ARTICLE: Shotguns, Shotguns, Shotguns!

MuzzleLoading Shotguns

A Muzzleloading shotgun or “Fowling Piece” is any smoothbore firearm designed or used to fire shot or pellets, into which the propellant usually Black Powder and shot / pellets are loaded from the muzzle (open end of the gun’s barrel) of the shotgun .
Muzzleloading shotguns can be either single or double barreled and generally fall into two main categories; Percussion and Flintlock although historically Wheellock, Matchlock and other designs were used.
Double Barrel Flintlock Shotgun

Single Barrel Percussion Shotgun
Generally Muzzleloading Shotguns are loaded by first loading a measured charge of powder from a flask or powder horn, but can also be loaded from a pre-measured bag or paper cartridge . The powder is typically black powder but cleaner burning substitutes like Pyrodex are available for the modern Muzzleloader.
Next an overpowder card is used to secure the powder and prevent it from flashing through the shot column, followed next by a cushion wad that works the same as the spring section of a modern shot shell wad. A measured amount of shot is then loaded, often measured as the Equal Volume as the powder charge. Lastly an over shot card is loaded to hold the shot in place.

Black Powder Equal Volume Shot Loads

Drams of powder… Grains of Powder… Ounces of Shot

2------------------------------ 55.0--------------------------3/4

2 ¼--------------------------- 62.0--------------------------7/8

2 ½ ---------------------------68.0-------------------------- 1

2 ¾ -------------------------- 75.0--------------------------- 1 1/8

3 ------------------------------ 82.0-------------------------- 1 1/4

3 ¼ -------------------------- 89.0 ---------------------------1 3/8

3 ½--------------------------- 96.0 -------------------------- 1 1/2

3 ¾ -------------------------- 102.0--------------------------1 5/8

4 ----------------------------- 109.0 ------------------------- 1 3/4

4 ¼ -------------------------- 116.0 --------------------------1 7/8

4 ½ -------------------------- 123.0 ------------------------- 2

4 ¾ -------------------------- 130.0-------------------------- 2 1/8

5 ----------------------------- 137.0 ------------------------- 2 1/4

Loading and shooting a percussion shotgun

Break Action Shotguns

In Break action shotguns the barrel or barrels are hinged much like a door and rotate perpendicular to the axis of the bore to expose the breech and allow the loading and unloading of cartridges.

A latch releases the two parts of the gun, exposing the breech. A hinge pin joins the two parts of the gun; the stock with the firing mechanism and the fore-end and barrel, which hold the round or rounds. Once a shell is inserted into the breech the action is closed and latched. Opening a hammerless shotgun will usually cock the action, where as a shotgun with external hammers will require a separate operation to cock the hammers before you are able to fire a round.

Once cocked the weapon can be fired by squeezing the trigger, after firing the action is unlatched and the barrel and fore-end are allowed to fall forward. This causes the extractor or ejector to remove the spent shells so the gun can be reloaded.

There are many types of break-action shotguns,

Single Barrel Shotguns

An antique W.W. Greener single barrel shotgun with a Jones Rotary Underlever, one of my personal guns

The single-barrel break action shotgun has always been a popular design, they are inexpensive to produce and light weight to carry when compared to a double-barreled shotgun. While simple and rugged its light weight means the single barrel will have more felt recoil.

My Winchester 37A, one of the most dependable guns ever made

Primarily a hunting and pest control gun, they are rarely used in sports shooting because most events require the ability to quickly fire two or more quick shots.
A vintage Belgian side lever, folding gun, often refered to as a “Bicycle Gun” or “Poachers Gun”.

The single-barrel shotgun often referred to as a "ute gun" or "farm .gun" due to its low cost is perfectly suited to hunting any small game from quail to rabbits and foxes, I personally do the majority of my hunting with a single barrel shotgun

A feed of rabbit thanks to my old 37A.

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Double Barrel Shotguns

The early double-barreled breach loading guns were mostly of the Side by side design because they were evolved from the muzzle loading percussion guns that relied on external hammers to work, once hammerless designs started to become common, the Under and Over was introduced, and most modern sporting doubles are of that design.
An early Pinfire Side by Side

A modern Under and Over

Shotguns evolved along with the cartridges they fired, many ammunition systems were invented and produced before the market settled on the shells you know today. . Early doubles used two triggers, one for each barrel while many later models used a single selective trigger that could fire both barrels, one after the other.
An example of a Single Selective Trigger on a Side by Side shotgun

Thousands of patents relating to shotgun development were lodged in the late 1800’s in Great Britain alone, while many French, Belgian, Italian and American gunsmiths and inventors also worked on shotgun designs and the shotgun is still evolving today. Here are just a few examples.
_A matched pair of high end Sidelock ejector shotguns, guns like these can cost in excess of a hundred thousand dollars _

A round bodied trigger plate action, with a Jones rotary Under Lever

A beautiful Back Action Side by Side

A boxlock shotgun

A Darne Sliding Breach

Another Darne, this one is a Rotary Breach action

Above is only a fraction of the designs that have been produced and with the double barrel shotgun proving itself to be one of the most popular and versatile guns of all time no doubt we’ll see plenty more.

Lever Action Shotguns

Winchester Mod 1887 & 1901


The Model 1887 and 1901 are lever-action shotguns designed by John Browning and produced by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

For a full write-up on the 1887 check out FIREARM PROFILE: Winchester 1887 / 1901

There are now many so called modern Lever Action shotguns on the Australian market, such as those offered by Adler and Pardus. These gun are advertised (mostly by Gun Control Australia & the Greens) as super modern, rapid firing space guns, however the really only vary for the 1887 in their looks.

The infamous "Rapid fire, paramilitary, murder gun… AKA: Adler, Lever Action.

To be continued:
Pump Action
Bolt Action