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Gauging Shotgun Shells


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Decided to try a short on-line article.  There are few things more frustrating at a match than having a hull stick or jam in your shotgun.  Hopefully, here are a few ideas to help avoid that from happening.  Shotgun ammo needs to be gauged before shooting it at a match.  Even brand new Winchester AA feathelites (LowNoise, LowRecoil) have sporatic problems.  I have found many individual shells in a case of shells that had slight bulges in the side walls and were difficult to chamber and would not shuck.  You want to find these shells before a match, not during a match.  I shoot doubles, 87s and just recently tried a couple of 97s I have had for over 20 years but not shot.  I also shoot trap several times a week.  At present I have three gauges.  What is truly amazing is that ammo that fits into one of these gauges may not fit into the other gauges.  I do cross checks occassionally but use a specific gauge for a specific gun type.  Here is a shot of the gauges.

 

 

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My favorite 97 is a late E series solid frame.  At several matches I had jams and malfunctions I could not intially explain.  This was with new and reloaded ammo.  I finally completely disassembled the gun so I could get an inside micrometer into the chamber.  Chambers have minimum and maximum dimensions.  When reamers are new they are close to the maximum dimension.  As they wear they get smaller and then need to be replaced.  My 97 is dead on the absolute minimum chamber dimension.  Must have been the last gun chambered before they threw away that reamer.  So a maximum round in my minimum chamber and things got sticky or jammed when the gun was fired.  For the 97 I use a case gauge that is made to measure a minimum spec chamber.

 

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Rounds that are above minimum chamber spec hang on the edge of the gauge.

 

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I use a collet style sizer on my 97 ammo to make sure the ammo head diameter is BELOW the maximum spec for factory ammo.  This ensures the shell will drop freely into the gauge and, more importantly, my 97.  If loaded rounds stick in the gauge and cannot be corrected by a second trip through the sizer they go into the goof around practice box.

 

 

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For trap loads I have a gauge that was cut with an actual chamber reamer.  If the rounds drop into the gauge they will fit any of my trap guns.  If they are a slightly tight fit it makes no difference as you can manually push the shell into the chamber and the ejector will kick it out when it is fired.

 

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Ammo for the double barrel needs to be the most precise.  The rim has to pass the gauge test but more importantly the crimp area has to gauge properly or it might not shuck after it is fired.  Most problems with shucking are not caused by the case head expanding as SASS ammo is loaded light so that is not generally an issue.  Most problems are caused by the crimp unfolding when fired and not shrinking back enough to be released from the chamber mouth.  The more often a shell is reloaded the more apt the case mouth is to get a slight mushroom shape.  The next gauge is designed to help fix that problem.

 

 

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You are checking for two things with this gauge.  First if the rim is sticking it won't seat in the gauge.  

 

 

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The bigger problem on most shells is, however, the crimp area and it is the more likely culprit in keeping the round from dropping into the gauge.  To fix the problem you stick the shell in the other end of the gauge and give it a couple of twists or wiggles and then try it again in the other end.

 

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IF you can drop the shell into the gauge and it drops in freely up to the rim AND drops out of the gauge when you turn it over it will most likely work fine in your double.  If the rounds do not drop in and dump out freely put them in your junk box practice rounds.  Trying to wring every reload out of a five cent shotgun hull is a false economy, especially if it sticks on you in a match.  When the plastic gets pin holes the crimp will tend to loosen after the shell is reloaded.  Even using this gauge the case mouths can open a bit if they aren't fired within a reasonable time of gauging the shell.  I do a final gauge of my shotgun ammo at my cart when I am replacing shells fired during that stage.

 

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Edited by Larsen E. Pettifogger, SASS #32933
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Larsen, thanks for the great article. I have also had new Remington STS's that would not gauge. I had one flat that 3 or 4 out of every box would not check. Normally I wouldn't have more than about 1 per flat.

 

Thanks again

Randy

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Too Tall Bob told me to use a 3/4" deep socket after I ordered the Slix Spring sizer. It too seemed to work and could be used as a poor man's sizer.

