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Boomstick Gun Weapons; Shotgun Gauges, Chokes, Lead Shells, Pattern Density & More

Shotguns elicit images of stage coach guards armed with double-barreled 12-gauge shotguns with outside hammers. Others are of Elmer Fudd trying to collect Bugs Bunny or Daffy. The shotgun or fouling piece was used to collect birds on the wing or over water. Multiple pellets ensured hits on relatively fast-moving small targets. So, what is a 12-gauge or as the English would refer to it as a 12-bore? Instead of referring to shotguns by caliber they are referred to as a gauge.

Shotgun Gauges

A gauge would indicate that there is a standard, and that standard is round, pure lead balls equaling a pound. There are 12 balls to the pound for a 12-gauge shotgun. A 12-gauge is a lead ball weighs 1/12th of a pound, a 20-gauge is 1/20th of a pound or twenty balls to a pound. Considering this it is easy to see why as the number of the gauge gets larger the smaller the bore. An exception is the .410-bore as the barrel is .41 caliber. This would be equal to about a 68-gauge shotgun. There are many historical and obsolete caliber shotguns, but 10, 12, 16, 20 gauge and .410’s are the primary commercially available shotgun loadings. In the US 4 and 8-gauge are not legal for fowl. In the black powder days of African dangerous game hunting the 4-8-bore guns where used on elephant, rhino, lion, water buffalo and elephant and tiger in India. They fired full-bore balls, although the 4 and 8-gauge guns were smaller bored than the gauge would indicate.

Why is Lead Shot Illegal for Waterfowl?

Lead shot is formed and sized by the sieve that molten lead is dropped through. Above #5 shot it is cast or swaged. Shot size increase inversely to the number. #7 ½ shot is about 1.29 grains and 0.095 inches in diameter. #4 is 3.30 grains and 0.13 inches. BB shot is 0.177 for air rifles but 0.18 for shotguns. The higher the number the smaller the shot, but a load contains more pellets. For comparison #00 buck is 53.8 grains and 0.33 inches in diameter. Because of ingestion by waterfowl of lead shot a non-scientific study indicated lead poisoning in waterfowl. This led to legislation limiting waterfowl hunting to non-lead shot. Steel, bismuth, tungsten and tungsten-polymer shot. Lead can still be used for field hunting like pheasant, chukkars and grouse. Iron and steel shot have poor ballistic characteristics. Never shoot steel/iron shot in older shotguns as it will destroy the barrels, modern shotguns are hardened and designed to digest steel/iron pellet loads.

How Many Pellets in a Shotgun Shell?

Defensively shotguns are devastating weapons. An eight-pellet loading of #00 buck is like getting hit with a high velocity load of eight 32 ACP all at once. Some hunting rounds contain up to 12 pellets, while 9 pellets were the traditional load. The 8-pellet load is a low recoil shell for police and military.

Shotgun Chokes & Pattern Density

Chokes are restrictions near the muzzle of the shotgun and are used to control the shot pattern and spread. A straight bore will typically open to about 32-inch diameter at 20-yards. With a full choke, the most restrictive, the pattern will open only to 16 inches. This of course varies slightly from gun to gun and depends somewhat on the ammo being shot. Pattern density is the number of shot in a circle at a certain range. More shot and uniform the coverage within the defined circle the higher the density of the pattern. Again, gun to gun and ammo to ammo variances are expected.

Custom Portable Indoor Shooting Ranges

There are many more myths and facts about shotguns, much more than Shooting Range Industries can cover here. We may revisit shotguns info in the future. In the meantime, for more information on our custom shooting ranges and accessories, review our website and contact us to learn more!