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


Unknown said...

That's interesting. The thing is my dad and boyfriend kept telling me about my 'shoulder' when I used those shotguns. Even the last time when we went rabbit hunting I had no problem 'cause I totally moved my shoulder leaving it relaxed when the shot came out. No problem, no pain. I'm trying to remember what I need to do to clean my rifles and guns. Do u have any videos for that? Have a great night. Zena

Unknown said...

Simply a lover of guns and firearms, loved your blog for sharing something in such a detail. Shotguns has always been one of my favorites. This can always make things really safer for you and all. You can also give a try to the MA Gun License to maintain safer and secured for your loved ones.