View Full Version : Promotional Ammo....

Dave McC
September 9, 2002, 05:52 AM
I've had a few queries about ammo recently,and seen some on various BBs.So,here's some opinions on cheap ammo, and some observations. I'm hoping other folks kick in with what they know also....

Also, unless specified otherwise, this is 12 gauge country.

According to a recent magazine article, there's 28 brands of ammo sold in the US. The makers vary from Third World and former Soviet countries to US giants like Remington, Winchester, and Federal. Quality varies widely, but even the cheapest and worst goes bang when asked and makes a pattern of some kind.

We've all seen and perhaps purchased the 100 round Value packs sold in Walmart,etc. We also may have bought cases of ammo for general usage and practice.

Or, we've picked up generic "Field" loads a box or two at a time. Usually labelled something like "Dove and Quail", these go on sale most Augusts for folks to stock up on for Doves, late season clay games, and so on.

The differences between these and premium trap and other high dollar and quality loads are myriad, but the most important can be summarized.

First, the shot in cheap loads has less antimony, thus it's softer and deforms more under the pressure of firing.

Second, the one piece wad, if any, is of cheaper construction, and does less to shield the shot in its travel up the bbl.

Third, the hull is oft made in three parts, and stands up to one firing,but is not recommended for reloading.

Fourth, oft the makers skimp on shot amount as well as quality. 1 oz loads are cheaper than 1 1/8 and most folks pay little attention to what's writter on the box. This matters little sometimes,
a oz of shot can work well.

The Fed value packs are great clay ammo. The shot still has some antimony, the wad's similar to the Gold Medal, the big difference is the case life.

The Winchester 100 pack is also good, tho not quite as tight patterning as AAs.

Lots of target shooters use and like the various Fiocchi stuff, and a case of 1 1/8 oz, 3 dram target loads can be obtained for about $30-35.

Same with Estate, now owned by Federal. Their generics are excellent for those games played within 30-35 yards.

As for hunting, practically all of the cheaper stuff works well for closer range and prey smaller than a lb or so. The problem with dove, grouse and quail is not pellet performance once it hits, but hitting.Chances are, if we miss, it's not the shell.

For larger stuff than a lb,like ringnecks, I prefer a premium load, but there's some wiggle room. I can use most cheap shells( with appropriate shot size) and a tad more choke, or a little less choke and a high quality, expensive shell and get more/less comparable performance.

For trap,skeet,5 stand, etc, the generic ammo works for the shotgunner who A,doesn't reload, and B, doesn't obsess about dropping a bird here and there.

For those of us who do reload, the generics are less attractive. I can reload good hulls with good components and get quality comparable to the best target ammo for $2.80 a box.

As for cheap slugs and buck, read the Mail Order catalogs and check your local shops for sales. However, the best slug for a particular shotgun may not be cheap, but it hurts not to start with cheaper ammo.

Questions, comments?....

September 9, 2002, 10:31 AM
I just picked several boxes of 12ga and 20ga promo dove loads--made by Federal at Wally's for less than $3 a box.

They advertise higher velocity and extra hard shot----the downside???? Less payload----something like 3/4oz in the 20ga and 7/8oz in the 12ga.

I've only tried the 20ga shells so far on doves---the results were pretty good. Any misses were the result of a rusty shooter----forgetting that I needed to speed that swing up------and not the shells fault.

I don't reload---so don't really care about shell durability---and for $2.96 a box---I don't see much reason to reload.

I agree when it comes to pheasants---you're better off spending a few bucks more for a higher quality load.

Oleg Volk
September 9, 2002, 03:37 PM
Superspeed promotionals in 20ga routinely tie up my Winchester 1300 pump! Federal ammo seems to work much better.

Dave McC
September 9, 2002, 04:12 PM
Somebody must be abusing substances in the labs at the ammo makers, guys. Faster speed means more deformed shot,which opens the pattern. So using these superlights means one has less shot spread over more area, oft leaving holes big enough to throw a cat through.

OTOH, a 7/8 oz 12 gauge load at less than 1200 FPS is a creampuff that still busts trap targets nicely, tho there's few smokers.

Same with a 20 and 3/4 oz,that velocity, I opine.

Pattern density is crucial, and those superlights might not have a short enough shot string to give humane and quick kills.

More later, duty calls...

September 9, 2002, 04:15 PM
Can someone point me to a URL or possibly explain the basics of a shotgun load? I've been shooting skeet, trap etc. for a while now, but hell if I know what I should be shooting with. I usually go with the cheapest stuff I can find at Wal-Mart (Federal or Winchester). I know the difference in shot size, but as far as DRAM, amounts of shot, etc. I've no idea. Thanks in advance.


September 9, 2002, 06:16 PM
Any specific comments about Remington promo ammo? Seems to work fine in my 1100.


