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Posted: 12/22/2009 3:29:30 PM EST
[Last Edit: 4/25/2010 1:06:07 AM EST by AssaultRifler]
The 12 gauge Shotshell Reloading Tutorial

Introduction

If you shoot a lot of skeet, trap, sporting clays, or clay pigeons that means you shoot a lot of ammo too. If you shoot
a lot of ammo it only makes sense to reload your own. Reloading saves you money and it's fun.

In this article I'll go over what's involved in reloading 1 ounce 12 gauge 2 3/4" target loads. Once you learn to crank out
12 gauge target loads, the process is that same if you wanted to make say 20 or .410 gauge loads, or heavier field loads.
Only the components and equipment will differ.

Reloading shotshells is easier in some ways than metallic pistol and rifle reloading. There's no tumbling of the cases,
trimming, primer pocket decrimping, no need to work up loads - for once you get to pick a load from the load manual and load it verbatim, but I'll cover that later.



Part 1 - Construction of a shotshell

A shotshell consists of 5 components:
  • hull
  • primer
  • powder
  • wad
  • shot
The hull is the main body of the shell, analogous to the brass case of a rifle cartridge. It's the only
reusable component. It may be one piece (compression formed) or multipiece (outer tube with separate basewad).

Here's a pic of various shells showing one piece versus multipiece construction. From left to right the hulls are an old style Winchester AA, Remington STS, Remington Unibody, Federal Hi Power:




The primer and powder are self evident, they make the shell go bang.

The wad serves several functions. It separates the powder from the shot, acts like a gas check, takes up unused space inside the hull, and gives some protection of the barrel from the shot. This latter function isn't that important when shooting lead shot, but it's one of the primary functions in steel shot shells.

Here's a pic of what my 1 oz target loads look like using my components. The top is a used old style Winchester AA
hull. On the bottom from left to right are:

  • Winchester 209 primer
  • 18.0 grains of Red Dot
  • Claybuster CB1100 (WAA12SL substitute) wad
  • 1 oz of shot
The black caps that hold the powder and shot are not part of the shell they're there to keep the powder and shot in one place




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Posted: 12/22/2009 3:30:07 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/3/2011 9:45:48 PM EST by AssaultRifler]
Part 2 - Components - Hulls
To reload shotshells you need something you can reload, that's the hull. In the old days the hulls were brass. Then they were paper, nowadays they're almost all plastic of some sort, the only exception I can think of is Federal who still makes paper Gold Medal target shells.

Hulls also differ in the brass head, being a 6 or 8 point crimp, 1 or multiple piece construction.

So what hull do you choose to reload? That depends on several factors like: do you have a source for them? I'll reload free hulls gathered from the club's trashcans over buying once fired empties from Gunbroker or EE.

Other things to consider is one piece construction versus multiple piece construction. I like the one piece construction hulls for several reasons:
  • There's no basewad that can loosen and fall apart.
  • There's no inside ridge for a wad to catch on and get cockeyed.
  • If a hull did have a fiber basewad like the Federals, that basewad can get wet and ruin the hull.
  • One piece hulls can be rinsed and dried if there's mud on the inside of them
Another factor to consider is can you find load data for the hull? Winchester old style AA's have been around for decades and has the most load data available for it. You'll also find data readily available for virtually any Remington and Federal hull.

I reload 4 different types of hulls, here they are:



From left to right they are:
  • old style Winchester AA
  • Remington STS
  • Remington Unibody black with brass head
  • Remington Unibody black with zinc plated steel head
  • Remington Unibody green with brass head
  • Remington Unibody green with zinc plated steel head
  • Federal Hi Power with fiber basewad
Old style Winchester AA's are probably the best hull to reload. They've been the defacto standard for decades. Every component manufacturer developed load data for them. Reloading machines come set up to load old style AA's. Old style AA's are one piece plastic compression formed, most will have 8 point crimps. You can find some in different colors like silver and dark grey as well as red.

If you come across some once fired old style AA's, grab 'em.

The sad thing is Winchester had a good thing going and decided to screw with perfection and came out with the new style "high strength" multipiece AA's. These new style AA's are crap in my opinion. The problem with them is the inner base wad has a ridge on the inside which catches the wad when being seated. The wad will become cockeyed causing the case to bulge or not seat deeply enough causing the crimp to mushroom.

I quit fussing with the new style AA's. I weeded out all the ones in my inventory and don't even bother picking them up anymore.

Remington STS hulls are the best hulls currently made to reload in my opinion. They're sturdy, can be reloaded 4 or 5 times before they split, and have a lot of load data available for them. They're taken over the old style AA's as the king of the hulls. The only downside is they're not that common because STS shells cost more than the Gun Clubs and shells sold in bulk packs so not that many people will buy them. Those that do are probably reloaders. If you come across some Remington STS's consider yourself lucky.

The next 4 hulls, the Remington Unibodys are essentially the same hull. You might know them from bulk packs or as Remington Gun Club shells.

They're one piece construction. and come in black or green. Older ones have a brass head, the latest ones have zinc plated steel heads. I like the ones with the traditional brass heads but since they don't make them anymore what you going to do?

The Unibodys can also come in 6 or 8 point crimps as seen here. From a reloading perspective there's no particular advantage over a 6 or 8 point crimp other than you'll have to use a different starter crimp for each type.



I always get good consistent crimps and finished rounds when using Remington Unibodys.

The last hull I reload are the Federal Hi Power with fiber basewads. Like the Unibodys you'll find these with either 6 or 8 point crimps, and either brass or zinc plated steel heads. They're not as desirable as the other hulls but they're plentiful. I can't resist free once fired hulls so I pick them up, reload them just once, then toss 'em.



Source for hulls

Where can you get shotgun hulls for reloading? Pretty much the same way you get brass for metallic cartridge reloading.

You can buy factory shotshells, shoot them and save the empties.

You can can buy once fired hulls online from places like Gunbroker, ARFCOM's EE, etc.

