About Shotgun Shells

The components of a shotgun shell incorporate the rim, primer, brass, covering case, powder, wad and shot — with the exception of shotgun slugs, i beg your pardon are choose blunt bullets encased in a shotgun shell and used on larger game.

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When you pull the cause on her shotgun, the firing pen in the pistol strikes the inside wall of a shotgun shell, igniting the powder that emits a gas together it burns. The gas creates enough pressure to propel the wad-containing shot hard and fast enough to decimate the target. Together the wad and shot leaving the muzzle, you deserve to see the wad autumn away favor the first stage of a rocket. The shell case, or invested hull, remains relatively intact other than for the blown open crimp in ~ the top and the invested primer. Countless shotgun enthusiasts use the leftover hull through reloading that with new components.



Unlike most guns that room grouped by calibers, shotguns are categorized by gauges. The gauge of the shotgun dictates the gauge that the ammunition it fires. The main difference is the a caliber is a measurement while gauge represents weight.

The most well-known shotgun gauges room 12, 16, 20, 28 and also .410. Part vintage shotguns and also a couple of modern semi-auto shotguns dedicated for goose hunting come in 10 gauge for far-reaching stopping power. Conversely, the U.S. Frequently uses words “gauge,” good Britain and other countries often use “bore.” castle both describe the same sizes.

Shotguns space measured in gauges since of the type of ammunition castle use. When other firearms discharge precision projectiles, shotguns fire a covering that is packed through round, command BB-like pellets. The pellets spread out in a funnel pattern as soon as they leave the muzzle the the shotgun, for this reason the hatchet “scatter gun.”

Gauge refers to the number of identically sized balls cast from one pound of lead that might fit v a certain barrel diameter. Gauge is a weight measurement and dates back to the origination the cannonballs.

A 12-gauge shotgun would theoretically shooting 12 balls that equal dimension (1/12th the a pound) cast from a solitary pound of lead while a smaller 20-gauge shotgun would shoot 20 command balls that weigh 1/20th the a pound. The exemption is .410 — the smallest of shotguns shells — which is considered a bore the is supplied in a couple of specialty pistols that likewise shoot .45 caliber bullets.


When it comes to shotgun bores, the smaller sized the gauge the enlarge the diameter of the barrel. 12 gauge is .729 inch, 16 gauge is .662 inch, 20 gauge is .615 inch and also 28 gauge is .550 inch.

In contemporary shotgun shells, the fluid chemical antimony is included to lead to rise its hardness. Antimony controls pellet distortion ~ the shoot is fired — contributing to much more consistently round pellets. Antimony levels range between 2% and 6%.

Shot Pellet Size

The shooting number dictates the variety of pellets every shell. Not only does the shooting number refer to the median pellet count, the stipulates the approximate size of every pellet. The bigger the shotshell number the greater its pellets count.

shooting Pellet size Number (lead)

Shot Pellet Diameter in inch (lead)

Approximate variety of Shot Pellets Per ounce (lead)


























The above chart shows the most usual shot sizes. That illustrates that you have the right to purchase shotgun shells of different gauges with miscellaneous size pellets. The shoot pellet sizes space not blended in the shell, yet remain uniform.

The larger the shooting pellet size, the much more of them are packed right into the casing. Size 9 - 7½ are generally used because that the clays sporting activities or tiny game birds. Anything larger than 7½ is suited for bigger video game birds such as pheasants or waterfowl. You desire the bigger pellets because that these birds since you require the extra density to permeate thick feathers and also bones in order strike an essential organs for a clean, honest kill. However, a farming body of ecological legislation is forcing hunters to relocate away native lead for waterfowl come non-toxic steel and alloys which deserve to have different ballistic properties.

To calculation the approximate variety of shot pellets in her shotgun shell, check out the shot charge fill on the box. For example, most popular 12-gauge shells are obtainable in 1⅛ ounce, 1 ounce and 7/8 oz loads and you have the right to divide accordingly.


