Shotguns have been used for ages and are considered one of the best short-range weapons. Hunters preferred using a shotgun during the action because it could take down prey of any size whatsoever.
Whatever be the utility, a shotgun like ones meant for home defense is effective only when your handling of the gun is efficient. For proper handling, the operator needs to know how to load a shotgun. You can only master the skill through practice, but you need to learn it correctly first. Therefore, let us take a look at the types of shotguns and the steps involved in loading them.
Types Of Shotguns
1. Break-Action Shotguns
Break-action shotguns are the traditional classic shotgun models. You must have seen these guns in old, black, and white cowboy movies. The design and functioning of these guns are simple. The gun can be broken at a hinge point into two halves, and a cartridge can be inserted to load and fire the weapon.
The only drawback of using a break-action shotgun is that it needs to be reloaded very frequently. The two types of break-action shotguns are the single barrel and double barrel variants. Therefore, you cannot fire more than two shots ( in a double barrel) without having to load the gun again. It is quite a cumbersome task when you are required to shoot quickly.
2. Pump-Action Shotguns
To solve this problem of frequent reloading with break-action shotguns, a new variety was invented known as the Pump-action shotguns. In a Pump-action shotgun, slides are present that can fire multiple rounds. It is interesting to learn how to use a shotgun that has a pump action. By pulling the slider back and forth, the user pumps the gun such that the spent shell is extracted while the live shell that is next in line gets loaded in the chamber.
When you pump a shotgun by pulling the slider, you hear a characteristic loud click sound. The sound can sometimes be powerful enough to distract the target.
3. Semi-Automatic Shotguns
This variety of shotguns was invented much later than the previous two models. In a semi-automatic shotgun, once you pull the trigger, the used shell gets extracted on its own, and the next round gets cycled.
It becomes possible because of the mechanism utilized by the gun. The recoil energy of the shot fired is used to push the used shell out. Moreover, the same energy can draw the loaded shell into the chamber to get ready for the next round. Since you only have to pull the trigger once, all the operations can be completed easily. It is preferred when you need to fire the shots quickly.
The design of a semi-automatic shotgun is highly complex. Therefore, the chances of the gun gets jammed between shots are also very high. The operator needs to pay a lot of attention to the maintenance of the gun. If you do not know how to clean a gun properly, do not buy a semi-automatic shotgun.
How To Load A Shotgun
How To Load A Pump Shotgun
1. Safety Protocol
The first step in learning how to load a shotgun is to test and prepare its safety mechanism. Before you load your shotgun, ensure that the barrel points in the opposite direction and away from your body. It is because any mishap during the loading process can trigger a shot. Therefore, to ensure safety, you should point the barrel away from yourself.
Moreover, you should unlock or unload the chamber carefully, too. Sometimes, the chamber can be jammed, and using too much force can damage the gun. To know more about safety protocols related to the loading process, read the operator manual carefully.
2. Know The Gauge
Determining the gauge of your shotgun is crucial before you learn how to load it. Round lead balls, having a diameter called the Bore Diameter, have been used for the standard gauge measurements in shotguns. The number of such lead balls required to make the total weight approximately one pound is known as its gauge.
Therefore, if you have a shotgun that requires twelve lead balls to make one pound, your gun will be called a twelve-gauge shotgun. You can follow this guide to know how to load a 12 gauge shotgun, and other pump-action firearms, too.
The normal gauge range for shotguns is 10, 12, 16, 20, and 28. The purpose of determining the gauge beforehand is to know the shotshell size required for the gun. However, these days the shotshell of a different gauge size can also be utilized by using a special gun tube. Ideally, you should only select the shell that corresponds to the gauge.
Positioning is extremely important to carry out the loading process more efficiently. The position of the gun and the operator needs to be as stable as possible. You should place the shotgun on your thigh or secure it between your arm and trunk so that it does not move while you are loading it. You can choose other positions as well, as per your convenience. However, always ensure that the trigger guard and the trigger are present on the side facing away from you.
4. Placing The Shells
A loading flap is usually present in front of the trigger guard. Place the shotshell against the loading flap with the pointed end facing towards the barrel of the gun. The pointed end of the shell is often called the business end. It is the part that first comes out from the gun when a shot is fired. Opposite the business-end is the metal cap end of the shell. It is the part where the explosive material is stored within the shotshell.
5. Identifying A Full Magazine
After you have placed the shell rightly inside the loading flap, push the shell’s metal cap end with your thumb. Keep exerting a force until you hear a click sound, as this indicates that the shell has been locked inside the loading flap. The click is heard when the shell passes the magazine catch. Similarly, load other shells into the magazine until it is filled. You get to know if the magazine tube is full if no more shells can be inserted through the loading flap.
6. Ready For Shooting
To complete the chamber’s loading, you need to pull the slide back and then push it forward. Use considerable force so that the chamber gets loaded at once. Before you pull the slide, ensure that you have pressed the action release button of the shotgun. Pulling the slide causes the shell to drop from the magazine tube into the firing position. Now, if you pull the trigger, you can fire a shot.
Loading A Break-Action Shotgun
1. Safety Check
The first step remains the same, even for a break-action shotgun. Ensure that you push the safety button first, and the barrel of the gun is positioned away from your body. It is a golden rule for loading guns that one should always consider it pre-loaded even though you know that it is empty.
2. Engaging The Lever
Break-action shotguns have a special lever or latch known as the barrel breech lever. The lever is usually present on the right side, near the spot where the gun’s barrel meets its stock. Unlike the traditional pump-action shotguns, a break-action shotgun does not have a magazine tube. It means that every time you fire a shot, you need to load the gun with a single shell or a couple of shells if the gun is a double-barrel model.
The lever allows you to break the gun into its two halves around a hinge. It opens the gun completely so that you can directly fit the shell inside the barrel and pull the trigger later to fire a shot. Thus, your next step is to engage the lever.
3. The Break Action
After finding the lever, open your break-action shotgun. Position the gun’s lower barrel away from your body in the opposite direction. If the barrel contains any spent casings, discard them first and then insert the new shells according to the gun’s working mechanism. If the gun has been recently fired, do not touch the metal barrel with bare hands. It will be extremely hot and can even cause a blister or burn.
4. Insert The Shell
The procedure for the insertion of the shells remains the same. The pointed part of the shell, called the business end, should be facing towards the distal parts of the barrel. Thus, your shell should slide down the barrel with the business end going in first. After you have inserted the shell, bring back the lower barrel and join it with the upper part until you hear a click sound. The click sound indicates that the break-action has been reversed, and the gun is now ready to fire.
How to Load a Shotgun – Conclusion
So, this was a comprehensive guide to teach you how to load a shotgun. There are three basic varieties of shotguns available today. However, modifications are being made to these basic designs so that they can become more efficient. No matter what model you choose, the efficiency ultimately depends on tour skills.
Therefore, follow the steps that are mentioned above to learn about their loading process. Then practice it until you can perform the procedure smoothly. Good loading can fasten the process so that you get more time to plan the shot.
Michael Castaneda is a 45-year old war veteran from Michigan with a deep interest in guns. After the war, Michael took a pledge to never touch a gun except for the purpose of self-defense. He created Machine Gun Books to guide people on self-defense and providing information on guns and accessories.