Sunday, October 19, 2008

Trick Loads for Shotguns

Shooting black powder in the destert

Trick Loads for Shotguns

Making trick and unusual loads for shotguns isn’t as easy as it seems. There are several criteria that you have to keep in mind. First of all safety has to be observed as in all reloading. Shotguns have thinner barrels and breeches then rifles so they won’t take as much pressure. Shotguns in one respect have some versatility but there are limits. You won’t be able to make a load that would perform at 300 yards for a couple of reasons. Shot simply won’t carry that far effectively because it’s too light and spreads too far. Slugs would drop too much to warrant serious consideration for long distance shooting. Because of the diameter of the 12 gauge a slug would have to weigh several ounces and be launched at quite a bit of velocity to be effective at long range. Such a projectile would produce horrendous recoil and I for one wouldn’t do that to my shoulder. Then you have to decide what use the load will have if any. Is there something it can be used for or are you trying to impress your shooting buddies. The latter is ok as long as it is done in a safe and responsible way.

3 balls at 10 yards

I can remember talking to quite a few people who claimed that they got shot with rock salt at one time or another. They were usually doing something on a farmer’s land that they weren’t supposed to be doing. Anyway they claimed that it left some welts or penetrated in a couple of instances. I got curious because I never saw commercial rock salt loads for sale. I was told that the farmers dumped out the shot and substituted the rock salt before recrimping the shell. I doubt that for a couple of reasons. When a shotgun shell is made the powder charge is adjusted for the amount of shot loaded in order to give the best results. Rock salt is much lighter then shot so with a substitution the powder won’t burn correctly meaning the salt won’t have enough velocity to harm anyone. As with working up any load the powder charge has to be adjusted to the weight of the projectiles to get satisfactory results. The only way that I made it work ok was to use an Active brand shell because they have a lot of volume and put a cut down wad tightly against 15 grains of Red Dot or Bullseye. You may want to adjust the powder charge a bit to meet your needs. You can substitute any hull that doesn’t have inside wadding or use a 3 or 3 & ½’ casing. Pack the rock salt in tightly and use a good crimp and you should be in business. A good load will penetrate both sides of a cardboard box at 15 feet with the bigger pellets. I have done some pattern tests and at 5 yards it has a pretty dense pattern while at 10 yards it scatters quite a bit. Much past that it’s useless and at 25 yards forget it. Once you have them then you have to figure out what they are good for. I would not use them for home defense because they are not lethal in most cases. You can injure someone and possible discourage them from any wrongdoing but the problem is they will be back with their lawyer. If you put their eye out they will own everything you have in this litigious society where the rights of criminals are put above yours. If you have a neighborhood dog getting into your trash and you don’t want to kill him then this may be your answer. A dose of rock salt should discourage most animals from trespassing a second time.
The information in this article is for reading and entertainment purposes only. Do not attempt any of this yourself as serious injury can occur. It takes a lot of experience and knowledge to do this type of experimenting. Since I have no control I can not be held liable for its use.

2 - 2 &1/2 & 2 & 2/4" shells

You can make shotgun blanks fairly easily. Most of the ones that I make have either black powder or a substitute. The load is from 50 to 60 grains of FFFG powder and a wad put over the powder to hold it in. You need a wad that fits tight enough to hold the powder in but excessive wadding isn’t needed or desired. I frequently cut a styrafoam wad and use it. Too much wadding will cause a projectile to be expelled from the barrel making it much more dangerous. You can substitute 20 to 25 grains of blank powder or about 40 grains of something such as Bullseye. You can experiment to obtain the noise level and performance that you want. You might need a tighter wad to enhance the powder burning and make enough noise. Smokeless powders generally require more confinement to burn properly. I have some old powder that was pulled from military rounds that was lying around. I filled up some regular 2 & ¾” cases to the top and crimped them as normal. Upon firing them I discovered that they made nice loud blanks. Since there is no projectile pressure wasn’t excessive but they are definitely outdoor use only as they are loud and powerful. I use the dies on my Mec 600 to load these shells as I do with all my shot shell loads. I push the crimp down inside the casing much as a roll crimp. You should never shoot a full power blank in an enclosed area as the noise is quite loud. Also they are pretty powerful and you should never fire a shotgun blank at anyone at close range. Doing that can seriously injure or even kill someone. Besides reenactments they can be used for signaling or perhaps scaring an unwanted animal away.

