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Old September 15, 2002, 08:45 PM   #1
Big Bang
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Lady Defender and round ball slug loads.

Firstly, by way of introduction, let me say that I have been a lurker here for several years now and have greatly enjoyed the many interesting posts. My knowledge has grown from the shared wisdom of many here. I am a 20 ga. fan and for forty years or so have done most of my shooting with that guage. Reading the many posts regarding short barreled home defense guns, it began to dawn on me that one of these might be fun to try. I am not a clay target shooter but just a Catskill mountain woods loafer and hunter. I thought a short barrel shotgun would be a handy car gun and to carry on hikes and hunts at the country property we own in addition to its home defense role. My thought was that the more uses I could find for this gun the more I would shoot it and the better I would get with it.

I wasn't impressed with the new 870 express models with the rough finish and the trigger lock. I tried without success locally to find an old wingmaster in 20 ga. I finally noticed the Lady Defender at the Winchester web site. This wasn't a costly gun even new and I was fascinated with the rotary bolt action. I also thought I might like the bright fiber optic sight for early and late hunting in the dark forest. I got one of these little carbines operational about March of this year and have been having a lot of fun with it since. More recently I read Oleg Volk's review of this gun and the comments on it. I would be tempted to contribute my own review if there was any interest as this arm isn't as popular as the others discussed here and there isn't an awfully lot written about it.

I have had a lot of fun the last few years developing and shooting round ball slug loads in the 20 ga. It is easy to get a 58 cal round ball mold. Lee makes an inexpensive one and that is what I use. These balls are a reasonably good fit in a 20 ga. plastic wad cup, just slightly oversize. Initially I used soft lead as the muzzle loaders do, but came to feel that it was too soft for best accuracy with fast smokeless powder. Recently I have been using water quenched wheelweight metal balls with the defender and the accuracy has been very good by shotgun and Foster slug standards. I load a 7/8 oz. size claybuster wad into a Win. or Rem. case over a skeet load of Unique (I have just began experimenting with Herco). I dump in enough instant oatmeal flakes to about fill the shot cup and tamp this down good. This fills the shotcup about half full. I seat the ball on top of the oatmeal flakes and then crimp with the standard pie crimp. The resulting load is good for about 1.5" groups at my 30 yard range with many irregular one hole groups of three shots. I get the feeling that it will shoot about as well as I can hold with the bead just showing above the receiver groove. It gives very pleasant shooting. Recoil is about like a .28 ga. or heavy .410 load. These balls are easy to cast, no lubing or sizing needed, give no leading (you can shoot a lot of 'em and clean the tube easily), and are a hoot to shoot. Not recommended for choke bore guns.

The barrel of the L. Defender is a real brute with lots of metal at the breech end and the muzzle about twice as thick as my bird guns. Radially it would probably hold an elephant cartridge of 60 cal. (I think this arm is built on a 12 ga. frame, at least the magazine tube is easily large enough for that ga.) The rotary bolt appears to be very strong also. There are four locking lugs spaced around the head of the case and they lock up only about 1/4 inch back of the case head. This leaves the rest of the action completely unstressed. It has begun to dawn on me that this little arm may potentially be capable of very powerful round ball loads. The gun has a 3" chamber and lots of room for powder. I am thinking of developing some powerful close range wild boar stoppers for it. Present skeet charge velocities are about 1200 fps or so and shoot through anything I have at the range site with the water quenched balls. Winchester Foster slugs of 7/8 oz are listed about 1600 fps. and the 5/8 oz musket ball could easily exceed this by a couple of hundred fps in the heavy barrel Defender. A 275 gr. hardened ball of 58 caliber at 1800 fps or so should take down about anything that walks in the Catskill or any other forest if the range is short.

Present problem is to find the correct powder and charge to accomplish this. Unique is way to fast and will overpressure long before max velocity is reached. I am starting to experiment with a can of Herco but I think this is also too fast for what I have in mind. Perhaps about 30 grains of Blue Dot will give a sharp cracking load! NOT A RECOMMENDATION!! Alliant's web site is no help with heavy 20 ga. loads.

Anyone out there with advice or comments along these lines? Anyone have hunting experiences with short cyl.barrel tac. guns or interested in more info on the Lady Defender?

Sorry to be so long. Thanks.
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Old September 16, 2002, 05:16 AM   #2
Dave McC
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Thanks for posting that. One of the bennies of being on this BB is the vast amount of experience available here, and you just contributed more.

The limiting factor in high performance shotgun loads is pressure. No shotgun can handle even the 35K pressures of the old 45-70, and it could be suicidal to try. Pressure testing equipment is not easy to find, and I'd sure want some BEFORE building any test loads.

All in all tho, that RB load of yours should be quite effective on medium game up close. See if you can arrange a field test on deer or hogs this fall and report back here how it went.

