This is the second post in a series about shotshell reloading by hand. No press required. In the last post we talked about loading new primed hulls, the equipment required, some extras and the procedure. Read about it here. You should read it first before you start on this one.
This post is going to cover shot types, and using shot hulls, not new, primed hulls. This introduces some extra steps and some more stuff to think about. We’ll close with some safety considerations.
There are a handful of shot types that everyone knows about, then there are a few exotics that are lesser known. Some shot isn’t worth loading for. Here I list the shot type and it’s density. Density is measured in grams per cc or cubic centimeter. I’ll then list what shot I would reload for and what I would use it for.
- Steel 7.6gm/cc
- Bismuth 9.5gm/cc
- ITX10 10gm/cc
- Lead 11gm/cc
- Hevishot 12gm/cc
- ITX13 12.8gm/cc
- HW15 15gm/cc
- Spherotungsten 15gm/cc
- Tungsten Super Shot 18gm/cc
Don’t bother reloading steel. It is junk. It can be driven fast enough for good performance but there are so many better options. The only positive steel has going for it is price. You should be able to find it shipped for $2.25/lb. Given it’s performance though, I think that you will find that you can bring more game home by loading better shot. When it takes three shells to kill one duck, where you can load some decent shot and shoot only one shell, that starts to add up.
ITX10 and Bismuth are close enough to consider together. Bismuth is considered to be very comparable to lead. In my manuals, for 20 gauge (what I shoot) there are numerous recipes over 1300fps. This will make a real nice load for waterfowl. You can get Bismuth for about $14.90lb shipped. If using 1oz loads that comes to .93/oz. That is not bad. $1.25-$1.50 per shell is doable for most people. As far as I can find it is the cheapest effective non toxic shot specie. It is what I will be loading this summer for next years waterfowl season. ITX10 is not comparable in price. It is more like $20/lb and add shipping to that.
Lead is the old standard by which all other shot is measured. I’m not sure you can beat commercial prices for factory loaded lead shells. I won’t be loading any lead shot, making one exception. I will be loading some 0# buck for my 20. There is no factory 20ga buck loads that pattern well. So I will be loading up some Nickel plated 0# buck with buffer to do some testing. We hunt deer with buckshot here in Va, so I need an honest 40yd buck load.
Hevishot and ITX13 are close enough to consider together. They are starting to get serious as far as density goes. They are tungsten alloy. As density starts to go up, shot size can start going down. ITX13 is serious medicine for turkeys. It is somewhat pricey, about $31/lb plus shipping. And at that price I recommend higher density shot.
HW15 made by Federal and Spherotungsten carried by BPI are both 15gm/cc. This is another level beyond the lead replacement Hevi and ITX13. I’m not aware of a source for Federal HW15 other than buying Federal shells and robbing the shot. You can sometimes find it on clearance. Buy them and take the shells apart, to take the shot. Load recipes are hard to find in this weight. It is an uncommon shot and only available in 6s or 7s. But BPI has a handful of loads tested for it. Find their data here. Even with 6 or 7 shot, this will kill turkeys at 60+ yards. As long as your pattern will hold really.
If you are an advanced reloader you can compare ITX13 loads and TSS loads and try to do some wildcatting with the 15gm/cc shot. Start low and work your way up. Don’t attempt if you don’t have a chronograph. Spherotungsten sold by BPI is running $29/lb plus shipping. There is no sense in buying ITX13 when you can get a huge increase in density for the same price. Only available in #7 shot at this time. But that should kill even big geese at the right velocity.
Last but not least the Godfather of all shot. Tungsten Super Shot. TSS is 18gm/cc. This stuff is simply insane. It is unbelievable what it can do until you start hearing first hand stories. 60yard turkey kills with 410 and 10 shot. 9, 9 1/2, and 10 shot is most common for turkeys. 50 and 60yd hog and deer kills with T shot, getting passthroughs. It is nothing to mess around with. Load recipes are closely guarded by the people who sell it. It is running $53/lb shipped at this writing. It is not an easy thing to find save for a handful of individual sellers. BPI is starting to sell small turkey sizes. Very expensive, but they do have a handful of free published loads. Find them here.
