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A shotgun shell is a self-contained cartridge loaded with shot or a slug designed to be fired from a shotgun. Most shotgun shells are designed to be fired from a smoothbore barrel, but with the recent gain in popularity of dedicated shotguns with rifled barrels for firing slugs, there are many rounds specifically designed to be fired from a rifled barrel. A rifled barrel will increase the accuracy of the shotgun with slugs, but makes it unsuitable for firing shot, as the rifling causes the shot to form a hollow "O" shape. Rimmed, centerfire . ... The term shot may refer to: Look up shot on Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... For other meanings, see Slug (disambiguation) A slug is a term used for a solid ballistic projectile. ... A pump-action and two semi-automatic action shotguns and boxes of ammunition A shotgun is a firearm typically used to fire a number of small spherical pellets, the shot, from a smoothbore barrel of relatively large diameter. ... Smoothbore refers to a firearm which does not have a rifled barrel. ... Rifling is the means by which a firearm gyroscopically stabilizes a projectile. ...


Construction of a typical shotshell

Modern shotshells typically consist of a plastic case, with the base covered in a thin brass covering. Paper shells used to be common, and are still made, as are solid brass shells. Some companies have produced what appear to be all-plastic shells, although in these there is a small metal ring cast into the rim of the shell to provide strength. Often the more powerful loads will use "high brass" shells, with the brass extended up further along the sides of the shell, while light loads will use "low brass" shells. 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 powered ammunition. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc (a copper alloy), a solid solution. ...

The base of the shotshell is fairly thick to hold the large shotgun primer, which is quite a bit longer than primers used for rifle and pistol ammunition. Modern smokeless powders are far more efficient than the original black powder used in shotgun shells, so very little space is actually taken by powder; shotguns use small quantities of powerful double base powders, equivalent to fast-burning pistol powders, with up to 50% nitroglycerin. After the powder comes the wadding. The primary purpose of a wad is to provide a gas seal, since without a wad the gas would just blow through the shot rather than propelling it. The wad consists of to three parts, the powder wad, the cushion, and the shot cup, which may be separate pieces or be one part. The powder wad acts the gas seal, and is placed firmly over the powder; it may be a paper or plastic part. The cushion comes next, and it is designed to compress under pressure, to act as a shock absorber and minimize the deformation of the shot; it also serves to take up as much space as is needed between the powder wad and the shot. Cushions are almost universally made of plastic with crumple zones. The shot cup is the last part of the shell, and it serves to hold the shot together as it moves down the barrel. Shot cups have slits on the sides so that they peel open after leaving the barrel, allowing the shot to continue on in flight undisturbed. Shot cups are also almost universally plastic. The shot fills the shot cup (which must be of the correct length to hold the desired quantity of shot), and the shotgun shell is then crimped closed. A primer is a nucleic acid strand (or related molecule) that serves as a starting point for DNA replication. ... A rifle is a firearm that uses a spiral groove cut into the barrel to spin a projectile (usually a bullet), thus improving accuracy and range of the projectile. ... For the coin, see pistole For the part of a flower, see pistil. ... Smokeless powder is the name given to a number of gunpowder-like propellants used in firearms which produce negligible smoke when fired, unlike the older black powder which it replaced. ... Black powder - here a 100 grams container - can be freely bought in Switzerland. ... Nitroglycerin, also known as nitroglycerine, trinitroglycerin, and glyceryl trinitrate, is a chemical compound, a heavy, colorless, poisonous, oily, explosive liquid obtained by nitrating glycerol. ... Piece of paper Paper is a thin, flat material produced by the compression of fibres. ... Crimping is joining two pieces of metal or other malleable material by deforming one or both of them to hold the other. ...