As for the Lady Defender, all the Defenders are decent shotguns.

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Old September 22, 2002, 08:28 AM   #3
Big Bang
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First, thanks to you Dave McC for your responce to my post. Your posts are like pearls of wisdom sprinkled thrugh the archives. Rest easy. I am not giving up my hunt for a 20 ga. wingmaster. Now that I have the Lady Defender I don't need another purely tac gun. Perhaps an old 870 wingmaster with a smoothbore buck barrel will give a nice combination of versatility and handiness. I hope to bag a buck with a round ball load this fall but don't think I will get farther afield than that this year.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in slug reloading. Why, I'm not sure, as great savings are possible if you can make your bullets, and the round ball is easiest of all to make. I prefer the versatility of the smooth bore barrel, but I know many prefer the rifled barrels for slug shooting. Many here have commented on the very high cost of the saboted slug loads they shoot. To those with the hardware to try the plastic wad saboted round ball in a rifled tube, you might be astonished (if the range is moderate and you astonish easily) by the accuracy possible. You will also enjoy the low efficiency with which the round ball load converts your fortune into noise!

Based on my experience so far and only with smoothbore barrels, there are three conditions that you must meet if good accuracy is to be achieved.

1) The ball and shot wad sabot must be a tight fit in the bore. No harm will occur if the load is a few thousandths oversize as the soft plastic wad seems to size down well in the forcing cone. If the fit in the bore is loose and the line of departure of the load isn't parallel with the bore, all hope of accuracy is lost. This will not likely be a problem. Musket ball plus wad will be a very tight fit in most bores and you may need to hunt a thin wall wad so as not to be too much oversize.

2) The ball must be prevented from developing random spin as it goes down the bore. (Undersize balls and random spin destroyed the accuracy reputation of round balls during bygone days when the smoothbore blackpowder musket nevertheless conquered the world.) If the round ball is clamped by the elongated shot wad by a tight fit in the bore, this condition is well met.

3) Use a HARD ball. Water quenched wheelweight metal works well here. If you can scratch the ball with a fingernail it is too soft. Cast it harder and water quench it to make it harder still. (for more background, see the writings of Paco Kelly archived at I think I could shoot my round balls over again if they weren't gouged and abraded by the earth backstop. If the ball is too soft and slumps on firing pressure to a deformed blob of metal it will give poor accuracy. A soft lead rifle bullet can slug up to fit the bore on firing and still give good accuracy as it has spin stability. Without spin stability, the smoothbore ball must remain perfectly spherical all the way to the target if it is to have a chance to fly true. I believe that this is what foiled my earlier attempts to get accurate shooting with soft balls.

I think, but cannot prove, that the accuracy limitation (above conditions well met) is the uniformity, shot to shot, with which the shotwad sabot separates from the ball at the muzzle. Here the spin imparted by rifled slug barrels is an advantage as it likely gives a cleaner more uniform separation.

That's about it. These loads are great fun to load and shoot and at about two thirds the cost of a reloaded shot shell, dirt cheap as well.

Now, go forth, be fruitful and multiply the use of the plain round musket ball throughout the land. If the Good Lord meant for men to shoot elongated slugs in their firearms, he would have made His sun, moons, and planets as cylinders! Ha ha. We shotgunners operate more in accord with natures plan. We just need to develop a little more confidence in the shape of our pellets as their size approaches bore diameter. Enjoy!
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Old September 22, 2002, 09:16 AM   #4
Dave McC
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BB, you've got some interesting ideas. A few points...

Old time Elephant hunter Sir Samuel Baker used hard round balls in his heavy game guns. I believe he used a pair of 4 gauge single shots. His light game gun was an 8 gauge double, also firing round balls.

Balls lose velocity faster than a longer bullet with better sectional density. At close range of course, this is moot.

As for why few people go in for loading their own slugs, with all those cheap little 5 packs out there, folks who really care about accuracy can find a good load w/o major effort or expense.

BTW, the few deer I've taken with round balls of .490-.570" went down fast. Quick and humane, with velocities in the 1400-1600 FPS range at the muzzle....
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Old September 28, 2002, 08:54 PM   #5
Big Bang
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Thanks Dave for your interesting post. It takes a few days for me to find time to sit down and compose my thoughts but I can't resist a reply. I am very familiar with Samuel White Baker's life as I have read many of his books. Those stories and tales of the British Raj in India by others were the spark that got me interested in hunting with smoothbore round ball guns...what I call the modern musket.

About 40 years ago I was a kid and avid reader of Jack O'Connor's writings in Outdoor Life magazine. Several times he mentioned a fellow named Baker who dragged a beautiful blonde wife with him in explorations up the Nile river and other areas and hunted much of the continents big game. Jack mentioned that Baker had a big 4 bore gun named "Baby" that he shot against the big stuff. According to Jack, Baker said that the gun spun him around and gave him a nosebleed but was a reliable stopper. I resolved to read Bakers books if ever I came across them. But they must be rare and out of print though you sound like you have been able to read some of them at least.