If you're really devious, invite some newbies to shoot with you and tell them to buy some shotshells, when they ask what brand to buy reply "Don't get those cheap Federal or Gun Club shells, get the Remington STS, they're on sale at Dicks"

Then there's asking your shooting buddies if they're saving their hulls and if they say "no" ask if you can have them. I get about half of my hulls this way.

The other half I get by dumpster diving the trash cans at my skeet/trap club:





Score!





Inspection of hulls

Before you reload your hulls, a little case inspection is in order. Inspection is common sense: you want clean, undeformed hulls with no splits.

New shotshells fired from an over/under shotgun typically will never touch the ground and will generally be problem free.

Shells fired from a semi-auto will always hit the ground and several things can happen to them. People step on them. They get caked with mud, These I toss.

Hulls with zinc plated steel heads can have the plating scratched and rust forming. Get rid of any hulls that have rust on them. Make sure there's no grass or rocks in them if they've touched the ground.

Hulls with fiber basewads like the Federal Hi Power are suspectible to getting wet. The basewad acts like a sponge. Discard all hulls with fiber basewads that's been exposed to moisture.

The last thing to check for is splits on the case mouth. You'll almost never see splits on once fired hulls but you will eventually on shells that have been reloaded more than once. In a lot of cases you can't detect them just by looking at them. My technique to stick my finger in the hull and gently spread the crimp out, if there's a split I'll detect it then discard the hull.

Here's a couple of hulls I rejected for split necks




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Posted: 12/22/2009 3:30:53 PM EST
[Last Edit: 2/4/2012 10:09:04 AM EST by AssaultRifler]
Part 3 - Components - Primers

Shotshell primers are pretty much all the same. Unlike primers for metallic cartridges, there's no "large" and "small" types as in "small pistol" versus "large pistol". There's no "magnum" shotshell versus non-magnum shotshell primers. They're all the same size and all will have "209" in their name.

You'll find that the big 3 shotshell makers also make primers: Federal, Remington, and Winchester. You'll also find shotshell primers by CCI, Fiochi, and other manufacturers. I've used CCI and PMC in the past but settled on Winchester. Winchester's always been the easiest primers to find.

Like primers for metallic cartridges, the same principle applies: buy it cheap and stack it deep. My last bulk purchase was in 2005 at $20/K for Winchester 209's. Now they go for $31/K at Powder Valley and $35/K at Wideners. On the bright side shotshell primers always seem to be in stock unlike the pistol and rifle primers.

What primers should you buy? That depends on your load recipe which I'll discuss in Part 8.

Also like primers for metallic cartridges, they come in trays of 100 each. Here's some of my Winchesters:



Tip from SteelonSteel:

Fiochi primers were the least expensive primer in my day. They also had the widest primer and would swage the brass pockets loose. So if a guy used Fiochi then he had to stay w/o fiochi or the primers would be loose/fall out.

My remaining stock was used up on "drop" hulls that I was done with.



Part 4 - Components - powder

There's nothing too special about powder for shotshells. Buy the powder that your recipe calls for. Buy it cheap and stack it deep.
You'll find that most shotshell powder can be used in pistol loads, so if you reload handgun cartridges you can find a powder that'll work in both your
handgun loads and 12 gauge loads.

I started with the Hercules (now Alliant) powders when I started reloading for handgun and shotshells and thus settled on using Red Dot for my shotshell loads. I like the "Dot" powders (Green Dot, Red Dot, Blue Dot) as they have color coded flakes in their powder and it makes powder identification foolproof. You'll never mistake Red Dot for anything else so thus providing you another safety aspect to reloading.

Again, buy the powder that your load recipe calls for.






Part 5 - Components - wads

There's nothing too exciting about wads for 12 gauge target loads. They're all going to be one piece plastic with different cup capacities and in some cases they'll be in different colors. The same manufacturers that make shotshells also make wads for reloading. The three biggest names you'll find when it comes to wads are Federal, Remington, and Winchester.

You'll find that most of the wads in the load data for Federal hulls for example, will use Federal wads. The same goes for
Remington and Winchester hulls.

A great alternative to these factory wads are replacement wads by Claybusters. The Claybusters are cheaper than the factory wads but can be substituted for the factory wads with no changes in the load recipe.

I happen to use Claybuster CB1100-12 wads which are a substitute for Winchesters WAA12SL wads. They come in bags of 500 and 10 bags or 5000 wads to a case.







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Posted: 12/22/2009 3:31:12 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/6/2010 10:09:25 AM EST by AssaultRifler]
Part 6 - Components - shot

Shotgun pellets are little lead round balls. They come in all sizes but the size's you'll be dealing with in making 12 gauge target loads are 7 1/2, 8, and 9.
The larger the pellet number the smaller the pellet. Here's a table showing the pellet number, it's diameter, and number of pellets in 1 ounce.

Pellet number
Diameter
Number per ounce
7 1/2
0.095"
350
8
0.09"
486
9
0.08"
585

Shot is usually shipped in bags of 25 lbs. Since there's 16 ounces per pound, there's 400 ounces in a 25 lb bag of shot. 400 is a nice number for figuring out how much the shot in each shell is costing you, for determining how many bags of shot you need to make 1000 rounds, etc. It's just a nice number to work with. That's one of the reasons why I settled on making 1 ounce target loads versus 1 1/8 ounce loads. Plus the more loads you can squeeze out of a bag of shot the less it costs per load.

Here's a pic of a couple 25 lb bags of shot




Shot also comes in two types, chilled and magnum. In a nutshell, chilled shot is softer than magnum shot. It has up to 2% antimony. Magnum shot has between 2%and 4% antimony. Chilled shot, being softer, will deform more easily than magnum shot. This isn't necessarily a drawback as you will see.



So what shot should you use? Depends on what you're making the target loads for.

