How to read shotgun cartridge boxes


I sometimes admire happy people who stumble upon Walmart, grab the first box of 00 buckshot they spy, check the price isn’t crazy, then go home with ammo that will serve them just fine. Unfortunately, I’m the type who wants to know exactly what’s in this box. Sure, it’s written right there on the colored card, but what does it all mean? Here is.

Gauge: If you are not sure what the gauge is, you need a corrective reading, not Illustrated shot, but there are some things the average shooter might not know. The gauge is an old English measure of bore diameter which reflects the number of pure lead balls of the same diameter which equals 1 pound. For example, a 12 gauge has a diameter of 0.729 inch, so 12 solid lead bullets 0.729 inches in diameter equals 1 pound.

The gauge has little to do with the size of a shotgun’s pattern – which is dictated by the starter – but rather with the pattern’s density potential. While a 10 caliber shell has the capacity to hold more shot and powder than a 12 caliber shell of the same length, it is not always loaded to do so. That’s why you need to read the box and keep reading this.

Shot size: This is the diameter of the individual pellet, collectively referred to as the shot. The diameter of the pellets is measured in inches and therefore, if they are made of pure lead, the pellets of the same diameter have the same mass. Despite common myths, smaller diameter pellets do not penetrate more than larger pellets traveling at the same speed.

Ounce: The total weight of the payload, or pellets. It is used for almost all sizes of shot, with the exception of buckshot, which uses the number of pellets. For example, a 1 ounce charge of # 8 12 gauge shot contains approximately 410 pellets. (A 20 gauge with a payload of 1 oz of # 8 has the same number.) A 1 1??8– ounce of charge has about 461. If all things are equal, a 1 1??8-a charge of one ounce would be deadlier and have more recoil than a charge of one ounce, but all things are not equal. It takes more powder to move 1 1??8 ounces of lead at the same speed as a 1 ounce payload, so if both charges have the same amount of powder, the 1 1??8 ounce of charge will have less speed. This means that even though its pattern density will be greater, the energy of its individual remote pellets will be less. The same goes for buckshot fillers that contain more granules. This is why you have to be careful with the number of dram equivalent (or speed) of a box. Plus, because metal is expensive, a higher payload usually means it’s priced accordingly.

Dramatic equivalent: Centuries ago, cartridges were loaded with black powder measured in drams, 16 of which were equivalent to 1 ounce. After the advent of smokeless powder, chargers needed black powder / smokeless powder equivalents, which is why the term dram equivalent was coined. It is a measure of the amount of powder in a gun. But since there are a myriad of powders today, this measurement is very approximate. For example, a current equivalent of 12 gauge dram for skeet loads is 33??4, while some new heavy loads contain the equivalent of 4½ dram. If the box says “Max”, it means it contains the maximum amount of powder that the manufacturer considers safe.

When it comes to buckshot, many companies such as Winchester luckily now list charge speed, which is a product of powder charge and payload. In general, speeds around 1,100 fps often mean less powder and a smoother punch load. Low recoil buckshot charges (sometimes referred to as “tactical” or “law enforcement”) often have 8 pellets instead of 9 to reduce payload mass and therefore recoil energy. Anything in the 1300 to 1400 fps range is considered high speed or a magnum.

Length / Number of pellets: The length of the shell determines the shell’s ability to hold more granules and powder, although this is not necessarily the case. Lengths range from Aguila’s new 1¾ inch “Minishell” to 3½ inch 10 and 12 gauge magnums. Typically, 2¾ inch 12 gauge cartridges contain nine to 12.00 pellets; 3-inch cartridges can hold 12-15, and 3½-inch payloads, like the Remington Express Magnum, up to 18. In general, longer length means more pellets, more energy, more. recoil and less magazine capacity.

Lead: Today’s shotgun pellets are made from lead, steel, and many other alloys and elements, including tungsten heavier than lead, bismuth, and other metals. The downside to these alternatives, however, is that they are much harder than lead, so they don’t grow into the target. They are also very expensive. For buckshot, stick with lead.

Buffered shot: Refers to the presence of a buffer material that prevents the pellets from colliding with each other during recoil (firing) and therefore keeps them as spherical as possible, ultimately improving the pattern and energy of the downstream load. At close range home defense, the strain is not critical. But for hunters or others who might take longer shots, the deformation of the pellets can lead to erratic flight and reduced downstream performance.

Tackle shot: The copper plating adds protection to the soft lead pellets which could otherwise warp when recoiled. It also adds costs.

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