View Full Version : What the guage means

warrior poet
February 5, 2008, 06:11 PM
My grandpa's friend Cappy told me when I was kid that a shotgun's gauge is the number of perfectly round pure lead balls- when made to fit the barrel- that it takes to make one pound. He knew his guns, but he was also a prankster. Has anyone else ever heard this? Is it true or was he just playing around with me?

February 5, 2008, 06:16 PM
That is correct. 12 round led balls of .73 inch diameter is 1 lb.

February 5, 2008, 06:26 PM
Common shotgun gauges are 10 gauge, 12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, and 28 gauge. The smaller the gauge number, the larger the shotgun bore. Gauge is determined by the number of lead balls of size equal to the exact diameter of the bore that it takes to weigh one pound. For example, it would take 12 lead balls with the same diameter as a 12-gauge shotgun bore to weigh one pound. Today, however, gauge can be measured much the same way as caliber by measuring the inside bore diameter.
Here is the zack definition...

warrior poet
February 5, 2008, 06:27 PM
Thanks. I mentioned what I thought it was- and how I heard it- to a friend and he said it was BS. He didn't know what it meant either, but he SWORE it couldn't be that.

February 5, 2008, 06:48 PM
There are several sources of info about the source of the term "gauge" for shotgun measure. My main source is Jack O'Connor's "The Shotgun Book". The great shotgun guru verifies the lead ball measure. 10, 12 , 16, 20, 28 lead balls identify these gauges. The 410 is a 41 caliber smoothbore that measures .410 inches.

February 5, 2008, 07:13 PM
Lead ball is accurate to my knowladge too.
12 gauge-12 perfect lead balls that fit in the bore...thats the diameter. 10 gauge-10 lead balls

February 5, 2008, 09:10 PM
Warrior Poet... Looks like you need to upgrade your friends.

February 5, 2008, 09:14 PM
yep, all that is true, at least with lead shot anyhow. It might not be with "heavyshot(weighs more than steel)" but i do not know for sure

February 6, 2008, 12:10 AM
Basically, that is the system that at one time determined the "guage" We have since gone to actual measurements of bores. There were many guages that are no longer around as in the 14 guage,18 guage, 24 guage, 32 guage and several others I don't remember at the moment. I guess things were simplier back then and "exacts" weren't so important. Today, we would argue over a .0001 of an inch or less.

J F Cooper
February 6, 2008, 06:30 AM
The 32 gauge is alive and well, especially in Europe.and there's a 24 gauge on Gunbroker, a nearly new one, by Dakota Arms.. JFC

Uncle Ben
February 13, 2008, 04:18 PM
What about the idea of loading a 12ga shell into a 20ga, or a 12ga shell into a 16ga? Can this be done?

I previously did not think so, but someone told me they had a 16/12 gauge that could take either round...an old winchester pump, by the way (at least 40-50 years old)

February 13, 2008, 05:06 PM
i really doubt that a shotgun could fire both 12 and 16ga from the same barrel

February 13, 2008, 05:28 PM
Actually if you don't mind single loading... Browning among others sell a shim tube to fire smaller rounds than gun is made for. 20 in a 12 28 or 16 in a 20 etc...
They are made for break action guns but could easily be used as a single loaded round...

Uncle Ben
February 13, 2008, 06:13 PM
Thanks for the info. I didn't think that sounded right.
Speaking of 16ga, what do you think of it for home defense?

February 14, 2008, 05:58 AM
Read something, in a book? a while ago, why the 12g is so effective as a defensive weapon, a 9mm hollow point, 147g max weight, a .45 ACP 230g max weight, a 9 ball 00 buck 12 Gage load, 486g weight! all at once!

Reference the 12 perfect round balls = 1 pound, I heard that years ago, could not believe it, checked! correct.

February 14, 2008, 06:09 AM
The 16 for HD is fine, it is only slightly smaller then the 12. I would recommend 000 or smaller for shooting inside to limit over penetration. About your first question, one of the original terms used was “12 to the pound” or “10 to the pound” to refer to bore size. I think the US is the only place where "gauge" is used in any frequency. Most countries use "bore" when talking about shotguns.

February 14, 2008, 04:11 PM
Many people think a 20 gauge is fine for HD so a 16 would be fine as well.

I've always thought Bore was used to describe large rifles as opposed to shotguns.

ie a 4 bore elephant gun as opposed to a 4 gauge punt gun. The former firing bullets the latter pellets. The former being rifled the latter being smooth bore.

I'm not saying it's a hard and fast rule because I've seen the words used interchangeably. Just most of the times I've heard or read the terms they seem to be used that way.

James K
February 14, 2008, 05:02 PM
In the old days, the term "bore" was often used, especially by the English, as a synonym for "gauge". So a 12 bore was 12 gauge, whether rifle, shotgun, or pistol. As an example, the .36 caliber (actually .38") Colt Navy revolver was called 84 gauge at times in England. Generally, the English changed the designations from gauge/bore to caliber with the change to metallic cartridges, but in some circles "bore" was used for rifles and even pistols well into the 20th century.