How far does a shotgun shoot

How Far Will A Shotgun Shoot: The Complete Breakdown

Virtually every firearm enthusiasts from first-timers to seasoned veterans know that shotguns only perform well in close range shooting. As the distance to the targets increases, the hit probability of shotguns decrease rapidly compared to other types of gun. With that said, have you ever wondered how far can a shotgun shoot to be exact? 25 yards? 50 yards? 75 yards? 100 yards? Nowadays, there are a lot of estimates in addition to multiple explanations that talk about the range of shotguns but which one should you trust?

So you want a comprehensive analysis that could help you answer the question of “How far does a shotgun shoot“? If that happens to be the case then this article shall certainly be of use.


Top 3 Factors That Decide The Ranges Of Modern Day Shotguns

how far can a shotgun shootObviously, you need to know how to handle firearms if you wish to score consistent hits while using conventional shotguns. But aside from skills and techniques of the shooters, there are a couple of factors that dictate the effective range of shotguns on the field. They are:

  • Type of shell
  • Length of the barrel
  • Choke

Once you grasp the way that these things work in conjunction with each other, it’s easy to solve the mystery of how far can a shotgun shoot.

1. Type Of Shell

type of shellThe majority of shotguns in circulation should be able to accept a variety of shells but usually, you have 3 standard options: birdshot, buckshot and slug. It’s essential to understand the characteristics of shotgun shells if you truly wish to look deep into the subject of how far can a shotgun shoot.

  • Birdshot

As the name suggests, birdshot tends to be favored by people that go after birds as well as other wildlife. Such shotgun shells contain many steel/lead pallets that would scatter outward and cover a rather wide area once fired. Considering the fact that most birds fly through the air pretty fast, birdshot shells often allow you to hit your targets without requiring pinpoint accuracy. Besides birds, some hunters even load birdshot to tackle animal like rabbits, squirrels and other. In a pinch, birdshot performs well in house invasion scenarios.

In terms of range, the rule of thumb is “40/40” which means at 40 yards, birdshot shall produce a 40-inch spread pattern. That is why it’s strongly recommended to keep the range below 40 yards for maximum effect if you use birdshot. Theoretically speaking, birdshot shells might still kill targets beyond the 40-yard limit but the results fluctuate from case to case.

  • Buckshot

Similar to birdshot, buckshot also features pellets but there is one distinct difference: the size. Because buckshot employs considerably larger pellets than birdshot, the damage potential is much higher. Hence, hunters prefer to utilize buckshot to take down games such as deers, turkeys and alike. You could use buckshot to hunt birds as well but there is a good chance that the shells would simply blow your preys to smithereens. As the usual hunters want to bring their games home intact, they load the right shell for the right target.

Regarding effective range, shooters should have no trouble hitting targets up to 75 yards away using buckshot shells in normal conditions. Nonetheless, “the closer the better” is always true, especially if you want to down the preys in a single shot.

  • Slug

To put it plainly, slug is just a giant bullet. Instead of pellets like birdshot and buckshot, shells in the slug category have one solid projectile that gets shot out after you pull the trigger. As a result, slug lacks the coverage of other shell types but in exchange, it possesses superior stopping power as well as extended effective range. Due to the high lethality of the shells, most states tend to forbid the use of slugs for hunting games. On the bright side, you could still shoot slug shells in the majority of professional shooting ranges without expiring troubles.  

About the range, slug achieve are capable of achieving excellent groupings at around 75 yards and would easily reach out to 100 yards in a competent hand. Certain manufacturers on the ammunition market have already released sabot slugs that claim to have an effective range of 200 yards. Of course, the number in reality often rise and fall depending on terrains, weathers, marksmanship,…

2. Length Of The Barrel

barrel length

“I don’t know how far can a shotgun shoot but it must have something to do with the barrel?”

Generally speaking, it’s a no-brainer that the effective range of firearms increases if you lengthen their barrel and the same applied to shotguns. But is it a good idea to fit a super long barrel on your shotgun? The length of the barrel greatly influences the maneuverability of the guns which is why it’s unwise to use extended barrels without proper considerations. Moreover, specific shotgun shells, magnum loads for example, only deliver the peak performance if you use the cornet barrel length.    

For most of the time, shotguns with a 28-inch long barrel shall serve you well if most of your preys fall within the 30-yard range. As the shooting distance grows, it’s widely advised that you select longer barrels for your shotguns: 30 inches, 32 inches, 34 inches,… Keep in mind that long barrels usually tighten the spread patterns of the shells so the hit probability might suffer.

3. Choke

shotgun choke for self defense

In layman term, choke alter the distribution of shot in order to gain improvements in range as well as accuracy. For close range shooting, people use chokes to create a coverage area as wide as possible but still remain dense enough to produce multiple hits. In the case of targets in extended distances, hunters incorporate chokes that restrict the usual spread pattern of the shells in return for more range. Needless to say, it’s unnecessary to over choke shotguns to maximize the range as that impairs the hit probability.     

Normally, the open choke is what you need if your shooting distance revolves around 20 yards. As the gap between you and your targets widen, you must use more range-focus chokes like improved cylinder choke, modified choke and full choke. Among the chokes, the full choke is the type that delivers the best range but there is one drawback: it gives the smallest spread patterns. Because of that, you have to be a highly-skilled shooter to get the most out of the full choke.

Last Updated on May 23, 2019

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