Some shotgun shells room loaded v lead slugs rather of shooting pellets. A slug is a bullet-like projectile but often rounded at the reminder rather 보다 pointed. Slugs are occasionally mandated in populated areas for hunting larger animals such together deer and feral hogs because their stubby shape doesn’t take trip as far and fast as plenty of rifle bullets — to reduce the threat of long-range accidents. Most slug tons are 12 gauge, although friend can discover them 20 gauge and also even 28 gauge together well. You should inspect the manufacturer’s specifications on her shotgun to check out if it’s designed to safely shoot slug without damaging the barrel or the choke.

A 12-gauge Brenneke slug.

There space four leading slug species for hunting: Brenneke, Foster, Saboted and Plumbata. The Brenneke cheese is solid v fins on the side and a dull nose. Through contrast, the Foster slug is hole at the rear in order to transition its mass towards the front. Fins on the Foster cheese act as stabilizers. Saboted slugs have a lead core with copper jacketing or are made from hard copper with a plastic sabot that gives it ballistic spin prefer a rifle bullet. The Plumbata slug functions a plastic stabilizer it is attached to either the bottom that the cheese or end it.

Shotshell Lengths & flour Measurements

Shotshells are commonly made in two popular lengths: 2¾ and 3 inch (including 3-inch Magnum). Girlfriend can additionally find 3½-inch turkey loads. Top top the other extreme, shotgun shells are made in 2-inch and also 2½-inch lengths and also are commonly used in vintage shotguns.

The chamber of the shotgun (where you pack the shell) tells you what size shell is permissible. A shotgun through a 3-inch chamber have the right to accept 2¾ customs shells and also 3-inch shells, however a 2¾-inch chamber cannot expropriate 3-inch shells. To discover the chamber dimension on your shotgun, see the fine print stamped on the barrel or check out the owner’s manual.

The difference in between 2¾ and also 3-inch shells is the amount of smokeless gun flour they hold. Obviously, a 3-inch covering holds much more gun powder than one the is 2¾ inches. An ext gun powder equates to greater recoil.

High-volume manufacturing facility shotshells clues the powder pack in “drams equivalent.” Again, this is a measurement the harkens earlier to the creation of ammunition. Today’s shotgun shells usage smokeless powder, but “drams equivalent” shows the shotshell velocity developed with the equivalent amount of black powder once offered in the earliest ammunitions. A crate of shotgun shells labeling “3 plays Equivalent” means it possesses the force of 3 drams of black color powder.

Reading a crate of Shotgun Shells

The top flap of a shotgun covering box tells you about the ammunition. For safety purposes, you must be specific that the shotshells you acquisition are perfect for her gun.


In terms of gauge, perform not shoot a smaller sized gauge shotgun shell in her gun than is forced by the manufacturer. Because that instance, nothing drop a 20-gauge shell right into a 12-gauge shotgun. Unless you have actually a collection of sub-gauge tubes that fit into your barrel, ammunition sizes space not interchangeable in shotgun barrels.

On the box, the number over the words “Lead Shot” refers to the shooting size. Size 9 - 7½ are ideal for clay target sports. In fact, numerous shooting clubs prohibit shot sizes bigger than 7½ ~ above a clays course. It is why you’ll frequently see crate of shotgun shells with shot sixes the 7½, 8 and also 9 labeled as target loads. Check with your club because that shot-size rules and regulations.

Another specification on package is FPS. This represents feet per 2nd or velocity. You need to assume that the higher the velocity the more powerful the recoil and the further the shot will travel.

INCHES describe the covering length.

OZ. Or ounces tells you just how much shoot is in the shell. Over there is part correlation between the quantity of shot and recoil. A 1-ounce shell will normally shoot lighter than a 1⅛ oz shell. That said there are some very fast 7/8 ounce game loads with considerable kick. If you space recoil-sensitive, start with a 1-ounce, 12-gauge covering or move down come a 20-gauge or 28-gauge shotgun.

On the lid that the box, plays is the smokeless powder identical to black color powder. The standard in a 12-gauge shotgun is 2¾ dram with a 3-dram equivalent. Anything an ext will kick harder.

