Shotgun sports are equally as varied as shooting metallic cartridges. Traps, sporting clays, skeets as well as upland bird and waterfowl hunting, are among them. Recent improvements in shotshells and shot have resulted in field performance that is considered superior to that of 25 years ago. Bismuth and tungsten shots enhance range and efficacy significantly. Wads offer improved patterning and greater ranges. Not to be overlooked, how big-game hunters have benefited from rifled shotgun barrels, sophisticated slug, and sabot designs that elevate the shotgun performance to the level of centerfire rifles.
If you are a shotgun shooter who has yet to try shotshell reloading, you are missing out on a worthwhile and entertaining hobby. Shotshell reloading and its associated components are as sophisticated and diversified as metallic cartridge reloading. It also allows you to tailor a load to your specific requirements, and the cost savings can be comparable to filling cartridges. Let’s look at what shotshell reloading entails and how to get started.
Select the Appropriate Loader
If you want to shoot more than six rounds of trap, skeet, or sporting clays every week, or if you’re short on time, invest in a progressive loader. If you only need to shoot a few frames, a single-stage machine will suffice. Progressive reloading presses necessitate a lengthy preparation time for each load, making them unsuitable for people who want to experiment or utilize different loads for different seasons. A single-stage machine is a good choice for this sort of performance. With each handle pull, it completes only one phase of the procedure.
Also, whenever changing loads, visit the maker of your machine, for changing the powders or shot sizes, because you’ll normally need a new charge bar bushing and, in some cases, a new charge bar. Charge bars deliver a specified weight of shot and powder but measure in volume. As a result, if you switch to a powder with a different grain or size shot, it may not drop the correct amount.
Finally, if you wish to load steel for waterfowl hunting, invest in a machine that can handle high-brass hulls as well as the stronger steel shot pellets.
Securely Mount It
Shot-shell loaders have several moving parts and can become erratic in no time. When feasible, bolt them to a secure bench. If you can’t, simply bolt the base to a piece of 3/4-inch-thick scrap lumber that is 3 or 4 inches wider and 6 to 8 inches longer than the base. Allow enough space in front of the machine to secure the board to the bench using a wide-mouth C-clamp.
Use High-Quality Hulls
By reloading, you can save money in the long run, but you must still invest. It all begins with the hulls. Winchester AA and Remington STS hulls are the most common and high-quality reloading hulls available today. They have brass heads and tough plastic cases that will survive for many reloads. You can buy factory loads and keep the hulls, or you can buy empty shells from gun shops or online.
Some lesser hulls will load just as well the first few times, but they won’t resize fully, the crimps will open up, they’ll break in the loader, or you’ll get a series of shoot-offs, that is when the end of the case splits and shoots down the barrel. As a general rule, avoid anything with a nickel head and expect only a few good reloads from ribbed case hulls.
Maintain Records, Label Loaders, and Stay Safe
Even if you “always” load the same type, keep thorough logs of your favorite loads. Something may change, and you’ll want to know exactly what you were using. Once I’ve got a loader set up the way I want it, I always write the powder I’m using on a piece of tape and tape it to the powder bottle. When I add powder, the label reminds me to double-check that I’m doing it correctly. Incorporate additional safety precautions into your procedure, such as checking every fifth or tenth powder charge to ensure you’re dumping proper charges. You can never be too cautious to maintain your gun’s safety.
Work Slowly and Organized
Rather than waiting 30 minutes before planning to shoot, make it a point to set aside time to reload. When you rush, mistakes happen, and reloading mistakes result in destroyed guns or injured people. Take it one step at a time and double-check everything, and you should be fine. Finally, keep your work area tidy. Keep hulls and wads in a separate container on the bench. Sweep up any loose powder. And clean up any messes as soon as they occur.
While Working, Pay Attention
Listening to the machine work can catch a lot of faulty shells before they become big problems. Stop and investigate each shell if something doesn’t sound right. The same can be said for the way each handle stroke feels. If the handle is more difficult to draw than usual, you may have some shot or debris lodged somewhere it shouldn’t be. If you don’t hear the charge bar snap back and forth as it should, the loose powder may have slid out and is causing friction. Take note of these specifics.
A Word of Caution
Shotshells often use very rapid propellants and launch large payloads. Pressure changes caused by minor changes in the hull, propellant, wad, or primer can be considerable. Shotguns have narrower safety margins for barrel burst pressures and case-head strength than rifles or handguns. These are ineffective and dangerous; they just do not have the same margins of safety as rifle and pistol designs. Deviate from the stated load recipe components or propellant charge weights at your own responsibility! Reloading shotshells is not a pastime for the untrained. There will be no problems if you follow the load formulas supplied by propellant, component, and reloading equipment makers.
Shotshell reloading is a well-known pastime. Several manufacturers provide a comprehensive range of equipment and components. If you’re thinking about getting into shotshell reloading, I strongly advise you to do so. It’s enjoyable, rewarding, and can save you money.