Hard Pellet Count

Dear Technoid:

Here’s a question that has long puzzled me: Exactly what is it that we are attempting to break birds with? Shot weight? Shot volume? Pellet count?

The question arose last night when I went to load some 12 ga “practice” loads and, being out of “hard” shot, ended up using “soft” 8s. I frequently check the weight of both shot and powder. And true to form, found that the 7/8 oz. loads of “soft” shot scaled at 395-400 grains — not the 383 (plus or minus a few) grains that I get with Magnum shot.

Because the MEC 9000g I use is volumetric, the volume should be the same, even if the weight isn’t. Also it would seem that the diameter of 8s should be the same regardless of antimony content, making the number of pellets the same.

So, what am I shooting? A 7/8 oz load? A 15/16 oz load? A given number of pellets and/or volume of shot in either case? Does it even matter?


Dear 75352.127 (may I just call you “7”?),

Usually you break the birds with about three feet of lead. Well, OK, but I couldn’t resist.

The hardening agent antimony weighs a good bit less than lead. “Hard” shot contains more antimony than “soft” shot. Hard shot often contains 6% antimony, while soft shot can be around 2%. Therefore hard shot weighs less than soft shot. Gotta be.

Your MEC 9000 only measures by volume, not weight, so the pellet counts should remain the same between hard and soft shot of the same size. The weights will be different due to the lighter weight of the harder pellet. Said another way, if both charges were the same weight, you would have more of the hard pellets.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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