12ga Shell - What powder for Reloads?


November 6, 2006, 06:03 PM
For those of you who reload (if that's the correct word) your own 12ga shotgun shells, what powder(s) do you use and why?

Sort of a tacked-on secondary question: is it true that shotgun shells are actually easier to reload than pistol/rifle catridges :confused:


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November 6, 2006, 09:01 PM
No one reloads here :confused: I find that hard to believe. Either I'm asking the wrong question or perhaps I should post this in the shotgun forum. (Thought this would be the proper forum to post this in).

November 6, 2006, 09:58 PM
It really depends on what you're trying to accomplish. I use Green Dot a lot for trap loads, but heavier hunting loads use a slower powder like Unique or Blue Dot. Definitely get a Lyman shotshell loading book - you can compare recipes by payload, shell brand and powder and it shows the expected FPS you can expect from a given load.

Shotshell loading is easier in that you pretty much follow a recipe exactly and don't have to "work up" the powder charge for the most accurate amount. You do want to follow the recipes exactly, down to the specified hull, wad, and powder charge.

It is somewhat more complicated in that you can't just take a box of mixed 12ga hulls and load them all the same way. You have to know the different hull designs and which wads are appropriate. It is easiest to stick with one or two brands of hulls and wads.

Hope this helps...

Jim Watson
November 6, 2006, 10:00 PM
What, you expect somebody to write you a book - which is what it will take - in less than three hours?

I load 12 ga with 700X. Why? Because that is what the guy who taught me to shoot trap used, about 35 years ago. There are plenty of other choices, look in the appropriate manuals.

The main thing about reloading shotshells is that it is strictly a recipe driven process for hull, primer, powder, wad, and shotload. Unlike rifle and pistol ammo, there is a lot less scope for tinkering with loads. Easier? No, but not hard if you have a good loader. MEC is to shotshells what Dillon is to pistol.

November 6, 2006, 10:10 PM
Thanks for the info guys, guess I underestimated the whole process

November 7, 2006, 12:32 AM
Sorry guys...but I have to disagree. Shotshell reloading really IS pretty simple.


One BIG difference with metallic cartridge reloading is that you can not "experiment" with shotshell load data (powder charges) as you can with metallic.

Some people make shotshell reloading complicated...it isn't. They say you can't use various components, only those listed in the data charts. I say you can use whatever components you want.

In fact, I mix-and-match components (hulls/wads/primers) with no problems I have yet to see...the only thing I do NOT mess with is the powder charge for a particular weight payload...you can't decrease/increase powder in shotshells like you can with metallic cartridge loading. A certain charge of powder for a certain weight payload and that's what you stick to.

But as for components, I use whatever hulls I have, choose the correct capacity wad (whatever brand) I need for the shot/buck/ball/slug I am using, use whatever brand shotgun primer I have on hand, and only, as mentioned, am careful about the powder charge for the weight of shot/buck/ball/slug in it.

Mostly, I use Alliant's powders (I like the flake powders with the pretty colored dots in them) for just about every shotgun and handgun need: Red Dot, Green Dot and Unique. Red Dot is my shotgun powder of choice (for no particular reason, I just have a lot of it), then Green Dot (same reason), and Unique is my handgun choice (or for cast bullet shooting in rifles...again, because I have a lot of it).

So you can see it's not very complicated.

I suppose lots of people will say -- and probably will here after seeing my post -- when looking at the load data charts for shotshells, you MUST use the listed combination of components. I say you don't because when I started shotshell reloading with my Lee Load ALL some years ago, the manual's instructions were as simple as I am explaining it to you. Since that time, I've loaded LOTS of shotgun ammo, and going by my Lee's data charts, my loads -- even with mixing up components -- are on the conservative (mild) side so I'm not at all concerned about any problems, serious gun-blowing up incidents or otherwise.

But I'm talking about going by Lee shotshell reloading data which was compiled by Lee from various powder companies shotgun reloading data charts, then put in a simple LEE chart for use with their Load ALL shotshell presses. I have stayed with Lee shotshell reloading equipment (I have a Load All II now...pretty much the same as the earlier version press, and the manual says pretty much the same thing...keep it simple) and it has worked for me all this time. The only thing Lee does is separate charges for either (1) paper shells (obsolete nowadays) or plastic shells with a paper basewad, and (2) all-plastic shells...you just look at what shells/hulls you have and proceed accordingly...it's that simple. No big deal.