September 9, 2002, 10:51 PM
I have shot hundreds of rounds of "cheap/promo" ammo in my Remington 870 and 1100 at the local trap field in last few years and I have not really noticed any difference. I just stock up on what ever is cheapest at local Walmart or BassPro Shop. Its usually Winchester or Remington #8, 1 1/8 oz, 3 1/4 dram loads and they usually cost just under $3 per box.

But then I usually shoot 21-23 so I'm no expert on shotgun ammo.

Dave McC
September 10, 2002, 05:14 AM
Scott, except for some specialized 1 1/4 oz live pigeon loads, all target ammo in 12 gauge is 1 1/8 oz or less.

Dram equivalent is a hangover from BP days. It means smokeless powder that generates speed equal to that achieved with a specified amount of BP.

3 dram eq means the same speed as if one loaded three shot glasses of 2F into a shell and topped off with a specified amount of shot.

A better system would be to mark the boxes with the actual velocity.

As for what to get,many gunners do everything they want to with promo stuff, except special purpose ammo like waterfowl, turkey loads, etc.

Led, the limited experience I have with generic Gun Club loads shows similar results to the Fed and Win ammo.

Taco, the promos are probably the best ammo for you now. If you can't run them with promos, you won't with premiums either.

IIRC, I've never seen promos used from the 27 yard line, but lots of busted birds and straights from the 16 yard line have come from them. Shooting well from the back fence requires research for the best load. A AA27AA trapshooter isn't using generics when he/she goes for score, but he/she might use them for practice. Just as likely they're using reloads of top quality.


September 10, 2002, 10:57 AM
Regarding the Remington 7/8oz 1300fps promotional Dove & Quail load in the green and gray box: The black ribbed hull they use is a single piece hull, which can be identified in the Lyman Shotshell Reloaders guide. It is a decent hull, from which I can get many more reloads than the crappy polyformed thin walled Winchester promo hulls that rapidly fail at the crimp. I seldom find Winchester promo hulls w/o pellet holes in the crimp area after only one firing. Mostly this has to do with their "hot glue gun" style crimp sealing method (big hole in the middle of the crimp). The Federal promo ammo uses a decent hull (usually referred to as 'Federal hunting hull", that, while using a paper basewad, is still good for 4-5 reloads. I normally see a failure in the crimp area (since they are 8pt crimps) well before the basewad loosens. A load using green dot, 1-1/8oz of hard shot and a 12S3 wad makes one heck of a trap load for me, running right around 1250fps out of my 28" Mossy.
I haven't used many promo loads other than from the big 3.

September 10, 2002, 12:16 PM
Dave McC,

Thanks for the rundown.

So, one couldn't say the higher the DRAM the more powder, but more so it would be, the higher the DRAM the higher the velocity...


Dave McC
September 10, 2002, 03:42 PM
Correct. 3 1/4 dram is faster than 3 dram, not heavier or of greater volume. Technically, it's dram equivalent, not just dram.

I advise you stick to 2 3/4 or 3 dram for your target loads.

Thanks for the input, Poodleshooter. I'm on the cautious side, so if the manual recommends only top grade target hulls, that's what I use.

September 10, 2002, 04:06 PM
Will do. I bought a 250 pack of cheap-o Winchester stuff at Wal-Mart on Sunday. I believe it's 7/8 oz 8 shot DRAM 3. I'll check it.


September 10, 2002, 09:42 PM
Those Federal 100 round value packs are a great deal for practice loads. I'm planning to practice lots this month to get tuned up for pheasant season here.

My hunting loads differ from the practice fodder. I prefer the Federal Premium copper plated and buffered loads with No. 6, 5 and then 4 shot as the season turns into winter. These are 2 3/4 inch shells that perform well.

A few seasons ago I tried the Fiocchi Golden Pheasant Loads and was dissapointed how hard they hit. Federal works just fine for me. I try to practice with last year's hunting loads once I am in tune using the cheap stuff.

I try to buy the Federal Pheasants Forever marked Premium boxes. I believe these are the same as the Cabela's loads made for them by Federal.

***** Just a reminder, a serious pheasant hunter trains preseason to be in peak physical condition to walk where nobody is willing to go on public lands. That's where the birds end up.

The fat road hunters may see a few in the ditches, but a good hike produces more birds for me and my field bred English springer spaniel.


Dave McC
September 11, 2002, 05:06 AM
You're welcome, Scott.

Herr, my old pheasant whacker was a Remington Long Range load, 1 1/4 oz of hard, plated 6s or 5s. Doves are hard to hit, easy to down when hit. Wild Ringnecks aren't that hard to hit when using a good dog, but take a lot of killing for a three lb, glorified chicken.

I was three months out of Basic Training and on leave when Pop and I hunted behind one of his GSPs.Best guess,we covered 10 miles that day. And we were into lots of birds in those halcyon times.

Good pheasant hunters have legs like Sherpas.