Nail load at 5 yards

A reduced recoil load would be effective as a house defense load. A slug that weighs an ounce shot out at 1000 feet per second would be an effective load because the reduced recoil would enable you to control your shots easier and would be less apt to over penetrate. Another advantage to reduced recoil loads is the lack of the intimidation factor which will encourage most folks to practice more. If a 45 Colt with a 250 grain bullet at 900 feet per second is a good defense load imagine what a 1 oz slug at 1000 feet per second will do. The slug is a 69 caliber projectile plus weighs twice as much as the 45. Shooting the Aguila slugs showed a practical house load with all the desired attributes of a defense load. The recoil was very mild and there isn’t over penetration which is a serious consideration in most neighborhoods. I shot a thick propane container that had about ¼” thick sides. The slug dented it about an inch but didn’t penetrate the side. I recovered one of the slugs and it had expanded quite a bit. I chronographed them at 950 fps. I also obtained some slugs that weigh 410 grains. After loading them with 18 X Red Dot they produced a similar size dent in the gas container. Like the Aguila it expanded quite a bit. Either slug should be a good house defense load where over penetration is a consideration. Another plus for the short Aguila slugs is you might be able to put more rounds in the magazine of your gun if they feed which they did ok in my Mossberg. Accuracy at 15 yards with either is more then adequate for defense purposes.

Rock salt at 5 yards

Aguila makes special shells that are shorter then normal and produce less recoil. They are 1 & ¾” long and come in slugs, buckshot and birdshot. They can be bought at Zanders that’s where I obtained my samples. Other loads that are offered on the specialized market include flares and flame throwers. The flares can be useful if you are out in the woods and are lost or injured it could help rescuers locate you. A boat stranded could also benefit from flares. Personally I can’t imagine going out in a decent size boat without a good shotgun and various types of ammo. I can’t imagine much use for a flamethrower shell that shoots flames out about 250 feet. It would be extremely hazardous to shoot such ammo in the desert where I live. The fire hazard would be way too high and I wouldn’t try them unless I knew it was entirely safe to do so. When buying some of these shells read carefully the hazard warning labels before using. Some of the specialty shells require an expensive hazmat fee and are not allowed in some areas. I strongly urge against anyone trying to make these types of shells as the chemicals can be extremely hazardous to your well being. Fooling around with incendiary and explosive shells might get you a Darwin award.

Components for bolo load

There are other loads that you can produce that may not be available from the various manufacturers. You can make a spreader load quite easily. Just take a thin piece of cardboard cut it to size and insert it in the middle of the shot load. You can do it with 2 pieces in a cross fashion and it will enhance the spreading of shot. It may be useful for shooting small game at close range of as a self defense load. The only problem with using any handloads for defensive purposes some jurisdictions may give you a hard time. They feel that if you concoct your own loads that you are willing to shoot some one with a more deadly load then the factory offers. While it sounds like nonsense it is a real concern for anyone interested in self defense law. Quite honestly a load of 6 shot will take care of 99% of any self defense situation you will encounter.

Business end of 12 gauge

For testing most of these loads I have a Mossberg that I bought some years ago for $18. The barrel looks like someone cut off the end with a wood saw and the rest looks rough. However after cleaning up and putting in a magazine spring it turned out to be a decent hunting gun. I later bought a barrel with the screw in chokes for doves etc which works well. Anyway the old barrel is perfect because the nails and various other items that I shot through it might scratch the inside. While not hurting the old barrel I wouldn’t think of doing it with the new barrel or one of my other shotguns.

Botton of brass case

One of the shells that I made up has some 1” finishing nails. I have a 2 piece wad and removed the red bottom piece to give the nails enough room. I packed them in tightly and it held 400 grains of them. I started with 18 X Red Dot and a Remington hull. Shooting at a target showed some individual nails plus a large hold at 5 yards. Past that they scatter a lot. It’s another load that doesn’t have much practical use. If you shot an intruder with that load you would probably have a difficult time explaining to the local District Attorney why you used such a load. In fact you might have some problem staying out of jail using that or another exotic load that you cooked up. You can shoot it at a paper target and have your buddies trying to guess what it was you shot. Other then that it is totally useless.

