Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Loading buckshot for $0.16 a round

I'm not sure how the idea got into my head, I'm not sure at what point in time I thought to myself I needed to start loading my own buckshot. It wasn't like I was shooting up 50 rounds of it every month at a match though I set out to load quality buckshot and I think I've come up with a decent answer to a problem that never really existed...except for not wanting to pay $1.00 a round for the stuff.

A buddy and I decided to go halves on a "00" (.33") buckshot mold, which stacks perfectly in a 12ga hull so long as petals on a trap wad don't get in the way. I choose to stay with regular trap hulls since the strength between a trap hull and a buckshot hull of the same manufacture and same internal structure (external brass height has nothing to do with hull strength) was the same.

The first load I started with was out of pure curiosity, 18gr of red dot, Win AA hull, Federal 209 primer and a WAA12 trap wad with the petals cut off and 9 balls of "00" stacked in layers of 3 capped with a fold crimp. The load patterned surprisingly well at 30 yards but out of the muzzle it only clocked 1000 FPS 6' in front of the muzzle, a little on the slow side for what I was trying to do (which I wasn't really sure what that was at the time) I messed with the red dot powder and different wads on and off for about a year and decided that I probably wasn't going to get anywhere with wads that were designed for shot and such a fast burning powder.

Around the time I decided to switch up powders I also made a move to obtain new hulls, up until this point I had been using old hulls I scrounged for out at the club. I purchased 1000 Winchester AA-HS 12ga hulls for about $0.04 each shipped and was back in business. Next was powder selection, I was using red dot and wasn't happy with any of the results I was getting speed wise I simply couldn't break out of that 1000fps without something else going to pot, I looked through the Lyman shotshell loading manual as well as the Ballistic Products Buckshot loading manual and gave careful consideration to Blue dot and Green Dot powder. Looking at the charge tables for both I came to the conclusion Green dot would be best for the money. After the hull and the powder I carefully considered the wad, after each test lot of buckshot I would look around for wads to see how they were performing. The WAA12 wads and the claybuster replacements had burns all up the sides of them and were so badly deformed I thought the performance of the wad inside the barrel was not doing me any favors. I read, reread and carefully considered all the factors going into the needs of a buckshot load. And came to the conclusion I needed a tighter fitting wad and something much stiffer to hold up to the rigors of pushing a 486gr payload that only had 3 points of contact to the wad, down the barrel and sealing up the barrel, keeping from loosing velocity.

I settled on A Ballistic product "Flex-seal" gas seal to replace the trap wad and added a 1/4" fiber wad on top to achieve the appropriate payload height for proper crimp. Working my way up from 19gr of Green dot I soon discovered the 1/4" fiber wad was causing the gas seal to tip into the new style Winchester base wad and causing at times a 50FPS variation in velocity so I quickly got rid of that, and reluctantly so because I believe the fiber wad acted as a cushion and helped patterns out. So after some very, VERY early morning range sessions and waiting for turkeys to clear the backstop I continued testing my way up the charge table and watching for any major changes in performance. I had taken my LEE Load-All II and a powder scale to the range for the on range loading and was glad I did because I ended up going back and trying some lower charged loads to confirm the thought that the tipped wad was giving me bad velocities.

The load I settled on gave me 1150 FPS which is about 86% of the velocity of factory loads and 75% of the kinetic energy. It is a low recoil load that feels about 1/2 that of factory in several guns I have tested it in so far. Final cost for each round came out to $0.16 each which is cheaper than shot loads as I making the buckshot for cost of my time, and FAR cheaper than factory buckshot. Translated I can load 6 rounds of my "00" buckshot for what a single round of factory buckshot would cost me. Which means more practice with my shotguns

My final recipe was as follows
AA hull
Cheddite 209 primer
21.5gr Green dot
12ga BP flex seal
9 pellets "00" buck

Source for buckshot mold

As usual it works for me your results may vary, do not attempt if you do not understand how to work up loads or are not willing to be safe when doing so etc etc.


Standard trap hull and a 12ga Flex seal that works as an effective gas seal for buckshot loads.

Seated like a normal wad so it sits on top of internal base wad, the charge of green dot is just about level with the top of the base wad. 
Here we see where the gas seal comes in handy, no petals to cut off the trap wads!

Here we see the top stack of "00" buckshot peeking out, 9 pellets total this payload is a good combination of components that all work together to achieve the desired goal.  A utilitarian buckshot load.

Before you know it you'll have 500 rounds of buckshot loaded up!