HD Buckshot, and 2 More tricks to make loading easier.
Part of a series on buckshot: See here for the index
Buckshot used to be the HD and police load of choice.
But ammo got better, and semi auto carbines took over.
However, there are many roles where buckshot is still the optimal choice, especially if your firearm has enough of it in queue and you can fire it fast enough.
Generally speaking anyone with close neighbors and/or a house with several occupants is probably best served with a tight grouping load of #4 buck at a velocity which will reliably penetrate to ~16″ in calibrated gel. This velocity is about 1375-1400 FPS of impact velocity. Note that the standard field loads of #4 buck are nominal velocity of 1325 FPS, and 27 pellets. This is a little more recoil than the standard field load of 00 Buck, and will typically penetrate 11/12″ in gel. However, that’s out of a long barrel, not the barrels typically used for HD.
So if you optimize for real barrels, and impact velocity, what you want is data that yields ~1425 FPS out of test barrels, and a lighter load. i.e. 1 oz instead of 1 3/8 oz. This gives you moderate recoil, ~16″ of penetration and 24 or 25 potentially incapacitative wound channels. Moreover, various tests have shown that #4 buck at this velocity is still dangerous through drywall, but significantly less so than almost any other option that is also dangerous to assailants. That is to say near perfection, from a defensive perspective. Too bad it isn’t for sale in this configuration.
The closest commercial option I’ve found is this one: https://www.midwayusa.com/product/100208581/hornady-varmint-express-buckshot-ammunition-12-gauge-2-3-4-4-buckshot-24-pellets-box-of-10 Testers have found that it shoots at roughly 1370 FPS depending on the gun. So just on the lean side of what we want, but still a lot more effective than the ubiquitous 9 pellet 00 Buck at 1325 load, or the neutered versions of it. If you want to buy an HD load, this is what I suggest as your first choice. It has Hornady’s version of the Flite Control wad, so it is best used without a choke.
Alternatively, 12 pellets of #1 buck at 1325 -1370 FPS gives us that same sweet spot of performance, but a little more punch through barriers, and about half the wound channels. Either is a very good choice. Fortunately this IS a very standard load, either with fiber wads, as a standard field load, or in slightly harder to find Flite Control versions from Federal. Were I in law enforcement, this would be my choice for a duty load. (I am not, and many LE do not get a real choice, but some do. Most departments currently use Federal reduced power 8 or pellet OOB Flite Control which is a silly compromise. More on that some other time.)
I’m offering a couple ways to make either load, using Federal’s birdshot wads. You will get a lot better pattern than any of the fiber wad options available, with or without choke, and also good pattern control with a choke.
In this first video, I discuss how I come to my choice of data.
Basically, I am using Longshot Data for either Cheddite or Federal Gold Medal Hulls and 12S3 Wad, that gives book velocity numbers of about 1425FPS. Not all recipes I’ve tried in the past reliably fit in the hulls that they are supposed to. I chose these components for a few reasons. Serious loads need to be durable, and shelf stable, not compressed to the point they want to pop open in your magazine, or in your storage. They need to be temperature stable, and low smoke. Longshot is good for all these reasons, and the FGM hull is top shelf. It feeds and crimps very reliably, and has plenty of data. Cheddite hulls of the style with the plastic basewad are a good substitute, so long as you use the correct data for them. A common source of these is the red Cheddite hulls with the gold colored steel case head.
When you are reloading shotshells, particularly for any serious purpose, you should always size the “brass”. Many older manuals suggest skipping this step, and some presses make it awkward or impossible. However, I have found that if you don’t you will have issues with shells that will not chamber or are difficult to extract in some shotguns. The minuscule savings in reloading time do not warrant this problem. Moreover, Shotshells do not fail from brass failures, they fail at the crimp. There is no reason to be concerned about wearing out the “brass”.
As for making the shells, I reload the #4 buck using the trick shown in the last installment of this series.
For the #1 buck, I use this method.
I would use the same method as shown in the #4 buck video, but I haven’t sourced the right size of tubing for the quick counter. That will happen.
#1 buck is a lot more efficient to cast, so if you want a good practice load which is also real world effective, this might be your bet.
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.