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I was sitting here thinking about a new Chronicle article and decided to try a short on-line article on shot shells for CAS.  To keep things simple we are talking 12 gauge as that is what most CAS shooters use.  We are also talking about loads suitable for shooting targets and not heavy hunting loads.  First a word about recoil.  Most of us try to have the least recoil possible.  There are basically three ways to reduce recoil.  Lower the shot weight.  Lower the muzzle velocity.  Increase gun weight.  (Or a combination of these three.)  A typical Stoeger Coach Gun weighs 6.5 pounds.  A typical competition trap shotgun weighs 9 pounds or more.  The effects of recoil are cumulative on the human body so a competition shooter that is shooting hundreds of rounds in a day is not going to shoot a 6.5 pound gun.  Fortunately in CAS we typically only shoot 4 rounds per stage and there is a long recovery time between stages so the effects of recoil are spread out.


In the black powder days the only way to increase velocity for a given shot weight was to increase the powder charge.  Loads became standardized by the amount of drams in the charge.  A dram is 27.34 grains of black powder.  With modern smokeless powder different powders have different burn rates.  So stating the powder charge weight for smokeless powder would be confusing as different manufacturers use different powders.  Thus, even to this day, you often see shot shell boxes marked with a black powder dram equivalent.  This is done to give a comparison between loads.  So, a 3 dram load is more powerful than a 2 3/4 dram load, 3 1/4 more powerful than a 3 dram load, etc.


Next is shot weight.  In the U.S. shot weight is stated in ounces with 7/8, 1 and 1 1/8 ounce being the most common for CAS loads.  European loads most typically come in 24, 28 and 32 gram loads.  These approximate 7/8, 1 and 1 1/8 ounces loads but are not exactly the same.  The most popular CAS load is the Winchester AA12FL8, Low Recoil, Low Noise load.  This has 26 grams of shot which is just a tad less than 15/16 of an ounce.


Now a short synopsis of how typical CAS suitable shells are rated.


Winchester AA12FL8 is rated minimum dram, 26 grams of shot at 980 fps.  This load is almost unique.  There use to be “low recoil” loads from other manufacturers but finding them has become extremely difficult.  This is the most popular CAS shot shell load.


2 3/4 Dram 1 ounce loads.  These are typically 1180 fps and rated as extra light target loads.

3 1/4 Dram 1 ounce loads.  These are typically 1290 fps and rated as Lite Handicap loads.

2 3/4 Dram 1 1/8 ounce loads.  These are typically 1145 fps and rated as light target loads.

3 Dram 1 1/8 ounce loads.  These are typically 1200 fps and rated as heavy target loads.

3 1/4 Dram 1 1/8 ounce loads.  These are typically 1250 fps and rated as Handicap loads.


Among the manufacturers most loads have become standardized.  So, if a load is stated in Drams the velocity will be the same between brands within a few fps.  If a load is rated in fps the shot weight will determine if it is a lite, heavy or handicap round if it does not say so on the box.  It does not matter if the load is an actual target load or is listed as a game load.  For the purpose of comparing loads and assessing recoil the numbers come out the same.  A 3 Dram 1 1/8 ounce game load will kick as much as a 3 Dram 1 1/8 target load.  The chart is to help compare loads.  The SASS rules are vague with regard to shot shells.  They simply read:


  • Shotgun size must be number 4 lead birdshot or smaller for all events (no steel or plated shot).
  • Magnum and high velocity shotgun shells are not allowed.


Even though number 4 is allowed many ranges do not allow shot sizes larger than 7 1/2.  (Remember the smaller the number the larger the shot size.  So #4 is larger than #8.)  At CAS target distances of eight or ten yards number 4 is simply not needed.  The higher the velocity, the higher the recoil so lower velocities are your friend.  Shot shells right now are hard to find in many areas.  Even in good times many people pick up the cheap four packs from Walmart.  1 1/8 ounce, 3 Dram 1200 fps red box Top Guns are not your friend.  Especially out of a 6.5 pound CAS shotgun.  Nothing more than the standard 2 3/4 dram, 1 1/8 ounce 1145 fps load is needed and the light 1 ounce and 26 gram loads are even better.

Edited by Larsen E. Pettifogger, SASS #32933
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PLUS ONE to Pettifogger YOU BETCHA!!


As and addendum, there is no such thing as a commercial "light Target" load.  Regardless the label.  "TARGET" means breaking clay birds out to 40 Yards.

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"Light" in comparison to other target loads and lighter recoil than "heavier" target loads.  Even though the 1 ounce load below has a higher velocity it still has less recoil than a 1 1/8 ounce 1145 fps load.  Hence, Xtra Lite and Light.


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Sorry Larsen :)  I wasn't actually comparing the differing levels of "TARGET" ammunition.  I was making comparison to CAS ammunition.  Specifically "Lo Noise Lo Recoil WW12FL8" which are actually "light."  Opposed to that other stuff.  Lots and lots of "TARGET" labeled 12Ga is actually heavier than some "Field" loads and not much fun for a whole day of shooting.  Ta Da.

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Nothing like shooting trap with my 87 (22" barrel) using estates 1290 fps ammo. You know you've been shooting after a couple boxes of those lol. My cowboy loads are nice and mellow after that. 1oz of shot and 36ish grains of 1.5 f bp. 

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BP loads can be made hotter by layering the first 20 grains of FFFg, tamping that tightly and then adding FFg for the desired total powder charge (usually 65-80 grains).  The finer powder combust quicker and raises pressure by combusting the coarser powder with a larger flash than just a primer.  These types of loads were used by harvest duck and goose hunters in the late 1800s.

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I had never owned nor fired a shotgun until CAS.  I didn't really have a teacher nor the Wire back then, so I walk up to an ammo dealer at the gunshow.  I picked up a box of Remington Dove loads I think, and asked the dealer if these would be good for CAS.  He says "sure!" :unsure:  .  I still have most of that box on the shelf.


And I think the first time I saw "Handicap" I thought it would be extra light for handicapped people.    Hey, everybody was ignorant before they weren't.  :)



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Have you considered a dead mule made as a bag of shot and stuff in the butt stock bolt hole?
Before my Stoeger died, I figured I could add at least 1 full pound of shot inside a baggie there.
Yes, this would bias the weight balance more to the rear.

However, it is a cheap and non-permanent way to add mass to the gun.
Remove the butt plate, fill a baggie with shot, stuff it in the bolt hole.

I notice a huge difference in perceived recoil in my SxS between Gun Club trap rounds, and AA Featherlites at 980 fps.


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