Thursday, October 22, 2015

Reloading "Light" 20 gauge shotgun shells

Mr Pepper is one of my coffee drinking friends.  He usually shows up early and leaves early.  He has a circuit he makes each morning.

Mr Pepper is a spry 81 year old.  He still cuts and stacks firewood.  He hunts and farms.  He was in the Air Force, worked as an airplane mechanic, worked as a tractor mechanic, piloted planes (for fun) and was a milk farmer.

In his youth he made several trips to Alaska.  In his mind, he is sure that Heaven looks like Ketchikan, Alaska during moose rut.  I don’t have the heart to tell him that townhouses and condos probably cover those yellow-grass meadows along the creek banks.

His horizons shrank somewhatly as of late.  He is in a feud-to-the-death with the varmints that crap on his front porch.  He takes it personal.

He was in the market for a .410 the last time I saw him.  I don’t have much use for a .410 as I can think of nothing it does that other chamberings cannot do better.

In general, Mr Pepper is in full agreement with that.  He is a 20 gauge man, a chambering that has great versatility with today’s vast selection of powders, wads, hulls and shot.

Mr Pepper’s reason for wanting a 410 is that his house is surrounded by heavy drinkers who don’t respond well to gunfire at the butt-crack of dawn (10:30 AM, to the drinkers).  He remembers the .410 as a quiet gun.

I told him that I enjoy reloading.  I asked him how many hulls he wanted loaded up in a “light” 20 gauge load.

Mr Pepper is not greedy.  He figured 10 would set him up well for a long time.  He shoots a single shot he bought as a sixteen year old.  He had to hoe onions for three, long, hot days to earn that used 20 gauge.  He had it rebored to a modified choke.  He still uses it and he does not miss.  He also favors #6 shot, a choice I cannot argue with.

He is going to get 25 because it takes me 10 to figure out how to make the crimps come out pretty.

The lightest 20 gauge load in the Lyman Shotshell Reloading Handbook shows 12-to-14 grains of 700X and 7/8th ounce of shot.  I dialed it down to 11.5 grains of powder before it went sub-sonic.  11.5 grains of powder is not very much in a 20 gauge shotgun shell!
This is what the back of the milk jug looked like.  Shooter was standing 20 paces away from the jug.

One of my concerns regarded the potential lack of penetration.  So I shot a milk jug filled with water.  Most of the shot blasted through both sides of the jug and the 8 inches of water that separated them.  That should be enough zip to penetrate a raccoon, possum or feral cat’s ribcage.

The load is a real cream-puff to shoot.

Shot may be round when it goes in the shell but it is not round when it comes out.  A few pellets were trapped inside the jug.  This is what they looked like.

Most of Mr Pepper’s varmints will either be in a tree or calmly sitting on his porch giving him the finger when he drops the hammer on them.  For him, a ten yard shot will be a long shot.  One of the great advantages of “fast” shotgun shells is that it takes some of the guess work out of leading the bird or bunny.  Very few of Mr Pepper’s targets will need any lead at all.

The dead bugs greasing my windshield is the only proof I need that big-and-slow still gets the job done...if you can hit them.

Mr Pepper may want to pay me.  I will ask him to keep his eyes open for a cast iron Dutch oven.  I will tell him I am willing to go $10 on one.  His coffee drinking circuit covers thirty or forty miles every day.  It may take a month but I bet I end up with a Dutch oven for $10 and the cost of 25 light reloads.


  1. Stories lke this are why i'm looking forward to retirement. One of my retired friends that has a lot of space between neighbor houses has been waging a war on racoons using a trail camera to alert him in real time when its time to go take a shot. Waging a full time war on varmints sounds way more fun than working...

  2. I'm surprised that you don't already have a couple of dutch ovens. Of course, one more never hurts.