Years went by and a couple of years ago I found that Baker's books have been published as Etext by Gutenberg press and are available to all for free at the following URL.

Forgive me, but I haven't learned to imbed these links into posts yet so prospective readers will have to type it in or cut and paste it into their browsers address field.

These are fantastic adventure stories. Baker and his wife were intrepid in the extreme and the trials and dangers they endured in their remarkable explorations would make most modern hearts quale. For starters, Baker's "With Rifle and Hound in Ceylon" and "In the Heart of Africa" are awesome. It's wonderful after a hard work day to pull one of Baker's titles out of my etext library and spend an hour or so reading of these long ago days.

I fired some experimental 20 ga. round ball loads loaded with Herco powder this morning. I finally found a load listing just under 1600 fps velocity in an older Alliant manual. This was for fiber wads and I am considerably reducing this for the plastic wads I am shooting. I got back with gun and all fingers intact. I think this load is about at the velocity level you mentioned as being successful at game getting for you. I think I will try going up one more grain and quit for this fall as the present load is pleasent shooting, obviously potent, and nicely accurate. I have about 60 hard balls left and no time to make more this year as I will be spending time afield rather than experimenting. I will fritter most of them away at target practice and save perhaps 10 loads for serious deer hunting.

I really must get my chronograph running and measure these but first I have to devise a screen to protect the sensors from the wads. This will have to wait for next year, more free time, and a new supply of balls.

I hope some readers will try the web site and download and enjoy Baker's books. They have a real treat in store if they do. When Baker started up the Nile he said that he and his wife were determined to follow it to its source or leave their bones in the desert in the attempt. They never for an instant considered turning back. I offer this URL as a little payback for all the wonderful reading and ideas from you and others on this website.


P.S. I see in previewing this post that the website has converted the URL to a clickable link but it doesn't look just like I typed it in. If it doesn't work please let me know and I will try again.
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Old September 28, 2002, 10:41 PM   #6
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Big Bang...welcome and thanks for the input.

Chrono protection....
For close range protection against sabots, shot cups, wads ect...
Sheet of plywood with hole...aiming target over hole.

Size and place hole so that anything that gets through misses the screens.

For down range rifle work....use proper target steel with hole.

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Old September 29, 2002, 08:15 PM   #7
Big Bang
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C.R.Sam, thank you for your post. You are right your way is exactly how I will do it. I had been wondering how to protect the sensors from the wads that can take quite random directions. I could put up a shield for the sensors but I would also have to eliminate the sky screens. The end of the barrel would block my view of the sensors and I would have no aiming reference. Your suggestion solves the entire problem neatly and I thank you for it.
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Old September 30, 2002, 07:17 AM   #8
Dave McC
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You're very welcome, BB. I haven't read Baker directly, but there's been a fair amount of ink devoted to him and his guns, besides OConnor.

One article mentioned him trying out 4 gauge bullets instead of round balls, using a very hard alloy of tin and lead. These were actually pewter, and unfortunately fragmented badly in heavy game. Worked well for medium game, according to Baker.

Sam,your post is another good one. You are a good resource and have much to contribute,thanks...
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Old October 6, 2002, 08:42 PM   #9
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Big Bang, this is fascinating stuff! I look forward to reading more findings.
William C. Quantrill Fan Club
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Old January 19, 2017, 10:31 PM   #10
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20 gauge round balls&Mossberg 500 Special Purpose

Hi to all,

I got my 20 gauge as well. The wrong model came but another Barrel (which can be choked) will do it as well for birdshot Shooting (mod and full choke).
This one I have now.

Source of Picture:

Now I have gathered already an somewhat waste experience in round balls in 20 gauge birdshot Shells.
I have an 20 ga and 12 ga crimping tool for modifying birdshot Shells. The shot is taken out and an .575" Lee round ball (285 grain) or .562" Lee round ball is put in. The .575" (or nominal caliber 58 musket ball) fits perfectly tthe 20 ga wad Cups.
This gun has an Cylinder Bore (I am Kind of unhappy about not being able to choke the gun but exchanging Barrels will be a solution).
Birdshot can be effectively shot up to about 25 meters. After that it spreads much.
Loading the birdshot Cup with #4 buckshot (Lee Buckshot mold) gives at 25 meters an spread of about 10". I am not a fan of wide spreading guns but rather like the shot column stays together up to 35 meters in order to have an rifle like shotgun which will be very effective at Long ranges if the shot has a spread of 5" at 50 meters. This does my 12 gauge Mossberg 500 Turkey gun.
The kick of the 12 ga I do not like. Even These 7/8 oz Lee Drive key slugs you feel them after you shot a few.

