A shotgun has a smooth bore barrel and in the UK there are several types available.

Common depictions of shotguns in the media are double barreled side by side shotguns and pump action shotguns but these are only a small minority of what is available and are actually relatively uncommon in UK usage compared to other types.

You need a Shotgun Certificate to own any shotguns in the UK. See more about that here.

Over Under

Likely the most common type of shotgun seen in the UK today is the doubled barrelled shotgun in the Over and Under configuration. These are used for almost all forms of shooting in the UK including game shooting and clay target shooting.

New shooters will often start out with an Over Under as they can be picked up on a budget and adapted for several purposes. Since an over under contains a maximum of 2 cartridges they can be obtained on the section 2 shotgun certificate.


You’ll often see side-by-side shotguns being used for game shooting, as this is what they were designed for, though you’ll occasionally see them at a clay shoot. They are available with a double (one for each barrel) or single trigger.

Side-by-sides are certainly distinct and usually lighter than the Over Under’s.


The second most common type of shotgun in the UK you are likely to see is the Semi-Automatic variety. These guns are also multi purpose but as especially favoured for wild-fowling and practical shooting. They are not restricted to these activities however and can also be seen and used on clay grounds and game shoots.

Semi-automatic shotguns use the recoil from the expansion of gases emitted when a shot is fired to cycle the action and load another cartridge. In addition to the semi automatic picture above which features a tube magazine hidden behind the forend semi automatics are also available with detachable box a magazines


Another type of shotgun is the pump action shotgun which may visually resemble semi automatic but requires the operator to manually cycle or “pump” the action to load another round.

Semi automatics and pump action shotguns can be restricted to hold 2 cartridges in the magazine and 1 in the chamber (2+1) for a maximum capacity of 3 cartridges, these can be held on Shotgun certificates.

Shotguns with a greater capacity than 3 must be held on a section 1 Firearms Certificate.

Firearms UK would like to see a return of all shotguns onto Section 2 Shotgun certificates.


The gauge of a firearm is the inner diameter/bore of the barrel.

The most common bore of Shotgun in the UK is 12 bore. This is also the cheapest ammunition to buy. For a lighter gun and less recoil, others choose to use a 20 bore. It’s worth noting that .410 is quite common, especially for children.

Whilst they are available, 10, 8 and 4 bore shotguns are quite rare in the UK.

©2023 Firearms UK.


We're not around right now. However, you can send us an email and we'll get back to you.


Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?