How to Cut Down a Shotgun Barrel: All you Need to Know

A sawed-off shotgun is a hunter’s dream. It’s efficient, strong, and powerful enough to get the shot you need, effectively. However, cutting off a shotgun barrel to get your desired sawed-off masterpiece isn’t easy. 

So, how to cut down a shotgun barrel? 

Generally, a hacksaw is used to cut off the extra parts of your shotgun barrel. The length of the cut depends on how small you want it to be. However, you have to measure and cut accordingly to prevent any accidents. 

When it comes to a sawed-off shotgun, we need to take a lot into consideration. From dealing with the legal constructs to the final product. 

Now, let’s get right through the details-

Is it Legal to Cut Down a Shotgun Barrel?

The first thing that you have to keep in mind when cutting a shotgun barrel is its legal implications. It’s not anything comparatively simpler like slugging a rifle barrel. Since a sawed-off shotgun is much riskier than a generic one, the legal implications behind it are more complicated as well. 

To understand the law, we need to know the legal definition of shotguns first. According to the ATF, a shotgun needs to have a barrel of at least 18 inches, and a total length of 26 inches. Otherwise, it won’t be considered a shotgun.

Sawed-off shotguns are not legal in every state. In some states, cutting off your shotgun barrel is illegal and can lead to prison if you’re not careful. So, make sure you research the NFA rules and regulations before you start. 

There are a lot of legal nuances that you need to take into account. To begin with, the sawed-off shotgun is a lot more dangerous than the average shotgun. From a close range, it’s a lot deadlier than you’d imagine.

So, you might ask, can you legally cut down a shotgun barrel? 

Yes! But, there are certain legal aspects to it. You need to follow a rigorous legal procedure. These include filling up forms in a triplicate. You have to collect fingerprints and have your photos taken. Then you have to go through numerous evaluations by the FBI. If your documents are in order, your application is approved. 

However, keep in mind the entire process is extremely technical. You have to undergo a number of evaluations from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to the FBI. Any mishaps in the process can get you into a series of legal trouble. 

With the legal discussion out of the way, let’s get into the technical side of things! 

What Kind of Shotgun Can be Cut Down?

Not every shotgun can be turned into a sawed-off shotgun. There are a lot of factors that determine the effectiveness of your shotgun. Before cutting down Mossberg 500 barrel, you need to know if it should work or not. 

For a sawed-off shotgun, your weapon needs to have a tube magazine. In a tube magazine system, the bullets lie horizontally inside the chamber. From there, it moves through the tube and into the chamber.

If you plan on cutting your shotgun barrel, we recommend going for single tubes. They’re easier to cut and you won’t have to compromise on the bullet capacity too much. Guns like the Benelli M4, are ideal for sawing off.

3 Phases of Cutting Down the Barrel

We’ve divided the entire process of shortening the barrel into three phases. This helps you streamline the process and make everything easier for you. So, if you’re wondering how to cut a single shot shotgun, just follow the steps carefully!

Keep in mind, cutting off a shotgun is risky and can cause serious accidents if not handled seriously. The phases are described below-

Phase 1: Preparation Phase 

Preparation is the key to any successful execution. So, it’s always better to take your time and prepare accordingly. This makes everything easier and doesn’t take a lot of time finding products once you have everything.

The preparation phase has two crucial steps, these include gathering the necessary tools and measuring the gun barrel. However, if your shotgun has any problems, deal with them first. 

Necessary Tools 

We recommend you read through the whole thing once to understand what you’ll need exactly. Because all these recommended things have different types and not all of the types can do this job.

Measuring the Shotgun Barrel 

Now, we have to measure the shotgun barrel to have an idea about how much we can cut. In most places, barrels under 18” require additional permission. Also, having a clear measurement before going out to cut is important.

If you’re wondering how to cut down a double-barrel shotgun, you have to measure the barrel first. The steps for measuring a barrel are – 

  • Firstly, you need to remove any ammo from the shotgun. Point it in a safe direction and open it using the elevator. 
  • Then eject any round inside the receiver. Check thoroughly to make sure no shells are stuck inside the shotgun.
  • After that, insert a dowel rod into the barrel. You have to ensure that the diameter of the rod is smaller than the gun barrel for easy entry. You have to put it in until the barrel reaches the point where the cartridge and chamber meet. 

