What might cause a shotgun to explode

What might cause a shotgun to explode?

You might have horrific tales of shotguns exploding in the shooters’ faces when they’re out in the field hunting.

One well-documented case was that of a young farmer in Moulamein, southern New South Wales who was out shooting ducks when his semi-automatic shotgun exploded right on his face. The result? He was left with a brain injury!

This leaves every hunter wondering…will my shotgun explode someday and leave me with severe injuries?

We can’t guarantee you it won’t.

But we can give you the most common reasons behind shotguns exploding to help you take the necessary measurements to avoid experiencing the misfortune.

2 MAIN Reasons why your shotgun might explode:

1. Overloaded shell

One of the most common causes of shotguns blowing involves an overloaded shell.

To understand this, you need to know that the powders used for shotguns are incredibly volatile (or super-fast) and double charged. And in the event of overloading, nothing will stop them from exploding inside your shotgun.

The heat inside your firearm can potentially ignite this powder and cause it to explode immediately, leaving you with a destroyed gun.

Real-life example: Overloading a shell has caused firearms to shatter in pieces in real life. One such case was reported in Martin County, where an unidentified man decided to pour smokeless powder into a black-powder only muzzleloader. What he witnessed next was his firearm exploding like the grenade and ripping off his fingers.


(Photo: The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Facebook page)

According to Corporal Eric Doane, who responded to the incident, the man had run out of black powder and decided to pour 75 grains of smokeless powder into his shells.

Unknown to him, smokeless powder is more powerful than black powder, so he literally put up to 300-grain charge of black powder into the muzzleloader, thus overloading the shells.

Preventive measure: Avoid carelessly loading your shotgun shells, if you do the loading yourself. Make sure you stick to the safe levels. If you’re unsure about your loading skills, just get your ammo from a trusted retail store.

2. Barrel obstruction

The other common reason why you might experience a shotgun explosion is the barrel construction.

When most shooters hear barrel obstruction, they think about mud and dirt that might get stuck at the end of your gun. This might only cause cracks, and nothing serious.

But the REAL barrel obstruction can happen if you feed your shotgun with the wrong ammunition; this is sure to cause an explosion in your firearm. For instance, racking in a 20-gauge shell into a 12-gauge shotgun is a recipe for explosion.

Real-life example: Joseph Ryan Wilson, a gunsmith, small arms designer, and firearms expert explains how he once experienced firsthand the effects of barrel obstruction.

They were shooting hand-thrown clays at a local park with a pump 12 gauge. Then, a guy grabbed a bunch of shells and carelessly fed them to the shotgun and began shooting. The first, second, and third shots were good!

He then opened the bolt to inspect the chamber and discovered it was empty. He threw in a fresh round and fired the 4th row, and guess what? The barrel split on the left side from the chamber, the aluminum receiver was in shatters, and the mag tube was completely destroyed!

On investigating the cause, they discovered that the 3rd round was a 20-gauge, and instead of sticking on the extractor hook, it slid down the barrel and got stuck there—thus obstructing the chamber and causing the explosion!

Preventive measure: Always be extra-careful when loading your shotgun to ensure you put in the right shells. In case you’re shooting, and your gun shows a weird behavior, stop shooting immediately and inspect it for the underlying problem.


Shotguns do explode! Your favorite shotgun can explode without warning, and if you’re unlucky, it can leave you with serious injuries. Multiple cases of these guns exploding have been reported all over the states, and every serious hunter shouldn’t take this matter lightly.

In this guide, we have just shared with you the key reasons why shotguns misfire or explode. Understanding these causes will help you take the right preventive measures to ensure your gun doesn’t explode on your face and cut short your hunting thrill.

Do you think we missed out on other reasons why a shotgun might explode? Share your experience below.

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