If YOU want to use the very same components listed in many shotshell reloading data charts as put out by the various powder companies, and if it makes you feel safer (safety is first...always) then you'll need to buy up lots of those components to be sure you will always have them in case any are discontinued. If ONE component is discontinued, how will you reload with the OTHER "matching" components then? If it IS true you MUST use a certain combination of components with no exceptions. Well, you won't be able to.

I don't think you DO need to match components, but this is me and you are new to the field so you may want to be more "correct" if you will.

For me, however, that's all too complicated and unnecessary.

Basically, a smoothbore shotgun is a smoothbore musket except for modern smokeless powder...and like muskets, the critical part is the powder charge matching the payload...other than that, the rest really doesn't matter.

Besides, as long as it goes bang, hits the target and kills it, that's all I care about.

But that's just me.

-- John D.

November 7, 2006, 12:48 AM
Deleted...double post.

-- John D.

November 7, 2006, 01:46 AM
"Some people make shotshell reloading complicated...it isn't. They say you can't use various components, only those listed in the data charts. I say you can use whatever components you want."

If you follow this advice, you WILL end up with a burst or bulged shotgun.

Look at forums stricktly for shotgun loading, you will find out how dangerous substitutuing components can be. I read once where a fellow with access to a shotgun pressure gun substituted just a different brand of primer in an otherwise mild target load. The pressure jumped from a mild 9,000 LUP to a shell stretching 13,000 LUP!

As was said, get the Lyman shotshell handbook and a mec 600 JR mark 5. Then follow the loads EXACTLY as stated.

Steve C
November 7, 2006, 02:23 AM
When I was shooting trap I used Red Dot (18grs) behind a 1-1/8 oz load of 7 1/2 shot in one of these type wads (WAA12, Red Versalite, Red Patern control) from a Winchester AA case. Use the same load for quail and dove.

Used to have a baby mag load using Blue Dot and 1-5/8 oz shot in a Blue Versalite wad loaded in a AA case. It ran at about the maximum you can push shot or about 1,340 fps and was death for ducks at over 100 yds in the day when lead shot was allowed.

Hornady bought Versalite and still make the Red wads but I haven't seen the Blue for many many years now.

November 7, 2006, 07:51 AM
I use hodgdon powder for clay target loads; their website has loading data, as do the other powder manufacturers. Loads are specific to hull type, primer, powder and wads.

Deviating on any component may increase pressure to an unsafe level. To load in the safest manner, do not substitute components without checking the data.

Most, if not all of the powder companies have technicians available via email or phone. They can advise if substituting a particular component is permissible.

November 7, 2006, 10:07 AM
Nothing but Red Dot for the past 30 years. 18 grains and 1 1/8 oz. load. I haven't changed the setting in decades.

November 8, 2006, 09:00 AM
"There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots."

As a a long time reloader I will advise you: Do not follow cloudcroft's advice. Do not mix and match components. Follow recipes exactly. Remember you are basically sticking your nose within a couple inches of a device that operates at hand grenade pressure levels. My face may not be much to look at, but it's the only one I got.

If you are going to get into reloading, then get a couple of manuals - Lyman's is good for showing the process, but I no longer use the load data in there as it is slightly out of date. You can get free recipes (either print them out on-line or have the booklets mailed to you) from the various powder manufacturers. Good place to start http://reload-nrma.com/ There are links to all the major manufacturer's and in about 20-30 minutes is about all it should take to have manuals enroute or printed. I do both and compare the data just incase there's a typo.

There's also a list of NRA certified Reloading instructors. Find one near you and give them a call. They are there to teach.

I use mostly Clays for my 12 ga target loads and Blue Dot for my hunting loads. My 13 yo daughter uses mostly Unique for her 20 ga loads. I have a bunch of different powders and components (and a Lee Load All-II that I got for $10 or $15 at a gun show) to try out different recipes. Not ones I "create", but ones that I get from the manufacturers websites or manuals.

November 8, 2006, 09:19 AM
I shoot Remington factory trap at the range.
I hunt with factory steel shot.
I take factory shells apart and put in Red Dot Powder for quiet experiments.
I am making a new 12 ga sizer die, as the RCBS die is too loose.

