Unlike rifles, which have grooves cut into the inside of their barrels, shotguns are smoothbore firearms. This design makes it possible to shoot multiple projectiles, most often large pellets (buckshot) or small beads (birdshot), in a conical spray that can be devastating at close range. Shotguns can even fire less lethal rounds, such as rock salt or miniature tear gas grenades, to help control crowds.
Flintlock shotguns were popular in the 18th century. The blunderbuss, a shotgun with a flared muzzle, was a favorite among coachmen who needed to repel highway bandits. Coachmen also made good use of the "coach pistol," which resembles today's sawed-off shotgun. But the real coming of age for shotguns came in the 1880s, when gun makers introduced pump-action models. Pump-action shotguns have a tubular magazine under the barrel that holds six or seven rounds. The user simply slides the forestock to chamber a new round.
Remington introduced the Model 870 in 1950, and it has since become the best-selling shotgun of any type in history. More than 10 million 870s have rolled off Remington's production lines into the hands of hunters, sportsmen, law enforcement officers and soldiers [source: Remington]. Every Model 870 shotgun features a receiver milled from a solid billet of steel. This increases the weapon's strength and durability and does much to bolster its reputation for quality and reliability, even in the harshest conditions.
Up next, we've got another wildly popular firearm -- this one a semiautomatic rifle related to a military standard.