The shotgun is draft to throw a group or “pattern” the many small pellets referred to as “shot,” which renders hitting a flying or moving target much more feasible than making use of a solitary projectile, together fired by a rifle or pistol. Since it utilizes many pellets rather of a solitary bullet, a shotshell is built differently 보다 a cartridge for rifles or pistols. So, rather of the rifle or pistol cartridge’s brass case that includes primer, powder and bullet, the shotgun’s shotshell consists of a hull that includes the primer, powder, shoot wad and an amount of shot. There are countless different shotgun bore sizes or “gauges” (much like rifle and pistol caliber size), and gauges of differing covering length and all can be loaded v a wide selection of shooting sizes. Let’s breakdown some of this terms so girlfriend can much better understand your shotgun or do a well-informed and also safe purchase the next time friend head to her favorite gun store or range.

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In this video, people Champion Target Shooter and also Babes with Bullets instructor, Kay Miculek, defines to starting person shooters the differences between various shotgun covering loads and also demonstrates shot trends on file targets.

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The ax “gauge” is one old one. It describes the measure of the bore diameter of the shotgun. V the exemption of the .410-bore, which is no a gauge at all (it’s actually a caliber) yet often mistakenly dubbed one, the gauge number is same to the variety of lead balls of the bore diameter that add up to sweet one pound. For example, 12-gauge, the most typical shotgun gauge today, is the diameter the a round of command weighing 1/12-pound that lead, if a 20-gauge is the diameter of a lead sphere weighing 1/20-pound of lead.


From left come right, modern-day shotgun shells native 12-gauge come .410-bore.

It’s not hard to see that that takes an ext lead balls in 20-gauge to same a pound 보다 it walk a 12-gauge, thus, the 20-gauge boring diameter is smaller than a 12-gauge. The common lineup the gauges made now (from smallest to largest) room .410-bore (again, not actually a gauge, however a common shotgun chambering), 28-gauge, 20-gauge, 16-gauge, 12-gauge and 10 gauge. (Shotguns that long back also had the mammoth 8-gauge and also 4-gauge and the smaller 24-gauge and 32-gauge, yet these are all collectors’ items now.)

The smaller sized gauges are typically used because that clay target shooting and hunting smaller sized birds and also game animals, when the bigger gauges are typically employed for clay target games, an individual defense and also for hunting the larger game species like turkey and deer.


The bunch of small pellets a shotgun fires are collectively called “shot.” castle are often pure lead, sometimes lead coated with another material prefer copper, or that non-lead materials such together steel, bismuth, tungsten and other materials. The shoot sizes are numbered start with the smaller sized “birdshot.” Eventually, the size are declared in letters. Finally, there space the biggest “buckshot” sizes, well-known for usage on deer in the southern U.S., for hunting furbearing varmints and also for self-defense.


World Champion Target Shooter and also Babes through Bullets instructor, Kay Miculek, demonstrates the difference in shooting pattern between Bird shooting (Left) and Buck shot (Right).

The best (smallest-diameter) shot sizes (in order beginning from the the smallest commonly accessible size) room Nos. 9, 8 and also 7 ½. These room the sizes you’ll traditionally watch on target tons for clay shooting, but they likewise have applications for part upland video game birds such together ruffed grouse and woodcock. The next group of shot sizes (still in order) consists of Nos. 6, 5 and 4. This work really well because that pheasants, ducks, sage hens, rabbits and also squirrels; hefty “charges the shot” (the amount of shooting or shoot “payload,” usually given in ounces) in this shot sizes will give good results on turkeys as well. The big shot sizes, Nos. 3, 2, 1, B, BB, BBB, T, F and also FF shoot are supplied for long-range waterfowl hunting, together these big pellets will hold their velocity and retain enough power for rapid kills on far-off geese and ducks.

Buckshot nomenclature operation from No. 4 Buck (diameter .220-inch) to 000 (pronounced “triple-ought” or “triple-aught”) Buck (.360”), so as it is with other shot sizes, the higher the number the smaller sized the pellet size, and the more zeros in the “aught” dimension the bigger the pellet diameter. Buckshot is very effective on game like deer, fox and also coyote in ~ 60 or therefore yards and it have the right to make a wise home-defense selection depending on your surroundings and also situation.


So far I’ve talked around a shot being a group of pellets, and it is. However shotshells likewise fire single projectiles dubbed “slugs.” typically reserved because that big-game searching such together deer and also sometimes bear, cheese shotguns can have a timeless smoothbore choose all shotguns the fire shoot pellets, however most cheese shotguns offered for hunting huge game or for usage in part competitive shoot such together 3-Gun have actually “rifled” barrels, as with the barrel on, well, a rifle! together barrels have actually twisting lands and also grooves cut into them that aid spin and stabilize the shotgun slug to boost accuracy. Slug shotguns are committed shotguns and also a course unto themselves.


This Hornady American Whitetail rifled slug is made specifically for deer hunting.This Hornady American Whitetail rifled cheese is made especially for deer hunting.

Shotshell Length

Shotshells come in different lengths within their particular gauges. This is really important to understand since stuffing a shotshell into your gun it is too long for its room — and even despite it might be the exactly gauge — can be exceptionally dangerous.A good, safe dominance of ignorance is to only use shells as long or shorter 보다 the markings on her shotgun barrel to speak you can use. Stop look in ~ an example.


These room all 12-gauge shotshells, however they are every one of different lengths. Constantly double-check your gun and also its owner’s hands-on to determine exactly which covering lengths your gun is do to take care of safely.

Today’s 12-gauge shells come in 2½-, 2¾-, 3- and also 3½-inch lengths (and lock all organize different amounts of powder and shot charges). If your shotgun is significant “12-gauge 2¾-inch” you may safely fire 2½- and also 2¾-inch 12-gauge shotshells, yet not the 3- or 3½-inch. If, top top the other hand, her shotgun is significant for 3½-inch shells, you deserve to safely fire any type of of the 12-gauge shells. (Note: not all shotguns that deserve to safely chamber all lengths of a details gauge will always fire every one of them reliably. This is specifically true of countless semi-automatics. Constantly consult the owner’s hands-on for her gun to identify what tons are finest recommended because that it.)

It’s vital to understand that at no time have the right to you interchange different gauge shells. Such a failure can damage a total and result in serious injury to both the shooter and bystanders. Never chamber a shotshell in a gun without checking both the shotshell and also the gun for compatibility, and constantly consult the owner’s hands-on for any newly obtained gun to ensure you’re utilizing the exactly ammunition because that it.

The High Brass vs. Low Brass Myth

If you’re a new shotgun hunter, one of the things you’ll notification in retail stores space boxes the shotshell ammunition marked “high brass.” This high brass, the section of the shotshell that dwellings the primer and also holds the plastic hull, is the resource of some old wive’s tales that just won’t walk away. Permit me explain.

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When i was a younger man, i was taught the the difference in the elevation of the brass rim was indicative the the power or velocity of the shotgun load. The much longer the brass, the hotter the shell and also the much faster the shot traveled after it left the muzzle. High brass was more powerful than low brass. The may have once to be true, however not anymore. As soon as purchasing shotgun ammunition, neglect the size of the brass rim and also pay attention to the labeling velocity and payload of shot (again, stated in ounces) the the shell.