November 8, 2006, 09:30 AM
I use HS-6 for my 1/4 oz reloads.

November 8, 2006, 12:15 PM
"Used to have a baby mag load using Blue Dot and 1-5/8 oz shot in a Blue Versalite wad loaded in a AA case. It ran at about the maximum you can push shot or about 1,340 fps and was death for ducks at over 100 yds in the day when lead shot was allowed."

The upper pressure limit for 12 ga. 2 3/4 inch shells is 11,000 LUP. Whats LUP? It stands for Lead Units of Pressure. A pressure test barrel for shotguns consists of a special chamber with a standardized hole in the side of the chamber,oposite the powder charge in the shell, that leads to the pressure guage. A hole is put in the shell that alligns with the guage. The guage consists of a piston that the powder gas acts upon, the other end of the piston rests on a precise sized lead pellet of exact alloy. Behind the lead pellet is an anvil. The shell is fired, the powder gases act upon the piston, the piston squeezes the lead pellet against the anvil. The pellet flattens, then is measured with a micometer. The amount of flattening is compared to a chart, then converted into lead units of pressure,LUP.

I say all that to point out that Stevec's load could NOT be achieved and stay whithin the 11,000 LUP limit for 12 2 3/4 inch shells. The highest velocity listed in the NEW lyman shotshell handbook for the AA compression formed shell is 1190 fps for a 1 1/2 ounce baby magnum load, 10,300 LUP. That is blu dot, 33.0 gr., ww 209, 1 rp-12 wad, 1190 fps, 10,300 LUP. Substitute any one of those components, then you're in no mans land, the resulting shell COULD be dangerous.

If anybody is reading this, thinking of reloading steel shot, the same goes for that, it's even more critical to follow an exact load listed in a manual.

November 8, 2006, 10:38 PM
As is already apparent, you need to follow the shotgun reloading recipes fairly closely, but is there any room for variation?
The reason I ask is this: I have a MEC Jr. for loading 12 gauge, and I used the following recipe:

Shotshell Shotshell 12 Gauge
• 2 3/4-in. Win. Plastic AA Shells
• 1 shot wt.
• Win. 209
• Win. WT12 (Orange)

Dram Equiv. Shot Wt.(ounces) Velocity (fps) Primer Powder Wad Grains Approx. psi
2.75 1 1,200 Win. 209 Red Dot Win. WT12 (Orange) 17.5 10,600

The thing is, I got a deal on Fioch (sp) primers and, when I got my reloader, it came with a bunch of American Wad shotgun wads. So, I loaded up about 50 rounds to start with, with a #28 bushing (16.4 grains of red dot) one ounce of shot, the fioch primers and the american wads in the hulls specified in the recipe. This is a little lower than the recommended load, but I have also been told that the primers I have are a little warmer than the Winchester primers, so I figured things would all even out.

Does this make sence, or am I in for some trouble when it comes trigger time?

November 9, 2006, 12:25 AM
Well, I am a long-time reloader, too, and I have never heard of ANYone having a shotgun blow up because he used mix-and-match components.

Please document such incidents here if anyone has them.

-- John D.

November 9, 2006, 12:42 AM
quote from steve c"When I was shooting trap I used Red Dot (18grs) behind a 1-1/8 oz load of 7 1/2 shot in one of these type wads (WAA12, Red Versalite, Red Patern control) from a Winchester AA case. Use the same load for quail and dove."
I'ts been many years since I reloaded shotgun shells but I used a very similar load of Red Dot and 7 1/2 shot in Win AA hulls for doves and also for the modest amount of skeet shooting I did back at that time.

November 9, 2006, 01:22 AM
Personally, I never cared much for the 600 Jr. I never liked the way it sized hulls. I actually prefer to use one of the collet resizng presses. Either the Sizemaster for a single stage, or the 8567 Grabber for a progressive.

Asking what kind of powder to use in a shotgun is kind of like asking what color to paint your house. My question to you is, what kind of load do you want? What do you want to shoot with it? Is it for small game? Pheasant, Dove, Duck, turkey, deer, home defense, practice, what?

My best advice is to purchase one or two of the different shotshell manuals out there. The Lyman manual is a good start, it has lots of useful information for a shotshell reloader in it. There is usually some info in there about shot ballistics. As for powder, I'll give a rundown on all the powders I've used and for what purppose.

