View Full Version : Shot size/use guide....

Dave McC
July 9, 2000, 06:41 AM
Another thread had a query about an overview on shotgun ammo,so here is something for the beginners and those of us who may be embarassed when asking. There's been tons of old threads about slugs and HD ammo, so I;ll skip that part and recommend some research there.

Also, I doubt I'm just flattering myself when I say this is an informed opinion, but it IS an opinion. Others may differ, and these aren't graven on tablets of stone...

For commonly used shotgun fodder, three metals are used for projectiles, lead, steel and to some extent, bismuth. Steel is used mostly on waterfowl,lead having been banned for such due to pollution of wetlands, etc.
Bismuth is an attempt to make up for steel's lighter weight, meaning it's heavier than steel, lighter than lead, and does not screw up the biosphere as far as we now know. Time will tell.
NOTE: In shotgun gauges, the bigger the number, the smaller the bore. Same with shot, 6 shot is larger than 7 1/2.

Lead, commonly available in shot sizes from 2 to 8s. 4,5,6 shot are commonly used in upland hunting for bigger birds, rabbits etc. HEAVY loads of same make good turkey loads.
7 1/2 and 8 shot are good for smaller birds,at closer ranges, and the various clay games. I use a trap load of 7 1/2s for quail, dove, even pheasant, the Winchester AA 1 1/8 oz load works great for me in my 12 gauges. The premium wad column, hard shot that stays rounder keeps the patterns dense and tight.

OTOH, very close range work like tight quail, woodcock, etc, I might prefer a generic field load of dead soft, easily deformed shot that will spread faster and give a good pattern at closer ranges with an open choke.

Chilled lead shot, hardened with antimony, stays rounder during the stress and strain of being propelled at supersonic speeds down a hard metal tube.Plated shot, oft with copper, stays round also, giving tighter patterns,
Steel shot does not ever deform, giving greater penetration but less efficient energy transfer. Steel's used for waterfowling,and most folks cuss it out occasionally.It IS less effective than the lead shot it

Selection of the proper shot and load must include consideration of factors like choke,distance and expertise. For say, spooky late season pheasant, I might swap my first up load of 7 1/2s for 6s or even 4s,and go from a IC choke to a Modified.Or,alternately, I might stay with the trap load of 7 1/2s and stick in the Full tube.

Or, early season doves coming into water may call for cheap field loads and a Modified tube or the AA trap load and a Skeet tube.

Whichever approach you do, one constant is...

Finding the best load for YOU and YOUR shotgun calls for patterning. You might take a large, discarded cardboard box and set it up with a 4'X4" piece of white paper stapled to it. Make a small mark near the center for a sighting point(not an aiming point, you do not aim a shotgun on flying game),back up 25 yards or so, mount and fire.Do this several times. If the pattern centers the point,is even at the distance you picked, you're OK.If not,change distance, choke, and load until it is.

There is NO substitute fot the above step. But once you have it right,it'll stay right until a variable ,uh,varies.

Hope this helps...

July 9, 2000, 08:55 AM

Yes, very informative. I have seen smaller shot sizes--9 and even 10. Any advantage to using them for target clays? As you know, I am using a short barrel M590A1.



Dave McC
July 9, 2000, 09:29 AM
Damfino,Ledbetter, smallest I've used was 8s. They worked OK on clays, tho I wasn't a good wing shot then.

Oh, just had a flashback. Back around 1975, Pop used some 10s for bat control in a 20 ga SKB O/U. He liked them for the purpose, but he was taking shots under 20 yards.As I recall, that one was choked a light IC and a light Modified, almost skeet choked.

Best advice I can give is try them, if they powder targets, why not?

July 9, 2000, 10:08 AM
Dave, obviously you don't shoot a lot of skeet. :) The most popular shot size for this game is #9 shot. # 9 is the smallest shot you can normally find in commercial shotshells. 8 1/2 shot is available also. It is normally found commercially in 28 ga shells and is a good general shell for sporting clays in this gauge. Some shooters reload with 8 1/2 for close shots and use 7 1/2 for longer targets in sporting clays. Don't know how usefull either of these shot sizes would be for hunting.

#12 shot is used in .22 for "pest control" It is an excellent way to rid your garden of sparrows. I use it to remove nuisance sparrows inside of warehouses. Several manufacturers produce special smoothebore .22 rifles for this cartridge and marlin even has a .22 magnum gun designed for .22 magnum shotshells.

FYI, most clays ranges limit shooters to shot no larger than 7 1/2 for safety reasons. Heed this restriction as using larger shot may endanger other people on the range. Often Sporting Clays courses are set in a circle with a safety distance determined by the effective range of 7 1/2 shot. Use # 4 shot and you may hit someone.

Geoff Ross

One reason to vote in the next Presidential election.

It's the Supreme Court, Stupid!

Dave McC
July 9, 2000, 10:41 AM
Geoff, been 20 years since I did lots of skeet, and the shot of choice then was 8s. I said I was a geezer(G). And I've serious doubts about use of any shot smaller than 8s on game, a humane kill requires energy and little shot lose it very fast. That, of course, doesn't apply to clays.

As a lad, I used #12 shot(rat shot)and a 22 on barn pigeons and starlings,etc, until we figured out it was more fun to shoot them to spook them out of the barn and shoot them with the 16. Besides, Bro got his ammo mixed up once and took a shot inside with a 22 solid or HP. It was hot up on the roof fixing that hole....

Mr. Pub
July 10, 2000, 11:33 AM
Thanks Dave and others.

Can anyone recommend a good all around slug for home defense, large animals? I have an 18" 870.

Dave McC
July 10, 2000, 12:03 PM
Slugs are not a good HD option,thye tend to keep on going instead of dumping all their energy in the target.

ALL slugs are effective on deer sized game when properly placed, shoot some different ones from the bench ot see what works in YOUR shotgun. Lots of old threads....

Dave McC
December 30, 2000, 08:48 AM
Bringing this back up for Vnaam....