Good deer slugs 1 & 1/4 oz

Another unique load has paint balls as the projectiles. The ones that I bought fit inside the casing with very little side space which is perfect. The paint balls weigh 40 grains each. In a regular shell 3 will fit while the short Aguila shells will hold 1. I started out with 10 X 231 with a thin wad in both cases. They made little noise but the balls came apart before hitting a target. A couple of times I saw a blue mist about 10 to 15’ from the muzzle. I imagine that the powder produced too much shock for the balls. I tried shooting the paint balls with just primers but they busted inside the hulls and made a circle of paint about 5” in diameter at 6’ making an impressive spot on the target. I am sure glad that I am using a junk barrel as it had a pretty decent coat of paint inside.

Different wads for different loads

A catalog that I ran across advertised bolo loads. They have 2 round ball lead ends attached by a piece of wire. I though that I could duplicate that by getting some lead split shot sinkers and using a piece of thin wire to hold them together. The split shot was about the size of 00 buck and is held together with a wire about 1 foot long. Each finished projectile weighs 140 grains and I put 3 of them in a shell with 18 X Red Dot and a bottom piece of wad. Some of the bolo loads showed on the target that the wire held and others didn’t. Since they are not practical for anything that I can think of I probably won’t pursue them any further.

Paintballs at 3 yards

I wanted some ultra light loads so I put 10 X 231 and a thin wad behind 280 grains of shot. The load was a bit too light so will have to increase the powder a little until you get a satisfactory result with 12 grains being better. To properly crimp the shorties you need a special plate that can be used on a MEC loader. You can load short shells with it. The Aguila shells will need two of those plates to get a good crimp. Precision Reloading carry those items and many other shotgun accessories. Such a load could be used to dispatch pests at short range where excess noise and shot might be a problem. If you could find some #12 shot to load it would be a great short range rat load.

Good powder for shotguns

Wanting to try some multiple ball loads I obtained some Hornady 58 caliber round balls. After some research I put 27 X Blue Dot behind three of those balls each weighing 280 grains. I used a thin cardboard wad between the powder and balls. Upon shooting I found that the 27 grain load was too light with some being squib loads. I went up to 34 grains as I wanted to obtain about 1000 to 1100 feet per second with that load. Since the total payload weighs 840 grains that would be about all I wanted to avoid excessive recoil. In a strong shotgun they can be driven faster probably up to 1400 feet per second or so. Besides generating a lot of recoil it may strain some shotguns so keep that in mind when developing loads. They could be useful for self defense especially against a wild pig or mountain lion. I imagine that three balls launched at 11 to 1400 feet per second would discourage most attacks from the two and four legged predators. They may not have the necessary penetration to use on the big bears though testing would have to verify that. I didn’t have any large bears available for testing so I passed on that one. The 34 grain load worked better producing more consistent ammo and would make a good defense load for certain situations. After I got done putting all that ridicules stuff through the gun I cleaned it up with Bore Paste which always does a great job on old guns and tough clean assignments.
When experimenting with special loads for shotguns keep in mind that they aren’t as strong as a typical rifle. The barrels are thinner which while entirely adequate for normal loads aren’t suitable for loads at rifle pressures. Another thing that I encountered was a piece of a wad stayed in the barrel. Luckily I saw it before shooting something in back of it. If I missed the piece it may have produced a ring in the barrel.

Shotgun is good for self defense

The information in this article is for reading and entertainment purposes only. Do not attempt any of this yourself as serious injury can occur. It takes a lot of experience and knowledge to do this type of experimenting. Since I have no control I can not be held liable for its use.

Special plate needed to load shorter then normal shells

Monday, October 13, 2008

German 8 MM Commission Rifle

Full length 8 X 57 Commission Rifle

The Commission Rifle
In 1886 France came out with possibly the most important development in small arms which was the first successful smokeless cartridge the 8mm Lebel. It made everything up to that time obsolete immediately. It shot a fairly small projectile at velocities that were not obtainable with black powder. They were shooting bullets at 2000 feet per second as opposed to 1400 or so with the black powder rifles of the day. That was revolutionary at that time. Another advantage is the ammo was lighter so a soldier could carry more. As much as they would of like to they couldn’t keep the secret of smokeless powder to themselves for long. In those days France, England and Germany were in competition and any development in weapon technology was eagerly sought by them. They had vast empires in those days and needed the best weapons to maintain the status quo. Another advantage to smokeless powder is it didn’t give away the shooter as black powder does. There were no longer vast clouds of smoke coming from the rifle. It is also easier to clean up after and doesn’t foul the bore like black powder does. Of course all of these advantages weren’t lost on the various militaries. So in a matter of a generation we went from muzzle loaders to smokeless repeaters.

