Whether you’re hunting small animals like squirrels or bigger ones like boars and bears, a shotgun has got you covered in all situations. This flexibility of the weapon comes from the fact that it can use different kinds of ammunition to suit the sport you’re going for.
When you know which kind of load to pick out for which game, your shotgun becomes almost invincible. It can fetch you targets as easy as a deer at close range and challenges as tricky as hunting the birds flying overhead. But without this knowledge, you might have to watch your targets escape, irrespective of how good a hunter you are.
Want to learn which shotgun shell is best for your upcoming hunting spree? Read on to find out. Before we tell you which shotgun load you should pick, let us look at how to determine the functionality of the various ammunition available.
How To Pick The Best Shotgun Load?
A significant cause of the popularity enjoyed by this weapon across time is the wide range of ammunition it can work with. Depending upon the purpose of use, you can pick out different kinds of ammo to use in your shotgun. Irrespective of which sport you’re going for, stock up on the right ammo before your big day.
The choice of a shotgun shell depends on the purpose you intend to use your weapon for and the sport you wish to hunt. Here are a few factors you must consider before making your choice:
Gauge: The 12 gauge is the most popular in hunting as it offers a balance of strength and flexibility. Your options also include the 20 and 28 gauges, which are not as well suited for hunting as they are not as powerful.
Shot size: The small pellet inside the shell of the shotgun load is called a shot. The size of the shot is crucial in determining how efficiently your shotgun works. While larger shots like 00 and 000 are efficient for big games like deers, smaller shots like 7.5 and 8 are more useful for birds and small games.
Load: This refers to the number of shots inside the shotgun shell. The heavier the load, the more shots are available, which is better for larger animals or longer shots. On the other hand, a heavy load has a greater recoil, making it unsuitable for small game and close-range shots.
Velocity: The fourth factor to consider while choosing your ammunition is velocity. High-velocity shells have flatter trajectories, making them ideal for longer shots. However, higher velocity generally implies more recoil, making these unsuitable for close-range hunting.
Overall, the choice of ammunition for these weapons largely depends on individual preferences and the kind of game you like. If you’re new to using shotguns, it might be wise to try different types of loads to figure out which suits you best.
Some Common Shotgun Loads: Options To Consider
Now that you know which factors to consider, let us look at some commonly used ammo available.
This shot consists of small and round pellets designed to kill small game like rabbits, squirrels, and birds. It is ideal for hunting quick-moving animals like doves, pheasants, and quail. Since the size of the pellets is small, they have less energy and hence are less likely to go deep into the skin and muscles. These can thus be useful when hunting near parks and lakes, where other people can be present. That is because these would not cause serious injury.
This kind of shot comprises larger, spherical pellets. These can kill large animals like deer and boars. They are ideal for hunting at close range and are generally used in shells with fewer pellets.
These are single projectiles of huge size that provide a powerful punch. They are best suited for hunting large animals like deer, bears, and boars at longer ranges. These are ideal when the hunter requires an accurate but powerful shot over a long range.
Steel shots are shots made of steel instead of conventional lead. These are popular in hunting waterfowl as they are less dense and have less energy. However, these are environmentally friendly as they do not use toxic substances.
These are newer variants of shotgun ammunition designed to be less harmful to the environment. Apart from steel, there are many non-toxic shots, like the ones made up of tungsten, bismuth, and tungsten polymer.
Which Shotgun Shell Should I Pick?
The choice of a hunting weapon also depends upon the animal you want to hunt. Let us now consider the efficiency of the shots in particular games.
Hunting dove and quail
When hunting for small animals like dove and quail, 7,7.5, and 8 shots are ideal. A bigger load might create gaps in the gun patterns allowing birds to fly through.
Hunting rabbit and squirrel
For fast-running animals like rabbits and squirrels, hunters have preferred the number 6 shot since ancient times. While some hunters prefer the larger 4 and 5, you must remember that the larger the load, the fewer the pellets and the more frequent the holes in the distance patterns.
The shot size for hunting ducks depends upon the size of the birds. While you can kill smaller ducks best using the number 6 shot, larger ones might require numbers 3 and 2.
Bears and other large animals
For hunting large animals like bears and boars, shotguns should not be your first choice. However, if you must, use a number 12 rifled shotgun barrel to get your best shot. Use as powerful a shot as possible to secure the target.
Be it sport shooting, hunting, or self-defense, shotguns come in handy in many situations. In use since the 15th century, shotguns are widely recognized as one of the most efficient hunting and shooting weapons even today. The versatility, flexibility, and ease of use that this weapon offers have made it the weapon of choice for many sportspersons.
It is also essential to remember that the choice of weapon depends equally upon your preference and comfort. Choose a shot that enables you to fire your best shot. Good luck!