Why do some shotguns have two barrels?

VD October 10 2021

 A shoulder weapon with a long barrel, engineered to fire a shotshell (a shell containing multiple spherical pellets) or a slug (a single projectile), is known as a shotgun.

In the early times, to counter the slow reload speed, some shotguns had a double barrel. These double-barrel shotguns allowed the shooter to fire twice, increasing their chance of survival on the frontier.

Other reasons for the double-barrel shotguns are that it is easy to shoot because by holding one hand, you can support both barrels. Plus there's less recoil in a double-barrel shotgun.

Shotguns have various purposes including hunting, law enforcement work, and personal defense. Since the shotshells came out in the early days of rifles, shotguns were used for shooting birds and other small game animals. At present, shotguns are widely used in clay target games such as skeet or trap shooting. Law enforcement agencies use them when breaching during raids because they're cheap but also highly effective.

Shotguns are very simple weapons with minimal moving components compared to other types of firearms which makes them reliable under extreme conditions when the timing is crucial.

They're most effective at short range and they can fire a variety of ammunition such as shotgun slugs, bean bags, or less-lethal rubber projectiles. It is also possible to use buckshot shells.

Shotguns are powerful close-range weapons that can quickly take down targets with a clean shot and if need be they can work as blunt force objects because they do not make much noise when fired and the pellets spread out after firing so they will strike multiple targets in one burst.

However, shotguns aren't very accurate at long distances; therefore, experienced shooters should only shoot at medium range (40 meters/130 feet maximum). And it takes time to master the weapon's speed and accuracy for longer distance shots especially since shotguns produce a lot of recoils which can cause a slight misalignment between the shooter and the target.

Shotguns are a very efficient type of firearm that is capable of hitting multiple targets at once without much noise because it's quiet compared to other types of firearms. They're also relatively cheap because they contain fewer parts than other types of guns, making them more reliable under extreme conditions as well as being durable. To conclude, double-barrel shotguns were used in the early days to increase survival chances on the frontier against slow reload times for single-shot rifles. Then as time progressed different types of ammunition were created such as shotgun slugs, bean bags and rubber projectiles making shotguns great weapons apart from their original purpose: hunting and sport shooting.

Today some law enforcement agencies use shotguns to breach during raids and they're also featured in clay target games such as skeet or trap shooting.

Shotguns have been popular for centuries, but they have some pros and cons. Read more to find out what they are.

What are double-barrel or two-barrel shotguns for?

In shotguns with muzzleloading, the shooter was required to load gunpowder and bullet in the barrel using a rod. This was quite a long process, and if the shot was missed, the person might have to face a precarious situation. But double-barrel shotguns offered a second chance to shoot, increasing the odds of survival in war or on the border.

Shotguns were invented in the 14th century, and there are many differences between modern and old prototypes. Nonetheless, the goal is still to put many projectiles in the target as soon as possible.

Another reason for the two barrels was increased accuracy. With a separate barrel, the firearm became more accurate because the person could concentrate on shooting one target. However, this wasn't usually important until 20th century when rifles and shotguns had to be used in many types of games such as skeet or trap shooting.

Also, double-barrel shotguns allowed people to make fast follow-up shots without reloading. The gun had a hammer that held both charges together under pressure, but they would fall when the trigger was pulled again.

As you can see, there were many reasons why some shotguns have two barrels although most of them deal with sport shooting and hunting rather than war and border fights.

What is-action or two-action shotgun?

Action is the way how a gun works and functions, and it determines the number of barrels, ammunition type, and whether you can use it in different weather conditions.

Shotguns can be:

  1. Single-action or two-action: single-action means that you have to manually cock the hammer using your thumb after each shot while double-action shotguns require less effort because you just need to pull the trigger to fire again. This option reduces the time between shots and makes follow-up shots faster.
  2. Break open or pump: break open shotguns are divided into two types as over/under shotguns (most common) where the barrel rests on top of another one, and side by side shotguns where they're next to each other horizontally. On the other hand, pump shotguns are more modern (19th century), and the action is held together by a single pivot or hinge-point at the bottom of the stock. This enables shooters to keep their guns loaded all the time, making it popular for hunting.
  3. Double-barreled or single-shot: double-barreled (two barrels) shotguns usually feature over/under design while single-shot has just one barrel that can be manually reloaded after each shot. The former requires less effort because you only need to pull the trigger once but it's not as accurate compared to bolt actions because there is no mechanism attached to guide cartridges during the loading process.
  4. Automatic or pump-action: Automatic shotguns were designed with automatic cartridges that reload themselves after each shot, making follow-up shots faster. On the contrary, pump-action shotguns have a slide used to eject empty cartridges and load new ones manually. The person needs to do this every time before shooting another round leading to a slower fire rate as well as reduced accuracy.

