All shotshells share a few common traits. The head and primer are similar in all shells. The hull and base wad are paper or plastic. The wad design and powder vary with the type of shotshell and its intended use. Shells can range in length from 1 3/4 to 3 1/2 inches and in payload weight from 3/8 ounce to 2 1/2 ounces. They are loaded with lead, steel, bismuth and tungsten alloy shot, as well as slugs and buckshot.

LEAD SHOT: Pellets and buckshot are formed by pouring melted lead through a sieve or they are swaged (formed in a die). Traditional wads for lead shot are molded from flexible, low-density polyethylene plastic and have a cushion section on the bottom. The cushion helps reduce the number of deformed pellets and the amount of felt recoil.      STEEL SHOT: These pellets are made by cutting steel wire into short lengths which are formed and ground. Premium® steel shot is coated with a rust inhibitor. Wads for steel shot are molded from high-density polyethylene, with thick sidewalls to prevent the pellets from contacting the shotgun bore surface. Steel shot ammunition requires large charges of special slow-burning powders to give the large shot column a gentler start but a faster exit from the muzzle.
TUNGSTEN SUPER SHOT: These pellets are made of tungstenalloy that's 56 percent denser than lead. This allows hunters to use smaller shot without sacrificing downrange energy, increasing pellet counts and improving pattern density.      BISMUTH SHOT: Bismuth pellets are almost as dense as lead, 9.6 g/cc, for lethality at longer ranges than steel payloads. The material meets non-toxic requirements, is more affordable than tungsten, and safe and effective for use in all shotguns.      FLITESTOPPER® SHOT: Available in all-steel pellets for waterfowl and upland birds, and lead pellets for upland birds and turkeys. The pellet is ringed by a raised cutting edge for more lethal wound channels and even edge to edge patterns.

Conventional shotshell wads peel open from the front, allowing pellets to scatter, resulting in fewer hits on target. The FLITECONTROL FLEX® wad is completely different. It features petals that open from the rear, creating an air brake that pulls the wad off the shot string. The pellets are released at the optimum moment for pattern density and power. The wad is combined with unique shot types to further enhance performance. Offered in both steel and lead, FLITESTOPPER pellets create consistent edge-to-edge patterns, putting lethal pellets on game even outside the pattern center.


Constriction in a shotgun's muzzle is referred to as choke. The three most common chokes are full, modified and improved cylinder. Lead, steel, bismuth and tungsten pattern differently in each of these chokes. To determine which load provides the best pattern density and most even pellet distribution, make sure to pattern a variety of loads at different distances.


The gauge of a shotgun was first determined by a simple method that used lead balls. A gun maker would use lead balls the same diameter of the shotgun bore, and then count how many of those balls it takes to equal one pound of weight. For example, it takes 12 lead balls the size of a 12 gauge shotgun bore to weigh a pound. The only exception is the .410, which is measured in inches. Shotguns and shotgun shell should also be matched. Failure to properly match the ammunition to the firearm can cause firearm damage and/or personal injury.


Use this process to pattern your gun before taking it to the field:

1. Select an area that provides a safe backdrop.      2. Wear a good pair of shooting glasses and   hearing protection.      3. Set up patterning paper at least 40 inches   square and mark an aiming point near the   center.      4. Select the shotgun/load combination to be   tested and measure off the distance you   usually shoot in the field.      5. Shoot at least five test patterns, each on a   separate pattern sheet.      6. Outline a 30-inch circle around the densest   portion of the pattern.      7. Check the pattern for uniformity.      8. Determine if the pattern is dense enough for   the game you are hunting. Remember, small   game requires dense patterns with small shot and larger game needs bigger pellets with a less dense pattern.

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