For skeet, use #9 or #8 shot. Use chilled shot over magnum, but if all you can get is magnum you're ok too. Most skeet targets are broken at 22 yards or less, it's a relatively up close game. The goal in skeet is to have as many pellets on target as possible. Having a pattern that spreads versus being tight is a plus in skeet. That's why chilled shot has a slight edge over magnum shot.

For trap, your targets are typically 40 yards or more when you break them. You'll want a shot size that won't lose it's energy downrange so that rules out #9 shot. #7 1/2 size shot is the best for trap but for 16 yard trap, #8 will do just fine. Since you're shooting longer distances than skeet, you want shot that will hold a tight pattern. So magnum shot is preferred since it won't deform as easily.

If you're shooting sporting clays the distance to the targets varies, some targets will be close, others far away. #8 shot is the perfect compromise for sporting clays. It's also the perfect shot size if you want a single load that will work for both skeet and trap.

Another source of shot is reclaimed shot. I posted on it earlier this year see http://www.ar15.com/archive/topic.html?b=6&f=42&t=244273.
In a nutshell my skeet/trap club contracted with a shot reclaiming company and provided the club with literally tons of reclaimed and processed shot.
This shot is a mixture of everything: 7 1/2, 8, and 9 sized shot, chilled and magnum, deformed, not deformed. For skeet the shot is perfect. Deformed pellets open up the shot pattern which is a plus. Another great thing is the shot was cheap compared to new shot. My club was selling it for $18/25 lbs when the going rate for new shot was $35/25 lbs. Naturally I stocked up on it.



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Posted: 12/22/2009 3:31:39 PM EST
[Last Edit: 11/19/2010 5:40:50 PM EST by AssaultRifler]
Part 7 - Equipment

Here's my shotshell reloading press, it's a MEC 8567 Grabber with a couple modifications. It's one of the most popular reloading presses out there. They've been around for decades and you can find a lot of aftermarket upgrades and accessories for it. It's progressive but manual indexing, MEC makes an auto indexing version of the press as well. Used ones can be found for cheap. The bang for the buck factor of a MEC press is hard to beat



The first modifications to the press was installing a powder baffle and a Universal Charge Bar. The powder baffle makes the powder charge more consistent. The Universal Charge Bar allows you to dial in a shot and powder weight without having to swap the MEC powder bars and bushings. The adjustment knobs can be locked with a set screw so the charge won't change inadvertently. The knobs are numbered so you can record your shot and powder settings for future reference.



One of the modifications I made was to mount the press inside a tray. It's a matter of "when" not "if" you spill shot. This causes one huge mess. Shot pellets are bouncing and rolling around everywhere, scurrying like cockroaches. So prevention is the best way to deal with this. I used an old aluminum pan, you can use metal or plastic, doesn't matter, just use something!



Another thing you'll need with the MEC is a powder and shot funnel. I made one for cheap. Just an old 2 liter drink bottle and a pair of scissors and bam! You have a funnel!



I bought a machine cover for my MEC. It keeps the dust away and since I tend to keep powder in the powder measure 24/7 it keeps daylight away from the powder. I never had any problems keeping powder in the measure. It doesn't even turn yellow like my Dillon powder measure does. The downside is my cat likes my cover too, I should buy him one of his own



The only other piece of equipment you'll need is a scale. I have an older RCBS 10-10 mechanical scale and a Dillon electronic scale.



Part 8 - Load recipe

If you're the type that hates working up your own loads by making test loads then you'll love load development for shotshells, because there isn't any.
For metallic cartridge reloading it's not a good reloading practice to pick a load from a manual and start cranking out a bunch of rounds. For shotshells, it's considered bad reloading practice if you do not.

The rule of thumb for reloading shotshells is to use the load data exactly with no deviations.

I'll give you some insight on how I picked my load recipe using data from the Alliant Powder Reloader's Guide.

The first thing to determine is what hull will I be reloading. I use several but I want a load for the old style Winchester AA's. How about that, there's a section
in the Guide for AA's.

Now the next thing to determine is my shot weight. Typical target loads for skeet and trap are 1 1/8 ounces. I could make those but I like 1 ounce loads because I can squeeze more loads out of a 25lb of shot with sacrificing only a 1/8 of an ounce of shot, which doesn't make that much difference on the range. Sure enough there's load data for 1 ounce loads.

I'll be using Winchester 209 primers. Why? Because the load data says so

And it's the load data that determines what wad I'll be needing. Looking at all 4 entries for 1 ounce loads for Winchester AA hulls, I noticed that WAA12SL and it's Claybuster 1100-12 equivalent are listed. Claybuster wads are cheaper so I'll go with the 1100-12 wads. That was easy.

Only thing left is what powder to use. Looks like I have a choice. Red Dot, American Select, and Green Dot all seem to work. I've used Red Dot before so I'll use it again.

Now the question is how much powder will I use for each load. The data lists 4 loads:


Grains of Red Dot
Velocity
17.0
1150
18.0
1200
19.0
1255
19.5
1290

I'll go with the 18.0 grains of Red Dot for a velocitiy of 1200 fps. So here's my load:

>>>>> Winchester hull, Winchester 209 primer, Claybuster 1100-12 wad, 1 ounce shot, 18.0 grains of Red Dot.
<<<<<

Remember I said the rule of thumb is to not deviate from the load data? Well there's an exception and that's when you have load data that has all the components the same except for the powder charge as in the table above. I could safely use 17.5 grains of Red Dot, 19.2 grains, etc. As long as my powder charge is between 17.0 and 19.5 grains I'm good to go.

You can also substitute Claybuster or other replacement wads for the OEM wads. For example if there wasn't a separate listing for Claybuster 1100-12 wads in the Guide, I could use Claybuster 1100-12 wads every place the recipe calls for a Winchester WAA12SL wad.