Shotshell sizes

Shotgun shells are generally measured by "gauge", which is a number indicating how many lead spheres of the given diameter would be required to make a pound. This is an archaic measurement left over from the time when cannons were in a similar manner—a "12 pounder" would be a cannon that fired a 12 pound cannonball. The most popular shotgun gauge by far is 12 gauge, with other common gauges being 10, 16, 20, and 28. There are also some shotguns measured by diameter, rather than gauge, these are the .410 (10 mm), 9 mm (.357), and .22 (5.5 mm); these are correctly called ".410 bore", not ".410 gauge". Shotshells are also found in some handgun cartridges, such as .38 Special and .44 Magnum; these are often used in revolvers for defense against snakes at very close ranges, or for killing small pests such as rats. A number of single shot pistols and rifles are made in .45 Colt with special screw in chokes allowing the use of .410 bore shells—usually the chokes are designed with deep grooves parallel to the bore designed to stop the spin of the shot column, as the .45 Colt barrel is rifled. The base of the .410 bore is similar enough to the .45 Colt to allow the .410 to be safely chambered in any .45 Colt firearm with a long enough chamber. General Name, Symbol, Number lead, Pb, 82 Chemical series poor metals Group, Period, Block 14, 6, p Appearance bluish white Atomic mass 207. ... Pound may refer to Look up pound on Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A handgun is a firearm small enough to be carried and used in one hand. ... Colt Cobra . ... The . ... Revolver is also a rock-and-roll album by The Beatles. ... The . ... Rifling refers to spiral grooves that have been formed into the barrel of a firearm. ... An assortment of modern firearms using fixed ammunition, including military assult rifles, a sporting shotgun (fourth from bottom), and a tactical shotgun (third from bottom). ...

Gauge Diameter
10 0.76" (19.7 mm)
12 0.73" (18.5 mm)
16 0.66" (16.8 mm)
20 0.62" (15.6 mm)
28 0.55" (14.0 mm)

Shot sizes

Shotshells (shotgun shells loaded with shot) are loaded with different sizes of shot depending on the target. For skeet shooting shooting, a small shot such as a #9 would be used, because range is short and a high density pattern is desirable. Trap shooting requires longer shots, and so a larger shot, up to #7½ would be desired. For hunting game, the range and the penetration needed to assure a clean kill must both be considered. Shot loses its velocity very quickly due to its low sectional density (see external ballistics). Small shot, like that used for skeet and trap, will have lost all appreciable energy by 100 yards or meters, which is why trap and skeet ranges can be located near inhabited areas with no risk of injury to those outside the range. Skeet is a clay target shooting sport. ... Trap is a clay pigeon shooting sport, one of the ISSF shooting events. ... External ballistics is the part of ballistics that refers to the behavior of a bullet after it exits the barrel and before it hits the target. ...


Birdshot sizes are numbered similar to the shotgun gauges; the smaller the number, the larger the shot. Generally birdshot is just called "shot", such as "number 9 shot" or "BB shot".

Size Diameter Pellets/oz
Lead Steel
BBB .190" (4.83 mm) 62
BB .180" (4.57 mm) 50 72
1 .160" (4.06 mm)


2 .150" (3.81 mm) 87 125
3 .140" (3.56 mm) 158
4 .130" (3.30 mm) 135 192
5 .120" (3.05 mm) 170 243
6 .110" (2.79 mm) 225 315
.100" (2.41 mm) 350
8 .090" (2.29 mm) 410
9 .080" (2.03 mm) 585

Birdshot selection

For hunting, shot size must be chosen not only for the range, but also for the game. The shot must reach the target with enough energy to penetrate to a depth sufficient to kill the game. Lead shot is still the best performer for the money, but with environmental restrictions on the use of lead, especially with waterfowl, steel, bismuth, and tungsten composites are required. Steel, being significantly less dense than lead, requires larger shot sizes, but is a good choice when cost is a consideration. Steel, however, cannot safely be used in some older shotguns without causing damage to either the bore or to the choke of the shotgun due to the hardness of steel shot. Tungsten shot is equal or even greater in density than lead, but is far more expensive. Bismuth shot falls in between steel and tungsten shot in both density and cost. General Name, Symbol, Number lead, Pb, 82 Chemical series poor metals Group, Period, Block 14, 6, p Appearance bluish white Atomic mass 207. ... The old steel cable of a colliery winding tower Steel is a metal alloy whose major component is iron, with carbon being the primary alloying material. ... General Name, Symbol, Number bismuth, Bi, 83 Chemical series poor metals Group, Period, Block 15, 6, p Appearance lustrous reddish white Atomic mass 208. ... General Name, Symbol, Number tungsten, W, 74 Chemical series transition metals Group, Period, Block 6, 6, d Appearance grayish white, lustrous Atomic mass 183. ...

