Shotgun vs rifle for hunting


Rifles and shotguns differ mostly based on their barrels, their targets and the type of ammunition used.

Rifles can cover much greater distances than shotguns can.

Shotguns are a short-game firearm.

Differences Between Rifles and Shotguns
  1. Rifle
  2. Shotgun
  3. Handgun

What is a Rifle?

Spiral grooves in the barrel known as rifling.

●      Are distinguished by spiral grooves in the barrel known as rifling.

●      Fire cartridges typically with a single projectile called a bullet.

●      Are aimed by aligning the front sight and rear sights and are fired by carefully squeezing the trigger to avoid disturbing the sight picture.

●      Are used for stationary targets.

●      Rifles are fired from shoulder level.

Rifle Calibers explained

Caliber - unit of measure indicating the interior, or bore, diameter of a firearm barrel and the diameter of the ammunition. It is measured in inches or millimeters.

For example, a .270 caliber rifle bore measures 270/1000ths of an inch in diameter.

Every rifle is designed for a specific cartridge. The ammunition used must match the barrel stamp on the firearm. If you cannot find the caliber stamped on the firearm, take it to a gunsmith

For example, there are several .30 caliber firearms that use the same bullet size but are designed for different cartridges. These include the .30-30, 30-06, .308, .300 Win Mag, etc.

Every rifle is designed for a specific cartridge

What is a Shotgun?

  • Usually have a smooth barrel

  • Fire shotshells with multiple projectiles or a single projectile known as a slug

  • If designed to fire slugs, may have a rifled barrel

  • Are pointed, rather than aimed and are fired by quickly “slapping” the trigger when the shooter is ready to fire

  • Are typically used for moving targets in the air

Shotgun Gauge Explained

Shotguns gauge

The gauge refers indirectly to the bore or inside diameter of a shotgun. Gauge is calculated as a number of lead balls of a bore diameter required to make up one pound. Common shotgun gauges are 10-gauge, 12-gauge, 16-gauge, 20-gauge, and 28-gauge. The smaller the gauge number, the larger the shotgun bore.

For example, a 12 gauge shotgun has a bore diameter such that 12 lead balls of the bore diameter would weigh a pound. This is an old British measurement system. A 12-gauge firearm uses only 12-gauge shells.

The only exception to this is the .410 caliber shotgun which has an actual bore diameter of 410/1000ths of an inch. A .410 shotgun is approximately a 67-1/2 gauge.

Shotgun Choke

A choke is designed to alter or shape the distribution of the shot as it leaves the firearm. When a shotshell is fired, the pellets leave the barrel and begin to spread. The farther the pellets travel the greater this spread will be. To control this pellet pattern, shotgun barrels have a choke. The choke is the narrowing at the muzzle end of the shotgun barrel.

A shotgun's choke can be compared to the nozzle of a water hose. As the nozzle is tightened, water shoots out in a long, narrow spray, similar to the full choke on a shotgun. As the nozzle is opened, like the cylinder choke on a shotgun, water shoots out in a wide spray.

The three most common types of chokes are Full Choke, Modified Choke, and Improved Cylinder Choke.

Note: The choke determines shot spread only. It has no influence on velocity or distance! Always be sure to select the proper choke and ammunition combination.

Full Choke

This choke has a tight constriction and a dense pattern. Full choke produces a tight pattern of distribution of the shot. Commonly used when hunting turkey. Full choke is commonly used for longer range.

Shotgun Full Choke

Modified Choke

This choke has less constriction than a full choke. Modified choke produces a more open pattern. Probably the best choke for hunting both upland game and migratory birds like ducks or geese.

Shotgun Modified Choke

Improved Cylinder Choke

This choke is even less constricted than modified. Improved Cylinder choke produces the most open pattern. Preferred for hunting upland game birds and rabbits that flush in close range.


Shotguns improved cylinder choke


Firearms handgun barrel riffling

Handguns are firearms that are designed to be operated with one hand. They don't have shoulder stock as rifles and shotguns do. Short barrels, hand grips and ammunition specifically designed for use in a handgun, characterize these firearms. Handgun cartridges may have a bullet that weighs as much as a rifle bullet, but they typically have far less powder. Consequently ammunition for handguns have a slower velocity and shorter range. Handguns are not as accurate as rifles. There are two primary actions in handguns, semi-automatic and revolver. Like rifles, the caliber of the handgun is stamped on the barrel or on the pistol slide. It is important that you use the correct ammunition in a handgun. Different handgun cartridges are similar in size, so it is easy to confuse them. The ammunition used in handguns must match the barrel stamp on the firearm.