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[Last Edit: 6/6/2010 10:16:56 AM EST by AssaultRifler]
Part 9 - Process

Reloading a shotshell involves the following steps:
  • deprime
  • resize the base
  • seat new primer
  • drop powder
  • seat wad
  • drop shot
  • starter crimp
  • closing crimp
  • final crimp
That seems like a lot of steps, and it is, but usually your machine will do 2 of them at the same time, for example, my Grabber will deprime and resize the base at the same time, prime and drop powder at the same time, seat wad and drop shot at the same time. That still leaves 6 manual steps and why you should get a progressive reloader if you're going to reload large quantities of shotshells.

Let's see how the MEC Grabber does it. It's a 6 station press.

Station 1 - Deprime and resize base

This is where it all begins
. This step is simple, insert a hull and pull the handle.

Several things happen at once: the hull will be deprimed and resized, the case mouth will be spread open, and a primer for the next station dropped.

Note the big honkin' decapping pin! The decapping rod also serves to spread open the mouth of the hull which tend be closed because they were crimped. The Grabber uses a collette to size the metal head and you can see a live primer has been dropped ready for the next station.

The picture shows the result of the depriming and resizing step. The spent primer is in a black catch tray in the base of the machine.



Station 2 - Seat new primer and drop powder

When the shell plate is rotated the primer drops into the priming cup, note the spring under the shell plate. It's there to give the primer seater some slack in lieu of setting off a live primer. Powder's been dropped at this time too. So now we have a sized, primed, and charged hull.



Station 3 - Seat wad and drop shot

Here you place the wad in the wad guide by hand. When you pull the handle it's guided into the hull by a hollow tube. At the bottom of the press stroke
shot is dropped thru that tube on top of the just seated wad. Now we almost have a loaded shell!



Station 4 - Starter crimp

Here you start the first of 3 steps to crimping the shotshell. This step is the starter crimp. The picture shows the result of the press stroke. The key point here is to use the correct crimp starter die - the six point one for hulls with six point crimps and the eight point one for hulls with eight point crimps. Adjust the machine so the starter crimp crimps as much as it does in the photo or more, otherwise you're more likely to get hull buckling at the next step.



Station 5 - Closing crimp

This is called the closing crimp for obvious reasons. This step closes the crimp completely. You could probably shoot the shell as is, but MEC has one more trick up it's sleeve after this step. This puts a lot of pressure on the unsupported shotshell. It's natural tendency is to buldge and if it does you'll end up with a buckled shell. If you're getting a lot of buckled cases adjust your starter crimp so it crimps even more.



Station 6 - Final crimp

This step puts a nice radius edge on the top of the shotshell for great factory quality touch. At this point we're done, we have a high quality reloaded shotshell!



Pictorial Review

Here's a pair of side by side pictures of progression a fired shotshell hull goes through as it's being reloaded. From left to right the shells are:

  • fired
  • deprimed and head resized
  • primed and charged with powder
  • seated wad and dropped shot
  • starter crimp
  • closing crimp
  • final crimp





Progressive Reloading

The above photos were to illustrate the steps involved in loading a shotshell. The Grabber is a progressive press allowing you to
work with six shells at once. Every pull of the handle gives you a new round.

Here's my typical setup. Fired and just reloaded hulls on the left of the press and the wads on the right hand side. Once I get the rhythm going I can crank out a loaded shell every 6 seconds, that's 10 per minute. Every 100 rounds I have to stop and refill the primers and every 200 or so rounds I top off the powder and shot hoppers. Reloaded shells go straight from the press to the MTM storage trays.





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Posted: 12/22/2009 3:32:21 PM EST
[Last Edit: 2/4/2012 10:15:48 AM EST by AssaultRifler]
Part 10 - Storage

Components

For powder and primers, store them as you would for powder and primers you use in metallic cartridge reloading. Rule of thumb here is a cool, dry place.

Shotshell powder is no bulkier than pistol and rifle powder, in fact it doubles as a pistol powder. Shotshell primers are larger than other primers so they'll take up a bit more room, otherwise they have no additional storage requirements.

Wads are easy to store, even though they're bulky, they're impervious to heat, cold, and moisture. I keep a supply in my unheated garage and a sizeable amount in my reloading room.





Hulls are like wads in the sense they're bulky but they're more sensitive to environmental conditions, especially moisture if you have hulls with fiber basewads.

Stuff stored in my garage tends to get dusty, dirty, and bug infested so I store my hulls inside and use dedicated clean recycling bins for them. Works out great.



Shot is heavy, it comes in 25 lb bags. Storing a bag or 2 inside the house is not big deal, but for large quantities I suggest storing it on a floor that can support a lot of weight such as a concrete garage floor, basement, etc. For this reason I store my shot in my garage except for 25 lbs at a time I use for reloading.

I have two types of shot: new in original bags and reclaimed.

I store the new stuff inside a plastic tub in the garage. If the bag ever splits and the shot spills out, it'll be contained. Spilled shot is something you always want to avoid!



For my reclaimed shot I store in a plastic pail, in my case a Tidy Cat bucket. These buckets are great, they're cheap, have a lid, have a large opening you can use to scoop the shot out. I use a dedicated plastic cup as s scoop. Don't fill the bucket up all the way or else you want be able to move it.



An even better method of storing reclaimed shot is 2 liter drink bottles. They will hold 25 lbs of shot with a 2-3 inch airspace below the neck. They're translucent so you can see how much shot you have, super strong, easy to organize, and easy to pour shot out of. I used a plastic funnel to fill them up.




Finished Rounds


You can store your reloads in almost anything: boxes, jugs, pretzel jars, bags, whatever. I prefer to be organized and settled on the MTM Case-Gard shotshell trays http://www.mtmcase-gard.com/products/shotgun/shotshell-boxes-st.html.

They're great. They hold 50 each, stackable, fit inside an ammo can. One benefit is you can tell if a reloaded shell's crimp has opened up or "mushroomed" just looking at the height of all the shells. You can store your empties in them and as you reload them replace it with a reloaded round.





I always try to have a adequate supply on hand. Note how nicely the trays stack.



