Pump Action Shotgun: How-Tos

Pump Action Shotgun: How-Tos

The pump-action shotgun is one of the most versatile and powerful firearms that Americans can enjoy. You can use it for hunting and self-defense or for general enjoyment at the gun range.

Don't know how to use one? We can explain “how to” use your pump-action shotgun correctly.

How Do You Use a Pump Action Shotgun?

How to Choose Shot Type

There are three types of shots you can load into a pump-action shotgun: slugs, buckshot, and birdshot.

  • The slugs are made up of single led projectiles, essentially turning the pump-action shotgun into a powerful rifle with less accuracy and range than, say, an AR 15. However, slugs are great if you want to penetrate a target (or multiple targets) and increase the effective range of the weapon more than the other two types of shots.
  • Buckshot features a handful of large pellets per cartridge, with the pellets usually being between a quarter and one-third of an inch in total diameter. These are the shotgun loads recommended for self-defense or for taking down medium-sized game.
  • Birdshot is loaded with several dozen up to several hundred lead or steel pellets. These are better for shooting smaller moving targets (like birds) at relatively short ranges of around 40 yards or so.

Each type of shot can be useful when used for its intended purpose.

How to Check/Unload a Pump Action Shotgun

How to Check/Unload a Pump Action Shotgun | Pump Action Shotgun: How-Tos

Let’s break down how you actually use a pump-action shotgun, starting with checking to see if it's loaded and learning how to unload it.

  • Firstly, make sure the safety is always on; any good shotgun should feature one of these.
  • Checking the magazine tube is next. Visually inspect the opening of the tube; depending on your shotgun model, you may need to hold down the shell lifter, which may also be called an elevator or carrier. Doing this will let you look into the magazine tube.
  • If there is a shell in the magazine tube, hold down the action release and run the action back and forth. Many pump-action shotguns also feature shell stops that you can push inward with your thumb to pop shells out of the magazine.
  • You should also make sure there is a shell in the chamber. You may need to hold down your action release, which could be on either side of the gun next to the trigger guard or even behind the trigger guard. A shell in the chamber should automatically eject when you open the action.

How to Load a Pump Action Shotgun

Loading a pump-action shotgun is fairly simple.

  • Open the action and hold the stock underneath your arm. Pop a shell into the action, then close the action to load your chamber.
  • To load the magazine tube, take the next shell and push it into the action, then pin it in place using your index finger.
  • Use your thumb to push the shell into the magazine tube all the way down.

Do this over and over until your gun is fully loaded. Be sure to close your action and make sure the forend is locked in a place.

You can read more about reloading a shotgun here!

How to Shoot a Pump Action Shotgun


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Shooting a pump-action shotgun is also fairly straightforward. Remember that shotguns are fairly powerful, so you'll need to have a good stance and technique.

  • Your feet should be at least shoulder-width apart, and your dominant foot should be slightly behind you.
  • Lean forward at the waist and always try to keep your shotgun so that the stock rests on the outside of your pectoral muscle. This allows your center mass to absorb most of the recoil.

While there’s a lot more to properly using a pump-action shotgun, these basics will help you learn how to handle these versatile weapons and become better over time.

Did you have any issues with using a shotgun? Let us know in the comments section!

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