Does Round Shot Matter?


All the talk about pellet deformation is always about lead, what about steel? does it deform at all? just how hard is the steel in shotshells? cant wait to see your reply..thanks

Dear ?,

I don’t know what the Rockwell hardness of steel shot is (yes, I could go look it up), but it’s relatively soft as steel goes. More like iron. Still, it’s hard enough so that it basically doesn’t deform at all when fired from a shotshell. I’ve pulled steel shot out of ducks that looked as though it was new.

That’s it for the direct question. Now for a lengthy aside. Surprisingly enough round shot doesn’t always matter. We all go to great length to keep our lead pellets round. If you pattern test, you will quickly find out that lead shot that is damaged and out of round, will not fly as predictably. Generally, the less round the lead shot, the more open the pattern. Over the years I have found that cheap chilled shot has produced a pattern averaging about 10% more open than hard “magnum” high antimony shot in the same load.

But then there was Hevi-shot. It was made for a few years, but is now discontinued. Hevi-shot was actually HEAVIER than lead. The usual steel/lead equation is that you go up two sizes for steel. So, if you used to use #4s on duck, you would get about the same performance from #2 steel, more or less, sort of, maybe. Well, with Hevi-shot, a #5 pellet carries the same weight as a #4 lead pellet. That opens up all sorts of ballistic possibilities when you think about it.

Hevi-shot is as hard, or harder than steel. It’s expensive to make because it uses a great deal of heat to form the pellets. The Hevi-shot process produces pellets that aren’t very round. As a matter of fact, they look awful. To look at them you’d think that they would fly all over the place just like oblong shaped pieces of lead would. NOT! One of the problems with Hevi-shot has been that it is almost too tight patterning! No kidding. Hevi-shot shells won the recent national turkey gun contest where the goal is to have the tightest patterning shell. When you duck hunt with Hevi-shot, you’ll be using Sk and IC, not Mod and Full. The problem with Hevi-shot has actually been to get it to open up to usefully large hunting patterns.

How come lead sprays around when it’s not round, but the slightly heavier Hevi-shot shoots really tight when it is out of round? Dunno. Just one of the wonders of the shotgunning world. Live and learn.

By the way, please sign your name next time. I like to think of my readers as friends (that way I can borrow their gun and some shells when I meet them).

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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1 Response to Does Round Shot Matter?

  1. Jim Smythe says:

    Back in January of 2007 I ask Tom Roster that question and he responded:

    Hevi-shot is some very weird looking stuff, isn’t it.

    It patterns well by virtue of a luck-out. Many of the pellets approximate a teardrop shape including the ones with the little globs attached. A teardrop shape is much more aerodynamically stable and efficient than a ball, therefore flies in a straighter line and therefore if there is a cluster of them such as in shotshell loads. they would tend to pattern tighter than rough ball shapes.

    Hope this helps you out.

    Tom Roster

    Bruce keep up the good work. 1st thing I read each morning is Shotgun Report.


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