A shotgun is a shoulder-fired firearm that fires a number of small spherical pellets (known as shot) or a solid bullet (known as slug). Shotguns come in a range of calibres and operating mechanisms. These are very popular with law and enforcement agencies and civilians for hunting and sporting purposes.
The barrel of the shotgun is not rifled i.e. it is a smooth bore. Due to this shotguns are not accurate and have lower ranges. After the advent of rifles, shotguns lost their popularity. However, shotguns proved to be very useful in trench warfare during the First World War and thus their popularity and use saw a revival. Since then, shotguns are being used in a variety of roles by civilians, law enforcement agents and military personnel.
When the shotgun is fired, the energy of the exploding propellant gets distributed across the pellets and so the stopping power of each pellet is very low. This makes the shotgun very useful in hunting smaller game such as fowl. However, when fired a close ranges, the shotgun offers a large stopping power albeit low penetration. Since the pellets spread out over an area, the shotgun has to be pointed only approximately at the target to make a hit.
Many different types of shotguns have been designed. They range from small sized shotguns to massive punt guns. In addition, shotguns operating almost on every firing mechanism are available. Shotgun designs are unique on the basis of the firing shot. The shotgun shell is usually short, wide, with straight walls and operates on low pressure when compared to assault rifle rounds.
Shotgun ammunition is commonly known as shells, shot shells or shotgun shells in the United States. In the United Kingdom, there are called “cartridges”. Shotguns are also known as pepper guns and scatter guns.
Shotguns are typically used against small and moving targets. Since the pellets of the gun spread over an area, the gun has to be aimed only approximately at the target. However, shotguns are not accurate over longer distances. In addition, they also lose penetration power with distance. Shotgun ammunition which have lesser number of pellets or a single slug have higher penetrating power but at the expense of lower probability of hitting the target.
Shotguns offer a number of advantages over other handguns and rifles. First and foremost, the shotgun offers tremendous stopping power at shorter ranges. Secondly, it is easier to aim which makes it very easy to be used by an inexperienced firer. Thirdly, it causes multiple wounds to the target which will disable him/her instantly. Additionally, shotgun pellets cannot penetrate walls reducing the chances of hitting bystanders. Due to these reasons, law enforcement agencies across the globe prefer to use shotguns.