As I was conducting research for a series of articles on buckshot ammunition, I was surprised to discover that most of the #00 buckshot loads I encountered were not actually loaded with #00 buck. Has this always been the case and no one told me?
I initially noticed what seemed to be a size difference in the pellets when I cut apart buckshot loads from two manufacturers for some pictures -- even though both were supposed to be #00 buckshot loads (a standard #00 pellet is 0.330 inches in diameter). At first I thought it was the color difference playing visual tricks; however, when I measured the pellet sizes from each shell, the pellets in the shell shown on the left in the picture were larger than the standard diameter of a #00 pellet and the pellets in the shell on the right were smaller.
Once I discovered the discrepancy, I acquired as many factory 12 gauge #00 buckshot loads that I could put my hands on and a bag of #00 nickel plated buckshot pellets from Ballistic Products, Inc. I cut five shells open from each manufacturer and measured the diameter and weight of all the pellets in each shell. I then averaged the diameter measurement and the weight for all pellets from each manufacturer including 45 pellets I randomly selected from the bag of Ballistic Products #00 buckshot pellets.
The #00 buckshot loads from all U.S. manufacturers (except one) had an average measurement of just over .320 inches or the diameter of #0 buckshot. Remington was the exception due to what I suspect is an issue of “roundness.” The Remington pellets were almost oblong with some measurements over .33 inches and others well under .32 inches. I averaged the Remington measurements to the best of my ability. I discuss this in more detail below.
All of the Fiocchi “00” buckshot rounds were loaded with #1 buckshot. The Tornado #00 was the only round actually loaded with #00 buckshot. Tornado is a brand name from the M90 Ammunition Factory in Croatia. The Ballistic Products buckshot and the Sterling and the Luce #00 buckshot shells all had pellets larger than #00 buckshot. Sterling and Luce are brands that appear to be loaded in Turkey. The table below details the average size for each manufacturer’s pellets.
* Update: I received some Hornady TAP Light Magnum #00 loads, some Nobel Sport #00 Law Enforcement 12-pellet shells, and some Tunet (made in France) #00 Law Enforcement 9-pellet shells. The TAP pellet's average diameter is 0.318, the Nobel Sport #00 pellet's average diameter is 0.328, and the Tunet #00 Law Enforcement pellet's average diameter is 0.325.
The weight averages for the pellets that each manufacturer loaded tracks with the normal weight for the specific buckshot sizes with some exceptions. In other words, the Fiocchi #1 buckshot pellets weighed an average of 41.0 grains which is close to the standard #1 buckshot weight of 40 grains. Federal, Speer, and Hornady pellets weighed in the 48 grain range that was close to the #0 standard weight of 48.3 grains. The table below details the average weights for each manufacturer’s pellets.
Update: The Hornady TAP Light Magnum #00 pellet's
average weight is 48.8 grains. The Nobel Sport #00 Law
Enforcement 12-pellet shell pellet's average weight is 58.5 and the Tunet #00 Law Enforcement 9-pellet average weight is 57.3 grains.
As you can see, Remington, Winchester, Nobel Sport, and Tunet were the exceptions when it comes to pellet weight. This is where “roundness” seemed to enter the picture for the Remington buckshot loads. As I measured the Remington pellet’s diameter, I noticed that they were far from perfectly round and this may account for the weight of the Remington pellets.
From a roundness perspective, pellets from Ballistic Products Inc, Federal, Speer, and Hornady as well as the pellets from foreign manufacturers were all very close to spherical and their weight range reflected this consistency. I am guessing that the lead alloy in the Winchester, Nobel Sport, and Tunet pellets might play a role in accounting for the above standard weight.
Does the target object to the size or weight of the pellet hitting it? Probably not. However, I do find it interesting that many manufacturers are not loading the #00 pellet size that they are advertising. If you think about it, a pellet that weighs 5 grains less than the norm per pellet saves a pound of lead for every 1400 buckshot pellets produced.** This is a significant amount of lead when we consider the hundreds of thousands of buckshot pellets that manufacturers produce.
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