If you like reusing the cardboard boxes shells come in, MEC makes something called the E-Z Pak. It's convenient because as you finish reloading each shell you can put it in the E-Z Pak and when you get 25 of them loaded up, you can fill up a cardboard box









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Posted: 12/22/2009 3:32:44 PM EST
[Last Edit: 9/9/2010 10:54:21 AM EST by AssaultRifler]
Part 11 - Problems

The most common reloading problems for shotshells are hull buckling and bad crimps. Hull buckling is usually caused by not enough of a starter crimp. I covered this in Part 9 above. It can also be caused by the interior construction of the hull. Take the notorious new style AA hulls, they have a ridge which every wad seems to snag on preventing the wad from being seated properly. I've tried adjusting my machine per MEC's instructions but to no avail so I just avoid the new style AA's.

Bad crimps fall into three categories: swirled, open, and mushroomed.

For swirled and open crimps, read your machine's instruction manual and adjust it per their instructions. This almost always involves tweaking the closing crimp die, either it's length of travel or it's pressure.

Mushrooming is where the crimp opens up after being otherwise properly reloaded. This usually happens when the hull's been reloaded too many times and the crimp portion of the hull becomes weaker. It can also be caused by not seating the wad deep enough or with enough pressure.

The way I deal with mushroomed shells is just shoot 'em if none of the shot has fallen out and then trash the hull, otherwise I dismantle them and recover the components.

Dismantling shotshells

I hate throwing away bad reloaded shells when I can recover the primer, powder, shot, and wad. Why throw money in the trash? Here's how I do it:

Step 1 - Get the right tools

You'll need a tray, center punch, box cutter, and I use a PVC pipe cutter. You could probably get by without the PVC pipe cutter and do all the cutting with the box cutter but it's more tedious and less safe.



Step 2 - Recover the shot

Recovering shot is simple, use the centerpunch to pry open the crimp and dump out the shot



Step 3 - Recover the powder

We get the powder by using the PVC cutter to cut the shell just above the head as to not damage the wad. This is messy and requires use of the tray again





Step 4- Recover the wad

The wad is intact but stubborn it won't push out easily. My method is to simply slit the side of the remaining hull and then pop the wad out



Step 5 -Recover the primer

Primer recovery consists simply of putting the head on station one and decapping it



––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––­––––––––––––––––––––––––-

Part 12 - Recommended Reading


If you want to read up more on reloading shotshells, here's some suggestions.

  • Read as many reloading guides as possible to double check and cross reference load data. Some of the reloading guides like the ones from Hornady and Speer won't have any shotshell load data at all. My 25th Edition Hodgon Powder Data Manual does have shotshell loading data as does my Accurate Smokeless Powders Loading Guide Number One.

  • Lyman has a dedicated Shotshell Handbook. I have the older third and fourth editions. These handbooks are great. They're comprehensive, even have a section on loading buckshot and slugs with load data.
  • I have an older guide called The Handbook of Shotshell Reloading by Kenneth W. Couger, ISBN 0-9613264-09. I"m not sure if it's in print anymore or not. It's a great guide if you find a copy of it.



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Posted: 12/22/2009 7:09:06 PM EST
Is it too early to ask for a sticky? I just bought a 12 gauge for my son for Xmas and will be keeping the shells for reloading as soon as I get the stuff together. I will be following this thread, thanks for taking the time.

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Posted: 12/22/2009 8:37:00 PM EST
I don't reload shotgun shells any more.

But, I'd be interested in READING.

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Posted: 12/22/2009 8:54:00 PM EST
I guess you're going to have to clip a corner off my man card. I don't know the difference between skeet, trap and sporting clays. I thought they were different words for the same thing.

Think I can go down to the the range and get the fudds to teach me the difference if I show up with a Saiga 12 dressed up in RPK furniture? Pull!! bam bam bam bam bam bam bam bam bam bam.

Any chance you can throw in some slug info?
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Posted: 12/22/2009 9:12:05 PM EST
Seems like just the other day you did the give away / contest for your 15k post. Or was that 10k? I forget.

Looking foward to part 2, the hulls.

I am strickly old school, as all I load is the old AA hulls.

Someday I will run out of them and have to move on.

Like they say in GD, in on 1.
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Posted: 12/22/2009 10:02:01 PM EST


Awesome!!!
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Posted: 12/22/2009 10:45:25 PM EST
Originally Posted By Aloxite:
I guess you're going to have to clip a corner off my man card. I don't know the difference between skeet, trap and sporting clays. I thought they were different words for the same thing.


Skeet course: shooting crossing clays at various angles


Trap course: shooting clays going away from you from the various distances and angles


Sporting clays are different stations with a number of different targets and variaties all mixed in together. I used to shoot a lot of that stuff but I haven't done any shotgunning in five or so years.
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Posted: 12/23/2009 8:14:54 AM EST
Originally Posted By AJE:
Originally Posted By Aloxite:
I guess you're going to have to clip a corner off my man card. I don't know the difference between skeet, trap and sporting clays. I thought they were different words for the same thing.


Skeet course: shooting crossing clays at various angles
http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~putrap/Website/images/skeet.jpg

Trap course: shooting clays going away from you from the various distances and angles
http://www.vistech.net/users/rsturge/trap_field.jpg

Sporting clays are different stations with a number of different targets and variaties all mixed in together. I used to shoot a lot of that stuff but I haven't done any shotgunning in five or so years.


Thanks, AJE! Like Aloxite, I never understood the difference either.

Looking forward to reading all of this, AssaultRifler. I'm thinking of reloading for 16ga as the ammo is hard to find.

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Posted: 12/23/2009 9:07:31 AM EST
[Last Edit: 12/23/2009 9:17:46 AM EST by AeroE]
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Posted: 12/23/2009 9:58:34 AM EST
[Last Edit: 12/23/2009 10:02:49 AM EST by SteelonSteel]
I loaded shotgun for years shooting those 3 games, mostly skeet.

