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Shotshell reloading question(s)


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So I've done rifle and pistol reloads for years now, but have never done shotgun since I rarely shot it, and as such know nothing about it. Now that we've started with CAS reloading is starting to look more and more an inevitability, especially for my wife who does not like factory loads. 

 

First question, how much of a PITA is it to reload these vs pistols/rifles? I'm thinking of going the brass hull route since they look purdy and (I assume) will last forever under cowboy loads. 

 

Second question, what are the basics to get started as far as presses are concerned? should I go in on a progressive operation or will a single stage work for these? (I'm broke from buying guns!!!)

 

Finally, where, besides Midway can I find the brass shells (when they're in stock)? I assume these, like everything else shooting related, is starting to become a unicorn.

 

TIA

 

JR

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Finding once shot hulls are easily found, as many don't reload and will allow you to take the hulls they leave behind.

Just need machine, primers, hulls, wads and powder and shot...

Most are 4 stages...and no extra work.

Run them through a shell checker (thank you Boggus Deal)

Brass are pretty, but extra work...and also can get lost under certain props.

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couple of observations on brass hulls

 

they can get stepped on which pretty much ends they usefulness in CAS

 

they take 11 gauge wads = walls are thinner than plastic hulls

 

take large pistol primers (mostly) be sure to check

 

they usually require hand reloading--no need for press

 

on presses

I loaded 100s on the MEC 600 Jr Mark V  takes a bit of time but it turns out a very nice reload

 

ran across a 650 progressive and love it.  Only thing it doesn't do is resize but I already had a resizer so this wasn't a problem.  believe this is no longer in production but can be found on ebay and the like

 

 

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Posted (edited)

When it comes to shotgun reloading it is somewhat different than smokeless rifle and pistol rounds.

With a shotgun load, in addition to all the variables of type of powder, projectile weight, and overall pressure, you most also consider the overall height of the entire column so to accomplish a proper crimp of the case.

Brass cases are expensive to begin with and require additional steps in sealing the round.

Many reloaders of shotshells start with the Lee Load All press and a good shotshell reloaders manual. You can upgrade from there once you become familiar with the process.

You can usually pick up once fired plastic hulls from you fellow cowboy shooters. Stay with Winchester AA or Remington STS hulls.

Edited by Ace_of_Hearts
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8 minutes ago, Ace_of_Hearts said:

When it comes to shotgun reloading it is somewhat different than smokeless rifle and pistol rounds.

With a shotgun load, in addition to all the variables of type of powder, projectile weight, and overall pressure, you most also consider the overall height of the entire column so to accomplish a proper crimp of the case.

Brass cases are expensive to begin with and require additional steps in sealing the round.

Many reloaders of shotshells start with the Lee Load All press and a good shotshell reloaders manual. You can upgrade from there once you become familiar with the process.

You can usually pick up once fired plastic hulls from you fellow cowboy shooters. Stay with Winchester AA or Remington STS hulls.

Cheddite work great for us, as well as Capt. Baylor and others.

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You don't "need" a press if you're willing to take it slowly.  Search YouTube for Duelist1954 "Loading Shotshells Nail and Dowel Method".

 

It gets even simpler with black powder and fiber wads, with a roll crimp, so the column height is not so critical.  Find a load you like and trim the plastic hulls to about the height you need.  Roll crimps are forgiving.

 

I loaded hundreds of rounds this way before I found an old Mec JR at a garage sale for $30.  Still I only use it for decrimping and crimping.

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1 minute ago, Diamond Jake said:

You don't "need" a press if you're willing to take it slowly.  Search YouTube for Duelist1954 "Loading Shotshells Nail and Dowel Method".

 

It gets even simpler with black powder and fiber wads, with a roll crimp, so the column height is not so critical.  Find a load you like and trim the plastic hulls to about the height you need.  Roll crimps are forgiving.

 

I loaded hundreds of rounds this way before I found an old Mec JR at a garage sale for $30.  Still I only use it for decrimping and crimping.

Look again...he is leaning toward brass case loads...

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2 minutes ago, Singin' Sue 71615 said:

Look again...he is leaning toward brass case loads...

True, he said he was "leaning toward brass hulls", but his second question was recommendations on presses.  He mentioned that he was very low on budget, so I wanted to point out that he could get by at least at first without a press.

I've never loaded or shot brass hulls, so I didn't have any recommendations in that area.

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Posted (edited)

Remington Nitro hulls are brass colored and would look good on shotgun belt.  For CAS a single stage press can easily load all the shotgun shells you and your wife need.  Contact the Wire for favored light loads after you get a press.

Edited by Edward R S Canby, SASS#59971
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2 hours ago, Diamond Jake said:

True, he said he was "leaning toward brass hulls", but his second question was recommendations on presses.  He mentioned that he was very low on budget, so I wanted to point out that he could get by at least at first without a press.

