What Is The Correct Way To Shoulder A Shotgun?

We can easily agree on the fact that a shotgun is extremely different from other types of guns like handguns or rifles. It works a bit differently and is used mainly for hunting, or shooting moving targets. If you are a beginner, you might want to understand the concepts better before going to the shooting range.

Styles Of Shotgun

Before we get into the crux, let us take a look at the different styles of shotguns available.

1. Break-Action Shotguns

In this type of shotgun the barrel or barrels,are cracked open from the receiver. This allows you to drop the shells directly into the chamber. There are single barrels, side-by-side double barrels, and over-and-under barrels. 

This type of a shotgun is mainly used by bird hunters, waterfowl hunters, and clay-target sports competitors.  Usually, with a break-action shotgun, you can fire one-two shots depending on the barrel you have.

2. Pump-Action Shotguns

This type of shotgun can be considered as the workhouse of the shotgun-family. There is a tubular magazine under the barrel of this gun. This is where the extra shells are stored. 

You just have to pump the action back and forth, and this will move the shell from the tubular magazine into the chamber while ejecting the spent cartridge. However, if you don’t cycle after every shot, you won’t be able to fire.

3. Semi-Automatic Shotguns

The semi-automatic types are quite  famous. It works almost like the pump-action shotgun. The tubular magazine is similar to that of the pump-action one. Otherwise, it is very similar to the semi-automatic pistol. 

Once you shoot a shot, the energy from that gas will be redirected to eject the spent shell. This will load a new one in the magazine. Some of the semi-automatic shotguns use inertia to continue the cycle. With this shotgun, you can keep shooting until the magazine is empty. 


Before handling any gun this is something you have to understand. Recoil, in general, means the push of energy you get from the gun when it is fired. However, this push differs for different guns. If you can tackle this recoil without even moving an inch, then you can fire the second shot faster. 

To counteract the recoil, the first thing you need to know is how the recoil works in shotguns. The recoil mostly depends on:

  • Weight of the shotgun
  • Total weight of the protocols
  • Weight of the powder charge in the shell
  • The velocity of the shot
  • Action-type

When you get a shotgun, the first thing to know about it is the caliber or gauge of the gun. Guns with small-bore will fire small-diameter loads, and that is why they weigh less. As they weigh less, you will find less recoil in these types of shotguns. 

The next thing to consider is the load of the gun. Several shotguns fire heavy or light loads, at different velocities. You have to keep in mind that the slug, with heavier projectiles, additional powder, and a higher velocity will cause a stronger recoil.  

As mentioned above, there are different types of shotguns. These shotguns provide different types of recoils. The semi-automatic shotgun takes half the energy from the recoil to continue the cycle of loading in the magazine.

To sum it up, to experience the minimum recoil, you can go for a shotgun with a smaller caliber one like 0.20-0.410 gauge. Also, going for a semi-automatic shotgun is the best option.

Shouldering The Shotgun

Finally, we come to the most awaited question, what is the correct way to shoulder a shotgun? Perfecting how to shoulder a shotgun isn’t something that will happen overnight. You need to keep practicing. You can’t expect to ace it on the first try. However, having a basic idea will always give a strong ground to start.

1. Cheeks First

It is a common misconception that the shoulder plays the most crucial role while handling a shotgun. Contrary to that, a cheek weld is an important factor if you want to keep shooting consistently. 

The first thing you have to do is to mount the gun to your face. If you bring the gun to your face, your posture will change and you have to target your aim again. To bring the gun to your face, you must bring the stock to your chest. 

While doing so, make sure you do not lose your eye contact with your target. This might be a little difficult at first, but with practice, it will become like a reflex. Your head should be erect as you put the comb of the gun under your cheekbone. This will automatically put your dominant eye at the top of the gun aligned with your target.

If your gun is the right fit and you follow this procedure, the butt of the gun will automatically be on your shoulder. 

2. Find The Pocket

The next step is to find your shoulder pocket. This part of the body is important to handle the recoil from the gun. Your shoulder pocket should be just underneath your collarbone. It is right at the junction where your shoulder meets the clavicle. If you notice a bit, you will understand that it naturally forms a pocket for the butt of the shotgun to rest.

You have to make sure that the gun sits exactly in the shoulder pocket. If it sits anywhere outside the pocket, there is a high chance that the recoil can bruise your collarbone or bicep badly.

However, there is another thing that you have to keep in mind. Sometimes the gun you are using just isn’t the right fit. It is possible that even after following the first step properly, you cannot bring the butt of the gun to rest in your shoulder pocket. In that case, try to change your posture a bit and try again.

Make sure you are leaning slightly into your weapon and are hinged from your hips. Your knees should be slightly bent. After making sure that this is your posture, if the gun still doesn’t rest in your pocket, then it is safe to say that the gun doesn’t fit you.

