The Secret Sauce to Enjoying Shotgun Shooting

Has the enjoyment of shooting a shotgun eluded you? Here's how to get over it.

by posted on November 20, 2023
Yackley Shotgun Comfort

Even though I regularly meet and engage with people from all over the world who are skilled at shooting firearms, I often meet people who are not versed in shotguns. Some of them believe that shotguns have way too much “kick” or that they are confusing, or they’re just overwhelmed at the idea of learning to use them. This doesn’t have to be the case. Let’s look at a shotgun that anyone, even the smallest shooter, can enjoy.

If You Teach a Person to….
Confucius says … “If you teach a person to clear a shotgun, you can teach them to clear any gun.” OK, maybe I said this, but here’s why:

Shotguns are all different. Shotguns are also all the same—they all have a tube or magazine, an action or receiver, a barrel, a chamber, a stock, a trigger and a safety. One big difference between a shotgun and most other guns is the presence of the lifter (sometimes called the loading gate).

What’s confusing is the way people call things by different names. So read your owner’s manual and do an online search of your make and model for your own benefit—for the sole purpose of learning the parts of your shotgun. But don’t get hung up on what someone calls the little button by the trigger guard that pops a shell onto the lifter; understanding what it does is what matters! (That button is usually called the shell release button.)

What’s This Magic-Easy Shotgun of Which You Speak?
Before I tell you why a specific gun can be enjoyed by anyone, and tell you the “secret sauce,” I want to first make sure you understand how a shotgun works.

Semi-automatic Shotguns:
A semi-auto shotgun works by capturing the gasses created when a round is fired and using them to cycle the shotgun. This happens quickly efficiently, and it is the way of the modern shotgun. Load, shoot, repeat …. eat and enjoy your game or get hits on your clay targets.

Break-action Shotguns:
The action “breaks” or separates and a very simple mechanical ejector ejects the spent shells. (or your fingers if there is not an ejector). Reload, close action, repeat.

Pump Shotguns
Pump shotguns cycle shells when the user “pumps” the pumping mechanism—the forearm, in almost all cases. Hit a bolt release, “pump” the forearm backward to open the action, insert round into chamber, feed more rounds into the tube, shoot, repeat.

The Secret Sauce
The reason that I think that a small pump shotgun is the secret sauce for a new shooter is that in order to take away the “kick” or felt recoil of shooting a shotgun, you can run a pump and very light ammunition; featherlite is the term—and what you get is just fun! Without the need for stronger ammo, a pump gun can get enough pellets out of your barrel with minimal force from recoil impacting the user’s shoulder and face. 

For anyone new to shooting a shotgun or who is not a fan of “kick” a pump gun with some 980 feet per second (fps) featherlite loads can have a blast, literally. Some brands of featherlite loads like Winchester’s AA128FL, boast 50 percent less recoil and noise reduction—perfect for beginners! It’s a great way to teach the workings of a shotgun: mage tube, lifter, bolt release, loading the chamber and the tube, inspecting that the mag tube is clear when you’ve “pumped” all the shells out, etc., but you can accomplish all this without intense recoil.

If you were to run a semi-auto with 980 fps ammo, most shotguns would not run because there’s not enough power captured. You would have to hand-cycle each shell out of the chamber and the next would feed in. This can be an alternative if you don’t have access to a pump gun. But if everyone learned to use a pump, not understanding shotguns would be a thing of the past.

Past meets Present
I’ve been to matches where range officers who work primarily with handguns are incapable of unloading some shotguns. It’s not that they are complicated, it’s just that they never learned how. It’s a little humorous, and I want to ask if they still have a flip phone, or have they learned to use a smartphone yet. But it’s all about what you care to learn. 

Shotguns are not difficult to learn, and you don’t have to be a jedi with one to master some basic knowledge. The older “tech” of a pump can actually help people who are overwhelmed at all the modern options by giving them a mix of choices to combine for something really easy shooting. So, get out there, especially if you have mistakenly believed shotguns are not your thing. They can be!





Smith Wesson Jerry Miculek Revolver
Smith Wesson Jerry Miculek Revolver

Smith & Wesson Introduces Limited-Release Jerry Miculek Inspired M327 World Record Revolver

This lightweight 9 mm handgun is built on a scandium N-frame and includes a titanium cylinder.

What a Criminal Looks for When Choosing Prey

Here’s how not to look like a good victim.

NRA Women 2024 Golden Bullseye Recipients to be Honored at NRA Show

Now in their 22nd year, these awards recognize the firearm industry’s top products and leaders.

4 Ways to Determine the Chamber of a Firearm

Checking and verifying should be routine before shooting any firearm with which you are not familiar. 

Big Bore Handguns Are Here to Stay 

Regardless of what you call these large powerful handguns, they are impressive to look at, remarkable to shoot, and leave a very notable hole.

ROSE by SIG Sauer to Host ROSE Boutique with Lena Miculek at NRA Show

The boutique will feature a ROSE branded pop-up store, an exclusive meet and greet with Lena Miculek, complimentary refreshments, a guided tour of the complete ROSE by SIG Sauer collection and Q&As with on-site product experts.

Women's Interests

Get the best of NRA Women delivered to your inbox.