Minnesota Hunter Safety Course


Modern Firearms

Shotgun vs. Rifle

After the caplock, breechloaders came into play which once again revolutionized firearms. These are firearms that are loaded at the breech (rear) end of the barrel. The primer, gunpowder and projectile were all incorporated together to form modern ammunition. The next firearms we will explore are the modern-day rifles and shotguns.

Both rifles and shotguns feature a long barrel, and are braced against the hunter's shoulder when fired. The two differ on the type of ammunition used and the design of the barrel. Rifles fire a single projectile (bullet) great distances. This requires great force and accuracy, so the inside of the barrel is very thick, and contains spiralling lands and grooves to give the bullet a spin as it moves toward the target.

Shotguns, on the other hand, can fire either a single projectile (slug) or multiple projectiles (shot). Generally the shotgun's projectile travels considerably less far that a high-powered rifle and thus, the barrel is much thinner since it doesn't have to handle as much force. There is also no rifling in most shotgun barrels.

IMPORTANT! Some very old shotguns will have an old-style Damascus Barrel, which cannot handle the high pressure of smokeless powder, used in ammunition today. If you have an old Damascus Barrel shotgun, only use it with black powder or its equivalent.