Cubed Shot


November 8, 2007, 04:52 PM
Some years ago, I recall reading an article in an old firearms magazine about cubed shot. Yes, I literally mean shot shaped into the form of small cubes. Since this magazine was from the 1970s, I assume that cubed shot went the way of the 5mm Remington rimfire cartridge. Has anyone else heard of cubed shot in recent years?


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November 8, 2007, 05:06 PM
I have heard of various shot-shape configurations besides the sphere. However, I believe that the damage they caused to the test guns failed to justify their improved effectiveness. Seems like some hard/sharp edges would be nice though.

November 8, 2007, 05:25 PM
KB, I have heard of different shot configurations also. But since I can not recall reading or hearing about cubed shot recently, I believe it may have been an experimental load that would make for interesting reading. I would love to read something else about it though.


November 8, 2007, 05:33 PM
It was supposed to be a "Spreader load" for upland bird hunting, for use in tight choked guns if I remember correctly. The cubes would catch air and fly off at odd angles which caused the pattern to open up more quickly.

No harm would come to the barrel, as it was just square soft-lead birdshot.

With todays interchangeable choke-tube guns, I can think of no logical reason for it to make a comeback.

November 8, 2007, 05:40 PM

November 8, 2007, 05:44 PM
From what I've read, back in pioneer days lead was often sold in thin flat sheets because it was easier to ship and deliver to merchants etc. People could buy the sheets then mold bullets or chop 'em up to use in shotguns which probably the common people and settlers owned anyway. Probably cubed shot has been tried and tested at sometime in more modern loads but I've never heard of it.

November 8, 2007, 05:48 PM
Cubed shot spreader loads were sold in the 60's by someone.
May have been one of the European companies shells imported by Stoger.
I just can't remember offhand who it was.

November 8, 2007, 06:21 PM
RC, the article on cubed shot appeared in Gun Digest sometime in the early 1970s. So, your time frame seems pretty accurate. Thanks for your input.

Cubed shot is one example of a dead end in firearms and ammo development that was once praised in the old gun mags. It makes me wonder if our predictions will prove more accurate than those who went before us.


November 8, 2007, 06:39 PM
Yeah, while some of us still don't much care for screw-in chokes, we don't buy tightly-choked barrels unless we want them.:)

Most of the new-production fixed-choke guns are made for trap, so there's no demand for spreader loads there.

Owen Sparks
November 8, 2007, 07:09 PM
Ammo companies have gone to great lengths to make shot less likely to deform upon firing by using harder alloys, shock absorbing wads, buffer fillings and the like in order to keep the pellets as round as possible. This is to insure consistent patterns. Yes the square shot does spread wildly, but the patterns it throws are very erratic, lopsided with lots of holes.

November 8, 2007, 07:19 PM
Could you be referring to a Square Load?

It's the old theory that the best patterns come from a load that is the same height in the shotshell as the diameter or the bore. I don't recall the numbers exactly, but it equalled something like this:

12 gauge - 1 1/8 oz
16 gauge - 1 or 1 1/16 oz
20 gauge - 7/8 oz
28 gauge - 3/4 oz
.410 - 1/2 oz

It explains the loads commonly available to this day.

This theory was from the days before plastic shot cups so I don't know how applicable it is today. You'll see it referred to occasionnally by the old doublegun guys.

November 8, 2007, 08:26 PM
I think in a self defense load an irregular shape with rigid edges would create a much more devastating wound channel leading to more rapid incapacitation.

Obviously accuracy at any distance would suffer as the irregular shape would catch wind differently every time.

The Quadrangle Buck is a design I thought of before I ever found it floating around on the net.
Basicly a solid cylinder divided into 2 layers with each layer sliced into 4 pie shapes, creating 8 pie shaped semi triangular pieces.

On the net it is spoken of as a steel round with some sort of coating to reduce barrel wear and touted as an anti matieral round. I don't see it that way myself. Smaller, lighter, projectiles seem less suitable in an anti material role than a solid slug of the same material.

I do however think such a round made of lead, copper, steel or any material would have better anti personal qualities at short range.
Someone could also create such rounds with more pie cuts, creating smaller pie peices for smaller size game. The important criteria would be the overall weight of each pellet, and to choose a size similar to the weight of spherical pellets for the same application.

