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By Ken Jensen
Shotgun Cartridge Components
Shotgun cartridges have similar components to that of a rifle cartridge.
The components of a shotgun cartridge are:
• The Projectile
• The Case
• The Wad
• The Head
• The Rim
• The Primer
• The explosive center of the
• Firing pin hits primer.
• Powder in primer ignites.
• Ignites the propellant in the
• Fast burning material that creates a gas expansion in the shell.
• This propels the shot down and out the barrel.
• The Shell Case is what houses everything.
The common sizes of Shotgun Shells are
• 10 Ga
• 12 Ga
• 20 Ga
• The head is the brass around the base of the cartridge.
The rim is the small brass ring on the bottom of the shell.
• Allows ejection of the shell by the action of the shotgun.
• Keeps the shell chambered correctly.
The Wad Column
Made up of 3 components
The Gas Seal
• This is designed to keep the expanding gas from moving behind it.
• This keeps all expansion and momentum going forward.
• This is the shock absorber
The Shot Cup
• The cup houses the shot and keeps it together as it travels down the barrel.
There are two basic projectile types.
• Shot, or pellets
• Shotguns were designed to shoot the ball type shot from the old
muskets. These are called “Pumpkin Ball” slugs.
Some of the benefits of slugs today:
• These new designs allow us to bring some “rifle” qualities to shotguns.
• All the force is focused to one spot.
• This allows for greater impact or penetration on large game.
9 main slug types
Pumpkin Ball Slug
• One of the first slug shots.
• Round lead ball, just smaller than the bore.
• Not too accurate
• Limited range of about 25-50 yards
• Designed in late 1800s
• Had a rifling of the slug
• The rifling was not at all for spin
and added none
• It reduced surface area on the
barrel, reducing friction, and
raising exit velocity.
• It had stabilization problems due
to being a solid slug.
• Designed during the great depression.
• Hollowed out rear putting mass at the tip for stable air flow
• Meant to be used in a smooth barrel with a choke.
• The big item here is the wad cup.
• The wad slug is also called a key slug. It isn’t anything fancy about it.
There are two designs of the plumbata.
• One type has wadding designed to fit in the tail end.
• Another design wraps around the base of the slug
• It is expensive
• It can be outperformed by a specific rifles where it matters:
– Dense brush
– Disabling vehicles
• Wax slugs were used during the great depression.
• Typical range of a Wax Slug is about 50 yards.
Cut Shell Slugs
• Cut shell slugs were also used during the great depression.
• Usually made “in the field” when larger game showed up.
There are 2 different basic types of
• Meant for larger animals.
• Normal sizes range from 4 to 1,
then 0 to 000, then Tri-ball 12 and
• Useful for fowl and smaller
• Birdshot runs from 9 down to 1,
then B to BBB, then T, TT, F, FF
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