Do Shotguns Have Rifling?

Unless you specifically know guns and weapons very well, there are only a few guns that most people can name.

These guns are the ones seen in movies and TV, like James Bond’s Walther PPK or the Uzis used in gangster movies.

Do Shotguns Have Rifling

But there is one gun that is shown less on TV and known more from local community members or from poking around your grandparent’s house.

We are, of course, talking about the shotgun. This is the weapon of choice for those looking to defend their land or their home.

It is the perfect weapon for those looking to defend themselves, while also avoiding confrontation.

But, realistically, how much do you know about the weapon other than that it uses shells? For instance, does it have rifling?

And if so, why? In this article, we seek to answer these questions and tell you exactly whether a shotgun has rifling and why.

What Is Rifling?

Rifling is an interesting conception that has been around since the inception of guns.

The idea is that inside the barrel of the gun, there is an area called a bore. The bore is the internal structure of the gun’s barrel and can be smooth or rifled.

If it is rifled, then a series of spiral or helical grooves are cut down the length of the bore. This is called the rifling, and it is made up of lands (the areas that are uncut) and grooves (the areas that are cut).

When the gun is fired, a concussive force will push the bullet out of the length of the barrel.

While the bullet is pushed at high speeds, it is subject to the laws of physics – can’t outrun science, unfortunately – and this is what the rifling is relying on.

The force of the blast, the grooves, and the contained space will push against the bullet, forcing it to rotate.

As the bullet travels further down the barrel, the rotation will become a longitudinal spin following the pattern of the rifling.

The spin is actually the whole point of the rifling, as it creates an effect on the bullet called the spin-stabilization effect.

This basically means that once the bullet has left the gun, it will continue in the direction that the barrel is pointing. This does not happen with guns without rifling.

They have no stabilizing factor once they leave the barrel and its containment. Instead, they just fly in the direction that is exuding the most force on them.

This is still in the direction the barrel is pointing, but the bullet could veer left, right, up, and down as well.

Rifling does not only improve accuracy, but range. The spin the rifling imparts on the bullet will direct the force behind it.

Since the direction of the force is focused, it’s not going in any random direction, and it is not fighting any other force exuded on it to a great extent. As such, it will keep going forward for a longer distance.

This is why rifles tend to be highly accurate, long distance weapons compared to their counterparts.

Do Shotguns Have Rifling?

Most shotgun barrels have no rifling on them. There are some that do, but we will cover them later. So, the reason most shotguns don’t have rifling is due to how they are intended to work and what kind of ammunition they fire.

Do Shotguns Have Rifling (1)

So, a rifle is a highly accurate, long-distance weapon that fires one round of ammunition. A shotgun is not that. Not even close.

A shotgun is a very short distance weapon with insane stopping power that, depending on how you look at it, is either highly accurate or highly inaccurate.

Let us explain, you see a shotgun uses a type of ammunition known as shot or shells. A shot is not like a bullet, in that a bullet is only one complete item.

A shot is a cylindrical cartridge that has hundreds of tiny metal pellets inside. Once the shot is fired, these pellets can travel at high speeds in a certain area in front of the barrel, but it could be anywhere in that area, so you end up with a spread.

Therefore, it is inaccurate because it is limited in where and how far it can fire, but it is accurate because anything in that area is going to be hit.

This is also why shotguns don’t tend to use rifling. They don’t need to, and trying to get hundreds of pellets moving in the same direction through rifling simply won’t work.

With that said, there are a few shotguns that have rifling and the reason they are able to do this is that they use a different kind of ammunition called slugs.

Slugs are basically a cylindrical metal bullet that is enormous compared to a rifle’s bullet. Most weigh between 10 and 30 grams (grains is a standard measurement for bullets, but we won’t use that here) and are as wide as the shotgun barrel.

These bullets are generally used for hunting big game, thankfully, as getting hit by one would be incredibly unfortunate for a person.

While the shotguns that use them use rifling, because they are one solid bullet instead of lots of pellets, and they are far more accurate, they still do not have the range or accuracy of a rifle.

What Other Guns Don’t Have Rifling?

Most other guns that don’t have rifling are things that don’t need to be the most accurate or that suffer from the type of accuracy rifling provides. A good example of this are artillery pieces and mortars.

Rifling does nothing for them, as they are shooting in an arc into the air, rather than straight ahead.

The projectile may go straighter with rifling, but that ruins the arc it would fall in and so once the force is gone from the projectile, it would just fall straight down.

So, in general, if you need a gun that requires firing over an incredibly long range with a spread out target, you don’t want rifling on that gun.


Shotguns don’t generally use rifling, mainly because they are not designed to be highly accurate weapons along a linear path.

Instead, they are spread weapons that cover a certain area, a type of weapon that has no use or need for rifling, unless they are using slug rounds.

Matthew Osborn

Matt is an entrepreneur who has created and successfully exited multiple companies and brands. Now, he dedicates his time to Legionary, where he produces content on guns, family, and freedom.

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