Airsoft Basics: What is a Shotgun?
In the real world, a Shotgun is a long-barreled firearm which fires multiple pellets, known as "shot" from a single straight walled cartridge, known as a "shell".
Also being capable of firing single projectiles, known as "slugs", and a variety of special loads from less-lethal "beanbag" shells to the famous Hatton door breaching round used by the SAS, Shotguns are one of the most versatile firearms available today, and serve in practically all Military and Law Enforcement organisations in the world.
So, what is an Airsoft Shotgun? Put simply, an Airsoft shotgun is a compressed air or gas-powered replica of a real world shotgun design which fires 6mm BBs and is suitable for Airsoft skirmishing.
Airsoft shotguns come in many different shapes, and sizes, and with different capabilities on the Airsoft battlefield.
If you want to learn more about the different types of Airsoft shotguns out there so you can make the right choice for you, read on for our breakdown!
Pump Action Shotguns
Ah, the classic pumpy! This is what most people picture when they hear the word "shotgun", and it should come as no surprise that most Airsoft shotguns are replicas of pump action shotguns as they are so prolific in popular culture and serve with practically every Military and Armed Police unit in the world.
This type of shotgun is manually cocked using a pump at the front which is connected to the action via "cocking bars", making the pump action shotgun very easy to cock quickly which lends itself perfectly to its role of room-to-room combat domination.
If you want the powerful feel and menacing audio of racking the pump back before each shot, a pump action is definitely your thing, but pump actions come in several different flavours for Airsoft. Let's take a look at what is out there!
These are the most basic shotguns on the Airsoft market and are often also the cheapest, making them great for entry level Airsofters who want something to get them used to using an Airsoft gun without diving in deep by buying an AEG straight away.
Single-shot shotguns are challenging to use in a skirmish, but are great fun shooting in the back garden, and are a useful step for younger Airsofters who may want to practice using something more potent than a Nerf gun, but are not yet ready for an AEG.
Most single-shot shotguns are constructed from ABS polymer, feed from detachable box magazines and fire at around 300-330FPS (around 1-joule muzzle energy). Most also have an adjustable HOP-up, though this is usually not compatible with aftermarket upgrades it still gives them decent range and accuracy when compared to spring powered "BB guns" of the same price range.
For serious skirmishing, there are better options than single-shot spring action shotguns, though many Airsofters choose to carry them as a backup weapon due to their low weight, for the added challenge of taking an enemy player out with a single action gun.
Tri-shot shotguns are the most popular Airsoft shotguns on skirmish sites around the country, and have become remarkably affordable in recent years. As to the difference between a tri-shot and a single shot? The clue is in the name!
The tri-shot shotgun has 3 inner barrels inside its outer barrel, and fires 3 BBs in a tight spread pattern with each pull of the trigger, just like a real shotgun!
Tri-shot shotguns are a formidable skirmish primary in CQB, and are great for getting the first shot off quickly as you enter a room, and excel when it comes to engaging moving targets.
Most tri-shot shotguns feed from shotgun shell style magazines, and operate exactly the same as their single-shot cousins but are slightly harder to cock due to their more powerful spring. Tri-shot shotguns usually have a fixed HOP-up which is optimised for engagements at close range out to 25-30m, and work very well with 0.2g BBs.
Like their spring-powered relatives, a gas tri-shot shotgun fires multiple BBs per trigger pull to give you a spread pattern which improves your hit probability in-game, especially if your target is moving quickly.
Gas-powered tri-shot shotguns feed from the same shotgun shell style magazines as their spring counterparts but are far easier to cock quickly due to the lack of a spring to compress before each shot.
This means they can be cocked much quicker than their spring action counterparts, giving you a rate of fire advantage, and are also great for players with less physical strength who may struggle to cock a spring action tri-shot.
The bonus with gas-powered tri-shots is that you get to choose between 3 and 6 BBs per trigger pull, giving you the option of an even wider spread pattern, making it a formidable foe to face down with in CQB.
Like the spring-powered tri-shots, the gas tri-shot platforms also use a fixed HOP-up which is set for close range engagements, and you should expect effective fire out to 30m with a gas-powered tri-shot.
Shell Ejecting Gas Powered
The most realistic Airsoft replica shotguns on the market; there is nothing quite like shooting one of these bad boys! That said, these shotguns are relatively expensive, maintenance intensive and are generally for advanced users who value realism over a simple and easy-to-use operating system, and those who participate in competitive Airsoft shooting.
These shotguns are manufactured by APS and PPS, and function almost exactly as a real shotgun does; feeding from an internal magazine tube, firing one shell per trigger pull, and ejecting the spent shell after the pump is racked back.
Each shell contains a gas or CO2 charge and several BBs, and each shell is only a single trigger pulls worth of fun, so if you want one of these shotguns be prepared to stock up on shells and get practising as these shotguns are much more difficult to load and use effectively in a skirmish than practically any other shotgun we have talked about.
Automatic Electric Shotguns are a recent innovation from Airsoft legends Tokyo Marui, and take the spring-powered tri-shot mechanism and hybridize it with the AEG gearbox system to produce an Airsoft shotgun which is capable of semi or fully automatic fire.
These shotguns are relatively new to the market, and are currently available in two forms; the AA12 and the SGR12. Both of these electric shotguns feed from a detachable box magazine or a drum mag and are powered by a standard Airsoft battery, either LiPo or NiMh.
An electric shotgun is a potent tool in any Airsoft skirmish, and is second only to Airsoft Support guns in the volume of fire they can put out. Due to their size and bulk, these shotguns are more difficult to wield in the cramped confines of a CQB skirmish site, but this is balanced by the volume of fire they can put out and their 3 shot spread pattern which increases hit probability.
Electric shotguns also have another trick up their sleeve; the ability to vary the size of their spread pattern using the innovative tri-HOP-up system. This positions the HOP-up rubber of the two side barrels at a slight angle, allowing you to increase the spread for close range targets, and tighten the spread when you need to bag an enemy player at long range.
Why use a Shotgun?
Shotguns are best used in CQB where the advantages of a multi-shot spread pattern can help you gain a quick hit on a target that is only exposed for a fraction of a second, or a fast moving enemy player.
The realistic pump action operation is a big draw for Shotguns, and many skirmishers have one in their arsenal for the odd occasion they want to enjoy the feel and sound of racking the pump before each shot.
Skirmishing with a Shotgun is a challenging playstyle, akin to that of a Sniper, and a Shotgunner must be willing to choose their shots and time when they enter a room to take advantage of the enemy dropping their guard.
Tri-shot Shotguns don't have the range an assault rifle has, and are far better suited to close ranged engagements than longer ranges where you will have to close ground to be effective.
Electric Shotguns are well suited to being used outdoors as ambush weapons and have the capability to take out several enemy players in rapid succession. Like other Shotguns, electric Shotguns are well suited to energetic, aggressive players who like to be up front in the vanguard getting all the kills.
There you have it! You can now go out into the world more well equipped to choose the right Airsoft shotgun for you! If you are ready to rack that pump and get blasting, check out our range of Airsoft shotguns by clicking the button below!