Now, using a good-quality dowel rod is important here. Because old and fragile dowel rods can make things 10 times worse for you. So, we’re recommending some top-notch dowel rods that’d fit in your shotgun

  • Once the rod has gone all the way, make a mark with a permanent marker.
  • Now pull the rod out and measure accordingly. This is the accurate size of your barrel. 

 Once the barrel has been measured, move on to the next steps!

Optional Phase: Vent Rib Removal 

This phase is entirely optional. Some shotguns have an additional part called a vent rib that needs to be dealt with. If the vent rib isn’t removed, it will bend and damage the final product. So, the vent rib needs to be aligned with the rib base.

So, knowing how to cut down a vent rib shotgun barrel is important. The vent rib is generally brazed to the barrel, so applying heat will only make it worse. You need to pry open the rib with a metal wedge driver. 

Here’s our recommended metal wedge driver for prying the rib-

Once you’ve got the vent rib out, you need to remove the supports from there as well. Use a hammer and chisel to tap them off. Once you’re done with the vent rib, you’re good to go.

However, cutting a shotgun barrel with a vent rib isn’t always necessary. A lot of shotguns don’t have a vent rib, so check your weapon first. If there’s no vent rib inside, you won’t have to deal with it either. 

Phase 2: Cutting Phase 

Now, it’s time to get into business! We’re finally ready to cut off our shotgun barrel and get our desired masterpiece. Now, there are a lot of technicalities to it, so preparation is a must! 

So, you might ask, what is the best way to cut off a shotgun barrel? 

The best way to cut off your shotgun barrel is with an automated band saw. One fast, precise cut that takes the barrel off without any mishaps. However, you need to make sure it’s cut properly and the cut is straight. Afterward, sand it for evenness and polish it up. 

When it comes to cutting a shotgun barrel, you can cut it with a plethora of tools. These include hacksaws, metal cutting saws, and plumbing cutters. The cutting methods are described below- 

Method 1: Using a Hacksaw/ Bandsaw 

Once you’ve measured the barrel properly, it’s time to get it to the right size. If you have access to a bandsaw, we recommend using it for convenience. Since it’s automatic and generally more powerful than its counterparts, it’s the easiest way to get a clean cut. 

However, not all bandsaws are okay for cutting shotgun barrels. You have to fetch some metal cutting bandsaws for this. And here’s our recommended bandsaws for this job-

Mark the part where you want your shotgun barrel to be cut and put it through the bandsaw. Make sure you’ve kept it straight and there were no abrupt movements. If everything is done right, you’d get a clean cut in no time! 

Method 2: Pipe/ Plumbing Cutter 

The material of a gun is somewhat similar to that of a PVC pipe. However, the structural integrity of a gun is much higher than that of the pipe. While you can use a PVC cutter if you want, it’s still very risky.

You need to make sharp, precise cuts with your pipe cutter for the most accurate cuts. Firstly, place the gun in a secured spot and fasten it tight. If it moves or gyrates too much, it’ll be hard to take care of. 

For this, you should aim for getting a gunsmithing vise. However, make sure that you don’t end up getting a rifle vise. More importantly, check if the vise is skid-resistant.

Considering everything, we recommend-

Now, once the gun is secured, carefully start working with your pipe cutter. Make sure the strikes are even and nothing is damaged. Once the part gets loose, be careful so that the loose parts don’t damage anything else. 

While cutting your shotgun barrel with a pipe cutter is an option, it’s risky and the final product won’t be very good-looking. So keep that in mind as well. 


There are a few things that you need to keep in mind before we move into the next step. Cutting off the barrel of your gun is a mammoth task and there’s a lot of room for error. For that, you need to be very careful every step of the way.

When cutting, make sure your gun is unloaded and completely steady. It’s better to secure it to a platform to prevent any damage. Wear necessary protective gear such as glasses and protective gloves. 

Finally, make sure the blade you’re using is sharp. Using a blunt blade creates room for mistakes and injuries. So, keep that in mind as well. 

Phase 3: Polishing Phase 

Now that we’ve cut off our shotgun barrel, it’s time to prepare it for what comes next. Polishing and preparing the sawed-off shotgun is the key to its good health. The steps for polishing are- 

Step 1: Polish the Barrel Edge 

When it comes to polishing the edges, you need to get rid of any residues from the cut. If you have a belt sander, rub your gun on the sander to make it even. Be gentle and don’t rub too much. Since too much friction would generate heat. 