Reciever of Commission Rifle

One of the earlier countries to bring out a smokeless round was Germany. They came out with their own 8mm rifle in 1888 known as the Commission Rifle. It was designed by a commission hence its name and was one of the earlier smokeless powder rifles. They took features from other guns plus a couple of their own. I imagine it was an interesting experience to be on that commission. Their case was a rimless design as opposed to the rimmed Lebel. A rimless design would be more desirable for feeding and use in machine guns and many bolt actions so it was a step forward. It came out with the J bullet which is 318 in diameter weighing 227 grain round nose also at around 2000 feet per second while the later S bullet has a 323 diameter. There are some Commission rifles that were re-rifled to the 323 diameter bore so it might be a good idea to slug the bore. You can shoot 318 diameter bullets in a 323 bore but they won’t be very accurate but the reverse isn’t true. The Commission rifle used a magazine with Mannlicher features while the bolt resembled the Mauser design with the two front locking lugs. The magazine needs a special clip in order to be a repeater. The clip is the same on both ends so it can’t be put in the wrong way which would be a desirable feature in combat. Since the clips are scarce now that they are long out of production I consider that and most other detachable clips a liability. For target shooting using it as a single shot is no big deal except in a few cases. The 7.35 Carcano, one example, is a real pain to load without a clip. It also has a hand guard around the barrel which in theory gave it more accuracy but was difficult to produce and install. It also collected water inducing rust on the barrel. It was a well made product for its time but isn’t as strong as the 98 Mauser which replaced it. We must remember that in 1888 smokeless powder was in its infancy and the gun makers didn’t fully understand the requirements for heat treating and other requirements for the higher pressure powder. The workmanship appears to be typical German meaning that it was good with few or no tool marks. The extractor and ejector look puny as compared to the Mausers of that period but I didn’t have any problems with my specimen which I shot 2 or 300 times during my tests. There is a release on the side of the receiver to remove the bolt which works well. The safety is a wing type located on the rear of the bolt and it works ok. The bolt handle doesn’t touch the receiver when closed which could have gave it some extra strength by providing extra lockup. You should not shoot the later military ammo in it as it’s loaded too hot for this weapon and it may be corrosive not to mention the .323 diameter bullet which was adopted in 1903. If you have shot American commercial 8mm ammo you will note that its loaded relatively weak. Probably one of the reasons is that if its shot in the Commission Rifle it won’t wreck it although I don’t recommend that practice since the factory ammo has a .323 diameter bullet. If nothing else accuracy may suffer. If you stumble across some original military ammo I wouldn’t shoot it as it would be too old and may have some collector value as well. As a note if you attempt to shoot old ammo and it doesn’t go off keep the bolt closed for at least 30 seconds. Failure to do that can cause a serious accident as if the bolt is partially opened and it goes off there is no support for the round and hot gasses among other things can become missiles. I have run across old ammo that didn’t go off for several seconds after firing so it is not a theory. I have also spoken with other people who have experienced the same action with old ammo. If you encounter such ammo dispose of it in a safe manner as its way too dangerous to shoot. In many cases the powder may be deteriorated and the ammo is very unstable. I usually pull the bullets for future use and dump the powder.

Bolt for Commission Rifle

The Commission rifle replaced the hard hitting 11 mm Mauser 71/84 rifle that was in service since 1871. For some reason a Mauser rifle wasn’t adopted by Germany again until the 98 Mauser, which is the most successful design of all time for bolt action rifles. I imagine Paul Mauser wasn’t happy about that but he went about his business making various Mauser rifles for many countries. Anyway the 88 saw service for some years and China among others purchased some and used them. Like many obsolete military weapons they were used for years after production ceased by secondary units. My rifle has an 1896 date on the receiver which is near the end of the production run. There was a carbine and rifle version of these with barrel lengths of 17.6 and 29.1” respectively. The Karabiner has a spoon type of bolt while the rifle carries the straight bolt handle. They were sporterized to some extent and rebarreled to various cartridges not exceeding the 8mm in length. Also pressures had to be confined to about 45,000 psi to be considered safe. Another 8 X 57 to be careful of is the model 93’s that were rebarreled to the 8. The 93 has 2 locking lugs as opposed to the 3 that the 98 has. I know that a lot of them have been shot with hot ammo with no consequences but I don’t recommend it. Actually I consider the 93 action superior to the Commission Rifle in strength and function but it’s no 98. Keep in mind that these rifles are over a century old and not getting any younger. Another attractive feature of the Commission rifle is its price. You can get a good specimen for a couple of C notes or less. They can be found at gunshows or online auctions such as or