About 7 years ago, half the shooters in the club weren't loading anymore. It wasn't cost effective compared to buying walmart promo shells. It was about break even costs NOT counting the labor. I'm not sure how it stands now.

I've moved a few times and haven't gottten back to the shotgun sports. I've been doing precision rifle and milsurps.

Anyone up to date on component pricing and the cost to load a box of 1 oz 12 ga loads versus buying discount store ammo?
IIRC I was reloading for about $2.80 a box when I last loaded, for years it was $2.10-2.25ish.


I'm looking forward to the rest of the post!

I got to say +1 to the STS hulls, my all time favorite. Winchester really screwed the pooch on mucking with the AA hull. I had lots of splits during loading with new/once fired grey AA hulls. I quit picking them up. What ticked me off is I had a hard time telling some of the original silver AA's from the later silver/grey AA's. Some were good and some were trash. I ended up just giving up on them and went to STS's green and gold hull
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Posted: 12/23/2009 10:21:02 AM EST
Thank you for your efforts putting this together, AssaultRifler. I have loaded 100's of thousands of centerfire rifle and pistol ammo, but never a shotshell. And I have all the equipment and components.

A chapter on reloading buckshot would be awesome.
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Posted: 12/23/2009 10:52:44 AM EST
Originally Posted By Vly:
Thank you for your efforts putting this together, AssaultRifler. I have loaded 100's of thousands of centerfire rifle and pistol ammo, but never a shotshell. And I have all the equipment and components.

A chapter on reloading buckshot would be awesome.


Pick up a copy of the Lyman shotshell manual for buckshot info. Well illustrated and lots of data.
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Posted: 12/23/2009 12:26:19 PM EST
[Last Edit: 3/11/2010 7:44:32 PM EST by GWhis]
The most fun I've ever had shooting clays was at Colorado Clays north of Denver International. HERE! It was interesting at one station, where after our team shot the clays, three deer, two does and a fawn stood up right in front of the station and trotted off. They seemed to know exactly when we were done shooting and made their very unfazed unstartled crossing in front of us. Lots of wild life there.

I will definitely read this shot shell reloading guide. It'll wake up this place a litte more.
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Posted: 12/23/2009 12:53:36 PM EST
What would be really helpfull is to section a couple shells to demonstrate the base-wad construction. This is the most confusing part of shotshell reloading for most people.
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Posted: 12/23/2009 1:12:24 PM EST
tag for great stuff here

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Posted: 12/23/2009 2:56:25 PM EST
Originally Posted By chalco:
Originally Posted By AJE:
Originally Posted By Aloxite:
I guess you're going to have to clip a corner off my man card. I don't know the difference between skeet, trap and sporting clays. I thought they were different words for the same thing.


Skeet course: shooting crossing clays at various angles
http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~putrap/Website/images/skeet.jpg

Trap course: shooting clays going away from you from the various distances and angles
http://www.vistech.net/users/rsturge/trap_field.jpg

Sporting clays are different stations with a number of different targets and variaties all mixed in together. I used to shoot a lot of that stuff but I haven't done any shotgunning in five or so years.


Thanks, AJE! Like Aloxite, I never understood the difference either.

Looking forward to reading all of this, AssaultRifler. I'm thinking of reloading for 16ga as the ammo is hard to find.



16 gauge is one of the few that you can save money on. The bad part is that nobody really makes a good 16 gauge hull(AFAIK) like they do for 12 and 20.
Originally post by 2theLeft: If done right, there is no taste, because it goes right down the throat..
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Posted: 12/23/2009 7:47:35 PM EST
Great start to what promises to be a great informational piece.
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Posted: 12/23/2009 9:03:34 PM EST
How about adding something for us buckshot and slug shooters?
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Posted: 12/23/2009 10:02:16 PM EST

Originally Posted By that_dad:
How about adding something for us buckshot and slug shooters?

I can do that down the road, I never loaded either so I'll have to get components, etc and give it a whirl, maybe make a separate thread or something
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Posted: 12/24/2009 2:42:41 AM EST
Originally Posted By machinisttx:

16 gauge is one of the few that you can save money on. The bad part is that nobody really makes a good 16 gauge hull(AFAIK) like they do for 12 and 20.


Fiocchi. Everyone I know who loads 16ga uses Fiocchi hulls.
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Posted: 12/24/2009 8:45:42 AM EST
Originally Posted By NVGdude:
Originally Posted By machinisttx:

16 gauge is one of the few that you can save money on. The bad part is that nobody really makes a good 16 gauge hull(AFAIK) like they do for 12 and 20.


Fiocchi. Everyone I know who loads 16ga uses Fiocchi hulls.


That's actually what I have a good amount of. Good to know. Thanks NVGdude.
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Posted: 12/24/2009 9:27:35 AM EST
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Posted: 12/25/2009 8:14:31 AM EST
Great start! I'm looking forward to the coming updates.
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Posted: 12/27/2009 9:10:48 AM EST

Originally Posted By kilroy155:
Great start! I'm looking forward to the coming updates.

Lots of updates made Getting there!
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Posted: 12/27/2009 9:56:16 AM EST
[Last Edit: 12/27/2009 9:56:35 AM EST by ireload]
Assault thanks for posting. Very interesting to say the least. I started reloading shotshells just last year and love it. I load more of the buckshots nowadays though. Any possibility you can cover that? Keep up the good post. Looking forward for the next chapter per say.
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Posted: 12/27/2009 2:04:49 PM EST
[Last Edit: 12/27/2009 2:12:05 PM EST by LJUnaTIC]
Great thread!

I have an indispensable tool IF you use boxes for storage and transport like I do

I need to pay attention

MEC EZ stack http://www.midwayusa.com/viewProduct/?productNumber=800274

Makes it much easier to fill boxes for that big tournament



I use a Hornady 366 for my 12 gauge trap loads. Loaded shells fall through the bench into a box that holds around 500-600 shells

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Posted: 12/27/2009 4:52:55 PM EST
28 Gauge and .410 are definitely cost effective to reload. There are no cheap value-packs for either. I reload 28 gauge and strongly recommend Winchester AA HS hulls. They last far longer than the Federal (Estates) or Remington STS hulls.