Once you’re done, apply some gun oil onto your gun. If you’re wondering which gun oil to use, check our recommendations- 

Step 2: Muzzle Facing 

The next step here is to clean the inside of the barrel with a muzzle-facing tool. The muzzle facing tool is like a drill that’s made specifically for shotgun barrels. Coat the tool with some cleaning oil and connect it to a cordless drill and put it inside the barrel.

Once it’s done, turn the barrel on and let it do the work. It will bring out all the dirt and residue and clean the inside of the barrel for you.

Step 3: Final Polish 

Now that we’re done, you have to give the entire thing a final polish. Apply some shotgun-friendly gun oil and rub it all over the shotgun. You can choose Hoppe’s oil combo pack or the Black diamond gun cleaning spray which specializes in cleaning shotguns.

Wrapping UP 

Now that the technical part is done, it’s time to check if everything is working. Measure the barrel to see if you have the required size, then check the weight of the gun. If the weight is too little, there’s probably something wrong. 

In that case, keep it in a secured place and take it to a gunsmith immediately. However, if everything is in check, you can load it up and try a few test shots. Check the range and shrapnel length of the bullet. If it works, you’re good to go! 

Why Do you Want to Shorten your Shotgun? 

Now that we’ve discussed how to cut off a shotgun barrel, let’s talk business! Why do you need to cut down a shotgun? The main reason here is for security and concealing the weapon.

A sawed-off shotgun is very deadly from a close range, due to the force it creates. Furthermore, the shrapnels spread away much further due to the shorter barrel. 

As a result, even if your aim is a bit off, a sawed-off shotgun could hit the target when a typical shotgun can’t. Also, it’s much easier to carry. So, if you have any threats coming your way and you don’t have enough time to respond, a shot from a sawed-off shotgun could save your life.

However, there’s a flip side to it as well. Due to the shorter barrel, the recoil is a lot higher. So, unless you have much practice, you can potentially injure yourself due to the recoil. So, keep that in mind as well.

Should your Shotgun be Cut Down by a Gunsmith?

When it comes to gunsmiths, they’re seasoned experts at their craft. So, relying on a gunsmith to shorten your shotgun barrel is a good idea. If you’re not someone who’s very good at their craft, relying on your gunsmith should be the way to go! 

But, then comes the all-important question, how much does a gunsmith charge to cut down a shotgun barrel? 

The cost of the gunsmith depends on multiple factors. These include the type of gun, the required modifications, the location and experience of the gunsmith, etc. Generally, the cost for cutting off a shotgun barrel could be between $150-300.

Safety Measures

When it comes to anything related to guns, safety is the key! You have to be careful through the entire process to make sure you and the people around you are safe. The safety measures include- 

Know your Weapon 

To begin with, know the weapon you’re using. If your shotgun doesn’t have tube magazines, trying to cut off its barrels is suicide. So, know your weapon and all its technicalities before you get into it. 

Unload your Gun 

You have to make sure your gun is empty before doing any modifications. Make sure you’ve checked the magazines and cartridges carefully before handling your gun. Also, store your bullets carefully to prevent any mishaps.


How much does it cost to cut down a shotgun barrel?

The cost for cutting off a shotgun barrel isn’t a constant. However, if you have the resources at hand, the cost is pretty affordable. However, if you get a professional gunsmith to fix it for you, it could be worth as much as $150-300.

Is it safe to cut down a shotgun barrel?

If you have the right type of shotgun, paired with the right set of tools, cutting off your shotgun barrel is pretty safe. However, you must follow the safety mechanisms carefully. 

What are the best tools to cut down a shotgun barrel?

The best tool to cut off a shotgun barrel is a bandsaw. It’s quick, precise, and doesn’t leave any residues. The room for error is also very limited. Other than that, you need to have a device for sanding it carefully and you’re good to go!


A sawed-off shotgun is an amazing weapon. In certain scenarios, it has the potential to save your life. However, making your own sawed-off shotgun can be a bit risky, and that’s where we come in!

Here, we’ve discussed the safest way on how to cut down a shotgun barrel while adhering to legal limitations. We hope you find this article helpful!