The shotgun is a tool less precise than a rifle or handgun, but excellent for hitting objects that are flying or running. The single-shot shotgun has been a staple among entry-level shotgunners, but as the game birds pursued by hunters and the clay targets by competitors often present themselves in multiples, the advantage of more than one shot is easily understood.
Evolving from their single-barrel blackpowder ancestors, shotguns soon came to be two-barreled affairs, those barrels set side by side (barrels stacked one on top of each other, or “over/under” as they’re known today, came later) with each operated by its own trigger. Essentially, you had two guns with one stock.
That side-by-side design is still with us, but it didn’t take long before the pump-action repeating shotgun showed its face. This allowed the use of a single barrel, the manual cycling of the shotgun “action,” and a magazine full of shotshells. Think about how your semi-automatic pistol operates—the slide cycles back after the shot, throwing out the empty cartridge case, then moves back forward, removing a cartridge from the pistol’s magazine and feeding it up into the chamber to be ready for the next shot. A pump-action shotgun (or rifle) does the exact same thing, just with the shooter cycling with their hand the gun’s slide—the mobile fore-end or “shucker” that rides on the rails under the shotgun’s (or rifle’s) long barrel.
After the pump shotgun was developed, the auto-loading shotgun was born. Now shotgunning really did become like semi-automatic pistol shooting, the manual part of cycling the gun’s action in a pump replaced by a gun designed to do that work all on its own. The world’s first semi-automatics are today considered classics, those guns such as the original Browning Auto 5 and Remington 11-48. Browning, of course, continues to make all sorts of modern semi-automatic shotguns—but it was Remington that changed the game and spurred the industry on to produce the guns with many of the mechanics we see today with its introduction of the gas-operated Model 1100.
The Remington Model 1100 uses the gases generated by a fired shell to push the bolt carrier rearward, which ejects the spent shell during that rearward motion. The tubular magazine below the barrel then releases a new shell onto a “carrier” and a heavy spring in the rear portion of the action pushes the bolt forward to pick up the new shell and send it into the shotgun’s chamber.
The gases from the fired shotshell that effect this process are delivered through two small ports on the bottom of the barrel. These travel rearward in a “sleeve” surrounding the tubular magazine. This sleeve is located within the fore-end of the shotgun, so as to present no risk to the shooter’s hands or eyes.
Remington’s now famous design accomplished two major feats. First, it greatly reduced the felt recoil when firing the shotgun, thus allowing the shooter to spend more time at the sporting clays range or happily filling their limit of waterfowl. Spending any great amount of time with a hard recoiling shotgun can quickly give rise to a flinch, so this new action found great favor with shotgunners when it was introduced in 1963. Second, the gas-operated design (when compared to the recoil-operated shotguns) seems to work much more consistently when using different loads. For instance, 2¾-inch 12-gauge target loads generate a much different level of recoil than do the 3-inch magnum hunting loads. Recoil-operated shotguns often have trouble reliably cycling shotshells of such different power levels, but in Remington’s Model 1100 gas-operated shotgun, the difference between the loads makes little or no difference.
Remington has made the Model 1100 in 12-gauge, 16-gauge, 20-gauge and, recently, in 28-gauge and .410 bore, offering just about every shotgunner a choice that meets their needs. The traditional Model 1100 wears blued metal and a walnut stock, but there are synthetic stock models, models with nickel-plated receivers, and even a tactical model that holds an extra four shells in its long magazine (great for 3-Gun competition). Those models with magnum receivers can fire both 2¾- and 3-inch shells, and most models feature a ventilated rib for easy sighting to the target. The versatility of the Rem-Choke choke tube system allows shooters to tailor the shot pattern to the game at hand, making the 1100 a very handy shotgun to own.
All said, the Remington Model 1100 makes a fantastic choice for all types of shotgunning. My own favorite 1100 is a mid-1980s 12-gauge with a 2¾-inch chamber and a fixed Modified choke (in other words, it doesn’t have the screw-in replaceable choke tubes most shotguns come with today). I’ve used that old girl to hunt birds as small as woodcock and ruffed grouse on up to 20-plus-pound tom turkeys (not to mention the inedible clay birds). Truly, this is one of those guns that kind of does it all, so if you’re looking to try a new sport like skeet or sporting clays, yearn to hike the hills hunting for pheasants or have discovered the beauty of waterfowl hunting, give an 1100 a try. You’ll be hard-pressed to be disappointed with one.