The shotgun is the utility weapon of firearms…
It’s useful for hunting and home defense, it’s easy to shoot, and requires less skill than a rifle.
The first major use of issued shotguns by the U.S. military occurred during the Philippine-American War.
U.S. troops engaged in close quarters combat with natives who fought a guerrilla-style war.
Sometimes these men would disguise themselves as civilians to get close to U.S. soldiers.
Then they would attack the soldiers in hand-to-hand combat using swords and knives.
Since the Philippine fighters would be close when they attacked, the shotgun was perfect for fighting in this range.
The U.S. Army purchased 200 Winchester Model 1897 shotguns for use in the Philippines.
This shotgun, also called the M97, is what most people think of when they picture a military shotgun.
The M97 went on to serve through the Vietnam War, and even has roles in current day warfare as a breaching gun and close quarter weapon.
Now, when it comes to guns, especially the shotgun, the barrel is the center of the firearm.
All the components of the firearm work to send a projectile down the barrel.
One thing that sets shotguns apart from other guns is the smoothbore barrel.
In contrast, many modern pistols and rifles have what is called a rifled barrel.
The invention of the rifled barrel made it possible to shoot bullets more accurately with greater velocity.
These days everything from handguns to cannons can use a rifled barrel.
But both types of barrels are common today…
So, here is a breakdown of the different types of barrels, and which might be best for your next gun.
At some point, the majority of guns in history had a smoothbore barrel.
A smoothbore is just like it sounds…
The inside of the barrel is completely smooth, there is no rifling to spin the bullet.
Early muzzle loading guns had bigger barrels than their projectiles.
This made sure the projectile would fit and the shooter would be able to ram the projectile when loading.
But, this lack of precise fit meant that the projectile would lose power and velocity.
When the gun was fired the pressure would go past the projectile. This would cause the projectile to wobble down the barrel leading to an inaccurate shot.
It would take hundreds of years for the full potential of a firearm to be realized thanks to the rifling of the barrel.
Rifling is the pattern of grooves formed on the inside of the barrel.
Rifling is made with a spiral or twist. This design grips the bullet and rotates or spins the bullet.
The rifling of the barrel, and the resulting twist it creates, will give the bullet stability while it moves toward its target.
The pattern also provides a better seal between the bullet and the barrel because it stops gas from moving past the bullet.
The result is better velocity and accuracy.
One of the most important characteristics of a rifled barrel is the twist rate.
The twist rate is the distance the bullet travels in the barrel to complete a full rotation.
For example, if the bullet travels 8 inches to complete a full turn, then the barrel would have a ratio of 1:8.
Rifling is usually done in one of two ways: traditional or polygonal.
Most rifles have the traditional style. This means the rifling is pressed or machined into the barrel.
Polygonal rifling gives the barrel a hexagonal or octagonal appearance. This design is most common in modern handguns.
These days the majority of modern firearms have a rifled barrel – most shotguns are the exception.
What does this mean for you?
Unless you are buying a shotgun you will be buying a gun with a rifled barrel.
So… next time you are considering a new gun look into the barrel’s twist rate.
When you figure out the twist rate, you can decide what ammo is best for your gun.
For the average shooter, using the right ammo can make a big difference in accuracy.
For instance, a gun with a 1:10 twist rate might be better suited for a heavier bullet, where a lighter bullet will be more accurate with a 1:6 twist rate.
My point is, you may have a favorite gun. Yet, the gun might not be shooting to its best potential if you are using the wrong ammo.
Smoothbore and rifled barrels have been around a very long time, they each serve a different purpose depending on your firearm needs.
Understanding how they affect your accuracy can make you a better shooter.