Regards the 20 ga.
If you stay below 300 grain you pretty much have a light kicking gun. But don't be fooled: the 20 ga can kick as hard as an downloaded 12 ga if loaded to the same pay load. In order to get complete powder burn you will not want to get below 285 grain of payload (round ball, shot, combination of both, buckshot).
The .575" round ball has an good accuracy at 50 meters. But at 100 meters I could not get one connected. Maybe the guns peep sight may be the reason. But with an .575" round ball you are not undergunned up to 50 meters. At 100 meters a man size target is very much doable.
I shot an ostrich with such an round ball at about 50 meters. Further away I did not hit any one more. Most likely due to the sights of the gun I guess. That .575" round ball got the ostrich right in the hip and broke in half his leg bone. I believe it did not pass through the animal. It was a blody mess. I shot him again in the chest from 7 meters to no awail. The round ball again did not pass him through and the animal again did not die. The third round ball I shot him in the head which finished the poor animal and this time did pass through,
I was a bit surprised of the poor Penetration of the .575" round ball after this hunting experience. 2 times I did not see an Exit wound. One would expect an very deep Penetration from this round ball from an shotgun. But it did not.

Then I shot an round ball at Wood from 40 meters and it passed the Wood through with an full caliber hole. But similar Penetration did have the 357 mag 148 grain wadcutter as well.
As well I loaded an 9mm Truncated cone lead bullet in the Shell and about 25 #1 shot balls and shot it at the Wood from 40 meters. The 9mm bullet keyholed but hit Point blanc. But it's Penetration was not very convincing since it did not even penetrate the Wood which the 148 grain Wadcutter passed clean through.
Same Thing of an 148 grain Wadcutter bullet loaded in the 20 ga shotshell with 12 #1 shot balls in order to get an load of about 290 grains. The wadcutter hit somewhat precise but had not good Penetration. But from 40 meters I had at least 7 hits of the #1 shot in an circle of 6".

Maybe #1 Buckshot will be a good idea for this 20 ga System as is.
Round ball will get you defended but accuracy maybe only Movement of Men at 50 Yards or 100 Yards (it's most likely the peep gun sights).
But These .575" round balls are one of the easies casting molds. Not so the #4 Buckshot molds which I do not recommend due to it just does not get you nice buckshot and never quiete fills.
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Old January 19, 2017, 11:55 PM   #11
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I have cast lead round balls for both the 12 an 20 ga. shotguns. You need some way to stabilize the balls. They do not fly straight from a smooth bore. I ended up gluing a wad base to the 20 gauge round ball and It was a lot better than slugs and a lot heavier too. I did get the 420 grain ball to go at 1650 fps or just under that. The 12 ga we cast with a 1/4" hole in the base and used some plastic streamers in the hole and plugged it with lead wire. Although they were both better than slugs I always thought they would be better in a rifled barrel.
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Old January 20, 2017, 12:18 AM   #12
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I as well thougth on having instead of an round ball an Lee REAL cal 58 musket minie type bullet. But that bullet is 440 grain which is way to heavy for the 20 gauge and for the shooter.
The propper minie bullet will fit perfectly into the 20 ga wad but even get close to 500 grain. Way to heavy.
How else can I stabilize the round ball? .575“ is snug in the wad.
I believe the round ball is accurate but my sigths allow for a huge variation.

I believe it is best to give up wanting to make the shotgun into a rifle. Lets leave the shotgun for what it is meant to be: an bird gun. Even the 12 ga Lee slug is not as accurate as an scoped rifle. So a shotgun is at best a birdshot or buckshot gun. Within 50 meters it could pass as an rifle using round balls.
It is however nothing else than an modern smoothbore musket. And smooth bore muskets were known to not hit a man at 100 meters hence soldiers fired in wolleys to even get a chance to hit something. George Washington recommended Buck&Ball loads. I kind of know now why: that is indeed the best load for this gun as well. A round ball plus 4 #4 Buckshots.
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Old January 20, 2017, 05:21 PM   #13
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Here some photos of the .575" round ball as single proyectile in an 20 ga birdshot Shell (fits perfect in the birdshot wad Cup).

As well loaded in the 20 ga Shell an pistol caliber bullet with a few birdshot pellets.

Unfortunatelly These Fotos are taken with an Windows phone without camera Focus.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Pistol bullets accuracy in 20 ga shells.jpg (181.0 KB, 148 views)
File Type: jpg 575 round ball penetration from 20 ga hull.jpg (212.7 KB, 151 views)
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Old January 20, 2017, 10:57 PM   #14
Evan Thomas
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There's no reason to revive an ancient thread for this purpose, thus, closed.
Never let anything mechanical know you're in a hurry.
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