An introduction to Reloading Buckshot
Reloading buckshot is not a very popular practice for a few reasons.
- People aren’t in the habit of shooting buckshot because it is expensive. Also most commercial buckshot is poorly made, and leads to low expectation for what it can do.
- Most methods and recipes in books for reloading buckshot require fiddly and scarce components, and fiddly and time consuming methods. In short, they suck, and they might cost as much as ready made for mediocre shells.
- Most local stores don’t stock the fiber wads or buckshot. If they do, it tends to be Hornady 5 lb boxes.
- The shot itself is fairly expensive:
- Hornady buckshot comes in 5 lb boxes at roughly $28. ($5.60 /lb plus high shipping) Example: https://www.midwayusa.com/product/1013137187/hornady-lead-5-lb-box,
- More affordable, lower quality buckshot is probably more practical. I generally use Remington Field grade, which is generally most affordable from Precision Reloading at roughly $77 plus shipping but buy your wads there too, and you probably can skip the shipping. ($3.08 /lb plus high shipping, if you pay it.)
- Self cast shot is often poor, and is absurdly time consuming with currently available tools more often than not.
- Also, it is fraught with frustrations involved with poor fill out, and casts sticking to gang molds. Some of the molds are also ergonomically designed to be very hard on the user. i.e the front hinged molds with rectangular large section handles.
- This is probably another article. I mean no offense to those who chose to cast buckshot, but it clearly is an activity for those who either deeply enjoy the process or place a low value on their time. I will at least give you my opinion formed from much research.
- Presently, the most efficient of the tools and methods is to clean up a Lee gang mold, cast very hot for good fill out. Then heat treat the shot strings.Dump those into a rotary tumbler, and most of the strings will break up, thereby bypassing the laborious trimming step. Finally, sifting them through a sieve sorts out those strings which don’t break up in the tumbler.
- I believe an automated home caster or swager is the real solution. Hopefully more on this topic later.
- Most of the people giving advice on the topic go out of their way to use the most elaborate laborious processes and take pride in that fact. Some can give measurable results that show slim improvements for huge investments of labor, and generally more cost than commercial loads.
So why reload buckshot? Because most of the factors above can be mitigated or reversed.
- You can use data with available components, and efficient methods.
- This can produce ammo that is generally significantly better than the majority of commercial ammo across the board.
- With the exception of those using Federal Flitecontrol/ Hornady Versatite wads, which are not generally available as a component. These are not better for every application, but they are certainly good at their intended purpose.
- Using Remington Field grade buckshot, and federal wads or clones, you can make very good buckshot, for about 30 cents each (obvious caveat here about variety of choices affecting cost), which have optimal penetration and a lot better patterns. This is not dramatically cheaper than the cheapest European buckshot, but it is about a third to a sixth the cost of loads that perform comparably.
- Factory ammunition is generally made to historical standards that have more to do with manufacturing convenience and tradition rather than optimal performance for a particular task. That’s another article too, but for now, suffice it to say that you can make better hunting, competition, and HD loads than what they wanna sell you.
- It is fun to make something yourself, particularly when you know you are making something that is superior.
- For your hunting or HD loads which might warrant higher labor and component cost to eke that last marginal gain in performance, you can do so. You have the option to use better shot, better wads, optimal velocity, better buffers, and tailor it to your gun, and your shoulder. This level of investment is probably wasted on plinking, varminting, and 3 gun, but you can absolutely make better than you can buy.
So expect from me a series of videos and articles which address practical ways to make good ammo, as well as discuss methods I think are not “best practices.” Also, expect a few that are perhaps more controversial. I have some strong unpopular opinions about the most popular shotguns and shotshells, and why I think we can do and have done better. I believe we are stuck in a cycle of group-think and marketing that has held the performance of shotguns decades behind what they can be.
For example: You can have a moderate recoiling, which puts 21 pellets all into a 6″ circle at 40′, each of which can be expected to punch about 16″ into ballistic gel. This load costs about 33 cents each and is quick to make. It’s cheap enough to practice with, and good enough for coyotes or burglars. It could also be shot from a reliable, well balanced low recoiling gun, which is easy to quickly reload another dozen rounds in a second or three. Why settle for less?
As articles in this series are created, I will edit this portion to be a table of contents with links here:
- A Better Way to Reload Buckshot: Counting and filling
- HD Buckshot, and 2 More tricks to make loading easier
GunFunZS (AKA just GunFun in some venues) is an avid tinkerer. He is a techy guy with experience in commercial fishing, fabrication and the practice of law, and some other stuff too. He knows gun law professionally, and ballistics as an enthusiastic amateur student of many years. Show. Him. The. Data.
He loves paintball and motorcycles, and making knives. He grew up shooting at pests in Alaska, and that formed a lot of his shooting biases and bad habits.