Bullseye - Light 7/8 ounce 12 gauge target loads to 1200 fps
Red Dot - Light 7/8 ounce up to 1 1/8 ounce target loads to approx 1255 fps. If you use Red dot for the lighter shot weight, velocity can go as high as about 1350 fps (7/8 oz).
Green Dot - Light to medium duty powder, 1 - 1 1/8 ounces, up to 1300 fps.
Select - Light to medium duty powder, 1 - 1 1/8 ounces, up to 1300 fps.
Unique - Medium burn rate powder, 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 ounces, up to 1300 fps
Herco - Medium to heay shotshell loads, 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 ounce loads. Up to 1300 fps, give or take, lighter shot loads can be driven to 1350 fps.
Blue Dot - High velocity hunting powder - 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 ounces in 2 3/4 shells, 1 3/8 to 1 7/8 ounces in 3" shells. Velocities from 1200 to 1400 fps.

700X - Similar to Red Dot/Select
800X - Similar to Unique/Herco
PB - Similar to Unique
SR 7625 - Similar to Herco
SR 4756 - Similar to Blue Dot

Titewad - Similar to Bullseye/Red Dot
Titegroup - Similar to Red Dot
HS6 or W540 (W 540 is discontinued) - Similar to Herco/Blue Dot
Clays - Similar to Red Dot
International Clays - Similar to Green Dot/Select
Universal Clays - Similar to Unique
Longshot - Similar to Blue Dot/SR 4756

Ramshot Competition - Similar to Red Dot

There will be some discussion probably about the powders, these are my experiences with them. In my nearly 20 years of reloading, I've tried all of these powders and still have a fairly good stock of a lot of these that I use for various things (including handgun ammo).

I held the list mostly to one gauge, but the slower burning powders are also good for the smaller gauges (20, 28). The fastest powders are at the top of their respective brands. Red Dot, Bullseye, Titewad, Titegroup, 700X, Ramshot Competition are all on the faster burn rate scale and while they may be useful for very light 20 gauge loads (usually 3/4 ounce target loads), you tend to use a more medium to slower rate powder for 20 and 28 gauge. the 20 uses more like PB, Unique, 800X, Herco, Blue Dot, HS6, International Clays, Universal clays, and Longshot. The 28 uses the slower end powders like Blue Dot, Herco, Longshot, SR 7625, and SR 4756.

About Primers, there is a relative "hotness" to shotshell primers also. The list is roughly:

Mildest: Remington 209, Winchester 209
Medium : CCI 209, CCI 109, Fiocchi 615
Hottest : Federal 209, CCI 209M, Fiocchi 616

When I load shotshells, I generally keep the components almost as listed. If I don't have a particular wad in stock, I might make up 1 box of shells with a different wad and not use the maximum powder charge to see what kind of results I get. The problem is, the data was meant for a specific wad, hull, etc.

If you change one component, it may take a little more or less powder to make the claimed velocity in the book. I've substituted similar looking hulls and gotten good and bad results. If I'm curious if something will work, I'll only change one component, load a box up and go shoot them, I might even chrono the load to see if it does what I want it to do. If I get squibs, I'll figure the data isno good and then move on. If the load looks promising, I'll write down the data for later when I might want to duplicate it again.

Sometimes I've found substituting say a windjammer wad for a AA wad might make the pressure drop and I need a little more powder to make the same velocity. So I increase the charge by a grain and try it again until I'm satisfied with the load. Yes you can blow yourself up, but if you are as careful loading shotshells as you are loading metallic, then I don't see why you can't substitute components. The guides pretty much tell you not to do it to cover their behinds. There is some wisdom in there and I wouldn't change a load so much that the only thing that is the same is the hull, or just the powder. If you take things one step at a time, you will have some failures and you might find a better load. That's the part of reloading that I like.

Another avenue you can explore if you are truely interested in shotshell reloading is to take a look at the web site called Ballistic Products". They have even more data for not very commonly available stuff. Hunting wads that come pre-slit or ones that you can slit yourself. They also have a wealth of data for steel, Bismuth, heavishot, etc. I too load steel shot and while I don't mind loading steel, that Kent stuff has gotten so good and so fast, it almost doesn't pay to reload steel anymore.


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