How To Shoot A Shotgun For Beginners

Shotgun photo by Nicholas Erwin

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Honestly, shooting a shotgun is a lot different than shooting a handgun, or a rifle.

Seems obvious, right?​

But really…just because you are good at shooting a handgun or rifle does not necessarily mean shooting a shotgun will be a breeze for you.

It’s important to know how to shoot a shotgun the right way, so that you can be more efficient with it when you need it most!

A shotgun is not only a lot different in size and appearance, but it shoots a lot differently than other firearms.

It can also be used for a variety of reasons. It can be used for different types of hunting, as well as for home defense, clay shooting, and target practice.

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Shotgun Safety

Shotgun shooting can be a very social activity. You should always follow gun safety rules, but because of a shotgun’s social nature, you should especially KNOW and PRACTICE the basic safety tenants of gun handling.

As with any gun, you need to make sure you:

  • Always aim the gun in a safe direction; NEVER point a gun at someone, whether it is loaded or unloaded.
  • Keep your finger OFF of the trigger until you are ready to fire.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings before firing a gun.
  • Keep the gun unloaded until you are ready to shoot.

Once you have these rules drilled into your head, you are ready to learn how to load and shoot a shotgun.

The reason we stress gun safety so much, in regards to shotgun shooting, is because shotguns can be very damaging.

The shotgun round is a shell with ton of little bullets that spread outward when the shotgun is fired, causing a wide range of damage to the target.​

The Most Common Shotgun

12 gauge shotgun shell

12 Gauge Shotgun photo by pwkpwkpwk

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Shotguns are no different than any other style of gun in the sense that there are many different types and sizes.

The most common shotgun is the 12 gauge, pump action shotgun.

For this reason, when discussing how to load and shoot a shotgun for beginners, we will be doing it with a 12 gauge, pump action in mind.

To Start…

First, you are going to need to know what gauge you are shooting so you have the correct ammo.

As a beginner, if you have any questions about the correct ammunition, do not hesitate to ask.

Once you have the right ammunition there are a couple of things you need to check before loading it into the shotgun.

  1. Make sure the safety is on.
  2. Make sure the barrel of the gun is pointed away from you, in a safe direction.
  3. Make sure the chamber is unloaded.

Once those three things are checked and double checked, you are ready to begin the actual loading of the gun.

Steps To Load & Shoot Properly

There are several steps you will need to follow in order to load and shoot a shotgun properly.

Step 1 -There are two pretty easy positions you can set the shotgun in when you are loading it:

  • Place the butt, or the end of the stock, on your thigh, with the barrel pointing upward if you are in a sitting position, OR
  • Put the stock under your arm, with the gun in a sideways position, and the barrel pointing forward.

Step 2 – Put a single shell with the “capped end” pointing towards the stock, into the magazine tube.

Step 3 – Using your thumb, push the shell towards the barrel of the gun until you hear a loud “click” sound. The click should indicate that the shell is in place.

Step 4 – Repeat step three, until the magazine tube is filled. You will know the tube is full when you try to put another shell in, but it will not go in all of the way.

Step 5 – To load a bullet into the chamber you will need to hold down the action release button, while sliding the pump backwards, and then forwards. You will want to do the sliding motion with quite a bit of force. At this point the shotgun is ready to fire, so be exceptionally careful.

Figuring Out Your Dominant Eye

Now that the shotgun is loaded and ready to go, the first thing you need to do in order to shoot a shotgun properly, will be to figure out which eye is your dominate eye.

This is important to know with any gun.

Knowing which eyes is dominant will allow you you figure out which shoulder to put the stock of the shotgun against.

The stock goes against the same shoulder as your dominant eye.

Finding your dominant eye is quite simple:

  • Hold both of your arms in front of you and create a triangle with your hands.
  • Center something, like a doorknob or spot on the wall, in the triangle.
  • Close your left eye.

If the object you are staring at remains in the triangle, than you are right eye dominant. If the object disappears, then you are left eye dominant.

Once the gun is loaded, and you know your dominant eye, you are now ready to actually learn how to SHOOT a shotgun,

How To Shoot a Shotgun in 5 Steps

Step 1 – Holding Position

Make sure you are holding the gun in the correct position.

The correct position for holding a shotgun is with your non-firing hand gripping the gun at about half way down the hand stock, with the thumb on one side, and your other four fingers on the other.

With your shooting hand, hold the the grip behind the trigger firmly, like you are shaking another person’s hand.

Step 2: Firing Position

Next, keeping your hands in the correct holding position mentioned in Step 1, lift the shotgun into firing position.

Firing position is when the gun is tightly against your shoulder (same shoulder as your dominate eye), your feet are approximately shoulder width apart, your knees are relaxed (slightly bent, not straight and locked), and your body is roughly at a 40 degree angle to your target.

Note: Having the gun snug against your shoulder is important when it comes to recoil. The tighter the stock is to your shoulder, the more your body is able to absorb the recoil of the gun coming off of your shot, making it hurt less when you shoot.

During all of this preparation your fingers should NOT be on the trigger.

Step 3: Cheek to Stock 

Relax your neck and place your cheek against the stock of the gun.

This makes it so you aim better when firing the shotgun, because in this position your eye is aligned with the shotgun’s sight.

Step 4: Safety and Trigger

Pull At this point you are now ready to shoot the gun. Once you are cleared to shoot, flip the safety off, move your finger to the trigger, and when you are ready, pull.

Note: A lot of people will tell you to shoot with one eye closed, however learning how to shoot a shotgun with both eyes open is believed to be best.

Step 5: Reload

When you are ready to shoot, simply slide back the pump of the shotgun to put a new shell in to position.

Final Thoughts – How To Shoot A Shotgun

Just like with anything, shooting a shotgun properly takes practice. Learning how to shoot a shotgun as a beginner is no easy task.

A shotgun can have a lot of recoil, which will take getting use to, especially if wanting to be accurate with your shot,

The more you practice, the more your body will become accustomed to the recoil, and the better you will become at shooting a shotgun.

Stay safe and happy shooting!

G FretwellGary Fretwell Is A 33-Year-Old Die Hard Hunter And Blogger From Wyoming. After Serving In Iraq, He Finished School To Become An Asset Protection Officer And Currently Is Learning To Be A Tracker To Help Hunters Like Himself Find Big Game!ShareTweet+1Pin

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