what is a shotgun used for

What is a Shotgun Used For?

You probably have seen some variant of a shotgun before, no matter if you are a gun enthusiast or not. Don’t believe us? Keanu Reeves’ Neo, from The Matrix films. Bruce Campbell’s Ash in The Evil Dead. Arnold Schwarzenneger in the Terminator franchise. Ving Rhames as Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction. And a shotgun was also used in a velociraptor fight in Jurassic Park. Not to mention, countless Western films, cartoons (hello Elmer Fudd from the Looney Tunes franchise), and almost any store robbery or hunting scene ever produced in Hollywood. 

So besides being one of the most used guns in movies and TV, what is a shotgun used for? These are the most common shotgun uses:

  • Hunting – most commonly for bird hunting, but sometimes for larger game.
  • As a police, Game Warden, or Park Ranger weapon.
  • Sport shooting, like trap shooting (an Olympic sport) and skeet shooting.
  • For home defense.
  • Fishing – though rarely, because it’s inefficient and difficult (and sometimes illegal).

In this article, we discuss popular uses for a traditional shotgun, along with some uses for pump action shotguns. But first, let’s take a look at why shotguns are in a league of their own and the different types of bullets.

What is a Shotgun?

A shotgun is unique for the type of bullet that it uses, often called a ‘shot’. Hence the name. A shotgun shell is the casing that holds the gunpowder and the pellets. When fired, these pellets scatter, which make it helpful to hit a moving target.

There are different types of shotguns, some that are single shot and some that are repeating, along with the number of barrels.

When it comes to barrels, there is a certain length that the barrel must be in order to be legal. The popular ‘sawed-off’ shotgun used by criminals and long-ago gangsters were easy to conceal, and when the shot was fired, the pellets scattered farther and did more damage.

Shotgun Ammunition

shotgun shell

There are three different types of shotgun ammunition: birdshot, buckshot, and slugs.

These vary in what they are used for in the gun, along with their potential danger and damage done.

If you have questions about ammunition for your shotgun and what you want to use it for, be sure to ask a trusted gun expert or salesman.


A birdshot round is the smallest type of pellet. As its name implies, it is best for shooting birds and other flying creatures.

The pellets are usually steel or lead spheres, and if you want and have the available tools and equipment, you can pack your own shells.

Birdshot pellets can be purchased separately if you want to prepare your birdshot shells at home. And don’t let the size fool you. Birdshot can still cause serious injury when fired, and the pellets can do damage to humans.


Essentially, the buckshot is the same as a birdshot, but just with larger pellets. And you probably guessed what animal it is used for: a buck.

You could kill a bird with a buckshot if you choose, however there won’t be much of a bird left. When it comes to fending off large animals, like bears or mountain lions, buckshots are the best option.

What is great about the buckshot is that you can pack your own shells, which also means you can determine the fatality of the shot. Less pellets do less damage, and some hunters prefer to have a more intact kill.


This is the most powerful and most lethal shot available for a shotgun. It doesn’t use pellets–it is an actual bullet.

Slug tips can be made from a variety of materials, like wax, lead, copper, rubber, and so much more. Slugs will kill most big game in one shot and from long distances.

However, slug shots are illegal in many states for that exact purpose, as they can permanently injure or kill a human that steps in the line of fire. However, if you want to use slugs, a gun range is a good place to try them out.

What is a Pump Action Shotgun Used For?

Pump action shotguns are different from traditional shotguns. When you fire the shot, pumping the slide expels the spent shell while reloading the next one. This allows for greater flexibility and obviously saves time on the reload.

Pump action shotguns have a shorter barrel, and are used for more close range shooting.

Pump action shotguns can do everything that a regular shotgun can. However, due to its ease in maneuvering, it is the weapon of choice for home defense and military or police firearms.

The pump action is also probably one of the most well known guns, even to non-gun owners for its use in Hollywood. The distinctive ‘rack’ of the gun is a sound almost anyone could identify. And if there is a shotgun in a video game, it most likely is a pump-action.

Conclusion: What is a Shotgun Used For?

When it comes to hunting, shotguns are the weapon of choice for those hunting objects that fly. That includes ducks, geese, pheasants, turkeys, and other birds.

Shotguns are the best for hunting these types of animals because the pellets from the shot scatter, making the likelihood of hitting a moving target higher.

Shotguns can also be used in deer hunting, but the more popular rifle is used in deer and large game hunting more often than not.

There has been a popular debate on whether or not to bring a shotgun to fish. And the fact remains that it is really hard to fish with a shotgun.

First of all, shooting a fish with a shotgun unless at close range won’t kill it. Not to mention, you better be good with a net to get your game out of the water.

Secondly, it is illegal in many states to do so because shotgun shots can ricochet and spread unpredictably in water. If you see someone fishing in this manner, it is a good idea to notify your authorities. However, some fisherman do keep a shotgun on board to scare away other large game such as snakes, alligators, and crocodiles.

It is not uncommon for a shotgun to be used as a police weapon. In some areas of the US, along with other countries, it can be the weapon of choice. More often than not, the officers that carry shotguns are in the realm of taking down animals that threaten an area rather than people. Game Wardens and Park Rangers may also carry shotguns for the same purpose.

And because it is the time for the Olympics, there is a sport specifically using the shotgun. Trap (or Skeet, if more than one trap is used and are on both sides) Shooting is an Olympic sport.

In this sport, a clay pigeon is launched by a machine, and the marksman tracks and shoots the moving target. And in case you were wondering, no–clay pigeons are not small pigeons made of clay, despite the deceiving name.

In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the gold medals in Skeet Shooting went to Americans Amber English (Women’s) and Vincent Hancock (Men’s).

And there you have it. Those are the uses for shotguns and even some cool trivia for your next night out.

When it comes to operating a shotgun, practice proper gun handling and make sure to understand the type of shot you are firing.

If you are hunting, be sure to also take the necessary precautions. And if trap or skeet shooting is more your thing or you want to learn, you can look for local marksmanship leagues to join and get to shooting.


Why do Soldiers Use Shotguns?

Soldiers use shotguns for their versatility and close-quarters effectiveness. These firearms are potent in breach operations, non-lethal control, and confined environments due to their wide shot spread and stopping power.

Are Shotguns Used for Self-Defense?

Shotguns are a popular choice for self-defense because of their stopping power and ease of use. Their wide pellet spread increases the likelihood of hitting an assailant, especially in high-stress situations where precision may be compromised.

What Kind of Gun is a Shotgun?

A shotgun is a firearm designed to discharge shells containing multiple pellets or a single slug. Characterized by a smooth bore barrel, it is effective in close-quarters scenarios, offering a broad shot pattern.

Is a Shotgun a War Crime?

Utilizing a shotgun in warfare isn’t considered a war crime. Shotguns are legal and standard issue in many military forces worldwide, employed in accordance with the laws of armed conflict and specific rules of engagement.

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