The only issue with the 28 gauge AA HS hulls is that they come in two different sizes. The shorter hulls are older, so if you buy new stock 28 gauge shells, you probably have the longer hulls. If you have the shorter hulls, you will need to cull those out and adjust your reloader to compensate. I STRONGLY recommend that you purchase 500 shells (20 boxes) at the same time (hopefully from the same lot) and just reload those until they fall apart. If you dumpster-dive for 28 gauge AA HS hulls, you will need to sort them by size. I just line up a bunch and eye-ball them against each other and a couple of known standards.
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Posted: 12/27/2009 10:49:34 PM EST
[font=Times New Roman][/font=Times New Roman]I am always confused over straight bodied hull and tapered hull. I can see the need for using like wads to match the hull but several manuals cross match hulls and wads ie straight wad with tapered hull. Good idea or is it necessary to sweat these kind of details. Can you address this issue, at least for me.

Paper hulls, Federals. I load these and personally feel they have a softer push over plastic. Down side is they usually burn through after 3-4 reloadings. I have tried to find a way to rewax the inside but to no avail. The equipment has gone the way of the Dodo. I also like to use them where I am in danger of losing hulls such as hunting––they are narurally going to decompose and leave little more than the brass base.

Steel vs Brass bases. Most of the SASS cowboys avoid the steel for the "stick" that develops after firing. AA or STS is the only way to go, or Federal paper. I have a MEC Sizemaster and the steel bases will size down but will still "stick" after firing. A real problem for double barrels but not for the 97's. My observation YMMV

Many loads would require a filler card or spacer to provide the best crimp. One for the shot is obvious but should it be below the shot or on top? Is this caused by wrong wad even though the manual say so or is the wad pressure screwed up. One of my older manuals identified loads that required a filler and specified the wad pressure. Don't need to talk about granular filler for steel reloads. Is it going to be trial and error to come up with the required overshot wad or spacer after I have ruined cases? I hate the crimp that colapses inward or leaves a hole that allows shot to dribble out. Any secrets to fixing this?
Crimps that relax or open after having been stored for a while. Too much wad pressure or??
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Posted: 12/29/2009 10:08:03 PM EST
Originally Posted By mcornell:
28 Gauge and .410 are definitely cost effective to reload. There are no cheap value-packs for either. I reload 28 gauge and strongly recommend Winchester AA HS hulls. They last far longer than the Federal (Estates) or Remington STS hulls.

The only issue with the 28 gauge AA HS hulls is that they come in two different sizes. The shorter hulls are older, so if you buy new stock 28 gauge shells, you probably have the longer hulls. If you have the shorter hulls, you will need to cull those out and adjust your reloader to compensate. I STRONGLY recommend that you purchase 500 shells (20 boxes) at the same time (hopefully from the same lot) and just reload those until they fall apart. If you dumpster-dive for 28 gauge AA HS hulls, you will need to sort them by size. I just line up a bunch and eye-ball them against each other and a couple of known standards.


my wife just bought me a 28G for christmas, and it's instantly become my favorite gun. It must fit me better than my other guns cause I was crushing clay birds with it when we went out. So I am researching what I need to do to get loading for it.

I'm really confused about what hull to get where etc. there is a local guy that has 1750 remington hulls he wants 10 cents apiece for. it doesn't say which ones they are or anything.

you're right though, buying them is going to be a no-go. they are 10 buck a box!
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Posted: 12/29/2009 11:23:33 PM EST

Originally Posted By NumbNut:
I am always confused over straight bodied hull and tapered hull. I can see the need for using like wads to match the hull but several manuals cross match hulls and wads ie straight wad with tapered hull. Good idea or is it necessary to sweat these kind of details. Can you address this issue, at least for me.

I don't sweat those details, when I first started reloading shotshells I was trying wads from Federal, Remington, Winchester and all types of hulls. I was making 1 ounce, 1 1/8 oz, 1 1/4, even 1 1/2 oz loads. Eventually I got tired of changing the machine for different powders and shot charges all the time and settled on using Red Dot, 1 oz shot, WAA12SL (Claybuster) loads.

Originally Posted By NumbNut:

Many loads would require a filler card or spacer to provide the best crimp. One for the shot is obvious but should it be below the shot or on top? Is this caused by wrong wad even though the manual say so or is the wad pressure screwed up. One of my older manuals identified loads that required a filler and specified the wad pressure. Don't need to talk about granular filler for steel reloads. Is it going to be trial and error to come up with the required overshot wad or spacer after I have ruined cases? I hate the crimp that colapses inward or leaves a hole that allows shot to dribble out. Any secrets to fixing this?
Crimps that relax or open after having been stored for a while. Too much wad pressure or??

I dont use filler cards or spacers, I've gotten crimps that opened up before, I call this "mushrooming". It can be caused by a couple things in my experience: not enough wad pressure, seating the wad cockeyed (which happens almost all the time on the new style AA hulls cause it catches on the inner lip), not enough crimp, buckled hull.

If the mushrooming isn't too bad, e.g. no shot has fallen out, I mark the hull with an 'X' so I won't reload it again and shoot it in my over/under. If shot is falling out I'll cut apart the shell and recover the components.

Swirled and open crimps are usually caused by the machine being out of adjustment. MEC has instructions in their manual on how to adjust the machine to deal with open and swirled crimps.

Another cause of swirled or open crimps can be inconsistent hull lengths. I have some Gun Clubs that are of different lengths. If you adjust the machine so it gives a perfect crimp on one length hull, it'll automatically be out of adjustment for the second length hull.

