How to Load a Shotgun Safely

How to Load a Shotgun Safely [Explained]

Shotguns are excellent and popular weapons for hunting, shooting sports, and self-defense. However, you cannot shoot a shotgun, unless you load it first.

Today, we are going to learn how to load a shotgun, how to unload it, which safety precautions to follow, and what else you need to know about loading your shotgun.

Let’s get started.

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How to Load a Shotgun

Here we are going to take a look at the main types of shotguns – pump action, break action, and semi-automatic – and the specifics for loading and unloading them.

How to Load a Pump Shotgun

  1. The first step is to check whether the firearm is already loaded or not. Then double-check that the safety is on (check the manual, if you are not sure where it is) and that the barrel is pointed away from you and in a safe direction. This applies to any type of gun you want to load.
  2. Next up, you need to determine the shotgun gauge or the diameter of the bore. The most common shotgun gauges are 10 gauge, 12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, 28 gauge, and .410 bore. It’s important to know the gauge of your shotgun, so you can select the right shell size.
  3. Open the action of the shotgun by pushing the flat side release button. Make sure that the trigger and trigger guard are facing away from you.
  4. Now load a round into the chamber, make sure the brass part is pointing back. When you are finished you can close the action by sliding the forearm forward.
  5. The rest of the shells can be loaded into the magazine by pushing them into the magazine tube through the port at the bottom of the gun. Repeat until the tube is full – or until the shells refuse to go in.
How to Load a Pump Shotgun

How to Unload a Pump Shotgun

To unload a pump action shotgun, it is best to cycle the shells through the action, which will eject them. To do this, you need to push the slide release, slowly open the action, and pull the shells out of the ejection port.

Keep in mind that you will have to depress the bolt release button every time you want to unload a shell.

How to Load a Break-Action Shotgun

  1. Most break-action shotguns (over/under, side by sides, single shot) have an opening lever at the top of the frame, which will open the gun if you push it to the right.
  2. Drop the shells inside, and close the gun firmly, while making sure to not slam it shut. There is some debate among break-action shotgun owners whether you should close the gun with your thumb or not, but it does not really matter.

How to Unload a Break-Action Shotgun

Unloading a break-action shotgun starts with pushing the lever to open the action. When you open the gun, you can hold one hand over the breech of the gun with ejectors and let it kick the empty cartridges into your hand, so you can keep them for reloading or disposal.#

How to Unload a Break-Action Shotgun

How to Load a Semi-Automatic Shotgun

  1. Open the action by pulling the bolt handle back. Some shotguns, like the models made in Italy, require you to first push the cartridge drop lever.
  2. Next, insert a shell into the loading port and push the bolt release button. On most guns, the bolt release is situated just below the ejection port.
  3. Push shells into the tubular magazine through the loading port at the bottom of the gun, using your thumb.

How to Unload a Semi-Automatic Shotgun

In order to unload a semi-automatic shotgun, you have to open the action, cycle through it, and remove the shells in the chamber one by one. You will repeat the process until you are sure there are no shells left in the magazine or the chamber of the gun.

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Safety Precautions of Shotgun Reloading

Here are some essential safety tips you should follow when reloading your shotgun.

Safety Precautions of Shotgun Reloading
  1. Double-check your ammunition. Always be sure that you are only using the ammunition the gun is chambered for. While longer shells might be able to fit into shorter chambers, they can create a dangerous pressure inside which will cause the chamber to not eject or cycle through. Furthermore, you should never attempt to force a shot shell into the magazine with tools such as a screwdriver. The shell could accidentally explode, causing serious injury to yourself or others.
  2. Ensure the gun safe is on. It is essential to learn how to operate the safety on your shotgun. Always double-check to see it is on before loading the gun with ammo. Be aware that you can put the safety on regardless of whether the shotgun is loaded or not.
  3. Keep your fingers off the trigger. It might sound obvious, but never keep your fingers on the trigger, while you are reloading. Failing to do so could result in disaster.
  4. Point your gun away from you and in a safe direction. Never point your gun at yourself, or at someone else. And as a general safety precaution, always make sure the muzzle of your shotgun is directed in a safe direction when reloading.
  5. Read the manual. In case you are not sure how to load and unload your gun, it is always a good idea to read the manual.
  6. Always treat your gun as loaded. Sometimes you might think a gun is unloaded, but it turns out it’s not. In other words, and for your own safety and the safety of others, always treat your gun as loaded, until you have checked the chamber, and magazine and verified it is, indeed, unloaded.

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Final Words

There you have it – you now have a better idea how to load a shotgun and the safety measures you should take when loading and unloading one.

It is important to remember that you should always treat any gun as loaded, and to place safety first. Furthermore, the process of reloading a shotgun is not that complicated, you just need a bit of practice, and in no time, you will become a pro.

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