A shotgun, also called a "scattergun," is a firearm designed to shoot a multitude of lead or steel balls of varying sizes, greatly increasing the weapon's hit potential. This makes it very effective at hunting game. However, the accuracy and power found at close range starts to diminish as the target gets farther away. Shotguns designed for the military's use are often called "combat shotguns."
This weapon deals the same damage in a non-critical hit as The Terrible Shotgun, but has a much smaller ammunition capacity (2 round chamber). Critical hit damage outside of V.A.T.S., however, is much larger due the larger number of pellets.
The name is a reference to the commonly known idiom "shooting fish in a barrel" or a method of fishing known as "shotgun fishing" - in which a fisherman simply fires a large rifle or shotgun into a pond, using the shock-waves to kill fish.