TSS shines as a sub gauge turkey and waterfowl load. There are some factory loads coming out. I would not buy them. They are expensive and are too easy to hand load. I want to try some for waterfowl this year. Probably in size 7, or 7 1/2. This should obliterate even big geese as far as your pattern will hold. I’m also going to be loading up some T for deer this fall. Ought to be like a freight train. Join the TSS Shooters Discussion on Facebook to find suppliers. You will need to be a member to use the group.
A quick look at scavenging for components. If you see shotshells on clearance in your gauge buy them. Look at the price of primed hulls, shot, spent hulls, and primers. Can the wads be reused? Can the shot be reused? I’ve seen Federal HW15 on clearance. Even if I shoot 20, but can get 10ga cheaper, I’ll buy the 10ga shells.
Powder is bad to scavenge with two caveats. Survival situations where you just don’t have anything else, or if you can positively identify the powder specie. If you don’t know what it is, how will you know what to load? You can make some assumptions based on payload and velocity. But unless you start very light and have a chronograph the risk is too high unless you are a very experienced reloader.
Fired hulls are probably the easiest item to scavenge. Given that so many people leave them laying around. They can be had by the barrel full at skeet ranges. Resizing can be an issue on fired hulls from unknown sources.
In a scavenging situation, black powder can be used to load shotgun shells. You will not get many reloads, maybe two before the powder burns holes in the plastic. But it can be done. Using the punch set I mention in the first post you can make very functional loads with felt and cork wadding and cardboard cards.
If you can scavenge lead, or wheel weights, or even bullets you can cast slugs, buckshot and even shot if you have a shot dropper. Shotguns and shotshell loading make a very functional survival weapon. There are a lot of options to make ammunition. You can see I have found a lead ingot and an old window sash weight that is also lead. Wheel weights are easy to come by too.
I am focusing on loading new primed hulls because you don’t need to prime and you don’t need to resize. If you are using fired hulls, you will need some more gear and will need to figure out how to deprime and prime.
Depriming and priming are simple as sand. You can pop primers out with a phillips head screwdriver, a socket and a small hammer. Priming is slightly harder. All you need is a way to seat it without firing it. Are you wearing safety glasses? You can buy Lee Loaders which come with a set of punches. Lee Loaders are a set of hand punches that allow you to load individual rounds on a bench. They run about $60 on eBay.
Resizing cannot be done with hand tools. Someone can tell me if Lee Loaders resize. There are stand alone resizers available for $100-$125. Some people say that as long as the hull stays with that gun you are okay. Automatic shotguns seem to have the most trouble. Worthy of note, automatics are sensitive to shell over all length. It may take some fiddling to see what you shotgun likes for OAL. If you are using once fired hulls scavenged from a source where you don’t know the type of gun fired it you could run into sizing problems.
Let’s spend a few minutes going over safety. Reloading isn’t inherently dangerous but can create some dangerous situations. Most issues arise from carelessness. Just like in firearm safety, there are some basic rules of thumb that apply to reloading.
- Never substitute components, powder, powder weight, wads, shot, or shot weight. There are some safe substitutions but should only be considered for advanced reloaders.
- Wear proper safety equipment, at least safety glasses. Your eyesight cannot be replaced
- Check your scale against known weights. Do this every session. Your whole operation is dependent on an accurate scale
- Complete all of one step for all hulls before moving on. Reloading blocks help with this.
- If a recipe doesn’t fit in a hull, and or you cannot get a good crimp do not force it. There is a problem somewhere in the stack.
- A quick way to do a final safety check is to weigh each completed shell. If the weight of one is way off you know there is a problem.
The bottom line is to use a systems approach. Don’t be careless. Have all your components ready to go. Use tested recipes. Test your equipment.
This wraps up our basic look at easy, hand shotshell reloading. If you are a serious waterfowler, turkey hunter, or buck shot deer hunter you can undoubtedly load better custom loads than you can buy. If you shoot a sub gauge; usually 20, 28 and 410 the gains are staggering. If you like this kind of thing, please comment or drop me a line. I want to go down some shotshell reloading rabbit holes, but only if there is interest. Stay tuned.