Good bullets for reloading

Shooting the model 88 rifle is no big problem. The standard 8mm cases should be used and 318 diameter bullets are fairly common. They can be swaged down from 323 bullets without much effort. The swaging die that I use to reduce the diameter of the bullets comes from CH Die and it works with a standard press. The 318 loading dies are available from several makers and medium powders work the best. Common sense loads should be used as not only the action isn’t as strong as the 98 also it doesn’t have the ability to vent gas as well either. That’s a good reason to wear safety glasses and ear protection when shooting these old guns. Cases seldom rupture but you never know. If your gun has excess headspace or an enlarged chamber those conditions will enhance the possibility of a case rupture. That would be especially true if you are using heavy loads as they tend to aggravate an already bad situation. If in doubt about your rifles condition it’s never a bad idea to have it checked out by someone who is qualified to do so. The headspace and chamber dimensions can be checked out by a knowledgeable person with the right tools. It might be the best investment you made. As with all old guns there is a possibility that some basement gunsmith altered it in a manner that will render it unsafe to shoot. It’s better to find that out sooner rather then later. They have been rebarreled to similar length cartridges such as the 257 Roberts but you still have that pressure ceiling to work with and in my view there are better actions to work with. Your better off using it as an original and enjoying it as such. Unless you do the work yourself it isn’t economically feasible to convert a military rifle to a full sporter. The labor cost not to mention the materials will cost more then a commercial rifle. The commercial rifle would be stronger and safer especially if you use an action such as the model 88.

Good powder for reloading

Accuracy is good for a military rifle with the original sights. They are a flip up ladder type which is fairly good for the period. With good eyes and a bench rest groups at 50 yards can be smaller then 2” with five shots. The 100 yard groups can be 3 to 4” with good ammo and a good shooter. The trigger is a typical military which I am use to since I shoot so many of them. Of course a scope will shrink that somewhat though it might be somewhat costly to install one. I did work up some loads for this gun and I found that like most military rifles weren’t fussy about what it took. The rifling in my specimen is deep and sharp. Here are some loads that I used I would approach the top loads from a couple of grains below and work up carefully. Since myself and the publisher has no control over how this data is used we can not be held liable for its use. Some of the velocities I recorded were higher then expected however the 29” barrel would have something to do with that. Also I may have a fast rifle and yours may or may not record the same velocities. All bullets were sized to 318 in keeping with proper loading practices. The medium to medium slow powders work best with bullets weighing 150 grains or heavier. Cast bullets also work well in this rifle with a pinch of Unique or a similar powder. Standard large rifle primers are used in all of the loading data. Round nose bullets may be required for feeding if you have one of the clips and want to use it as a repeater. Velocities were recorded 10’ from the first screen using 7 shots. I did other loads but these are the most accurate. As with any loading data approach it with caution from below. The full loads should be reduced by 2-3 grains and carefully worked up. Since I have no control of methods employed by someone else I am not liable for its use.

Swaging die is good way to get 318 diameter bullets

10 X Herco 125 grain Hornady 1402 ok
47 X H 4895 150 grain Sierra 2722 consistent
50 X IMR 4350 150 grain Hornady 2418 mild
10 X Unique 165 grain cast 1414 accurate
45 X H 4895 170 grain Hornady 2671 deer load
10 X Unique 170 grain Hornady 1166 quiet
45 X H 4895 175 grain Sierra 2641 accurate
44 X H 4895 185 grain Remington 2532 good load
50 X AA 4350 185 grain Remington 2466 mild

Closeup of bolt head model 88 Commission rifle

All these loads are accurate with the 175 grain Sierra having a very slight edge at least in my rifle. It would be a competent if unusual rifle to take hunting though I would prefer the carbine for convenience sake. You would lose a little velocity but at the ranges to be used it wouldn’t matter much. Shooting these old guns is much more interesting then the new ones to me at least as you are shooting a part of history. Who knows where these guns were a hundred years ago or so. Were they in a trench fighting a war? Did they actually shoot anyone? What part did they play in history? Did my great grandfather use one? I don’t know but it’s nice to wonder.
Bob Shell