I've never loaded or shot brass hulls, so I didn't have any recommendations in that area.

Aha...gotcha!!

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Posted (edited)

You will be able to find affordable used machines pretty easily, once things open up.

For now, ask a fellow shooter to show you theirs, and learn from their experience.

I have 4, 4 stage Bair 12 ga machines...

All need adjusting.

If you find someone who can 'fix' one and pay for the shipping, you are welcome to one!

Edited by Singin' Sue 71615
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I used a MEC 600 jr for a number of years, and was happy with it. Shells always went bang. 

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The Lee Load-All 2 Shotshell Press is very affordable (less than $80.00) and easy to operate.  Been using one for many years to reload Federal shotshells and serves my needs perfectly for CAS.

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48 minutes ago, Dutch Wheeler said:

The Lee Load-All 2 Shotshell Press is very affordable (less than $80.00) and easy to operate.  Been using one for many years to reload Federal shotshells and serves my needs perfectly for CAS.

Me too. I had so much trouble with my Mec that I bought the Lee Load All for a backup and wound up selling the Mec and I use the Lee exclusively. 

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Posted (edited)

Keep in mind that there is ZERO published data for loading brass shot shells with smokeless powders. Any and all load data you will find from individuals that have experimented on their own.

 

Sorry this is kinda long.

 

Before you start buying reloaders and components  get a copy of the Lyman shotshell handbook and read up on the how to load chapters. Loading shotshells is not hard but it is different.

 

It takes me about the same amount of time to load a box of shotshells on my single stage MEC 600 jr as it does to load 100 38 specials on my progressive pistol press.

 

First question you should ask yourself is "Why do I want to reload shotshells." If the answer is save money you should stick to buying factory shells as the cost of components is almost equal to the cost of a box of shells. If you put a value on your time it is definitely more expensive to load smokeless shells than to buy them.

 

Keep in mind that unlike cartridges, the time to recoup your investment reloading shotshells could take years.

 

If you are a BP shooter then reloading is the only way to go as factory BP shells are over a dollar a shell.

 

Reloading to get a specific load could be a valid reason to start loading shotshells . But first you need to consider a few things that are unique to shotshell reloading. Most important is you cannot experiment like you do with cartridges. The margin of error between safe loads and blowing up your gun is not all that great. Shotshells do not provide any reliable indication of too much chamber pressure. Shotshells rely heavily on the quality of the crimp for proper combustion. The crimp requires that the combined height of the powder charge, wad height and shot charge fall into a very narrow range of values. Too tall or too short and the crimps will be poor.

AFAIK there are no shotshell recipes where there is air space between the wad and the powder charge. So dropping the powder charge below that shown in a published recipe could have unknown and possibly dangerous consequences.

There is a vast difference in the different manufactures 209 primers. To achieve the same velocity between 2 different manufacturers primers with all other variables staying the same, may require the powder charge to vary by more than 1 grain.

When loading magnum shotshells failing to follow established loads can result in death or bodily harm. 

Different hulls require different wad designs. The inside of of different manufacturers hulls vary in internal height and whether or not the interior of the hull is tapered or not. Remington Gun Clubs and Remington STS hulls require a different wad design for the same weight of shot charge. Same is true for Winchester AA vs their other product lines.

 

Since Alliant ExtraLite Winchester AA Lite powder was discontinued, there are no published smokeless loads that result in less felt recoil than AA LNLR shells. I did use published data to  extrapolate a load that has less the same or less felt recoil by using the powder charge for a Federal primer and substituting a Cheddite primer.  I came up with a 21 gram load with a velocity of about 1050 FPS. The AA LNLR are 26 grams and 980 fps.

The reason I can do this is my shot shell presses have adjustable charge bars for powder and shot vice bushings. The company that made these charge bars went out of business due to covid and I know of no other maker of adjustable charge bars for a MEC reloader. You can still find them on ebay but they are very expensive.

 

The Lee Load all uses bushings for the shot and powder charge. It is possible to make your own custom bushings. Same is true of MEC reloaders. The thing to keep in mind is with single stage reloaders the powder charge varies because of the vibration from cycling the machine. On my MEC there are 6 cycles of the press between each powder drop. When setting up the charge bar I have to take this into account. This is why many reloaders report that their bushings do not drop the charge advertised.

 

I don't have any first hand knowledge of the more expensive brands of reloaders.

 

Single stage shotshell reloaders can be an exercise in frustration to set up. If a machine is very far out of adjustment you may spend hours on the phone with tech support getting the issue corrected. Progressive machines can make you check yourself into an insane asylum. I know people that have sent them back to the factory to get them set up properly.

