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Shotgun Shells

 Shotgun Shells are self-contained cartridges loaded with shot or slugs designed to be fired from a shotgun. Most shotgun shells are designed to be fired from a smoothbore shotgun barrel, however rifled shotgun barrels are gaining popularity and to that means many saboted shotgun shells have been designed for their use in rifled shotgun barrels.

 Modern shotgun shells typically consist of a plastic case (when empty usually refered to as the hull), with the base covered in a thin brass covering. Often the more powerful shotgun loads will use "high brass" hulls, with the brass extended up further along the sides of the shell, while light loads will use "low brass" hulls. The brass does not actually provide a significant amount of strength, but the difference in appearance provides shooters with a way to quickly differentiate between high and low shot weight ammunition. High brass usually references the ounces of shot contained in the shotshell.

Shotshells have five and or six main parts:
Hull: The hull holds the primer, powder, wad, and shot pellets.
Primer: The primers internal compound explodes when struck by the firing pin and ignites the powder.
Gunpowder: The powder burns and creates expanding gases to move the wad, shot cup and shot down the bore.
Wad: The wad seals the gas behind the shot charge.
Shot Cup: The shot cup protects the shot and the internal portion of the barrel.
Shot: The shot (lead, steel, bismuth, iron, nickel plated and copper plated, pellets) that strike the intended target.

 Whether you are target shooting, skeet shooting, trap shooting, hunting for deer, turkey, doves, ducks, pheasants, bears, elk or quail there is a shotgun shell designed for those uses and many more. The most common shotgun shell sizes today are for 10 Gauge Shotguns,
12 Gauge Shotguns, 16 Gauge Shotguns, 20 Gauge Shotguns,
28 Gauge Shotguns and .410 Bore Shotguns.

 Common shotshell nomenclature looks like this; example:
12 gauge - 2 3/4" - 2 3/4 dram equivalent - 1 1/8 0z. - # 7 1/2 shot.
12 Gauge refers to the gauge of the shotgun that the shotshell can be safely fired in.
2 3/4" refers to the chamber length of the gauge of the shotgun that the shotshell can be safely fired in. The length is the total length of a fired shotshell once the shotshell crimp is opened.
See image below:


2 3/4 dram equivalent refers to the amount of power the modern shotshell powder will generate as to its old counter-part gunpowder or black powder that shotshells use to be loaded with.
Note: Currently shotshell manufacturers are listing the actual velocity of the shot which is more accurate than dram eqivalent designation.
1 1/8 oz. refers to the total weight in ounces of all the shot pellets that are loaded in the shotshell.
# 7 1/2 shot refers to the shot pellet size that is loaded in the shotshell.

 Birdshot shotgun shells, the shot sizes are numbered similar to the shotgun gauges, the smaller the number, the larger the shot, see table below, lead shot.

 Buckshot shotgun shells are used primarily for hunting larger game, such as deer, however it is also used in riot shotguns and combat shotguns for defensive, police, and military use. Buckshot is categorized by number, with smaller numbers being larger diameter shot.

Lead Shot Sizes:
#12 Lead Shot = .05" Diameter.
#9 Lead Shot = .08" Diameter.
#8 1/2 Lead Shot = .085" Diameter.
#8 Lead Shot = .09" Diameter.
#7 1/2 Lead Shot = .095" Diameter.
#6 Lead Shot = .11" Diameter.
#5 Lead Shot = .12" Diameter.
#4 Lead Shot = .13" Diameter.
#2 Lead Shot = .15" Diameter.
BB Lead Shot = .18" Diameter.
#4 Lead Buckshot = .24" Diameter, Pellet Weight = 20 Grains.
#3 Lead Buckshot = .25" Diameter, Pellet Weight = 25 Grains.
#2 Lead Buckshot = .27" Diameter, Pellet Weight = 30 Grains.
#1 Lead Buckshot = .30" Diameter, Pellet Weight = 40 Grains.
#0 Lead Buckshot = .32" Diameter, Pellet Weight = 50 Grains.
#00 Lead Buckshot = .33" Diameter, Pellet Weight = 61 Grains.
#000 Lead Buckshot = .36" Diameter, Pellet Weight = 71 Grains.

Lead Shot Pellet Count Per Shotshell Load
Shot
Size
1/2
oz.
11/16
oz.
3/4
oz.
7/8
oz.
1
oz.
1 1/8
oz.
1 1/4
oz.
1 3/8
oz.
1 1/2
oz.
1 5/8
oz.
1 7/8
oz.
2
oz.
2 1/4
oz.
#9 292 402 439 512 585 658 731 804 877 951 1097 1170 1316
#8˝ 249 342 373 435 497 559 621 683 745 808 932 994 1118
#8 205 282 307 359 410 461 512 564 615 666 769 820 922
#7˝ 175 241 262 306 350 394 437 481 525 569 656 700 787
#6 112 155 169 197 225 253 281 309 337 366 422 450 506
#5 85 117 127 149 170 191 212 234 255 276 319 340 382
#4 67 93 101 118 135 152 169 186 202 219 253 270 304
#2 43 60 65 76 87 98 109 120 130 141 163 174 196
BB 25 34 37 44 50 56 62 69 75 81 94 100 112

 All shotgun shells that contain shot, may have a different types of metal shot in them, lead, steel, bismuth, iron, nickel plated and copper plated, they will pattern differently from each other so no matter what shotgun shells you use, the shotgun needs pattern tested accordingly.

