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Anatomy of a 00 Buckshot Shell

I was recently participating in a forum discussion regarding 12 gauge 00 buckshot.  I commented that I had been using Estate 00 buckshot (9 pellet) obtained from the local Cabela's store for a while.  In fact, I've shot a couple cases of it through my Benelli SuperNova.  I've got a couple more sitting on the ammo shelf, waiting for the next Front Sight trip or a Monday morning at my gun club's 50 yard range. 

While the Estate has performed reliably during the training and practice sessions, Gary (my shooting buddy who also uses it) and I have noticed an issue that we consistently see at shooting distances out to 15 yards.  That issue is that the target routinely has 6 pellet holes in it and one heck of a wad or shot cup hole in it after a shot.  You can see this in this series of targets I shot.  The Estate rounds are 9 pellet rounds and so we should be seeing 9 holes unless 3 of the pellets are simply missing the target.  I don't believe three rounds are missing the target, especially not at those distances.  I believe that three rounds are riding along in the bottom of the shot cup and not patterning out as are the other six rounds. 


Having never examined the internals of an Estate buckshot round, I decided it was time to open one up and take a look.  For those that haven't seen the insides of a buckshot shell, you'll get a chance to see how they are put together.  For those that have, perhaps you'll see something I didn't that can explain the patterning trend Gary and I see at 0 to 15 yard distances.  I'll also mention here that I've not done any intentional testing, regarding this 6 hole pattern issue, at longer distances.  I shoot 00 buckshot on paper from 3 to 15 yards and then switch to steel targets for longer distances.  Some time when I have some spare range time, I'll try this at 20 and 25 yards and see if I can coax those pellets out of their shot cup.  


After holding the shell up to a bright table light, I saw where the pellets and shot cup were positioned inside the shell.  A knife blade make short work of the shell.  The chosen location for the cut was perfect.  It was just below the shot cup and in the area where the wad makes contact with the shot cup.  The wad sits over the powder charge, located in the base of the shell, and pushes the shot cup (and buckshot) out of the shell when the primer ignites the powder charge. 


I turned my attention towards the other end of the shell.  Using a small wooden dowel I keep on the loading bench, I applied pressure to the shell's crimp, pushing it in a small amount.  It was enough to break the seal and allows the buckshot buffer material to come out.....that being the white granular material in the photo.  The buffer material is packed in with the .33" diameter pellets to help prevent them from deforming when the powder charge accelerates the pellets down the barrel at about 1325 FPS. 


Back at the other end of shell, I carefully pulled the shot cup, complete with 9 rounds of 00 buckshot, out of the shell.  As was previously mentioned, the buffer material is packed in the shot cup and surrounds the pellets.


Here you can see the wad that was removed from the shell, revealing the flake type powder charge in the base of the shell. 

Note that in the pile of buffer material (in the previous photo) there is a small amount of yellowish material.  This is very much clumped together buffer material, almost as though some kind of glue or sealant were applied to it.  I found this at the base of the shot cup among the bottom layer of pellets as well as at the vary top of the shell where I am confident it was used to seal the crimp to protect any buffer material from leaking out.  So.....perhaps Estate is getting a bit too much of this at the bottom of the shot cup which is more or less "sticking" the pellets into the bottom of the shot cup?  That is my best guess at what may be happening. 

Estate 00 buckshot is a cost effective round for training and practicing.  Unless you can find something else on sale (which can certainly happen), it will get the job done, regardless of the 3 pellets flying along in the shot cup. 

That's it.  Now you know what the inside of a typical 12 gauge 00 buckshot shell looks like.  Different brands will use different shot cups, wads, and buffer material.  These components make up the "secret sauce" that sets one brand apart from another and causes them to show distinctive patterning results in different shotguns.  Remember to always pattern test your new ammo and become very familiar with how it performs in your shotgun before depending on it for a self defense situation.





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