What Might Cause A Shotgun To Explode?

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Many people owning this weapon often wonder –  what might cause a shotgun to explode?  And that’s not surprising – once you hear about at least one shotgun blow up situation, you begin to wonder – how did this happen, what went wrong, and what was the reason for this shotgun barrel explosion.

At least that is what happened to us. Ever since we’ve discovered an article about Lloyd Polkinghorne and how his shotgun blow up, leaving him with a brain injury, we began worrying and wonder – why did this happen? Could this happen to us, and what can we do to avoid a shotgun explosion.

So, we’ve decided to investigate such an issue further and look at what might cause a shotgun to explode, and what you can to protect yourself from such a horrific accident,

Shotgun Explosion: General Information   

As you probably know, a shotgun, like a Mossberg shotgun, for example, is a long-barreled firearm designed to shoot at a shotshell, discharging numerous projectiles called shots. They are primarily used in sports, hunting, or by law enforcement. However, much like with any weapon, it requires special care and caution. If not handled correctly, a shotgun barrel explosion can occur, and the person operating it might sustain serious injuries.

And as we mentioned, shotgun explosives can happen at times. But what might cause a shotgun to explode?  Well, it’s all about the shotshell. The shots inside are pushed through a buffer. This means that after each fire, a cluster is created. Having multiple shots can cause the muzzle energy to split inside the pellets, which limits the shotgun’s penetrative power.

 There are several reasons that can cause a shotgun explosion. First, as a process, when you fire a shotgun, the firing pin burns the powder inside, which creates high pressure. If not handled well, this might lead to the shot exploding inside instead of being pushed out in a controlled explosion.

The results of exploding gun barrel can be severe and even deadly, so it’s natural to ask how frequent these cases are? Unfortunately, the answer is “quite frequent”. Gun-related deaths total to 40,000 a year, according to Fatal Injury Data. The main reasons these injuries or even deaths occur are mainly defective products or unsafe conditions. Other statistics show that accidental gun-related deaths increased by 6% in 2019 in the United States.

What Might Cause A Shotgun To Explode?

There are many reasons why do guns explode, and it’s important to be aware of what they are. 

So, what are some of the most common reasons for these incidents, and what might cause a shotgun to explode? Most importantly – what can you do to prevent it?

Barrel Obstruction

The exploding gun barrel is the primary source of gun-related tragedies, that occur due to barrel obstruction. This obstruction creates pressure, especially after multiple uses. Utilizing the wrong ammo or having the barrel blocked with foreign material can seriously lead to an explosion. So, please, never fire your shotgun if it acts weird or if you notice anything unusual about it.

One popular case of an exploding gun barrel case was the story of Ronald Hansen, a hunter whose rifle exploded in his face at the beginning of deer hunting season back in 2014. And in the end, such a shotgun explosion seriously damaged his right hand and burned his face.

Preventive measure

When you’re learning what causes guns to explode, remember one of the main rules –  always handle your shotgun with ease, and use the right ammo for the type of shotgun you have. Other than that, make sure you keep your barrel clean by using a gun cleaning solvent. At the same time, make sure you keep away any strange material that might affect it.

Catastrophic Failure

Any type of shotgun explosion is known in the weapon field as Catastrophic Failure. This can occur in two scenarios. One is the above-mentioned overloaded shell, which basically detonates the shotgun instead of firing it. The other is the powder, which can burn by the heat and result in an exploding shotgun shell.

One such instance of a catastrophic failure happened a few years ago in Los Angeles. During a controlled demolition, the heat caused a massive explosion that injured 17 civil people and law enforcement. This can easily fall into catastrophic failure, as combined heat and gunpowder caused a real-life tragedy.

Preventive measure

To prevent exploding gun shell, always make sure you always put the right amount of powder when loading your shotgun shells. However, if you don’t have much experience, please ask for help from professionals.

How To Avoid Explosion Of Your Shotgun: Our Recommendations    

On a much brighter note, shotguns and handguns are safe to use, and theoretically, no gun that’s handled correctly should explode. To make sure you’re safe while using this quite dangerous equipment, we have put together a list of our recommendations on avoiding the unwanted situation when your shotgun blows up.

  • Always, and we mean always presume a gun is loaded, and therefore handle it with caution. But, even if you know for sure your shotgun is not loaded, still, handle it with alert and store it in a safe place, far away from family or other people.
  • Perhaps the most important recommendation we can give – always to make sure you point the muzzle in a safe and clear direction. Pointing the shotgun in a safe direction can be a danger-free space in case of accidental discharge.
  • When you operate a shotgun, please try to keep your fingers away from the trigger. This is extremely helpful in case of accidental release or discharge. Shotguns don’t have a “fake” trigger to rest your finger on, so consciously keep it away from the real one at all times.


Owning a gun is a great act of courage, composure, and responsibility. Yet, to the detriment of these virtues, it is fundamental to understand what causes guns to explode, how to avoid it, and protect yourself and the people around you.

So with that said, we sincerely hope that we’ve helped you learn a bit more about what might cause a shotgun to explode so that you would always be on the lookout. So keep these little tips in mind, and stay safe!