3. Comb Raising Kits

Imagine you get your favorite shotgun, only to find out that it doesn’t fit you. That will be a huge bummer. Some female shooters have a problem adjusting their cheek welds and put the guns in their shoulder-pockets as their necks are longer. However, that doesn’t mean that women should stop using shotguns.

To solve this problem, there are comb-raising kits. These kits are easily available in any of the gun shops or even in your shooting range. 

These kits have a spongy neoprene sleeve that fits over the stock of your gun. Some kits have a selection of foam inserts. You can combine these inserts to raise the comb of the stock.

4. Focus And Shoot

One of the advantages of using a shotgun is that aiming the target is timesaving. If you keep focusing on your target from the time you are putting up the gun, your aim is likely to be fixed. Thereby, the moment you put the gun in your shoulder pocket, you can start shooting right away!

However, if you are a beginner, you might be unsure of this procedure. Even if you have used other types of guns in the past, remember the shotgun operates very differently. If you try to aim after you have mounted the gun, there are high chances that you will hit behind the target. 

However, as a beginner, you still need to fix your aim somehow. There is a small hack for that. Point the index finger of your off-hand while pointing it straight towards the target. You can position the finger alongside or at the forend. Just make sure that you are pointing straight to the target.

Keep this hack in mind. Next time, you pick up the gun to put near your cheek, point your finger alongside the gun towards the target. Our brain is conditioned in the way that when we point at something, our eyes make it as a target. In this way, the gun will be aiming at the target, without us having to give extra effort. 

5. Keep Practicing

Shotguns are mainly used for hunting. While hunting, you have to shoot the animals as soon as you spot it. You don’t get much time to set your gun and then shoot. To achieve that level of efficiency. You need to have a lot of practice.  

A shotgun is wonderfully efficient if you can handle it well. Once you get the hang of it and can use it with the blink of your eye, you will be able to see the advantages. You don’t have to waste much time in fixing your aim, nor do you have to counteract the recoil. 

However, there is something you have to keep in mind that shotguns usually have small barrels, so there are fewer bullets. Being aware of it may also encourage you to practice more. At the same time, ammunition is costly too. But ammo is not something to compromise on which is why you must invest in the best home defense shotgun ammo. To sum it up, you cannot waste a lot of bullets in blank shots. You have to make sure that every bullet that leaves the gun hits the target.

To ensure that your aim is impeccable, you have to practice a lot. As they say, “practice makes a man perfect”. To perfect any art, you ought to practice a lot, until you have reached the level you aspire to be.  

Ensure Your Safety

Having a gun is a risky business. If you are a little irresponsible, there are high chances of injury. Either you or your close ones can get hurt. Therefore, there are some safety tips you ought to keep in mind.

A break-action shotgun is the easiest of all to keep it safe. If you open the action, you will find that the chambers are empty. This means that the shotgun can’t be fired. So you need not worry about it going off suddenly.

The pump-action and the semi-automatic shotguns are a bit to worry about. Both these shotguns are semi-automatic, so there is a high chance that if not looked after carefully, accidents might occur. 

Make sure that the magazine is empty. If there are any shells in the magazine, there is a high chance that a small mistake can result in a huge accident. Next, check if there are any shells in the chamber. Sometimes, people tend to overlook this. Just because your magazine is empty, it doesn’t mean that the gun is not loaded. 

In the pump-action shotgun, you will find that chamber by pulling the forend back. In the semi-automatic shotgun, you will find a bolt handle on the side of the receiver. If you pull that, you will find the chamber.

On a final note, after you return from hunting or the shooting range, make sure that your gun is empty. Avoid keeping any shells or bullets inside the gun. Accidents don’t warn or caution you. They occur when people are careless. Also, while storing the gun, make sure it is in a place that is comparatively inaccessible. 

Shoot Responsibly

As with any sports or art, you need a lot of practice to ace in something. With shotguns, you need not even practice aiming separately. All you have to do is to practice carrying the gun. Once you have made it a reflex, using the gun is a cakewalk. However, you have to make sure that you can use the gun as a reflex. You need to be super quick while using this gun.

Once you have made it an instinct habit, you are good to go out and use this gun. However, just because you can use a gun, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Shotguns are mainly used for hunting. Though it is a recreation, remember that you are killing other animals. They are living beings after all and deserve to live their full lifespan. 

Using a gun isn’t necessarily bad; you can use it to defend yourself. In terms of emergency, this art might come in handy, but to deliberately kill off other living beings is an atrocity. It is like using your knowledge to create chaos. 

Also, remember to get your gun and the license from a verified place. There are a lot of illegal places that might scam you. Make sure you find out the places that are absolutely legal.