September 11, 2002, 10:50 AM
Thanks for the input, Poodleshooter. I'm on the cautious side, so if the manual recommends only top grade target hulls, that's what I use.
Actually, I got my loads from manuals- both the Lyman manual, as well as "ABC's of Shotshell Reloading". It's not extrapolated from Gold Medal hull data. The hulls are similar in wall construction, but not basewad type or height. The hunting hulls are a bit cheaper, which lets me toss them more often. I therefore get nice consistent crimps, as I don't try to extend my case life as I would shooting Gold Medal's and AA's. The walls on the Federals are also thicker than AA's seem to be. Especially the crappy new ones.
It's a good hull for the $, IMHO, as is the remington. Buy some of those dove 'n quail Remingtons and cross section the hull. It's almost identical to the high grade remington single piece hull (STS27 ?? can't remember).

Dave McC
September 11, 2002, 04:16 PM
Thanks, guess I'm spoiled by having the hull elf leave a bag of STS or AA silvers under my pillow every so often.

Since I don't have to hustle my own hulls, I stick to the premiums. Even so, I tend to toss them when they've had 5 reloads or so.

Just cautious....

September 11, 2002, 04:34 PM
I wish the hull elf would leave me some AA's! Not to mention a nice bag of Activ 3" 12gauge pre-skivved hulls....

September 13, 2002, 09:15 PM
Okay, there's some very good information in here, but I still have a question. (Imagine that. :) )

I have been collecting hulls for a few years now in preparation for beginning to reload for my 12GA shotguns. I have probably better than 1000 once-fired Federal promo hulls, a little under a case of once-fired Federal Gold Medal hulls, and several hundred once-fired Remington Gun Club hulls.

I was recently gifted with a Lee Load-All and plan on upgrading this to a Load-All II in the very near future.

How many reloads can I expect these three hulls to be good for? Also, how do you folks go about organizing your hulls to keep track of how many times you've reloaded a particular batch of hulls?

Many thanks!

Dave McC
September 14, 2002, 07:17 AM
Can't help you much on the hulls, but...

Some folks mark the boxes, some use a felt marker on the first or last shell in the box with a mark for each reload.

I keep a sheet of paper on the wall near my loader. Each batch of cases is reloaded once, and a mark goes on the sheet. After 4 marks, the cases are reloaded one last time and pitched after that.

Each batch of cases is 100-250 each, and ideally I laod them all up, shoot them all up, and then reload them again so cases in a batch are all shot the same number of times.

On those occasions when I use more than one reload,the boxes get marked and the loads ID'd by case color. Foe example, the red AAs may be 7 1/2 shot and the silvers 8 1/2...


September 15, 2002, 09:35 AM
BigD, the Rem Gun Club hull is one tough hombre!!! I have over 15 loads on them and they still close tightly and hold. They are a steel casehead, which makes them a little more difficult to size. They also are a heavier plastic than most hulls which makes crimping effort a little higher, but other than that they are great.

I end up throwing them out because they are just nasty looking, not because they are worn out. I bought about 5000 of them for a penny each so I am set for hulls for quite a while.

The Fed GM hull is a good hull too, I have loaded them up to 8 times. I tend to buy wads in massive quantities (15K at a time or more) so I do not load the GM hulls regularly. I have had good luch with the AA style wads in the Gun Club hulls, but not the GM.

AA hulls are a real disappointment. I have not had the recent hulls go over 6 loads. Lots of split crimps in the first 3 loadings! I have not tried the new supersport hulls yet.

Back to the original subject, the best promo loads are the Federal 100 packs. They use harder shot, and better wads than anything else. Yes I autopsy factory loads all the time, just to see what they are doing. Gun Clubs are decent too, but horribly dirty. Winchester premium loads are the best on the market, but their promo stuff is JUNK.

Just my opinions.

September 15, 2002, 11:14 AM
dave, how old is too old for 12ga loads? i ask, cause about 8yrs ago my dad an i got a good deal on 2.5 cases of federal field loads(1.25oz). we're still shotting them and have a few boxes left. we just use them for dove these days.

when i was quail hunting, when i bought the case, i seemed to do bettter with federal and have been partial to them since. but haven't had to buy any for obvious reasons.

Dave McC
September 15, 2002, 11:52 AM
If kept dry and away from temperature extremes, shelf life of shotgun ammo is measured in decades.

I've shot 40 year old paper case stuff w/o glitches, and the old Military all brass 00 were famous for lasting well nigh forever.

A word here.....

Some of us like to keep a "Truck" gun, and the ammo is often kept in a car trunk, tool box, etc. I'd rotate this yearly since it does have exposure to the heat of summer and cold of winter. Mel Tappan, an early writer and survivalist, was emphatic about changing it more often.IIRC, he suggested every 6 months in most places, more often where it gets really hot or cold. He did say single base powders were more susceptible than double base ones, but I've nothing to back this up with.

I recall an old American Rifleman article about 22 ammo. They kept some in a car trunk for 3 months, and compared its accuracy with that of a control boz that had been stored cool and dry. The trunk stuff had slightly larger groups out of a Model 52 target rifle. The article suggested longer would see more degrading...