Shot shell questions, GAME or TARGET load?

Discussion in 'The Ammo & Reloading Forum' started by 9 fingers, Sep 4, 2009.

  1. 9 fingers

    9 fingers New Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    Northwest NJ
    HI, need some info on shotgun shotshells. What is the difference between Target loads and Game loads? Also, what does the shot size refer to? I have seen 5, 6, 7.5 etc. And what is comparable in rifle ammo, as far as recoil, to a 16 gauge slug? Do they measure the slugs in grains like rifle bullets? Sorry for the dumb questions but have to learn it somwhere.
    Thanks, 9 fingers
  2. Alpo

    Alpo Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2007
    NW Florida
    Shot size is the actual size of the pellets in the cartridge. Shotshells use birdshot from #12 up to #1 (the smaller the number the bigger the pellet) and then there are some letter sizes. B, BB, BBB (there are some other sizes for steel shot, but I don't use steel shot, so the heck with 'em). #12 shot is normally called "dust". BBB shot is 0.190" in diameter. After birdshot, you then have buckshot, which goes from #4 (which is 0.240" in diameter) up to 0000 (which is 0.380" in diameter).

    There is a #4, #3, #2 and #1 in both birdshot and buckshot, but they are not the same size. If people just use the number (box of #6s, box of #2s), they mean birdshot. If they mean buckshot they say so (#4 buck, #1 buck).

    Shotshells are loaded to different power levels, depending on what they are to be used for. You don't need as much power to bust a clay target at 40 feet as you do to knock down a pheasant at 40 yards. They used to list, on the ammo box, the "load equivalent". That meant how the load would do if it was loaded with that amount of black powder. So you would find boxes marked 2 3/4 dram, 3 dram, 3 1/8 dram, 3 1/4 dram, etc. A dram weights 1/16 of an ounce, or 27.3 grains. So a load marked "3 dram equil." would mean that it would be like shooting a load using 82 grains of black powder. They have, pretty much, started to go away from that. They are marking the boxes with the velocity of the charge. They also mark boxes with names that give you some idea of the power of the load.

    Target loads are the weakest.
    Game load is next.
    Then Field load.
    Heavy Field, also called Duck and Pheasant load.

    The lighter loads not only are slower, but they normally carry a smaller amount of shot. A box of Game Loads might also be marked 3 dr. eq., 1 oz., which means 3 dram equivalent, 1 ounce of shot. A box of Duck and Pheasant loads might be marked 3 1/4,1 1/2, which means 3 1/4 dram equivalent, 1 1/2 ounces of shot.

    Also, the more powerful loads normally have bigger shot. Target loads are for shooting clay birds. Normally loaded with 9s, maybe 8s. Game loads are for squirrels, rabbits and quail. Normally 8s, 7 1/2s or 6s. Duck and Pheasant would be loaded with 4s, maybe 2s.

    Because they are so much bigger, slugs are weighed in ounces. 437.5 grains to an ounce. A 30 caliber rifle bullet would, normally, be around 150 grains, which is about 1/3 of an ounce. A 12 gauge slug is normally 1 ounce, which is 437.5 grains. I've seen store-bought 12 gauge slugs in 1 ounce and 1 1/8 ounce sizes. I think they even make ounce and a quarter. That would be something close to 600 grains.

    There's some good info on shot sizes here.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2009

  3. Terry_P

    Terry_P New Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Very throrough Alpo. The only thing I would add is the waterfowl loads are required to be some form of nontoxic shot like steel rather than lead. As far as recoil goes comparing to a 16 ga slug, typically shot will recoil less than slugs and will follow the dram equivalent power levels Alpo listed out with higher levels recoiling more. That said the type and weight of the shotgun they are shot in will make a big difference.
  4. 9 fingers

    9 fingers New Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    Northwest NJ
    Wow, Alpo, that was way more info than I expected as I did not know it was that complicated! Much apprciated! I learned more in one note that I likely would have in a year of asking friends or gunshops. I just found a 1941 Iver Johnson 16 ga matted rib (deluxe model) and then a week later my gunsmith called with a .410 Topper with a polished nickel or chrome receiver and black stocks, the Iver in maybe 80% overall but with beautiful bore and the Topper almost new. But being older guns I want to shoot the right stuff in them. I knew to stay away from the steel shot or really powerful loads, especially on the Iver. But beyond that there is obviously much more to know before shooting. I think I will try game loads in with 7.5 shot and blast some rabbits! I would normally use my Marlin 39a but know have a couple of new tools. I think today I will set up a test to see what kind of spread I get from the 2 guns at 50' as I have only shot a 12 ga and that was 30 years ago. Thanks to both who provided answers.
    9 fingers
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