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Smoothbore shoulder firearm designed to fire a number of pellets, or shot, that cover a large target area after they leave the muzzle. It is used mainly against small game such as birds. The earliest examples were the fowling pieces that appeared in 16th-century Europe. Repeating shotguns, in which several cartridges could be loaded at once, became available in the 1880s. The range of a modern shotgun is about 50 yards (45 m).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on shotgun, visit Britannica.com.