A long-barrelled, smooth-bore gun, normally used for discharging small shot at modest ranges. 

Shotguns are the most common weapons found on farms. Often used for control of wild animals and game shooting, they are a very effective means of killing all species of farm animals in an emergency and, if used properly, are equally effective and much safer than rifles and handguns. They should be used from a short distance (5-25cm from the target).

For all conventionally farmed livestock species, a 12, 16 or 20 bore shotgun may be used with No. 4, 5 or 6 bird-shot; (a 28 bore or .410 can be used if nothing larger is available, but should not be used on mature bulls, or pigs weighing over 100kg). The muzzle should be held from 5-25cm from the animal’s forehead, aiming down the line of the neck into the main bulk of the body. On no account must the muzzle of a shotgun be held directly against the animal’s head, as this could result in a burst barrel and severe injury to the operator. Ordinary sized bird-shot is capable of inflicting massive injuries when it strikes as a compact mass. When used correctly the shot, in effect, strikes the skull as a single, large-calibre missile measuring approximately 2.0cm in diameter (when using a 12 bore). This has considerable initial penetrating power, due to its relatively high velocity and mass. However, once inside the skull, the pellets within the shot-charge will separate and disperse within the brain cavity, killing the animal outright. Contrary to common belief, the use of a shotgun does not blow the animal’s head off; there is a relatively small entry wound, but the brain is completely destroyed (see Figure 2). This is a much safer and usually much more readily available method than using a free bullet.


Figure 2 Effect of 16 bore shotgun blast from a distance of two inches

In the hands of a competent operator, the shotgun is probably the best piece of equipment available for the humane destruction of most large animals.

In exceptional circumstances (e.g. an agitated bovine in an open space which cannot be approached safely), shotguns can be used to kill large animals from a distance. In such cases, shotguns with open-choke barrels are used in conjunction with special cartridges loaded with solid slugs (N.B. in the UK such use is subject to additional certification and may only be carried out by specially trained and licensed personnel, usually police officers).


Next: Rifle

Back to top