While shopping because that shotgun shells it’s vital you to buy the appropriate load. In enhancement to safety concerns, plenty of retailers perform not allow you to return a crate of shells.

Low-Recoil Shotgun Shells

The felt recoil that a shotgun shell can be lessened by just loading it through a smaller sized amount of slow-burning, smokeless pistol powder. Slow-burning flour helps cut the jolt of greater performance, traditional powders; while a smaller amount the it contrasted with a standard fill correlates v a softer kick. Low-recoil shells are also touted to be quieter. The large payoff might be as much as a 50-percent palliation in felt recoil.

Shotshell manufacturers that develop low-recoil ammunition encompass Winchester, Fiocchi, Remington, Rio, RST and also Holland & Holland.

Low-recoil shells space generally an ideal for clays shooting where the targets are of middle distance. Friend may also be able to usage them for walk-up hunting where the flushing birds tend to be fairly close come the shooter.

New shooters, who are still struggling with proper gun mounts, can use low-recoil shells to manage felt recoil to the shoulder and also face. Females coming right into the shotgun sports, making use of a male gun, may additionally turn to low-recoil shells to stop bruising from the absent of the shotgun. Shooters who construct a flinch may discover that low-recoils shells can cure your problem. Low-recoil shells are also preferred by owner of vintage shotguns with aging barrels that pre-date today’s powerful, modern-day ammunition.

There are some penalties to utilizing low-recoil shells. Contrasted to traditional shotgun shells, you might suffer 10 - 20 percent palliation in velocity. For sports such as skeet or 16-yard trap, the slow shell might not make a difference in her performance. As soon as it come to difficult 5-stand courses, sporting clays with combined presentations or handicap trap, low-recoil shells may exact a toll on her scores.

For upland hunting, a 900-FPS, low-recoil pack may be efficient on dove and also quail. What around larger bird such as pheasants? no recommended, but you may want to shot a low-recoil covering with a tight choke come increase density of the shot pattern. Still, you don’t desire to cripple birds, and after one or two hits, you might want to reconsider switching to a much faster shotshell with perhaps a broader choke because that the larger upland quarry. In this case, if the much more powerful covering delivers one uncomfortable level that recoil, think about switching come a 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun the diverts overabundance gas native the spent shell into its very own operating mechanism. These species of semi-automatic shotguns have tendency to shoot softer 보다 an over/under. However, if you space bird hunting at a exclusive club, twin check your rules due to the fact that some of lock don’t allow semi-automatics.

Price is one more potential drawback to low-recoil shells. In part instances, you might pay almost twice as lot for a box of low-recoil loads compared with standard shells in ~ big-box retailers.

You’ll generally uncover low-recoil loads in 12 gauge and 20 gauge. Smaller shotguns such together 28 gauge and also .410 do not do it really current a recoil problem with off-the-shelf shells and also may in reality be a much better alternative for recoil-sensitive shooters.

Steel Shot and also Other Non-Toxic Shotshells

Non-toxic shells are becoming an ext popular together the environmental Protection agency and conservation groups move to border or ban the usage of command ammunition on public hunting grounds. Their discussion is the residual lead poisons fish, waterfowl and also predators. Likewise, some private searching clubs space requiring non-toxic shotgun loads.

The most popular non-toxic shotgun loads are packed with pellets made of steel, Tungsten (frequently alloyed with nickel, steel or bronze), Bismuth or some mix of these materials. Non-toxic products differ in your density, preventing power (energy) and velocity. stole decelerates an ext than other non-toxic shotgun loads and is recommended because that close shoot such as decoy hunting. Due to the fact that of the hardness, stole shot should not be used with complete or extra-full chokes for fear of damaging the barrel or choke. Find out if your shotgun barrel is rated for steel shot prior to making a purchase. Likewise, confirm whether or not your choke is rated because that steel.