 

The easiest to set up by far is the Lee Load-All and even it has some quirks.

 

You are going to spill a lot of powder and shot learning to reload shotshells. Keep this in mind when you choose where to set up the machine. The wife is not going to like vacuuming up shot and the whole town will know the first time she vacuums up a live 209 primer.

 

I have my press set up inside a cookie sheet to help contain all the shot and powder spillage.

 

 

Edited by Sedalia Dave
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I've loaded metallic for 50 years but never loaded shotshells (or shot a shotgun that much) till I started CAS. Stated out with Lee Load All which is perfectly adequate for decent reliable shotshells. When my wife joined me shooting and we shot more, I could not keep up. I bought a Mec 9000 from eBay. Like all have said, buy a shotshell reloading manual. Loads are very specific regarding components. Lots of good recipes here on the wire as well. 

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Posted (edited)

I also use the Lee Load-All to load black powder rounds and it's great.  I save my AA low-noise low-recoil hulls.  They can be reused several times and they're free.  Makes good looking shells, simple to use, and can be bought for less than $60.  Can't beat that.

Edited by Mountain Man Gramps
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Find yourself a Mec Junior, scrounge some hulls from the club trash cans,sorce powder, primers & wads & your on your way, reclaimed shot is all you need to do the job & you don't need heavy loads but always have some with you in case of  pesky targets  !!...have fun ..

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3 hours ago, Sedalia Dave said:

Since ExtraLite powder was discontinued,

Did I miss something? If it's Alliant Extra-Lite you're referring to, it's still listed on their website and I see it on my LGS shelves every time I go in. I use it exclusively for my 12ga loads. 

 

Ballistic Precision is supposedly in the works to manufacture an adjustable charge bar similar to the one which used to be made in Canada. That said, I've had it on pre-order since January and it's missed multiple anticipated ship dates at this point. 

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IMO, loading Brass shotgun shells is just a novelty. Get you a Mec, get it set up for one load a leave it alone. I used a 600 jr for about 40 years. Now use a 9000. It will crank out shells at a very good rate. I know that some folks like the Lee, they work but I don't care much for them.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, OK Dirty Dan said:

Did I miss something? If it's Alliant Extra-Lite you're referring to, it's still listed on their website and I see it on my LGS shelves every time I go in. I use it exclusively for my 12ga loads. 

 

Ballistic Precision is supposedly in the works to manufacture an adjustable charge bar similar to the one which used to be made in Canada. That said, I've had it on pre-order since January and it's missed multiple anticipated ship dates at this point. 

 

I was wrong, it was the Winchester AA Lite powder that was discontinued. Corrected my post. Thanks

 

Good to know about the Adjustable charge bar.

Edited by Sedalia Dave
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7 hours ago, portugeejn said:

I used a MEC 600 jr for a number of years, and was happy with it. Shells always went bang. 

+1 :rolleyes:

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1 hour ago, Sedalia Dave said:

 

I was wrong, it was the Winchester AA Lite powder that was discontinued. Corrected my post. Thanks

Whew! You had me panicked for a moment! :lol:

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19 hours ago, John Ruth said:

So I've done rifle and pistol reloads for years now, but have never done shotgun since I rarely shot it, and as such know nothing about it. Now that we've started with CAS reloading is starting to look more and more an inevitability, especially for my wife who does not like factory loads. 

 

First question, how much of a PITA is it to reload these vs pistols/rifles? I'm thinking of going the brass hull route since they look purdy and (I assume) will last forever under cowboy loads. 

 

Second question, what are the basics to get started as far as presses are concerned? should I go in on a progressive operation or will a single stage work for these? (I'm broke from buying guns!!!)

 

Finally, where, besides Midway can I find the brass shells (when they're in stock)? I assume these, like everything else shooting related, is starting to become a unicorn.

 

TIA

 

JR

 

Yes, there is a certain amount of cool factor of brass shells, but if you’re loading (heathen) smokeless then brass hulls really don’t have a benefit.  The reason BP shooters use them is that BP burns hotter than smokeless and causes plastic to melt.  For smokeless powder and CAS loads plastic hulls will last through quite a few reloads (10+) and if you’ve got a skeet/trap range near you and are willing to do a little dumpster diving you’ll have a never ending free supply. 

 

You mentioned your wife doesn’t like the factory loads, but you didn’t say what gauge she’s using.  Some people think a 16 or 20 gauge will have less recoil but reality is that a low velocity 12ga will have less felt recoil than a factory 16ga. 

