How different is shotshell loading?


December 17, 2011, 02:32 PM
I'm looking to get back into shooting trap. I've never loaded a single shotshell but have loaded more than my share of pistol and rifle. Is there a big learning curve when starting with shotshells? Or is it like trying to play the piano when you know guitar?

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December 17, 2011, 02:45 PM
I'ts not much different.The loading book list powder charge weights for shot weight,and the correct wad for different hulls.If you load metallic cartridges,shotgun should come natural to you. Lightman

December 17, 2011, 02:53 PM
Actually there is hardly any comparison.

You buy a shotgun reloading press like a MEC or something.
You find the receipe for the exact empty hulls you will reload.
Then you buy the exact primers, wads, and powder shown in the data for that hull.

Then you put the correct powder & shot bushings in the press and gofer it.

From that point on, it is just a machine that makes shotgun shells.

Unlike metalic reloading, there is no experminting with powder charges, seating depth, case shoulder settings, etc.


December 17, 2011, 03:05 PM
I load about 6,000 shotgun shells per year, and unlike metallic loading, I find it a pain in the butt. I really enjoy loading rifle and pistol cartridges, but shotgun loading is something else entirely.

The first thing you'll find out is that no matter how hard you try not to, you're going to have shot all over the place, along with some powder. I've got a big MEC 9000gn, which I consider one of the better shotshell loaders, but I still get spillage, no matter how smooth it's running or how hard I try not to.

To me, shotshell loading is a chore, but due to the number of shells we go through a year, a necessary evil. I hear there are people who actually enjoy loading them, but I've never run across one personally................

Hope this helps.


December 17, 2011, 03:56 PM
OK, so we've got three answers so far: it's the same, it's different but easy, and it's different and terrible. :)

For what it's worth, all I'd load is light trap loads. (Sure--just like I was going to load only .45ACP way back when....)

December 17, 2011, 04:30 PM
The other thing that is different is, your press loads one gage shotgun shell.

If you want to load two different gages, buy another shotgun loader.

It's far easier then converting the one press from say 12 ga to 20 ga.

Not at all like switching dies & shell holders in a metallic reloading press!


December 17, 2011, 04:43 PM
I've been loading metallic and shotshell for several decades and find shotshell to be far less time consuming. It's almost a relaxing process if using a decent press. I have a Mec 600 Jr. and have used it since about 1980. I can easily load 4 boxes per hour if I have my wads and primers arranged nicely.
You don't need to tumble or trim hulls, just check them to be sure they are not full of debrie and then resize, prime, powder drop, wad, shot drop, start crimp, and finish crimp, done!
It's imposrtant to check your powder bushings aganst your scale to make sure it is throwing what your wanting. And also imporatnt to not let the powder get low or it will start funneling, but I always give it a tap just before sliding the charge bar over just to make sure I get the full powder drop.

December 17, 2011, 05:15 PM
RC is right,as he usually is,about the differences.I really don't think you would have any trouble learning,since you are already a reloader.Besides,having to clean up a hopper full of shot,off the floor,is a right of passage!:)

December 17, 2011, 05:53 PM
OK, so we've got three answers so far: it's the same, it's different but easy, and it's different and terrible. :)

For what it's worth, all I'd load is light trap loads. (Sure--just like I was going to load only .45ACP way back when....)

I agree mostly with RC's answer.

Shot shell loading is easier as there is virtually no shell prep. Take the fired shell and feed it into the machine. Shoot and reload it until it starts to split, usually in the crimp area but not always.

It is more difficult because the shell goes through more steps than a metallic cartridge. Resize and deprime, prime, charge, insert wad, drop shot charge, and two crimp steps.

There is no working up of loads. Follow the recipes. But, look up different sources of information and a recipe with components you want might be there.

I agree with ReloaderFred, shot shell loading is kind of a mindless task.

I agree with lightman, you are not a shot shell loader until you dump a hopper full of shot. It is not if, but when.

Empty hulls are most frequently available by shooting new shells. There are some sources of fired hulls and some new hulls on the market. When you buy shell for a source of hulls, spend the bucks on the good ones, they last longer.

Even though my shot shell shooting is way down, I still reload shot shells instead of buying new.