Think of it this way, a spherical pellet makes a perfectly round wound channel, allowing tissue to flow around it, leaving a tubular wound channel that partialy closes in on itself.
A square or pie shaped projectile would create an erratic would channel that the tissue could not flow around leaving cuts and gashes along the wound channel. Much more tissue damage and blood loss should result.

I am surprised nobody makes such a defensive round.

Since most hunting takes place at medium shotgun distances I would venture that the erratic patterning from such projectiles would outweigh its close range performance as a hunting round.

November 9, 2007, 10:31 AM
The cube shot cartridges were manufactured by a company in Youngstown Ohio it was spreader loads for short ranges. I believe they are out of business now.

November 9, 2007, 11:05 AM
The only reason it was ever originally used to any great extent was that it was easier to make than round shot; it's easier to chop a lead sheet into cubes than it is to built a shot tower to make drop shot, or to cast it (assuming you could make a mold small enough for something like #6).

November 9, 2007, 12:28 PM
square is the original bird shot before shot tower method of making shot was invented molding small shot was dificult and expensive you bought lead sheets and cut it up it does.not patern well but does do a good job when it hits

Bad Penny 03
November 10, 2007, 12:23 PM
"Brush loads" / "spreader loads" / "cubic shot" have been sold as long as shotguns have been around.
It increases spreads slightly, although pattern density leaves something to be desired.
Bags of small cubic shot can be found if you want to handload the stuff.
Early shot was made from cutting lead wire. The end result was either cylindrical or cubic depending on the wire.
With modern advances in alloy and buffering materials creating near ideal patterns there is really no market for it.

These guys will have it on occasion:

To try and improve density:

These guys sell the complete shells:

November 10, 2007, 03:00 PM

then why bother and why not go with flechette? its not exactly legal, but if you are simply trying to incapacitate someone it might do damage different than reagular shot. ive also heard of military testing which showed flechettes pasing straight through body armour, a person, the back of the armour, and still be more than enough to do it again. ive also heard that without body armour its some pretty brutal stuff that can go through a handfull of people and still keep going. i wouldnt mind packing some sometime myself to test out. somehow, i just dont think i can justify flechettes for home defense to the california department of justice though... hell, they dont even like my baseball bat

November 10, 2007, 03:25 PM
I think in a self defense load an irregular shape with rigid edges would create a much more devastating wound channel leading to more rapid incapacitation.

There's a load called "Canadian shrapnel" used by guides that does a real number on brown bear. I don't know what it looks like but you can imagine from the name. The use was in an "emergency" single shot shotgun, so it's intended for close range.

Dave McCracken
November 10, 2007, 05:39 PM
First, cubed shot is great for small birds up close when one's shotgun has a tight fixed choke. It's not much for anything else.

Flattened shot is similar. Also close range, small birds.

Rog, dunno where you heard that about flechettes but it's pure Caca Del Toro.

Aberdeen Proving Ground tested them back in the 60s and 70s. It's impossible to get enough flechettes into a 12 gauge hull to do any good. And, using them in a barrel with any degree of choke has its drawbacks.

For Defense, pick a good load of buck and practice.

Bad Penny 03
November 10, 2007, 09:05 PM
I played with all sorts of 12ga flechette loads and was unimpressed.
Penetration was hit or miss.
If they were all loaded point forward and had copious quantities of buffer material they would penetrate well. They were so unstable though many would hit sideways. The buffer material ( and even using #11 shot as buffer) would help the stability.
When shooting at or near 2x4's ricochets were frequent. even those that hit straight on would often penetrate so deep and then bounce back.
Often the sharp point would cause it to flip on hard objects or bend.
They were like a death ray on rabbits (through and through) but the wound channels were so small that I wouldn't consider it adequate for antipersonnel work unless head shots were achieved.
The body armor claim is a half truth.
One, they have to hit perfectly at a right angle to penetrate well, once in soft body armor then tend to flip it over or the tail portion gets caught, slowing it down and throwing it around.
Second, to really punch it well they really need to have more velocity that you will get out of a shotgun ( which can be loaded to over 2k)
Basically performance is so radical you really cant rely on it to do what you want.

Additionally, even if it does penetrate (soft body armor only ) the already poor wounding potential get worst as the velocity is stripped on penetration.

