Tips for First Time Shotgun Buyers.


Your first shotgun should meet your current needs and provide you with years of shooting enjoyment.

If you’re a first-time shotgun buyer, Browning would like to offer some tips to make your first firearm a safe, prudent and useful purchase.

A few interesting things to note are that our founder, John Moses Browning, created both the semi-automatic shotgun (the original Auto-5) and the modern over/under shotgun (Superposed/Citori).

Mr. Browning's autoloading design genius can be seen in the modern Browning A5, Maxus and Silver shotguns. His original Superposed over/under evolved into today's line of Citori and Citori 725 shotguns. The Superposed/Citori design has been the standard of over and under reliability for over three-quarters of a century. In addition, John Moses Browning designed some of the first pump-action shotguns for Winchester Repeating Arms in the 1890s. They are the foundation upon which many modern pump-action designs are based, like today's Browning  BPS.

The point is, of course, that our heritage of shotgun knowledge spans the centuries, and we hope we can help you make the right decision on your first shotgun purchase. 

John Moses Browning with his "4-Bs" trapshooting team. He not only invented many of the great shotguns of all time, he actively used them as part of his personal lifestyle.


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Pick an Action Type You're Comfortable With.

There are several types shotguns available on today’s market, and all have their advantages and limitations. 


Hinge-action shotguns have one or two barrels and are easily understood by new shooters.

Over & Unders and Other Break Barrel Shotguns

Hinge-action or break-action shotguns can have one or two barrels and are very intuitive. Thus, they are the easiest to understand and operate for a first-time shotgunner. 

With the “safety” placed in the on safe position, the action is opened by pushing a lever on the top of the receiver. You pivot the barrel(s) down to open the action, insert shell(s)  into the chamber(s) then firmly close the action. 

When you’re ready to fire you simply move the “safety” to the off safe position, take aim and squeeze the trigger. On Browning double-barrel shotguns with a single trigger, the trigger will automatically reset when you release it after the first shot. It then only requires another trigger pull to fire the second barrel. 

To reload, you open the action, which also ejects the fired shells, and insert fresh shell(s) into the chamber(s). Close the action and you’re ready to shoot again.

The advantages of the hinge-action shotgun are overall simplicity and durability, ease of cleaning and their reliability with a wide variety of the proper gauge and length of ammunition. Their major limitation is you only get one shot per barrel before having to reload.

The Browning over/under Citori 725, Citori and Cynergy are among the world’s most respected shotguns both on the range and in the field. The single-barrel Browning BT-99 has a dedicated following among trap shooters.


Pump-action shotguns are noted for their reliability.

Pump-Action Shotguns

Another popular shotgun type is the pump-action or slide-action. These are single barrel, manually-operated repeaters. The shells are loaded one by one into the magazine tube located under the barrel. 

With the “safety” in the on safe position, pulling the forearm rearward, then pushing it forward loads a shell from the magazine into the barrel. With the “safety” in the off safe position, the gun will fire one shell when the trigger is pulled. The forearm is again cycled back and forward to eject the fired shell and load a fresh shell from the magazine. 

The advantages of the pump-action shotgun are reliability under adverse conditions, the ability to use a variety of different ammunition types ranging from light game loads to heavy hunting shells and the ability to reload the magazine at any time. Remember, with a pump shotgun you must manually cycle the action after each shot to load another shell. 

The Browning BPS is a sturdy pump shotgun that ejects fired shells straight downward, making it ideal for both right- and left-handed shooters.


Autoloading shotguns offer quicker follow-up shots.

John Moses Browning poses with his revolutionary Automatic 5 shotgun, designed in 1898.

Autoloading Shotguns

Another popular shotgun type is the autoloading or semi-automatic. These are single barrel repeaters that use either a portion of the recoil energy or the pressure from the propellant gases when a shell is fired to operate the action. 

Like a pump-action shotgun, the shells are loaded one by one into the magazine tube located under the barrel. Pulling back on the bolt handle and releasing it loads a shell from the magazine into the barrel. With the “safety” in the off safe position, the gun will fire one shell when the trigger is pulled. The energy from the fired shell instantly operates the bolt, ejecting the fired shell and loading a fresh shell from the magazine. You’re now ready to fire the next shot with just the pull of the trigger.

The major advantage of the autoloading shotgun is very quick follow-up shots. Be aware that autoloading shotguns tend to be more sensitive to the type of ammunition used to ensure the most reliable operation.

Browning leads the industry in the breadth and depth of our autoloading shotgun lineup. The recoil-operated Browning A5 and the gas-operated Maxus and Silver autoloaders are all excellent candidates for anyone looking for outstanding performance and the utmost in reliability.

When you purchase your Browning shotgun, make sure you also buy the ammunition and accessories you’ll need – important things like choke tubes, locking gun storage cases and basic cleaning supplies. 


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Pick a Gauge You’re Comfortable With.


Versatile and effective, the 12 gauge shotgun is the most popular gauge.

One of the most important aspects of selecting your first shotgun is what gauge it should be. Gauge is a traditional English measurement describing the diameter of the barrel. In general, the smaller the gauge number, the larger the barrel diameter. For example, a 12 gauge shotgun has a barrel that is almost ¾" in diameter, while a 20 gauge shotgun has a barrel diameter of about 6/10ths of an inch.

