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Let's look at some different applications and factors to consider before you buy shotgun ammo. But first, a quick trip down memory lane to see how shotgun ammo has developed throughout history.
What we know as modern shotgun ammunition was developed in the 1860s, during the American Civil War. Production methods were time-consuming and very expensive, and mass-produced shotgun shells wouldn't be developed until the turn of the 20th century. Most early shotgun cases were made with paper, while some contained wax to provide water-resistant properties. By the early to mid-20th century, ammo manufacturers started using plastic shell cases; the basic appearance of a softshell from 1930 doesn't look that much different from today's typical shotgun ammo.
Major manufacturers of the first mass-produced softshells were Winchester-Western, the Federal Cartridge Company and Remington. The two gunpowder producers in the 1950s and 1960s were Olin and Dupont. Despite just five manufacturers dominating the shotgun ammunition industry for generations, there was enough variety – "color-coded" shotgun shells were developed around this time – to keep sporting enthusiasts and regular shotgun users well supplied, with plenty of ammo to spare.
How does shotgun ammunition actually work? The modern process is much different in practice than its historical predecessors, but the theory is relatively the same. The exterior of a softshell's major components:
That's the exterior; inside is where the magic happens. Here is how a softshell shell actually works: The firing pin strikes the primer, located on the brass head. Immediately under the primer is the gunpowder, which is separated from the shot by a wad. When the primer and gunpowder ignite, the wad helps keep the shot in place until it leaves the shell case. When the wad and shot exit the gun barrel, the wad immediately drops away, allowing the shot to reach its intended target.
The other components of a softshell include:
So what determines shot velocity? Take two softshells, identical expect for the gunpowder inside. Softshell A has a lower-quality gunpowder, while softshell B contains a high-performance gunpowder. Everything else being equal (including the wad, primer and shot), softshell B will provide greater range and (quite possibly) better accuracy. Remember, when you're comparing softshell shotgun ammo, it's all about the gunpowder.
The term "gauge" refers to the measure of the bore diameter of the shotgun. The exception is the .410-bore, a caliber commonly misnamed .410-gauge. The gauge number is equal to the number of lead balls of the bore diameter and add up to weighing one pound. For example, 12-gauge, the most common shotgun gauge today, is the diameter of a ball of lead weighing 1/12-pound of lead. A 20-gauge is the diameter of a lead ball weighing 1/20-pound of lead. Shotgun ammo comes in six different calibers/gauges, each having its pros and cons depending on the shooters needs, personal preferences and shooting application.
10 Gauge (.775 inches): The largest legal gauge in the United States. The 10 gauge was an all-around gauge in the blackpowder days. The 10 gauge is popular with waterfowl hunters since the larger shell can hold the much larger sizes of low-density steel shot needed to reach the ranges necessary for waterfowl hunting. The 10 gauge is one of the least popular gauges out of the six.
12 Gauge (.729 inches): This is the standard and the most versatile of all gauges. The 12 gauge shoots everything from a ¾ ounce practice loads to 2 ¼ ounce turkey stompers. Ammunition is available everywhere and the volume of 12 gauge sales keeps the prices low. The 12 gauge is the most popular gauge with up to 50% of the overall shotgun market in the United States. It is also a favorite for tactical applications and home defense.
16 Gauge (.662): The 16 gauge is an upland classic squeezed ballistically speaking into a tiny, overlapping niche between the 3" 20 gauge and the 12 gauge. Some will say the 16 is a dying gauge and currently the least popular amongst most shooters.
20 Gauge (.615): The 20 gauge is a capable upland performer with a 7/8 ounce of shot. At 3 inches, 20 shoots an ounce of steel, enough for hunting ducks. Some of the advances in slugs have made the 20 gauge equal to a 12 gauge in a lower recoil package. The 20 is also a popular gauge for home defense use and a favorite of shooters who are uncomfortable with the weight and recoil of a 12 gauge. The 20 gauge is the second most popular gauge and is the best fit for a starter shotgun.
28 Gauge (.550): The 28 gauge is the third most popular amongst the gauges. The 28 is great for female or older shooters than may be recoil sensitive. It's also a great choice for younger shooters. Some people call it "the thinking man's 20 gauge" because it may be hard to hit targets as well as further ranges due to its smaller size. At ranges out 30 to 35 yards, the light kicking 28 gauge hits with authority. It's also popular for pheasant hunting, other smaller birds and short range clays.
.410 Bore (67 Gauge): Although many kids start with a .410 because it is lighter and has little recoil, the .410's light payload, poor patterns and expensive ammo make it a poor choice for kids and a better one for expert target shooters. The .410 gauge is popular with pistol shooters who have revolvers capable of shooting .410 shells. Many will use these revolvers and gauge for personal defense.
The number of little pellets a shotgun fires are collectively called "shot." They are often pure lead, sometimes lead coated with another material like copper, or of non-lead components such as steel, bismuth, tungsten and other materials. The shot sizes are numbered beginning with the smaller "birdshot." Eventually, the sizes are stated in letters. Finally, there are the largest "buckshot" sizes, popular for use on deer in the southern U.S., for hunting varmints and for self-defense. Here are the three main type of shots.
Shotshells come in many different lengths. The length is measured based on the spent hull of the shell. The three most common lengths are 2 ¾ inches, 3 inches and 3 ½ inches. The difference between the shell lengths has to do with the amount of pellets and gunpowder the shell can hold. The bigger the shell the more pellets it will hold; thus creating a wider, more effective spread for some applications. Usually a bigger shell translates into being more powerful. Not all shotguns are capable of shooting all three sizes. Always make sure to check the chamber size of your shotgun before selecting a shell length to shoot.
With so many types of shotgun ammo for sale at Hinterland Outfitters, it helps to have some purchase guidelines in place. They'll ultimately help you make the "right" decision. Keep these factors in mind before you complete your checkout.
With Hinterland Outfitters, your shotgun cabinet is always stocked with the best ammunition, at the best possible prices. Browse our shotgun ammo for sale today, and choose from the most trusted names in the firearms industry. To connect with our shotgun ammo experts, just give us a call at 877-446-8370 and we'll be glad to help!