View Full Version : How hard is your shot?

July 18, 2002, 11:42 AM
This interesting article by Bruce Buck on the Shotgun Report website may be a real eye opener to some of you folks out there new to shotguns. (And some of us old geezers too!)



Dear Readers,

One of our readers brought the Lawrence shot site to my_attention
because it lists the antimonal content of their brand of shot._I think
it's might be helpful to cover what antimony does to lead shot in
general. It's a subject every shooter who cares what_his patterns look
like_should be aware of.

Antimony is the metal element used to increase the hardness of lead
shot._All lead shot that I am familiar with (a_CYA comment if ever
there was one), has some antimony in the mix. The most common pellet
formation processes require some antimony. Likewise, the most common
processes limit the amount of antimony that can be used before the
pellets are produced out-of-round.

The numbers appear_to be_between 2% at the low end and 6% at the high
end. "Lawrence" brand is a major player in shot. Go to
<http://www.metalico.com/lead_shot.htm> and check out their antimony
percentages. You'll find that "chilled" shot and all shot sizes #4 and
larger get 2% antimony, while the "magnum" shot in target sizes 6~9
are 5% to 6% antimony. Larger pellets don't need as much hardening
antimony due to their size and bulk alone resisting deformation.

The words "magnum" and "chilled" themselves don't mean a darn thing.
It's strictly a "Cleaner! Whiter! Brighter!" kind of ad spiel.
Different brand also use different amounts of antimony. A comparison
of the Star brand shot made in Peru to the same brand's shot made in
Argentina can be an eye-opener. Just because Lawrence uses certain
percentages of antimony doesn't mean that others do.

The reason that antimony is used in premium pellets is that it is
expensive. In the past number of years antimony has fluctuated between
$1 and $1.80 per pound. Lead is right around $.20 per pound. That
means that antimony is 5 to 9 times the cost of lead. The less
antimony you can get away with, the less your shot will cost to make.
That's why cheap pellets have less.

Does hard shot matter? Well, shot hardness is only one of the
components of good shell performance, but it is an important one. When
I pattern tested Remington STS shells vs cheaper Remington Gun Club
ammo with softer shot, a choke that delivered 60% with the STS opened
up to 50% with the Gun Club. The only change was the shell. This isn't
to say that softer shot doesn't have its uses or isn't adequate in
certain circumstances. It's just to say that soft shot is less
reliable and produces a bigger spread in pattern averages. Patterns
from good shells can easily vary 10% in pattern density during a test
string of 10 shots. The variation in shells with softer shot will be
more than that due to more deformed pellets and their random

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

July 18, 2002, 11:51 AM
I reload with lawrence magnum #6-8 , I don't do a high volume reloading so I don't mind the extra cost . but what I do want is dense patterns and as few fliers as possible.

Dave McC
July 18, 2002, 03:55 PM
I use West Coast, made by/for Lawrence. It's quite hard, and shoots nicentight.$14.95 at PGC.


July 18, 2002, 08:00 PM
My shot hardness varies. I have some 1 ounce Kent Gamebore target loads at 3% antimony ranging through my West Coast and Lawrence shot all the way up to Challenger Golden Shot at 9%. The 9% load makes the shot look almost golden, hence the name.

The 9% is definitely a reach out and crush a distant target load.

The 3% load patterns pretty well and it my choice for reduced recoil and short targets. I load the West Coast and Lawrence and get good, consistent patterns with both. My best deal on West Coast was at the Grand in 1998 -- $12.00 per bag but only if you bought a ton at a time. 3 friends and I pitched in on a ton. My Japanese import was definitely a low rider with 500 lbs of lead shot strategically positioned in the passenger compartment.

July 18, 2002, 09:36 PM
I agree with the test but the other factor you need to consider is the wad in the STS is many times better than the Gunclub wad. Cut one of each open and see what I mean. The shot quality is not as big a factor as we are led to believe. I use Lawrence magnum shot exclusively now but have used most everything on the market at one time or another. Most places have a ten bag break on the shot, saving you a buck a bag or so making it the same as most chilled shot in price.

Dave McC
July 19, 2002, 03:34 AM
Soft shot workes well for quail and other close range small critters, and I bet it's good for skeet. Once past 25 yards or so, I want hard shot, a good wad, and a slightly slower speed for tight patterns and strong effects on game or clays.