December 17, 2011, 06:50 PM
I have reloaded shotgun shells for targets for about 25 years, so while I am no expert, I can tell you it is a lot easier than metallic.

A MEC single stage will load 4-6 boxes per hour easily enough. You will need to determine what type of load you want to shoot - 7/8, 1oz, 1-1/8 etc. Find your hull first - Winchester AA and the Remington family are interchangeable and the best ones to use for longevity.
There are numerous primers you can use interchangeably - most notably Win209 and Nobelsport, even Fiocchi 616.

Clone versions of name brand wads can be used interchangeably for recipes calling for a Remington or AA wad - Wads by Claybuster and Downrange are a lot cheaper.

The best way to save money is by buying components in bulk - that means powder in 8# jugs, primers by the 5000, wads by the case (5000) and shot by the hundredweight or ton -(reclaimed will save even more and works great for practice rounds)

Current excellent powders for 12 gauge target loads include Red Dot, ClayDot, and Clays

Both Alliant and Hodgdon have websites with reloading data spelling out components, loads, velocity, etc.

Powder drops, especially by bushing, will typically never be exactly what the recipe says, but as long as it is close, you are good to go.

Federal hulls require a different style of wad that AA or Remington so do mix those together

December 17, 2011, 09:12 PM
You size brass/casing, deprime, seat a new primer, drop powder, seat wad, wad pressure adjustment, drop shot, 6 or 8 starter crimp, finish taper crimp, depth of crimp. As the gage gets smaller, it becomes harder.

December 19, 2011, 12:13 PM
Cool. Thanks, guys. I will see how far I get into trap again before I decide to jump in. It's nothing for me to shoot 1000 .45ACP rounds in a week, so pistol reloading is a no-brainer. Not so sure about shotshell yet.

December 19, 2011, 06:44 PM
There are shot shell presses that will load multiple gauges, but they are just not as prevalent as MEC. Look at the Ponsness Warren models. I have a 375 that's really wonderful.

Another difference (probably the biggest) is that the payback period is much, much longer on a shot shell press. You can get Walmart shells for $5.50. Reloads will cost you about $5.00. So you have to be usually buying $8 shells before you'll see a big difference.


T Bran
December 19, 2011, 07:06 PM
When you drop your shot onto the wad be sure to give the drop tube a light but sharp tap. If any shot has bridged in the tube this will help to dislodge it into the shell instead of allover the bench. I have a small bench set up just for my 600jr underneath the bench I place an old sheet before the loading begins to help contain any shot that escapes the bench. Once you get in the groove it's actually kinda fun and doesnt take all that long to make a fair quantity of shells.
I dont bother to load 12 or 20 gague these days as the cost of shot is so high that you must shoot a large volume to see much savings. Oddball shells on the other hand can save you serious bucks. If I didnt load for my .410 I could not afford to shoot it much.
Have Fun

Red Cent
December 19, 2011, 07:39 PM
A trap load in a 2 3/4" hull is somewhat standard. The trap load should be a little warmer to achieve the speed to minimize the lead of the bird. If I remember correctly 1290 fps is the speed limit in formal trap.

I load 1 oz. of 8s in a Claybuster wad and American Select lit up by a Winchester primer.

I load mine in a Ponsness/Warren 800 Plus. Feed it very uniform hulls and it is super.

I also load very light cowboy loads.

If you are trap shooting at a decent club, ask them if you cannot join in a group buy. If they would do that, to heck with buying a loader. Unless you want special loads.

Get back with us if you buy a reloader. There are a few things to know that we take for granted. Depth of wad, wad to shot weight, ..........

December 19, 2011, 09:41 PM
Any load with a velocity greater than 1290 FPS (Feet Per Second)
with maximum shot charge of 1 1/8 ounces, or 1325 FPS with a
maximum shot charge of 1 ounce, or 1350 FPS with a maximum shot
charge of 7/8 ounces, as measured in any individual shotshell. These
velocities are maximum and no individual shotshell shall exceed
these limits for the designated shot charge.