Game Lead/Tungsten Steel
Turkey, pheasant 4 to 6
Quail, dove 7½ to 8
Rabbit 6 to 7½
Squirrel 6
Geese BB to 2 BBB to 1
Ducks, low 4 to 6 2 to 4
Ducks, high 2 to 4 BB to 2


Larger sizes of shot, large enough that they have to be packed into the shell rather than just dumped in, are called buckshot. Buckshot is used for hunting larger game, such as deer, and also in riot shotguns and combat shotguns for defensive, police, and military use. Buckshot is also categorized by number, with smaller numbers being larger shot. It is called either "buckshot" or just "buck", such as "triple-ought buck" or "number 4 buck". Subfamilies Capreolinae Cervinae Hydropotinae Muntiacinae A deer is a ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. ... A riot shotgun is a shotgun designed or modified for use as a primarily defensive weapon. ... Winchester Model 1897 Pump Shotgun, modified for use in World War 1 Combat shotguns, shotguns modified slightly to increase their suitability for use in combat, have been popular in the United States, both with law enforcement and with the US military (particularly the US Marine Corps), since the 19th Century. ...

Size Diameter Pellets/oz
000 ("triple-ought") .36" (9.1 mm) 6
00 ("double-ought") .33" (8.4 mm) 8
0 ("one-ought") .32" (8.1 mm) 9
1 .30" (7.6 mm) 10
2 .27" (6.9 mm) 15
3 .25" (6.4 mm) 18
4 .24" (6 mm) 21

Shotshells and patterning

Most modern sporting shotguns have interchangeable choke tubes to allow the shooter to change the spread of shot out of the gun. In some cases, it is not practical to do this; the gun might have fixed choke, or a shooter firing at receding targets may want to fire a wide pattern immediately followed by a narrower pattern out of a single barrelled shotgun. The spread of the shot can be altered by changing the characteristics of the shell. Look up Choke in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Choke may refer to: In engineering, a choke is a device for restricting airflow. ...

Narrower patterns

A buffering material, such as granulated plastic, sawdust, or similar material can be mixed with the shot to fill the spaces between the individual pellets. When fired, the buffering material compresses and supports the shot, reducing the deformation the shot pellets experience under the extreme acceleration. Copper plated lead shot, steel, bismuth, and tungsten composite shot all have a hardness greater than that of plain lead shot, and will deform less as well. Reducing the deformation will result in tighter patterns, as the spherical pellets tend to fly straighter.

Wider patterns

Shooting the softest possible shot will result in more shot deformation and a wider pattern; in this case the cheapest available ammunition is often the best, as the lead used will have minimal alloying elements and be very soft. Spreader wads are wads that have a small plastic or paper insert in the middle of the shot cup, usually a cylinder or "X" cross-section. When the shot exits the barrel, the insert helps to push the shot out from the center, opening up the pattern. Often these result in inconsistent performance, though modern designs are doing much better than the traditional improvised solutions. Intentionally deformed shot (hammered into ellipsoidal shape) or cubical shot will also result in a wider pattern, much wider than soft sphereical shot, with more consistency than spreader wads. Spreader wads and non-sperical shot are disallowed in some competitions. Hunting loads that use either spreaders or non-spherical shot are usually called "brush loads", and are favored for hunting in areas where dense cover keeps shot distances very short.

See also

  Results from FactBites:
Hunt Ontario | Articles | Buckshot or not? (1182 words)
Buckshot is one of our oldest loads, tracing its ancestry to the earliest muzzleloaders and, until recently, it had not changed much in a century.
This is a fallacy, and if you insist on buckshot you should fit your gun with open sights at least and zero the centre of the pattern (assuming you can coax such a thing out of your gun) at no more than 50 yards Ð and 30 would be preferable.
Tests with buckshot of various sizes, using both targets and penetration boxes, suggest that 25 yards is about the maximum effective range of a load, if you want anything resembling consistent performance.
  More results at FactBites »



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