 

If you’re still wanting to use brass hulls you can also keep an eye here on Grafs and BPI.  Loading brass hulls uses a different technique than plastic hulls.  Most (not all) of pards reloading plastic hulls are putting a crimp at the end to seal the column, brassies don’t get a crimp they use overshot cards and glue.  Again, most (not all) brassy re-loaders use fiber wads, plastic hull re-loaders use plastic wads.  Plastic hulls use a 209 primer, 12 ga and lower brassies use a large pistol primer.  There is a lot of published loading data for smokeless loading with plastic hulls (and a lot of helpful pards here that’ll share their recipe), for brassies there is very little data for BP and I haven’t come across any for brass hull/smokeless loads. 

 

Hope this helps and gives you something to think about. Now I’ve got to go out and start loading some BP shotgun loads. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I used a mec for years and it works great.Then I start loading Brass hulls and love it.I load with clays and fiber wads and over powder cards and   over shot cards and school glue.thumbnail-2.jpeg.88f1b0cd0fabbd3ce6157748662cd5d6.jpegthumbnail-5.jpeg.41980c1e7053ecc899cbbf00b6309005.jpegthumbnail-4.jpeg.14098443c7cc6650e88cbac3b0dd5673.jpegthumbnail-3.jpeg.41b089b3404f6a1288aab5eb0b840f42.jpegthumbnail-1.jpeg.91345c2ceecacc69b431802c740115b6.jpeg

Edited by Pit Bull Tex
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Only thing get a good shotgun reloading manual if loading smokeless.  Shot shells loads should not have sub of components.  If you sub a component it can spike the pressure!  It isn't as lose as cartage reloading.  I have MEC 600's setup to load 12, 16, 20, and 410 and a PW progressive setup for 12 and 20 and like the MEC's as I look at each stage of the loading process where the PW is used if I need to do 100-200 in a short time, i.e. kids shot up my loads for a match tomorrow :D

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So much great info! Appreciate everyones input. There's way more to loading shot shells than I was expecting. If I do decide to go with reloads I think in the near term I would start with brass simply because I have so many large pistol primers and zero 209 primers. Plus BP loads would be cool, and I can find that powder for non-insane prices locally. 

 

Definitely gave me something to chew on for a while before making a decision though. 

 

Thanks!

 

 

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1 hour ago, Tequila Shooter said:

 

You mentioned your wife doesn’t like the factory loads, but you didn’t say what gauge she’s using.

 

 

Running 20ga right now. I'm honestly surprised at the recoil myself just because of how heavy the shotgun is. 

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If you go with black shot the amount of black in volume to the volume of shot.  this is not weight it is volume.  You can then back off a little on the black if to much recoil or you are blowing holes in your pattern.  This is the easiest way to find your black load.

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14 hours ago, Tequila Shooter said:

For smokeless powder and CAS loads plastic hulls will last through quite a few reloads (10+) and if you’ve got a skeet/trap range near you and are willing to do a little dumpster diving you’ll have a never ending free supply. 

What brand plastic hulls are you using that will hold up for 10+ loads? I haven’t seen that since the old style Win hulls, and that’s been quite awhile. 

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6 hours ago, Abilene Slim SASS 81783 said:

What brand plastic hulls are you using that will hold up for 10+ loads? I haven’t seen that since the old style Win hulls, and that’s been quite awhile. 

 

With smokeless? Nitro

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I used a Hornady 366 for years, but had trouble keeping things set properly. I bought a MEC Sizemaster and gave away the 366. I can load up 2-3 boxes in not much time and no longer have issues with dropped powder, shot or machine hangups.

When I started CAS, I could buy 12 ga. game loads by the case for about $2.70/box. They have easily doubled since then, but I saved the hulls and can load much softer shooting shells relatively cheaply. 

As been mentioned, hulls can be scrounged for free.

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I dumpster dive before every trap day.
Every now and then, I get lucky and hit a treasure trove of Nitros.

OP, there is a huge difference in felt recoil in my SxS between the AA Featherlites and Gun Club trap shells.
Just for grins (read: all alone at the trap range), I loaded some #1 buck and a regular slug in the SxS.
Golly woof.. now THAT is some recoil.

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4 hours ago, Go West said:

and gave away the 366.

 

I need to become a better friend of yours, Go West!   :lol:  

 

I run two 366 machines and am looking to give away the Mec 600 Jr that I used earlier.  Yes, occasionally I cycle the machine with the shot valve open instead of closed, but that mistake is thankfully becoming a once-every-6-months occurrence.  The machine needs cleaning and lubrication anyway about that often, so that's when I get around to the routine maintenance.   Otherwise, I really love the 366 loader - solid as a tank.    Adjustments don't drift for me - but I only run Remington one-piece hulls which all have the same setting requirements, and I make adjustments with a thin wrench set that makes it easy to get to all the adjustment nuts and to tighten them to prevent movement.

 

good luck, GJ

 

 

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