How Far Can a Shotgun Shoot?

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The shooting range of shotguns varies. Just as birdshot ammo is typically used and great within 50 yards, the rifled slugs in a rifled barrel are good up to 100 yards. I use shotguns primarily for bird and game hunting and sports such as in my favorite skeet shooting. In my hunting expeditions I have also learned that shotguns come in different varieties of sizes and styles, each having a gun primer as your introductory guide. Do you know the difference between a shotgun and a rifle? See the difference here.

I must confess it’s quite a thrill trying on a shotgun of any type. However, the knowledge of how to shoot one and the other safe handling measures is always essential. Given the fact Shotguns exist in different varieties, they do have various features that affect their shooting range. Below is a sneak preview of such features, and how they aid in the shotgun’s shooting range.

What Features Affect How Far a Shotgun Can Shoot

To tell how far a shotgun can shoot, you’ll need to take a look at the shotgun and some of its features. This will effectively help out in assessing the shotgun’s shooting range and its shooting ability. They also provide better insight when selecting a shotgun. Let’s have a preview of some of the features. 

Barrel Length

The barrel length of a shotgun is one exciting feature, although some would argue it’s not that important. If you’re keen on pointability and swing, then perhaps you should learn more about barrel lengths and how they affect that. The barrel length is said to have everything to do with a shotgun’s shooting range. 

The long shotgun barrels do not shoot relatively farther as compared to the short ones. Though they’re easier to keep moving, I would advise you to go for short barrel shotguns. These can shoot faster at birds, and from quite a relatively long distance. The average barrel length of a shotgun should be 30 inches. However, short barrel shotguns are up to 26 inches in barrel length.

The Choke Tube

A Shotgun choke is a contraction at the muzzle end of the gun that squeezes the pattern of shot pellets. Chokes in a shotgun are applied differently. The first type is screw-in chokes, which are a selection for particular applications. There are also fixed and permanent chokes.

The Choke tubes are essential to a shotgun, and they affect how far it can shoot just as any other feature. The choke is purposely made to shape the spread of the shot. This, in turn, helps in gaining a better shooting range and added accuracy.


The most common type of shotgun ammunition is the cartridges filled with shot.  The shots, which are little balls, are made of different metals such as lead, steel, and zinc, among others. Each metal behaves differently when shot, hence affecting the range in which the fired shots spread out. The Shots made from lead are relatively heavy and soft, and it also changes its shape once fired out of the barrel. It, therefore, has a more spread out pattern than other ammunitions.

Shotgun Ammo Size

Shotgun ammunition falls into three main categories, as per the size and their weight. They include;


Birdshot is a type of shotgun ammunition loaded with pellets of a diameter of fewer than 5 millimeters. They are usually made in categories of number whereby if the shot size increases, the number designation decreases relatively. Birdshots are smaller ammo, typically used for hunting animals such as birds and squirrels. They are considered ineffective in long-range shooting, as they work well with short distance targets.


A decreasing number knows buckshot as the pellet size increases. They are a little better in home defense, and you can use them in hunting animals such as deer and medium-size game. They are better when used to shoot at a range compared to the birdshot. 


Slug is a large bullet loaded into a shotgun shell. They are characterized by each slug firing only one large projectile rather than numerous smaller pellets. Slugs are used in hunting big game and for law enforcement. They are more substantial with a better projectile, making them more accurate and with an excellent range. 

What are the Various Designs of Shotguns?

There exist three main types of shotgun designs. These include;


This is one of the popular designs of the shotguns. It relies on either the gasses released from a red shell or the force of a ring. This helps to cycle the action and eject any spent casing. Therefore, it allows you to cycle multiple rounds without any manual opening and closing of the shotgun action. 

Semi-automatic shotguns also have less recoil because of the energy from each shell spent moving the action back and forth. The rest of it makes way through the end of the barrel. Semi-automatic Shotguns are more complex compared to the other designs. They tend to fire shots quicker as you only need to pull the trigger.


Pump –action design relies on the manual loading and unloading of the shotgun. They use a manual forward and backward motion of the forearm to cycle a shell. When you slide the forearm back towards your body, it opens up and allows for a loaded shell. Bringing the forearm forward away from you closes the action. 

The pump-action shotguns are incredibly reliable, owing to their simplicity and dependability in home defense or game hunting. 


Break action shotguns come either as a single barrel or double barrel. Regardless of their barrels, each type has a hinge on the bottom and a lever release. This allows the shotgun to open at the chamber. It thus makes it easy to load and unload shells during each shot.

The Shooting Range of Shotguns with Different Gauges?

What is the Shooting Range of a Shotgun with a 12 Gauge Slug?

Though there is no accurate measure of how long such a shot would go, you can rely on your personal shooting experiences to get the measures. However, some argue the maximum effective range is significantly limited by the slug’s rapid decay of energy.  Its velocity aided by poor accuracy is also another limiting factor. Experts recommend not to use 12 gauge slugs for a distance longer than 100 yards. 

The slugs tend to lose energy past 75 yards. The soft lead material they are made from also expands to ensure they fit the bore when the shot has been fired. This causes them to flatten, losing on accuracy and making them ineffective past a 75 yards’ distance. If you plan to go for a hunt, it is an excellent way to look at a maximum range of 100 yards for your target. Beyond 100 yards, there is no guarantee for a kill.

What is the Shooting Range of a Shotgun with a 20 Gauge Slug?

Shotguns with 20-gauge use lead balls. They are equally one pound and of less damage than the 12 gauge slugs. They are preferred in the hunting of birds and other smaller animals.  A slug fired from a 20 gauge may be effective out to about 100 yards.  The 20-gauge shotgun is only half effective in range compared to the 12-gauge shotgun.  Their shots travel twice less far as one of the 12-gauge shotgun.

The 12-gauge slug is better than the 20 gauge as it offers a muzzle velocity of 1,250 feet per second, compared to only 1,100 feet per second from the 20 gauge.  The 12 gauge also provides a more useful range. 

What You Need to Know About Shooting Shotguns

There exist many things to consider before firing a shot and finding how far it will travel. Your stance is always the first thing to consider.  Finding your posture is a great way to go about when learning about how to shoot a shotgun. 

When trying to shoulder a shotgun, make sure you move it smoothly to your cheek, and then snuggly into your shoulder. There is a difference between shooting rifles and shotguns. You squeeze the trigger with guns, whereas you get to “slap” the trigger when it comes to shotguns. 

Just like any other firearms, safety is essential at shotgun ranges. Load the shotgun only when you want to fire. This should be after assuming an excellent and safe firing position. After making a shot, keep your action open and the gun unloaded with your supporting hand. 

Most Popular Shotgun Accessories

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Final Word

It’s no doubt shooting any shotgun requires gained expertise. Having enough knowledge of handling a shotgun and suitable target ranges is a great way to start. It provides you an added advantage as far as knowing what distance your shotgun can shoot. 

Generally, different shotguns will provide you with various lengths when you take a shot. It’s therefore imperative to know of different shotguns and their designs, before establishing how far they can shoot. But as always, the only way for you to know is your will to go hunting. Don’t forget- each day is a learning opportunity to help unearth more facts about shooting shotguns.

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