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I got a bad lot of Federals a few years ago. The heads were out of round. I had had them for a couple of years (Bought 6 cases on sale) so I couldn't return them.  Fixed them by running through my MEC super sizer. 

 

Now I run all factory shells through the super sizer first and them run them through the case gage. Only ones I have fail the case gage now are AAs that have bulges in the plastic.

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2 minutes ago, Colorado Coffinmaker said:

 

I wonder.  I don't seem to have these problems at all.  Would shooting ALL BRASS hulls have something to do with it perhaps  B)

 

Step on one.

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Right, Right, Right, Lawsen. I use the first gage and the Slix gage. Taking the time to ACTUALLY set up your loader and the time to adjust your load so that the wad column comes out right will pay off in Spades. Far too many folks just don't do that and I see shells with shot falling out of the crimp or a crimp that sticks out like a pregnant guppy. It's worth your time to get things set up correctly.  I've recently seen a guy that is pushing and marketing a device to neck down the front of the shell. Never mind the FACT that it is illegal per the rule books. One thing that I do in my match guns is to do a generous amount of polishing on the forcing cone area of the shotgun. I use Remington hulls most of the time. I liked the old AA, but the new ones don't suit me as much as the Remington hulls. I use my hulls until they display a burn area on the outside which ruffs them up a bit. There is a old adage that ribbed shells don't shuck out well, or that steel based shells don't shuck well. I have not found that to be correct. I use Gun Club as often as STS and they work just fine. I have found that 8 pt crimp compared with a 6 pt crimp seems to do a better job of shucking out the shells. Your little article is good advice.

 

Snakebite

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The reason that ribbed hulls don't shuck as well is because the hulls themselves weight a lot less than the smooth hulls. Less weight means less mass which equates less inertia.

 

Ideally if a Remington STS used the same plastic and maintained the same weight but had the ribbed texture on the outside it would shuck even better because there is less if the hull in contact with the chamber wall resulting in less friction.

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The ribbed shells have less contact area, therefore, less drag. :ph34r:

 

STS 123gn, Gun Club 120gn..... pretty close.

 

A little silicon spray on the loaded shells also helps to do two things.... first it reduces the friction in the chamber, second it allows the shooter to throw the shell completely over the berm when pulling it out of the shot shell holder. ;)

 

Snakebite

 

Edited by Snakebite
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Tried that.  Weighing in grains is basically useless as the hull to hull variation is so great.  A tenth of an ounce provides a more useful comparison.

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Dave, here you go.  I took multiple samples of each hull for the first test.  Weights all over the place.  This time I shook the boxes and took one of each at random.  Less than one grain difference.  (Gun Club vs. STS)

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Edited by Larsen E. Pettifogger, SASS #32933
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Well . . . . . It is time for me to wade into the discussion with meaningful input.  Alas, I can not.  It has been so long since I shot plastic hulls I actually have nothing to add to the argument.  Except, perhaps, it is really a ROYAL PITA when some Ham Hock steps on one of my All Brass Hulls.  Burma Shave

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Howdy Go West & Too Tall Bob,

 

I just went down to the loading room grabbed a 3/4" socket with six flats and tried to push a 12ga. shell into it. Wouldn't come close to going in. Not that the factory shell was oversize. Maybe a little, but not given the differential I experienced. Thoughts?

 

Rev. Chase

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Thanks for posting, great info.  I just bought a used Dillon shot shell reloader but haven’t bought my gauges. 

 

I’ve reloaded pistol and rifle for years and gauge all my Ammo. 

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The socket isn't a gauge, it is a poor man's sizer as noted above. You stick the crimp end in and twist just like you do the $50 gadget. I never said you could shove the shell all the way in. :lol:

I may have also neglected to say you want to use a 12 point one instead of a 6, but the fact remains the socket does shrink the crimp end. As good as the sizer/checker, maybe not but it does work in a pinch.

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