You can get Walmart shells for $5.50. Reloads will cost you about $5.00

My 12 gauge reloads cost me $3.50/per box, my 20 gauge costs me $3.18/box, so it IS cheaper to reload your own

December 20, 2011, 09:34 AM
shot has bridged in the tube Common with .410. A fix is, lift the handle/ram up, so the shot free falls into the wad. At the same time, push the charge bar slower. Another thing can happen > Part Number: 304W This brass washer is placed on top of the powders charge bar.Its keeps powders like W296 from leaking from between the bar & measure. If damaged/flattened, this washer can move with the bar. This can cause powder not to drop correctly, resulting in a light powder charger/wad stuck in the barrel. Set the wad seating ram to show a tiny amount of wad pressure on seating. This will show you if there is enough powder in the case. ( Its also possible to get a defective measure, part #6. If clearences between the measure & charge bar is to great, powder will trickle out as you move the bar. Even larger types of powder like Red Dot.

December 21, 2011, 09:44 PM
It is not that difficult! If you shoot enough go progressive and not a single stage like a 600 junior. The daughter and I like like 7/8 ounce #8 shot loads. Cheaper to roll and makes you a better shot. I mix AA and remington hulls and like the adjustable charge bar. I dont worry much about the brand of shot as others do because, I make my own and it breaks targets just as good. Have fun and many straights to ya!!
Also you dont need to beat yourself up with fast loads at 1290 FPS we shoot 1180 and do fine! Why beat yourself up!

PS. I started out loading shotshells and find it easier. As for spilling , I spill about everything

December 24, 2011, 10:57 PM
So far I have only loaded shot gun rounds. 12 gauge for trap shooting with number 8 shot on an old MEC 900. It's simple enough and pretty expedient of a process. I'm currently debating on a lee turret set up for my hand gun and rifle loads since I am doing so well with the shotgun rounds.

The downside of the MEC is the mess. Primers fall thru the hole when depriving onto the bench below, spilled shot and powder does happen as well. As someone else said tapping the charge tube when dropping the shot before fully bringing it back up out of the shell helps a lot with this.

One thing I did for mess control was to make a base to go under the MEC. Just a simple piece of plywood and some 1/2" trim around the edges to create a little wall all the way around the base. Keeps any primers and spilled shot contained nicely.

December 27, 2011, 03:36 PM
Glad to see this thread is still going. :)

Are the startup costs any lower for shotshell because there's so much less variation (e.g., types of dies to get)? If I understand correctly, all I'm currently missing on my bench is shotshell primers, wads, shot, and the press.

If that's the case, I kind of can't imagine _not_ loading my own shotshells, much like I can't imagine not loading my own pistol and rifle ammo.

December 27, 2011, 04:08 PM
I can't speak to the cost of presses as I acquired my versamec for free. It has served me very well. Hulls, shoot and save em. I buy win AA loads for trap and save them to reload. Wads are pretty cheap. Powder and primers run the same as it does for brass loading as far as I know. There really are no dies to speak of. Presses come set for a specific gauge and to my knowledge can not be converted to another gauge. I think the Lee shot loader can be, but the MEC loaders can not.

December 27, 2011, 05:14 PM
There are conversion kits for the MEC, I did that to a 12 gauge version and turned it into a 28 gauge reloader. It is NOT, however, like a Dillon metallic or similar where you change back and forth - not worth the time and energy - easier to buy a second press (used).

As for components, buying in bulk will save you the most as opposed to a few packs of primers and a bag of wads from Gander or similar. Buy primers by the sleeve of 5,000, powder in 8# jugs and wads by the case of 5,000. Go in with friends and buy shot by the ton, or buy some reclaimed from your gun club.

Your gun club is about the best place to buy components - if the club isn't buying in bulk, there are usually groups going in on bulk orders to save on shipping and hazmat fees

December 27, 2011, 10:26 PM
I think the press/shotgun used is a little more difficult than press/pistol, for example. I started shotshell reloading with an old RCBS, then MEC and now do most reloading with 366's (they make the most reliable shells for me.

As above you have to sort "brass" (hulls) more than is commonly done in metalic reloading. A lot of differences in hulls and two (main) different crimps. Add to that different wads and the bin full of powder and shot bushings you will have and its a lot to keep up with.

Making them is just as easy but having them run in a picky semiauto is a different story.

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