Pump action shotguns are in almost every action movie, and are a cornerstone of everything from the military to police to hunting to home defense. How do they work?
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Even plenty of people who own and have fired pump actions don’t really understand how they work.
Lucky for them, this is on the internet so they never have to admit they didn’t know to their friends.
Using a cutaway Winchester Model 1912, commonly called the Model 12, we see functions of the guy through a full cycle of loading, chambering, firing, and extraction.
According to Wikipedia,
Nearly all pump-actions use a back-and-forward motion of the forend to cycle the action. The forend is connected to the bolt by one or two bars; two bars are considered more reliable because it provides symmetric forces on the bolt and pump and reduces the chances of binding. The motion of the bolt back and forth in a tubular magazine model will also operate the elevator, which lifts the shells from the level of the magazine to the level of the barrel.
After firing a round, the bolt is unlocked and the forend is free to move. The shooter pulls back on the forend to begin the operating cycle. The bolt unlocks and begins to move to the rear, which extracts and ejects the empty shell from the chamber, cocks the hammer, and begins to load the new shell. In a tubular magazine design, as the bolt moves rearwards, a single shell is released from the magazine, and is pushed backwards to come to rest on the elevator.
As the forend reaches the rear and begins to move forward, the elevator lifts up the shell, lining it up with the barrel. As the bolt moves forward, the round slides into the chamber, and the final portion of the forend’s travel locks the bolt into position. A pull of the trigger will fire the next round, where the cycle begins again.
Most pump-action firearms do not have any positive indication that they are out of ammunition, so it is possible to complete a cycle and have an empty chamber. The risk of running out of ammunition unexpectedly can be minimized in a tubular magazine firearm by topping off the magazine by loading new rounds to replace the rounds that have just been fired. This is especially important when hunting, as many locations have legal limits on the magazine capacity: for example, three rounds for shotguns and five rounds for rifles.