The hardness of steel likewise presents troubles for bird hunting. Basically, you desire a shot product that will certainly flatten and also spread as soon as it access time your food for better stopping power. Steel shot, due to the fact that of its hardness, deserve to pass v an animal rather 보다 lodge in an important organs for a fatal wound; the outcomes can develop an unwanted variety of wounded birds.

In regards to shot density, steel is around 70 percent as dense as lead. Bismuth shot is virtually as thick as lead. Some tungsten alloys come close to the softness and also density of command shot. Hevi-Shot is the heaviest of the non-toxic ammunition. With the exception of 100-percent steel shot, other non-toxics have to be reliable on longer range, waterfowl, passing shooting.

Because of steel’s reasonably low density, hunters will normally increase their shot size contrasted with other non-toxics and also lead in order to compensate for the reduced penetrating power and much shorter recommended distances. Obtain ready for sticker shock, though. You deserve to expect to pay between $15 and also $40 because that a box of 10 premium non-toxic shotgun shells contrasted with a short of $6 for a box of 25 shells packed through lead pellets.


Most reloading fans will certainly tell friend they do their own lots to save money. But the capability to customize her shells for performance and recoil regularly makes for a an ext compelling dispute to build-your-own.

Reloading your own shotgun shells might indeed expense less 보다 off-the-shelf boxes even at huge box stores. The other side of the equation is time and travel. You still must drive somewhere for 25-pound bags the shot, bulky bags that wads and jugs of powder. Virtual purchasing is of course an option, yet take into account shipping and also the cost benefits can easily diminish.

And what about space? execute you have actually the room for a dedicated reloading bench and assorted accessories? You require to likewise consider the reloading is dirty. Shooting pellets will certainly inevitably spill almost everywhere the place. Gunpowder granules spread choose dust, other than they leave a black residue. And pretty quickly the area smells the grease and cleaning solvents.

A MEC reloading press.

To start, indigenous a gaue won perspective, you must rationalize the initial expense of a shotshell press. Mayville design Co. — fondly dubbed MEC — might be the volume leader in the industry. You can purchase one entry-level MEC press for under $200 then move up come a totally tricked-out variation for a price pull close $1,200. Posness/Warren reloading presses can expense from $700 come $1,000.

For 12-gauge shells, you may discover the balance paper tipped in donate of low-cost shells indigenous big-box retailers. The exact same financials may use to 20-gauge shells — except when you acquire into competition loads packed through number 8 or 9 pellets. Relocating to 16 gauge, 28 gauge and .410, the smart money is generally on reloading end store-bought.

For 12 and also 20 gauge, however, it would be hard to sustain a solid financial case for hand-loading versus retail — unless you talk about quality.

It all begins with the Lyman Shotshell Reloading Handbook or miscellaneous similar. Individual materials such together hulls, wads, powders and primers have distinctive ballistic characteristics. Manuals such together Lyman’s provide “recipes” for practically every kind of need from soft shooting to blazing high performance. Tweaking the recipes is of food flirting through disaster (remember, shotshells space explosives), yet what you will uncover with adequate experimentation of various recipes is the perfect pack for friend — a personalized shell that performs well with the forcing cones of your barrels, your favorite chokes, the particular sport girlfriend shoot, your recoil tolerances and the best possible velocity (not necessarily the fastest). In a word, you desire consistency quite than the mass-produced shells that can be slightly different from each various other as lock come off the assembly lines.

If you desire to reload, safety and security is a peak priority. Wear shoot glasses, latex gloves and even an apron to protect against contaminants from dispersing throughout her house. Store your area clean; vacuum it whenever necessary. Salary attention: too many shotgun barrels explode with catastrophic aftermath after a reloading push accidentally drops a dual load the powder right into a hull there is no you noticing it. Nothing be a cheapskate by knocking a live primer out of a discarded hull — or other such nonsense.

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Be safe, be clever and always respect the components you are working with, and you can experience numerous years of fun, and also savings that come v reloading your very own shot shells. If friend aren’t certain where to start, simply ask one of us old timers, we space happy come share our knowledge and experience.