As Dave mentioned Aberdeen played with these for a long time.
The put them in belt fed 50 bmg shot shells, 12 ga, 5.56 saboted rounds, ACR rifle rounds, 40mm, and everything they could dream up with all sorts of missions in mind.
Bottom line was: they sucked.

November 11, 2007, 01:33 AM
nice. thanks for the info. i just posted anoth post in the legal section here for more info on these, seeing as everything ive ever heard from them is word of mouth and thats it. maybe check that thread out and see if you can add anything

November 11, 2007, 01:34 AM
nice. thanks for the info. i just posted anoth post in the legal section here for more info on these, seeing as everything ive ever heard from them is word of mouth and thats it. maybe check that thread out and see if you can add anything

November 11, 2007, 01:54 AM
I agree about the flechettes Bad Penny 03 they don't work well. A friend loaded up some with various stacking methods with little difference. I don't remember him trying a buffer.

I just saw some for sale that have been pulled from an old antipersonnel bomb. They're the size everyone is familiar with.

We had more fun with dimes, they make such an interesting sound. ;)

November 11, 2007, 03:55 AM
I just noticed flechettes came up here and since I posted a reply earlier in legal on them I will repost almost word for word here.

They are very neat. Basicly they are little more than nails, except instead of a round head they have slots or fins up the side. In fact I imagine short nails with the head cut into fins would function exactly the same. The fins have to be proportional to the size of the projectile, so smaller nails would be easier to stabilize. Duplex nails would have 2 heads to turn into fins giving even more stability. Although I imagine any nail would work even without alteration since the head would have the highest drag keeping it pointed relatively rearward and the point relatively forward, altered ones would just work better cutting down on total drag.
A denser material than steel but still hard would have greater performance.

They are excellent for penetration, and would indead be "armor piercing" if talking about soft body armor, especialy larger ones. However the same thing that makes them great for penetration makes them horrible for terminal performance. The thin profile of something like a nail means it just applies most of its energy in a very small point causing little damage to surrounding tissue. This means it takes a lot of them, and they are not immediately incapacitating. Although for head shots the very good penetration and high hit probability would probably make them quite effective since the brain does not usualy take a lot of punishment.

If you think of ammunition and total surface area as well as depth penetrated in total volume of tissue destruction all the points of the flechettes are going to total less than the total diameter of the shotgun bore. Yet Buckshot or even any shot is going to total more surface area than the diameter of the bore.

Think of it this way for example. #1 buck is judged to go the suitable 12" of penetration. Each pellet is .30" in diameter. That means 16x.30" is 4.8" multiplied by another 12 inches of penetration gives you 57.6" total area damaged in the target at maximum possible potential. 00 buck is a little less, but not far behind giving up a little total area for longer range and more penetration.

Now take the points of the Flechettes. They are going to all total under the (lets assume 12 gauge) .729 bore diameter munus some for the shotcup. Since a torso is not usualy much wider than 12 inches (with many less) extra penetration is usualy not going to amount to additional damage. So taking the shotcup into consideration and the fact that the fins are going to reduce the total number that can fit (although if of shorter length some can be positioned higher up than others with the fins interlocking the shaft of others to pack the most possible) you are going to have less than .70X (multiplied by) the depth it penetrates of tissue damage. There is a maximum of penetration that matters though after which it will not be in the target. So if 12" is your maximum depth then the total tissue damage would be 8.4". If your target is thicker than 12" you can factor in those additional inches for a higher amount of tissue damage.

So you have 57.6" with #1 buckshot, and around 8.4" with flechette of tissue destriction. It would be higher if you count the total depth penetrated by the flechette, but since the target is only so thick, that is usualy irrelevant. Quite a difference in total damage.

Now there would be some yaw, and the fins would add a little damage, but not much.
So the total amount of tissue destruction will be less than with buckshot.
For birdshot type uses flechettes would be far too dangerous as they would rain down like spikes. So discussion of them for that purpose is not even necessary.

So more damage would be done by shot that goes to suitable depth. Then of course the individual diameter of each would is also important as there is a minimum for effectiveness. Otherwise hypordermic shots into the heart would be lethal, yet they are not.
There is also a cut off where thinner no longer freely leaks blood, meaning its wound channel is not effective.

So in both hunting and defensive use the diameter of each projectile is important as is the total momentum of each. So this would limit you to fewer yet larger flechettes with a total impacting surface area of less than the bore of the shotgun.