Any hull with a bad crimp I mark it with an X and either shoot it or dismantle it but never reload it again

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Posted: 12/30/2009 1:10:16 PM EST

I don't sweat those details, when I first started reloading shotshells I was trying wads from Federal, Remington, Winchester and all types of hulls. I was making 1 ounce, 1 1/8 oz, 1 1/4, even 1 1/2 oz loads. Eventually I got tired of changing the machine for different powders and shot charges all the time and settled on using Red Dot, 1 oz shot, WAA12SL (Claybuster) loads.


My friends always accuse me of overthinking most everything I do so that I end up less output spending all of my time on planning. I would go to a standard load but I don't want to lose those STS and AA's so I use the Federal papers for Cowboy A ction with 7/8 or 3/4. I usually need a 1-1/8 for sheet and 1-1/4 or 1-3/8 for hunting the bushy tails. There I go again.
I pretty much dedicated my Mec Sizemaster to Cowboy and use the Pacific (Hornady) 366 for the production of skeet and hunting loads. Pain to change setup but really cranks out the shells.

I had pretty much the same recipe as you when I first started and could get all of the AA's I wanted for picking them up or hitting a turkey shoot and buy them for next to nothing with the boxes thrown in for free. Mine was 1-1/8 shot and a Win white wad..
I never thought of shotshells within brands being of different lengths as the problem for bad crimps. I'll follow your advice and mark them to be tossed and not reloaded.

Thanks for your project, even a old reloader can learn a couple of new tricks
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Posted: 12/30/2009 4:28:15 PM EST

Originally Posted By crashburnrepeat:
Originally Posted By mcornell:
28 Gauge and .410 are definitely cost effective to reload. There are no cheap value-packs for either. I reload 28 gauge and strongly recommend Winchester AA HS hulls. They last far longer than the Federal (Estates) or Remington STS hulls.

The only issue with the 28 gauge AA HS hulls is that they come in two different sizes. The shorter hulls are older, so if you buy new stock 28 gauge shells, you probably have the longer hulls. If you have the shorter hulls, you will need to cull those out and adjust your reloader to compensate. I STRONGLY recommend that you purchase 500 shells (20 boxes) at the same time (hopefully from the same lot) and just reload those until they fall apart. If you dumpster-dive for 28 gauge AA HS hulls, you will need to sort them by size. I just line up a bunch and eye-ball them against each other and a couple of known standards.


my wife just bought me a 28G for christmas, and it's instantly become my favorite gun. It must fit me better than my other guns cause I was crushing clay birds with it when we went out. So I am researching what I need to do to get loading for it.

I'm really confused about what hull to get where etc. there is a local guy that has 1750 remington hulls he wants 10 cents apiece for. it doesn't say which ones they are or anything.

you're right though, buying them is going to be a no-go. they are 10 buck a box!
The Remington hulls are STS hulls and are so-so. At would pass on them. For $175.00 (the cost of those hulls), you can buy 17 boxes of factory Winchester AA HS shells, which will give you 425 hulls. Try to buy them all from the same store so that they will be the same lot (although today I would not worry too much about that as only really old inventory will be the shorter hulls). You will easily get 8-10 loads out of the Winchesters, while the Remingtons are only good for 3-4 loads.

Try your very best to standardize on a shell and wad (I would match the Winchester AA HS hulls with the Claybuster clone of the Winchester HS Wad (CB5034-28HS)). For powder, Universal, Unique and Longshot are all popular choices. I have used 800-X, but it meters like paper plates (yuck). There is a member named Case at shotgunworld.com that has done a number of experiments with 28 gauge loads and he recomends either an 11/16th ounce or 5/8th ounce load (instead of the normal 3/4 ounce) to save on lead.

The reason you want to standardize on a hull and wad is that changing the press to accomodate a different load is a PIA, plus components can also be bought in bulk.
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Posted: 12/30/2009 9:43:04 PM EST
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What do I get for 10 dollars?
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Posted: 12/30/2009 10:26:57 PM EST
Nice write up, I am going to add a pan under mine
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Posted: 1/9/2010 8:56:49 AM EST
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Posted: 1/9/2010 9:06:38 AM EST
Wow.
Just wow.

Another great addition.
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Posted: 1/9/2010 9:47:34 AM EST
Nice job. Thanks for all the hard work.
I use an old MEC Vers-a-matic(?) and a 600 jr, but have been looking for a progressive. 6 strokes of the handle/shell is just too much work now days.
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Posted: 1/9/2010 7:11:08 PM EST
BRAVO! BRAVO! Nice work AR. I have been tinkering with some slugs, buckshot and round ball loads lately. Shotshell reloading is actually FUN, not like mundane metallic cartridge reloading.
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Posted: 1/9/2010 7:42:05 PM EST
Now I know why the new grey AA hulls were giving me fits with the claybuster wads?!? I bought a Grabber dirt cheap and the guy threw in a ton of extras inc some red AA hulls. I think I will hold on to these. Someone gave me 2 deer corn bags full of greay AA hula dn STSs. I will have to rethink what to do with these. THANKS FOR THE INFO!

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Posted: 1/9/2010 10:02:02 PM EST
Well done AssaultRifler another first class tutorial.

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Posted: 1/9/2010 11:34:18 PM EST
[Last Edit: 1/10/2010 10:10:53 PM EST by AssaultRifler]
Thanks for the feedback

Thinking I"ll make one more tweak, show production mode with 6 shells at one time, otherwise people might get the impression you can only make one shell at a time on the Grabber

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Posted: 1/10/2010 3:27:05 PM EST
Great job - thanks for creating such an awesome tutorial!
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Posted: 1/13/2010 10:39:28 AM EST
Nicely done.

I like the pan idea.

Nothing beats a progressive shotshell reloading machine gone wild dumping a few loads worth of #9 pellets all over hell's half acre
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Posted: 1/17/2010 12:27:37 PM EST
nice job
any recommendation or suggestions as to powder, primers to get or not to get
and places to look for these items
i am just getting back into shotgun shell reloading and looking for components to get and where to get them
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