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>> Some Thoughts on Specialized Shot Shells :: By James C. Gates on 2001-06-14
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After many years of stagnation, there is a renewed interest in specialized shotshells. The publicity of today’s turkey hunting has brought about a rash of new shotshell loads and shotgun chokes! Is all these development new? Not really! If one reads Frank Forrester’s notes published in 1838 and later, W.W. Greeners finds that only recently have shotgun patterns matched what was the norm in blackpowder days. The first experiments on chokes was done the this country for the market hunter, but real development was done by Greener. The question arises...can the handloader/reloader of today put together a shotshell that will throw a more dense and uniform pattern than the available factory loads. The answer to that is a definite, yes! To do this it takes more time than the factories can invest in a single shotshell. I will present some suggestions for you to try.

Francis Sell discovered some years ago that by reducing the muzzle velocity below the speed of sound...there was less tendency of the pellets shock wave against each other. Another interesting discovery of his was that the tightest patterns were when the velocity was from just below the speed of sound. The turbulence of the pellet passing back down through the speed of sound opened up the pattern.

His next test showed that the harder the pellets were. the less deformation in the forcing cone and choke. Today the overall best pellets are nickel, with copper plates very close.

The next consideration is selecting a suitable hull for specialized shot shells. For less pellet deformation, we need a slow uniform powder burn. This calls for bulky powders like Blue Dot, which in turn call for a high volume powder capacity hull. The best on the market today is the Activ hull available from Ballistic Products Inc. is a extra strong straight walled hull. Its high volume lets you tailor your load with many type of wads and fillers.

Next to consider is what type of wad to use. Here we have a choice between a one piece wad or a wad column made up of an over powder wad, with filler wads. Which ever you decide to use, the single most important is a good seal over the powder. O.P. wads like the famous Alcan P.G.S. wad or Ballistic Products “Obturator Wad” is essential for a good seal. If the wad is too heavy, it will ram into the base of the shot column as it leaves the barrel and open up the pattern. Years ago it was thought that an overshot wad of the rolled crimp shells was causing blown patterns. Only today with high speed photography do we find that it was the heavy filler wads hitting the base of the shot column. We are now experimenting with Styrofoam filler wads and they seem to be the answer to the heavy filler wad problem. If one decides to use a one piece wad, I suggest you consider the excellent “Pattern Driver” sold by Ballistic Products, Inc. The wad is uncut and you can tailored the tightness on the pattern by varying your slits. If you decide to use filler wads, an excellent shot protector for 12 gauge can be made from paper coin wrappers sprayed with silicone.

There is nothing more important than the crimp of the shell. It must be tight for the slow burn powders. If one uses the rolled crimp instead of the folded crimp the volume of the case is increased. Here again, we are testing styro over shot wads. The roll crimp device can also be purchased from Ballistic Products, Inc. and is used in a drill press or hand drill.

All this I have written is an over simplification and If anyone is interested, they should contact me at my email address.

To summarize....Keep the velocity just below the speed of sound. An excellent muzzle velocity is 1150’/”. Keep your wad column as light as possible. Use the slow burn powders like Blue Dot. The tight rolled crimp is best. And foremost of all...use good round hard shot like copper plate.

Some quick thoughts on chokes... today there are two ideas on chokes/patterns. One school of thought leans toward the idea that the longer time it takes for the wad to release the shot, the tighter the pattern. The other is that if there are fingers in the choke that retard the wad and allow the shot to move ahead, then the wad will not ram the back of the shot column. The oldest method is the former and the latest the latter. I have some thoughts on that, but will not post them as they are argumentative. I will add that specialized shot shell show the most improvement over factory loads when shot sizes from #5 and larger are used. There is a tremendous improvement in buckshot loads, but here again I will not open that can of worms on an open forum! I am available at all times to discuss this subject at my email address.

Best Regards As Always, James

James C. Gates
HC2 Box 2680
Old Town, Florida 32680

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