

Like the step above, continue repeating this step until you can’t see any visible shells inside the chamber or the magazine tube.

Never forget to double-check the magazine tube to be sure that there’s no shell left there before storing your gun.

Step 4: Open Up The Hinge 

If your gun is a break-action shotgun, you’ll need to open the hinge to eject the shells. The hinge is typically found around the stock area. You can check between the stock and the receiver.

Once you’ve opened the hinge, you can remove the shell from the chamber parts of the barrel before reclosing the hinge.

In break-action guns, it’s usually easy to check whether the shells are completely out since you’ll usually just need to load one shell at a time. However, if you are using a double-barrel shotgun, then you’ll need to check for shells in both chambers.

Step 5: Pull The Shell All The Way Out 

Irrespective of the type of shotgun you are using, the goal would be to remove the shells before storing your gun in a safe place.

We recommend leaving the shells far away from where you want to work if you intend to do any work on the gun.

It may also be a good idea to leave the shells in a separate room from where you intend to clean your gun for safety purposes. However, always remember to do a final check on the gun to ensure that the shells are completely off before cleaning the gun.

Cleaning Your Shotgun

cleaning your shotgun

If you are unloading your shotgun for cleaning, this is the point where you get right into it.

Since a shotgun is typically mechanical, cleaning wouldn’t be too hard. Simply take off the barrel, wipe everything down, and spray solvent on all the components to keep them in good condition and free from rust.

This cleaning process would not only help to prevent build-up in the gun; it’ll also make usage easier in the long run. It’s common knowledge that lack of proper cleaning and maintenance can cause a gun to get stuck, rust, or develop other issues that will make them less functional.

While cleaning, take special care to clean the chambers where the ammunition and shells are housed. Cleaning this part would make it freer and smoother so that shells can easily slide out during shooting. It’s also another chance for you to check your barrels before putting your gun away. You won’t miss any shell before putting your gun away.

Conclusion: How to Unload a Shotgun the Right Safe Way

Unloading a shotgun varies based on make and model. However, there are general rules for unloading a shotgun:

Engage the gun’s safety and position the gun so that it points towards the safest position. Press aside the bolt release. Release the bolt grip. Open the hinge to eject the shell. Pull the shell all the way out. Repeat the process until the magazine tube is empty.

Generally speaking, you won’t need any specialized equipment to unload your shotgun.


How Do Shotguns Eject Shells?

Shotguns eject shells using a mechanical action, either pump-action, semi-automatic, or bolt-action. After firing, the action is cycled, and the extractor pulls the spent shell from the chamber, after which the ejector expels it from the firearm.

Can You Uncock a Shotgun?

A shotgun can typically be uncocked safely. To do this, one would hold the hammer (if external), pull the trigger gently, and ease the hammer forward slowly to its resting position, ensuring the firearm is unloaded and pointed in a safe direction.

What is the Action Release Button on a Shotgun?

The action release button on a shotgun is a mechanism that allows the user to open the action, enabling the loading or unloading of the firearm without firing it. It ensures safety and practical handling during non-firing manipulations.

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