Naturally, a larger barrel diameter allows for a heavier payload of shot to be fired from a single shell. However, as the velocity and/or weight of the payload increase, so does the recoil or “kick” you feel when the shell is fired. Being pounded by recoil is never pleasant and even experienced shooters can develop a flinch, especially when firing many shells in a single session.

Ammunition availability, in terms of both location and variety, is broadest for the 12 gauge. You can readily purchase shells ranging from light target loads with one ounce or less of birdshot up to heavy magnum waterfowl or turkey hunting loads with twice that payload. You can also get buckshot and rifled slugs for big game hunting and home security. Naturally, the heavier and faster the payload goes out the front of the barrel, the greater the felt recoil is for the user.

Due to their smaller diameter, 20 gauge shotgun shells generally contain smaller payloads than 12 gauge shells, and generally their felt recoil is somewhat lighter. The 20 gauge often appeals to younger and smaller-statured shooters. There are still many factory loads available in 20 gauge, including birdshot, buckshot and rifled slugs. 

Make sure that the shotgun ammunition you purchase is the correct gauge and length for your shotgun, which is marked on the barrel. It’s always a prudent safety practice to never mix different gauges of shotgun shells in a box, your pocket or other container.

Most Browning shotguns are offered in your choice of 12 and 20 gauge models. Certain Browning models are also offered in 16 gauge or 28 gauge, or in the smaller .410 bore.

The "gauge" system was created centuries ago to determine how many lead balls of a given bore diameter could be made from one pound of pure lead. In other words, if you divide a pound of lead into 12 round balls, the diameter of each ball equals "12 gauge." Thus you get 20 balls per pound for 20 gauge, 28 balls for 28 gauge and so forth. A bit crazy, but it's the way it was done. And we still use the gauge system today, with the exception of .410 bore shotguns, which is a measurement of bore diameter. (Photo Credit: HUNTERcourse.com, the Official Hunter Safety
Education Course.)


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Don’t Choke when Picking the Right Choke Tube.


Interchangeable choke tubes let you quickly install the right tube for any game or target presentation.

Chokes change the density of the pattern made by the pellets, as shown by a tighter choke tube pattern on the left and a more open choke tube pattern on the right.

Shotguns are designed to fire ammunition that contains many small, individual pellets or shot, hence the term shotgun. Controlling how widely those pellets spread apart at a given distance is controlled by how much constriction or choke is present at the barrel’s muzzle. The more construction or choke, the smaller and denser the shot pattern will be at any given distance.   

A full choke will produce a tighter pattern than a modified choke, and a modified choke will produce a tighter pattern than an improved cylinder choke. A cylinder choke has no constriction at all. Full chokes keep the pattern denser at longer ranges. More open chokes let the shot pattern spread out, making it easier for you to hit fast moving targets at closer ranges.

Depending on the specific model and gauge, Browning shotguns may use one of three different types of choke tubes – Invector-DS, Invector-Plus or Standard Invector.

These tubes are interchangeable between Browning barrels of the same gauge that are threaded for that type of choke tube. For example, you can use a Browning 12 gauge Invector-Plus choke tube in any Browning 12 gauge barrel that is threaded for the Invector-Plus system.

However, the three different types of Browning choke tubes are not interchangeable between one another or among different gauges. For example, you cannot install a 20 gauge Standard Invector choke tube on a barrel designed for a 12 Invector-DS choke tube.

The correct type of choke tube your shotgun uses will be clearly marked on your barrel along with the gauge and chamber length. If you have questions refer to your owner’s manual, ask your Browning dealer or click here for more information. 

All new Browning shotgun barrels are fitted with interchangeable choke tubes so you can easily match your pattern to your shooting or hunting situation. Most Browning shotguns come with choke tubes in full, modified and improved cylinder (F/M/IC) constrictions to cover most needs. Specialty choke tubes for hunting and clay target sports are also available from Browning. 


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Understand the Law and Get Additional Training and Firearm Safety Information from a Reliable Source.


Always practice firearm safety at home and in the field.

With firearm ownership comes great individual responsibility.

Make sure you comply with the firearm laws and regulations for your location and that you read and understand your owner’s manual before you store, load or use your new firearm. Take some time to do additional research on the skills you need to develop to be a safe and effective firearm owner.  

Your local gun store, gun range or shooting club may offer basic and advanced classes in firearm safety, marksmanship and home protection from certified instructors. There are many good online resources available as well. 

One excellent resource for both local gun laws and training is the National Rifle Association. You can learn more at https://onlinetraining.nra.org

All Browning shotguns are shipped with a free locking device to assist in the safe storage of firearms.


It's always wise to get additional training in firearm safety .

Gun Safety Starts with You. Here are some good rules to live by when handling firearms:

  1. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  2. Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use. 
  3. Don't rely on your gun's "safety." 
  4. Be sure of your target and what's beyond it.
  5. Use correct ammunition. 
  6. If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle with care!
  7. Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting. 
  8. Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting. 
  9. Don't alter or modify your gun, and have guns serviced regularly. 
  10.  Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using. 

Learn more about firearm safety at https://www.nssf.org/safety/