As pointed out they are illegal in several states including CA. In much of the nation they are not.
Unless penetration is more important than tissue damage they are usualy not a good choice.
Most commercial ones are made of steel and steel and other hard ammunition is very ricochet prone so use caution.

The only time they might be more suitable for a job is if you need that extra penetration. Shooting an animal through heavy brush for example.

So flechettes and irregular shaped shot as I was talking about earlier in this post are almost complete opposites.
The irregular shot would do more damage than spherical shot, and the flechettes would do even less damage.

November 11, 2007, 12:36 PM
thanks for sharing zoog. i am well informed now... but now i wanna try that dime thing

Bad Penny 03
November 11, 2007, 04:23 PM
One thing I will say about them is that they are the closest thing to "no recoil" I have ever encountered.

With some loadings the report sounded silly. Like a 40mm grenade, but you could almost go with out hearing protection and not suffer any [noticeable] ill effects.

November 11, 2007, 07:28 PM
thanks for sharing zoog. i am well informed now... but now i wanna try that dime thing

Dimes would make a bad load. The edges would do good damage if they hit, but the entire coin is far too light. They also are extremely erratic in flight and on target due to high surface area and low weight.
Nevermind expensive.
They unique noise would be due to the massive wind resistance.

Technicaly I believe destruction of currency is also illegal I believe, though not usualy enforced. It devalues the dollar because it is still counted as being in circulation, yet has been destroyed.
So use descretion where you try it.

One thing I will say about them is that they are the closest thing to "no recoil" I have ever encountered.

With some loadings the report sounded silly. Like a 40mm grenade, but you could almost go with out hearing protection and not suffer any [noticeable] ill effects.
Then that was due to the loading. As we know for every action there is an equal and opposite action.
The light weight of the projectiles and a low charge of powder was probably used giving you a very weak round. As you see with steel shot you can increase the charge and velocity and still stay within pressure limitations because the payload is lighter.

Also with sharp objects a shotcup would be much more liable to have the explosive pressure impale or even blow the cup through the projectiles meaning a lot of the energy of the shot would go through the projectiles and not be imparted to them, leading to less recoil and much slower projectiles.
For a sharp object like flechetters a much stronger buffer they could not pierce would be necessary to insure most of the explosive energy was transfered to the projectile and not rushing through and past them out the front of the barrel.
I would suggest perhaps a hard object, like maybe a thin piece of metal the size of the inside diamter of the shotcup or hard plastic, or other hard material underneath them between the shotcup and them.

Since there is always and equal and opposite reaction based on the payload and the charge then your lack of perceived recoil and especialy of report means the rounds are either underloaded or designed faulty. They should not feel or have an initial report different from another payload.
I would venture the first for the military loadings because the low report is the biggest clue.
Perhaps the second reason for light percieved commercial rounds.

Now there would be greatly reduced resistance to air by flechettes, but that should not be felt because it is the shotcup being forced, and not the thin pieces of metal out the barrel if the shotcup is designed properly for such a load.

However the commercial ammo likely use regular non reinforced shot shotcups which would not work because the pressure applied to them would cause it to be pierced by the flechettes and lose much of the shots energy through the projectiles every time.
That means the projectiles would leave the barrel at greatly reduced velocity for the payload, and the recoil would be minimized because there was less resistance from the projectile in the barrel.

Bottom line is if fired at the same energy as another payload of that weight and everything was designed well, then the recoil and muzzle report would be the same. Now less metal is usualy going to fit in the same space with flechettes, so that means they usualy will be lighter, giving less recoil. That can be remedied with a higher velocity loading. The muzzle report would be virtualy the same for a given charge regardless. A low report is a failure of the round to perform properly. Likely due to some tiny little company like many that offer odd ammo are simply loading a regular shell with flechettes without adjusting the charge. You have improper compression. Lightening a load by removing half the shot would result in something similar. The shotcup faling to perform with flechettes would compound the problem.

November 11, 2007, 09:34 PM
At one point, there was a manufacturer producing a modern version of the "dime" load, consisting of flat lead discs, about 1/8" thick and stamped so that they would break into quarter-pieces on impact; IIRC, they were called "safety discs", or something similar, but I think they're now out of business.

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