Inside A Shotgun Primer

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FIGURE 72—Data sheet from the Ponsness-Warren catalog, showing how one powder bushing throws different amounts (weights) of different powders.

Suppose you carefully checked recommended powder charges for the various medium and heavy loads, and compared those charges with the throws of a given bushing for the various powders. You would find that one bushing will often serve for both heavy and medium loads, and in a few cases serve for two powders in the same general load area.

For example, find bushing L on the chart in Figure 72. You'll note that this size bushing will drop 19 grains of Alliant Red Dot or Green Dot powder, which is often used with medium, 1X ounce loads. Reading across to the right, you see that bushing L also drops 31 grains of the denser AL-5 powder, which is commonly recommended for highpower, 114 ounce field loads.

Shot bushings involve no "match-up" calculations. All lead shot is considered to weigh the same per unit of volume. We make this consideration even though it's known that the shot charge thrown by a given bushing will vary slightly when different shot sizes are used. For example, No. 9 shot in a given bushing will weigh slightly more than No. 4 shot in the same bushing. We don't consider the difference in weight, since it's not enough to increase pressures nor present any hazard.

Thus, the bushing selected for 1)4 ounce, as an example, is based on an average. You simply select the bushing that drops the required amount of shot for a given load—1 )4,1 %, etc. You'll find standard P-W shot bushings listed at the top of Figure 72.

One of the most important safety considerations in shotshell reloading is that the reloader be able to correctly read and understand shot and powder bushing charts. It's imperative that the proper shot and powder bushings be in place when setting up a charge bar. After setting up a charge bar, weigh several shot and powder charges as thrown by the newly installed bushings before reloading any shells. It's necessary to drop and dump several powder and shot charges back into their respective reservoirs to allow the machine to "settle out" before weighing the charges. Then check the weight of both shot and powder against the recommended loads you've selected to load. There shouldn't be more than two- or three-grains weight difference in the powder as weighed from the listed loading. You can expect slight variations due to changes of moisture content of the powder. Powder bushings will give slightly different weights of powder from different lots of the same powder, since they work by measuring the volume of powder rather than the actual weight.

Adjustable Powder Bars

The invention of the adjustable powder bar eliminated the need for separate loading bars, each with a hole for a given powder charge and another for the specified shot charge (Figure 73). Prior to the development of bushings, which have only come out recently, a single bar was used for each charge at about four times the cost.

FIGURE 73—Adjustable powder bars, like the Lyman unit shown, eliminate the need for interchangeable powder bushings.

FIGURE 73—Adjustable powder bars, like the Lyman unit shown, eliminate the need for interchangeable powder bushings.

There are three sizes of powder bars, with only the powder charge changed by screwing in a bolt held at the desired position by a lock nut. It had several advantages, since you could use any powder in a wide range of charges. A scale was near-mandatory, of course, to establish the desired weight. The shot charge holes were drilled to match the powder range (light, medium, or heavy), more or less. They were expensive, but served well, until the simple expedient of using bushings for powder replaced the single nonadjustable bar. Most shotshell loaders stick with the bushings, as they're convenient and inexpensive. Just recently, a new bar was developed that has a micrometer adjustment for both powder and shot.

Another discovery many reloaders have made is that, in a cold room, powder seldom drops uniformly. We're all for conserving energy, but if your powder charges are uneven, your shooting will be too—and you'll be wasting energy (gunpowder). Do your loading in a room that's comfortably warm—68°F to 70°F.

Shotshell Components


While there are many shotshell primers available today, the assortment is relatively simple compared to the great array of sizes and energy formerly available (Figure 74). Although you may encounter an occasional Remington size .223 in. diameter primed hull in reloading old shells, shotshells of current manufacture are all primed with the Winchester size .243 in. diameter primers.

FIGURE 74—This drawing shows a cutaway view of a shotshell primer. (Courtesy of CCI)

FIGURE 74—This drawing shows a cutaway view of a shotshell primer. (Courtesy of CCI)

Shotshell Primer

Primers fall into two basic groups, Mild and Hot. Most reloading manuals recommend that you only use the primer listed for that loading with a given powder, hull, shot, and wad combination. This is good advice, and a sure way to avoid pressure troubles. Pressures from Hot primer loads are generally within a pretty close range regardless of manufacturer, and the same is true of mild primer loads. We don't recommend that anyone interchange primers of different brands. Some shooters never find any need for Hot primers, even with the large ball powders, which are supposedly hard to ignite. You may find that shotshell loads primed with Mild primers such as the CCI 209 will give better patterns with closer and more even shot dispersion than the same loads using Hot primers. This is most likely the result of less violent ignition, which doesn't deform the shot as much before it starts moving down the barrel.

In the event that you do ever encounter ignition problems, you might use magnum Hot primers if you could find such a loading in a reloading handbook. If you couldn't find such a loading, you could run pressure barrel tests with the primer and powder charge you wish to use. If pressures were too high, you could drop that loading in favor of something similar using an easily ignited powder. We realize that not many people have access to pressure barrels, so the logical thing to do is find a more easily ignited load. Pressure tests show lower pressures generated by Mild primers, with almost the same velocity as loads using the more violent primers, and, as stated earlier, patterns are better. Never, under any circumstances, replace a mild primer with a hot one. Some consider the CCI 209, Winchester 209, and Remington 209P Mild primers, and all others as Hot or Medium (somewhere between Hot and Mild).

Shotshell Powders

Several types of shotshell powders are available. Years ago, there were very few suitable shotshell powders, and it wasn't difficult to pick the proper powder to make up the sort of loads needed. You can experiment to find which particular load combinations will best suit your purposes.

Some shotshell powders presently available are Bulls-eye, Unique, X58, Herco, Red Dot, Green Dot, Blue Dot, HS6, HS7, 540, 571, 452, 473, 296, H110, Trap 100, 800X, PB, SR4759, SR4756, SR7625, IMR4227, AL-7, Hi-Skor, Solo 1000, and Royal Scot powders. There are a number of noncanister powders in the powder magazine. Simply too many shot-shell powders are available to keep up with! Fortunately, it's not really necessary to do so. Many "old-friend" powders do the job quite nicely. If one of the new ones shows up to be a real go-getter, the word will spread quickly. You can then obtain it and try it for your own purposes.

If you're a newcomer to shotshell reloading, you should get copies of the reloading tables furnished by powder manufacturers from your local dealers, or, if necessary, directly from the maker or supplier. Read the recommended loads to see which powder best suits the types of loads you're going to need. A can of Unique would be suitable for most of your field and trap loads, and a can of Blue dot for the highvelocity loads. You might also need a can of WW571 for a full range of reloads. Load a few of whatever loads you need and try them. As you become more experienced, you can try different powders to see if any of them meet your needs better than these.

Don't buy a large selection of various powders until you have determined which powders you really need. The three powders mentioned previously should meet any shooting need very well.


There are great variations in shot from different manufacturers— variations in size, uniformity, roundness, hardness, and overall quality (Figure 75). There seems to be a lot of variation in quality from one manufacturer's lot to another. You might look at two different bags of shot of the same brand and size and be astonished at the difference in the two bags. It would seem that different manufacturing facilities made the shot by different processes. This may be the case, in certain brands. The quality of shot from certain brand names has deteriorated, but generally quality seems to be improving. Despite the general improvement in shot quality, shot sold under the Winchester/Western brand name is probably the best. This certainly applies to the copper-plated "Lubaloy" shot bearing this name.

FIGURE 75—Various Shot Sizes

Lead shot sizes:

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    Is cci 209 primer hot, medium or cold?
    2 years ago

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