Shooting a Shotgun 101: Proper Techniques and Helpful Tips

If you’re new to shooting a shotgun or just need a refresher on the proper techniques, this guide is for you. We will discuss some important things—from how to hold and aim a shotgun and positions to helpful tips on loading and firing.

First and foremost, choose gun ranges that provide support for new members and plenty of space to practice.

Here are some basics on how to shoot a shotgun:

1. How to Hold and Aim a Shotgun

Comfortable Grip

The first step is to find a comfortable grip. Place your dominant hand on the forestock or the area of the barrel in front of the receiver. Your other hand must be placed on the pistol grip. This will be the natural way to grip the gun for most people.

Stance and Position

Once you have a good grip, it’s time to focus on your stance and position. The main thing you want to remember is to keep your body squared up with the target. This means keeping your shoulders parallel with your hips and your feet about shoulder-width apart.

2. Positions

You will use four main positions when shooting a shotgun – standing, kneeling, sitting, and prone.


This is the most common position for shooting a shotgun but the most challenging. It’s because you’re standing up and have to hold the gun with both hands.

  • Find your natural point of aim. This is the place where your body is most balanced, and the gun feels the lightest.
  • Then, you want to ensure you’re shouldering the gun correctly. Put the butt of the gun in the pocket of your shoulder, and tuck your chin into the cheek rest. If you’re having trouble keeping the gun steady, try leaning against a wall or post for support.


This position is a bit easier than standing because you have something to brace yourself against. When kneeling, you want to put your front knee down on the ground and bring your back leg up so that you’re sitting on your heel.

Again, you want to find your natural point of aim and make sure the gun is shouldered correctly. You can also put your front hand on your thigh for support.


This position is similar to kneeling, but you’re sitting on the ground instead of kneeling on one knee. It’s a good position to use if you’re shooting at targets close to the ground.

To get into position:

  • Sit down and cross your legs in front of you.
  • Then, put the gun in your lap and find your natural point of aim. If you need support, you can rest your elbows on your knees.


This is the most stable position for shooting a shotgun, but it’s not always practical. The biggest drawback is that you have a limited view of your target, especially if there are obstacles (such as tall grass) due to its low position.

To get into position:

  • Lie down on your stomach with your legs out behind you.
  • Put the gun in front of you and find your natural point of aim. You can also rest your elbows on the ground for support.

3. Breathing Control and Trigger Squeeze

Breathing Control

Take a deep breath and let half of it out. Then, you want to exhale slowly until you reach the point where you can barely hold the gun steady. This is when you want to take your shot.

Remember that breathing affects your aim, so it’s essential to be as consistent as possible with your breathing pattern.

Trigger Squeeze

The next step is to focus on squeezing the trigger. You want to do this slowly and evenly until the gun fires. Remember to keep your breath released as you squeeze the trigger.

4. Aiming

Now that you have the gun in your hands and your body in the right position, it’s time to focus on aiming.

  • Firstly, find your target. Once you’ve found it, align the front sight with the back sight, so they are in the same plane.
  • Then, center your target in the front sight and align it with the top of the back sight. If you’re using a scope, you want to put the crosshairs on the target and center it.
  • Once you have your target aligned, you’re ready to take the shot.

5. Firing

  • The first thing you need to do is cock the gun. This is done by either pulling back on the bolt handle or pumping the fore-end back and forth.
  • Once the gun is cocked, put your finger on the trigger and squeeze slowly until the gun fires.
  • After the gun is fired, you must eject the spent shell and cock the gun again. This is done by either pulling back on the bolt handle or pumping the fore-end back and forth.

6. Follow Through

After taking the shot, it’s important to maintain your focus and follow-through. This means keeping the gun pointed at the target until the bullet hits.

It’s also a good idea to keep your breath released as you follow through. This helps you stay relaxed and avoid jerking the gun.

7. Safety

Safety is imperative when shooting. Always point your shotgun in a safe direction, and keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Keep the firearm unloaded and put away in a safe place when you’re not shooting.

All in All

Shooting a shotgun can be a lot of fun, but it’s essential to be safe and know what you’re doing. Take the time to practice and get comfortable with the gun before heading out to shoot. Always remember to follow the safety rules.

Ultimately, choose a gun range that provides safety, challenge, and fun. Before committing, check the shooting club’s page, or if you can, visit the gun range in-person to see the facilities and staff. With these factors in mind, you should have a great time shooting your shotgun.