Shotguns for Hunting Small Game | MeatEater Gear

Small game hunting can be a rewarding and challenging activity for outdoors enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or a newcomer to the sport, having the right equipment can make all the difference. One essential piece of equipment for small game hunting is a shotgun. Here, we will explore the benefits of using a shotgun for small game hunting and how to choose the right one.

Benefits of using a shotgun for small game hunting

  1. Versatility: Shotguns are versatile firearms that can be used for a variety of hunting scenarios. They are ideal for small game hunting because they offer a wide range of ammunition options, including shot sizes, loads, and velocities. This versatility allows hunters to choose the best ammunition for the type of game they are hunting and the environment they are hunting in.
  2. Increased Accuracy: Shotguns are also known for their increased accuracy over other types of firearms when shooting at moving targets. The spread of shot pellets allows for a greater margin of error when aiming at fast-moving small game, such as rabbits or squirrels.
  3. Minimal Meat Damage: Another benefit of using a shotgun for small game hunting is that it causes minimal meat damage. Shotguns are designed to deliver a spread of small pellets, which makes them less likely to cause extensive damage to the meat of the animal being hunted. This is particularly important for hunters who plan to consume their game.
  4. Less Noise: Shotguns also produce less noise compared to other types of firearms, making them an ideal choice for hunting small game in areas where noise levels need to be kept low.
  5. Increased Safety: Shotguns are generally considered safer firearms compared to rifles because of the spread of shot pellets. This makes them less likely to cause injury to unintended targets if the shooter misses their intended target. Additionally, shotguns are less likely to shoot through walls and other obstacles, reducing the risk of injury or property damage.

Choosing the right shotgun for small game hunting

  1. Gauge: The gauge of a shotgun refers to the diameter of the barrel. Common gauges for small game hunting include 12, 16, 20, and 28 gauges. The gauge you choose will depend on your personal preference and the type of small game you plan to hunt. For most small game, a 20 gauge is adequate. However, if you plan to hunt larger game, a 12 gauge may be necessary.
  2. Action: Shotguns come in three primary actions: pump, semi-automatic, and break-action. Pump-action shotguns are the most common type of shotgun and are reliable and easy to use. Semi-automatic shotguns are faster and more efficient, but also more expensive. Break-action shotguns are the most traditional and offer simplicity and reliability.
  3. Barrel Length: The length of the shotgun barrel will affect the accuracy and maneuverability of the firearm. Longer barrels are more accurate but can be cumbersome to maneuver in tight spaces, while shorter barrels are easier.


In conclusion, using a shotgun for small game hunting can be a highly effective and rewarding experience. Shotguns like lever action shotgun offer versatility, accuracy, minimal meat damage, less noise, and increased safety compared to other types of firearms. When choosing the right shotgun for small game hunting, it’s important to consider the gauge, action, and barrel length to ensure that you have the right firearm for your specific hunting needs. By taking the time to choose the right shotgun and ammunition, small game hunters can increase their chances of success and have an enjoyable and safe hunting experience. Remember, safety should always be a top priority when using firearms, so make sure to practice safe hunting practices and follow all local hunting regulations.