If you're looking for a shotgun for hunting or other activities such as clay target games such as skeet or trap shooting, choose between single-action or double-action models depending on your preferences. The former requires more effort but it's more accurate while double-action shotguns are modern and allow fast follow-up shots without reloading. However, break open shotguns are most suited for hunters because they can be loaded quickly allowing hunters to fire fast follow-up shots when it's needed.

Benefits of two-barrel shotguns

The main benefit of a two-barrel shotgun was the availability of the second shot in older times when there was no auto-reload mechanism. But still, there are some real reasons you should buy these beauties.

These double-barrel shotguns are heavy since their large weight reduces the recoil for the shooter. You should already know how strong the recoil of shotguns can be. So, this is quite a benefit as you can easily keep a stable follow-through.

These guns have also had a choke option which can be used to control the bullet spread. Sometimes the two barrels of the gun have different chokes, like one with a cylindrical choke and the other with a modified choke.

The downsides of two-barrel shotguns

Due to the heavier weight of double-barrel shotguns, hunters do not like to carry them around all day just to save themselves from a small amount of recoil.

Another downside is both the barrels should be aligned perfectly to hit the same target with both shots. The thing is, the barrels are manufactured separately and then merged at some point. If this is the case, both or at least one barrel will not shoot the required target.

Nowadays, shotguns are modified to use smokeless powder. The thing is, smokeless powder has much more power than black powder or even pellets for that matter. This leads to much stronger recoil and reduces accuracy.

Yes, this gun has an increased weight but it will not reduce the recoil as you can imagine. So, if you're giving a hunt with one of these beauties prepare yourself for a hard time shooting multiple shots at your prey quickly because of the higher recoil rate. These are side-by-side double barrels shotguns that are usually manufactured in Spain, Belgium, or Germany where their quality standards are high and perfect for hunting purposes.

This gun may be heavy but won't reduce the recoil which makes it harder to shoot multiple shots quickly.

Single-barrel shotguns are fitted with simpler sights that can be used to hunt small or medium games at relatively close range. Their weight is also lighter which makes them easier to carry while hunting. However, these guns should not be used for trapshooting or any other clay target games because they won't help you improve your performance and scores even if you're a professional like Phil Michelson who has an amazing trophy list containing three trophies from the Olympics and five titles in World Cup (the best results ever).

There is no second shot thus it's faster to shoot multiple rounds quickly making follow-up shots much easy.

It's the most suitable gun for beginners because of its lower recoil rate which allows easier learning how to operate it without injuring your shoulder.

Single-barrel shotguns are usually manufactured in America or Italy, thus they're mostly used for hunting small game like rabbits and squirrels due to their accuracy at short ranges. Just bear in mind that this gun is not suitable if you want to hunt birds as it does not have enough power for killing targets with large wingspread.

Their weight lets hunters carry them around without tiring out fast but the recoil can be higher than with double-barrel models.

This is mainly because of the lower amount of metal needed to manufacture a single barrel compared to two barrels which makes these shotguns lighter than double-barrels. So, all in all, there are some benefits and downsides for each type of shotgun regardless of double-barrel or single barrel.

Do two-barrel shotguns shoot two bullets at once?

There were some in early times but not anymore, so the simple answer is no. First of all, shooting two bullets at the same time will produce great recoil. Moreover, guns that can fire more than one bullet at once are called machine guns by law in the U.S.

Is there a three-barrel shotgun?

The Deuce Plus one is a 3 barrel shotgun, an extension of the double-barrel principle. These guns are ridiculously heavy, and besides their cool look, they are almost useless.


What was the main purpose of the double-barrel shotgun?

The primary reason was to offer a second chance to the shooter.

Are there only double-barrel shotguns?

No, there are single, double, and even triple-barrel shotguns