 Lead free shotgun shells are loaded with steel, bismuth, or tungsten composite pellets instead of more traditional lead-based pellets. Due to environmental regulations, the use of lead shot is banned in Canada and the United States when hunting migratory game birds, such as ducks and geese, forcing the use of non-toxic shot for upland waterfowl hunting.

Steel Shot Sizes:
#6 Steel Shot = .11" Diameter.
#5 Steel Shot = .12" Diameter.
#4 Steel Shot = .13" Diameter.
#3 Steel Shot = .14" Diameter.
#2 Steel Shot = .15" Diameter.
#1 Steel Shot = .16" Diameter.
BB Steel Shot = .18" Diameter.
BBB Steel Shot = .19" Diameter.
T Steel Shot = .20" Diameter.
F Steel Shot = .22" Diameter.

Steel Shot Pellet Count Per Shotshell Load
Shot
Size
3/4
oz.
15/16
oz.
1
oz.
1 1/8
oz.
1 1/4
oz.
1 3/8
oz.
1 1/2
oz.
1 9/16
oz.
1 5/8
oz.
#7 316 395 422 475 527 580 633 659 685
#6 236 295 315 354 394 433 472 492 512
#5 182 228 243 273 304 334 364 380 395
#4 144 180 192 216 240 264 288 300 312
#3 118 143 158 178 197 217 237 247 257
#2 94 117 125 141 156 172 187 195 203
#1 77 97 103 116 129 142 154 161 167
BB 54 67 72 81 90 99 108 112 117
BBB 46 58 62 70 77 85 93 97 101
T 39 49 52 58 65 71 78 81 84
F 30 37 40 45 50 55 60 62 65

 Steel shot does not deform from the time ignition starts in a shotshell until all the shot has come to rest in a piece of game, therefore steel shot (as a whole in percentage) penetrates deeper than lead shot. Penetration factor is based on the remaining round pellets that are left which will penetrate deeper than dented or deformed lead pellets.

Relevant Lead Shot to Steel Shot Shotgun Ammunition Ballistic Equivalency Conversion Chart For Small Game Hunting Applications.
Steel
Size
#6
Shot Count
1 1/8 oz.
335
Energy 40 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
1.3 ft.lbs.
Lead
Size
#7 1/2
Shot Count
1 oz.
350
Energy 40 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
1.3 ft.lbs.
Steel
Size
#4
Shot Count
1 1/8 oz.
212
Energy 40 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
2.5 ft.lbs.
Lead
Size
#6
Shot Count
1 oz.
225
Energy 40 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
2.3 ft.lbs.
Steel
Size
#3
Shot Count
1 1/8 oz.
175
Energy 40 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
3.4 ft.lbs.
Lead
Size
#5
Shot Count
1 oz.
170
Energy 40 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
3.5 ft.lbs.
Steel
Size
#2
Shot Count
1 1/8 oz.
141
Energy 40 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
4.4 ft.lbs.
Lead
Size
#4
Shot Count
1 oz.
135
Energy 40 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
4.4 ft.lbs.
Steel
Size
BB
Shot Count
1 1/8 oz.
80
Energy 60 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
5.6 ft.lbs.
Lead
Size
#2
Shot Count
1 oz.
87
Energy 60 yds.
1350 f.p.s.
4.9 ft.lbs.

 Slug shotgun shells use a heavy lead projectile, usually with pre-cut rifling, intended for use in a smoothbore shotgun barrel and often used for hunting large game. The slug itself is rifled causing the projectile to spin and which increases accuracy of the slug.
See Image Below:

 Much later shotguns were produced with rifled barrels, and slugs were designed to be fired from them with spin stabilization. Saboted slug shotgun shells usually use a lead-cored, full copper-jacketed projectile supported by a plastic sabot, which is designed to engage the rifling in a rifled shotgun barrel and impart a spin onto the projectile. See Image Below:

 Some shotgun slugs are now designed to work effectively in smooth-bore shotguns as well as rifled shotgun barrels such as Winchesters Hollow Point Full Bore Rifled Slug which features WinGlideŽ Wad Stabilizer. Designed for use in smooth bore shotguns, rifled choke tube shotguns or fully rifled barrels. See Image Below:

Pure Lead Rifled Slug Diameters:
10 Gauge = .765" Diameter.
12 Gauge = .735" Diameter.
16 Gauge = .651" Diameter.
20 Gauge = .606" Diameter.
28 Gauge = .535" Diameter.
.410 Bore = .403" Diameter.


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