Based on the info presented here, my guess that going from hard to soft shot would require a bit more choke seems accurate...

July 20, 2002, 05:24 AM
Another reason to have antimon in lead shots is that antimon reduse the possibility of lead poisoning. You don't need more than 2-3%, but lead without any antimon are dangerous.

July 22, 2002, 01:10 PM
Hey gang,

I called Bryan Rich. He manages West Coast shot in Carson City, NV. I trust Bryan's word because the shot I've personally tested with my crush device has proven his word is good. He reiterated, West Coast does not accept any lead onto their property that is to be made into shot, which is less than 5.2% antimony. So, that means even the larger sizes are at least 5.2%, not the 2-3% as some companies make, or history dictates they made. While on the phone with me, he quickly asked Pete Boykin, who used to own West Coast, but now manages/oversees both Lawrence and West Coast for Metallico, what percentages Lawrence put in their shot. What I heard was that Lawrence will use reduced antimony content in their larger sizes only unless a target size "chilled" shot.

Keep on Patterning


July 23, 2002, 02:45 PM
With proper knowledge of how a choke/load combo functions, even the soft Peruvian shot works fine. I've taken squirrels with Star brand chilled #5's at ranges out to 35 yards. I think that the constriction and wad type have much more to do with patterning for most game ranges. Now for turkey hunters and those who need 50yd range-that's a different matter.

July 23, 2002, 04:35 PM
Shot hardness probably was more important in the days before plastic shot cups. When the shot got beat up travelling down the barrel. Today the shot is protected by the plastic wad petals.

There is some deformation from shot being jammed together when the powder first ignites. Hard shot probably is deformed less.

I find it interesting that some folks use "Spreader" rounds to open up tight fixed choke guns. The spreader loads do not use protective petals so they are just like the old timey shotshells.

July 24, 2002, 06:38 AM
Ya know that Manton of mine? Well, those 10 and 24 thou chokes are giving me fits. With my impending So. Dakota trip this Oct, I'm looking for a load that will give me 55 to 60% patterns in the left and 40-45% in the right. With normally assembled 2-1/2" loads, I'm getting 65 to 80% patterns in the left using 5-6% antimonal lead. Dropping to 3.5 to 4% antimony brings my percentages down about 5-8% in some loads, but not where I want them.

Trying to find real 1-2% antimonied lead is extremly hard, at best. Needless to say, I'm not trying that route.

I've been trying the Polywad Spred-R disk, but it brings the left barrel percentages, too far down. Like 20 to 30 percentile. I'm just now getting ready to head out the door at O-dark-thirty so I can be shooting by first light. I've got 3 new loads assembled using 1) different wad, 2) BPI X-Spreader device, and 3) a specialy concocted spreder load using three 16 ga overshot cards to divide the load into equal portions. It worked before using 12 ga overshot cards but having 4 (3 plus the closing crimp card for roll crimps) .740 dia cards in a .740 barrel caused excessive recoil.

Wish me luck!

Keep on Patterning

Alan Griffith

December 1, 2005, 02:33 PM
I noticed that Gerrit was talking about Polywad's shotgun shells.

Recently, I teamed up with Jay Menefee and we rebuilt a new web site for Polywad that is very user friendly and has a good secure on-line order entry system.

To learn more about these Polywad products click on the following links. First, check out the Spred-R Shotshells (http://www.polywad-shotgun-shells.com/spred-r-shotshells-inserts/) Gerrit just mentioned. Also, be sure to see Polywad's Quik Shok Deer Slugs (http://www.polywad-shotgun-shells.com/quik-shok-shotshells-hunters/). Finally, check out all of Polywad's Shotshells (http://www.polywad-shotgun-shells.com/).

Thanks for your interest in Polywad!

R. McEwen
webmaster for Polywad

David Berkowitz
December 5, 2005, 01:37 AM
I think the last batch of shot I purchased was way too soft. Definately softer than the clay in the birds. I know I was on, but the birds didn't break.
I'm glad I found this question.
It is now Excuse #314 on my list, and the list gets longer.

December 6, 2005, 10:55 AM
David, shot made of Jello is much harder to come by than the slugs. Do you have a current source? I might need a few to mix in my shell bag, that would be a very handy excuse....