How to Make a Sawed Off Shotgun

Home security 12 gauge short barrel | How to Make a Sawed Off Shotgun | featured

Do you need a step-by-step guide on how to make a sawed-off shotgun? Making one is easier than you might think. Even first-timers can trim their shotgun barrels down to 18 inches as long as they have the correct tools and guidance.

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How To Make a Sawed Off Shotgun | Easy 5-Step Guide | AGA

Step 1: Decide on the length

gunman with smoking shotgun after a shot | sawn off shotgun

Before diving into the project, you need to decide on the length of your short-barreled shotgun (SBS). Peruse any local guidelines about sawing off shotgun barrels.

If you want to use your modified piece right away, do not go below 18 inches. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) has strict guidelines regarding SBS use because of their firepower and concealability.

Of course, this isn't to say that your sawed-off shotgun barrel can never go below 18 inches. You'll simply have to accomplish the ATF Form-1.

Fill and submit your ATF Form 1- Application to Make and Register a Firearm, pay a $200+ tax, then wait for your approval. Note that the entire screening process can take months.

Step 2: Trim the Shotgun Barrel

A man holds an old, antique, double-barrel shotgun | how to make a sawed off shotgun

Once you have the regulations down, you can begin working on your shotgun. Take a measuring tape, slide it down from the muzzle to the breech face, set your preferred measurements, then trim the barrel.

Most DIYers use hacksaws, but an angle grinder and cut-off wheel would leave a much smoother, cleaner finish. Poorly trimmed barrels can hamper accuracy.

Also, angle grinders can finish the job quicker. Trust us—hacksaws will have you sawing back and forth for hours to pierce through the thick carbon steel of a shotgun barrel.

Step 3: Square Off the Muzzle

Muzzle of double barreled shotguns pointed | what is the point of a sawed off shotgun

Square off the muzzle with a milling machine. Use the shotgun's breech face and locking lug as a surface reference, then measure with a dial test indicator.

Keep making light cuts with your carbide or file to trim the muzzle finely. It should remove some carbon material. Afterward, use the dial test indicator again to see if the breech squares up to over 1,000 in the Y and Z axis.

Step 4: Fill the Barrel Gaps

Opened double-barreled hunting gun against black | double barrel shotgun

After cutting the barrel length and trimming the edges of the muzzle, your project should be looking like a proper sawed-off shotgun. So, now it's time to fill the gaps between the barrels.

There are many ways to remove shotgun barrel gaps, but a straightforward approach would be using a propane torch and a lead solder bar. Make sure to have several tubs of flux on hand. You will need a generous amount of it throughout the barrel soldering process.

Afterward, finish off the barrel gaps with some cold-bluing solution. Doing so will help you achieve a cleaner and generally more appealing finish.

RELATED: Why Choose A Double Barrel Shotgun?

Step 5: Adjust the Forend

close-up on leather bag walnut wood stock pump shotgun | how to make a sawed off shotgun

Trimming the barrel down to less than 18 inches might cause the forend to supersede the barrel, making it unusable. Take some measurements, mark your preferred dimensions, then cut the forend with a miter saw.

Note that you can either trim the stock or cut it off altogether. While leaving just the pistol grip allows for excellent maneuverability, this design compromises accuracy and shootability.

Keeping a short stock, on the other hand, improves functionality. The stock allows you to fire upward of a hundred yards without making your arms go numb or the mechanism malfunctioning.

Pro Tip: Should you remove the stock and try dual-wielding shotguns? If you plan on using this piece as a range toy, then go for it. Just know that dual shotguns have negligible advantages in real-life applications.

What Is the Point of a Sawed-Off Shotgun?

Afro-American man reloads pump action shotgun | sawed off double barrel shotgun

Considering the extra paperwork that comes with using a short-barreled shotgun, you might wonder whether these modified pieces are worth the trouble. While shooting preferences vary on a case-by-case basis, most shooters trim their shotgun barrels to:

  • Have a more portable self-defense shotgun. Most shooters use shotguns as a home defense weapon because their bulky, heavy frame makes them challenging to carry around. These pieces will draw a lot of attention. On the contrary, sawed-off shotguns are light, compact, and convenient. If you stash them under your truck, no one would even guess that you were carrying a weapon.
  • Pack inconspicuously and discreetly. A double-barrel shotgun weighing 8 pounds and measuring upward of 24 inches is not a suitable concealed carry weapon. Never mind printing—you will likely get charged for open carry. To make your shotgun less prominent, consider cutting around five inches from the barrel.
  • Gain an advantage in close-quarters combat. While 24-inch barrels have excellent accuracy, they have zero maneuverability. These pieces typically thrive in outdoor applications. The quickest fix to this issue, however, is to trim the barrel down a few inches.

Bonus: Have you ever wondered why the ATF strictly regulates short-barreled shotguns below 18 inches? The answer: because criminals can easily conceal these dangerous weapons. Any average-sized adult male can hide a sawed-off shotgun or two under a thick trench coat.


Knowing how to make a sawed-off shotgun is one thing, but securing the necessary permits from the ATF is another. Read up on the state laws before modifying your shotgun. Carrying an unlicensed sawed-off shotgun less than 18 inches will put you in a federal penitentiary for up to five years.

Test your newly sawn-off shotgun before using it for anything other than shooting practice. Remember: trimming shotgun barrels reduces accuracy. You might need some time to adjust to their unusual shot placement if you're shooting a sawed-off shotgun for the first time.

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