Shotshell Loading Without A Press

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I've been wanting to buy a few more 20 Gauge #3 or #4 buckshot rounds to have on hand for home defense purposes, but they're sold out everywhere on the planet. So I was thinking about making my own loads for that (legal advisability aside -- these would be for the zombie apocalypse after the 15 Federals I have are gone). I don't really have room on my bench for another press, though I could make it work. I'd like to make maybe 100 buckshot shotshells -- I don't shoot shotgun that much, I just want to have some on hand.

I'm thinking of doing something like this:

The roll crimp tool is about $25. Of course a Lee Load All is only another $25. I suspect that without the press, I need to use new shotshells because I wouldn't have a way to resize the base.

Anyway, for someone looking to make a small amount of shotshells and doesn't want to get several hundreds or more into equipment, would I be better off roll crimping or buying the cheap Lee press? I watched a video on the Lee's operation and it looks wobbly -- don't know if that really matters though.

Anyway, interested in what people who know their stuff with shotshells have to say.
 

oremike

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I have a set of 20 ga dies that work on my Rock-chucker basically one die is the body and you change the internals to size add the powder,set the wad add shot and crimp. It will fix a nail head crimp if I make some of those. If you want to make full brass cased loads with a card and roll crimp those die sets are sold for cowboy action shooters. My long winded left hand point is you don't have to have a dedicated shot shell press for small lots of shells.
 
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awshoot
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I have a set of 20 ga dies that work on my Rock-chucker basically one die is the body and you change the internals to size add the powder,set the wad add shot and crimp. It will fix a nail head crimp if I make some of those. If you want to make full brass cased loads with a card and roll crimp those die sets are sold for cowboy action shooters. My long winded left hand point is you don't have to have a dedicated shot shell press for small lots of shells.
What is the name of your die set?
 

oremike

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What is the name of your die set?
Mine is a RCBS but they haven't made them for years. But honestly you could buy primed new cases, a loading block to stand them up in, add your powder thru a funnel, set your wads with dowel, add your shot, and do like the video with a card and roll crimp. I'd recommend the Lyman Shotshell Handbook no matter how you make your ammo.
 
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I've been wanting to buy a few more 20 Gauge #3 or #4 buckshot rounds to have on hand for home defense purposes, but they're sold out everywhere on the planet. So I was thinking about making my own loads for that (legal advisability aside -- these would be for the zombie apocalypse after the 15 Federals I have are gone). I don't really have room on my bench for another press, though I could make it work. I'd like to make maybe 100 buckshot shotshells -- I don't shoot shotgun that much, I just want to have some on hand.

I'm thinking of doing something like this:

The roll crimp tool is about $25. Of course a Lee Load All is only another $25. I suspect that without the press, I need to use new shotshells because I wouldn't have a way to resize the base.

Anyway, for someone looking to make a small amount of shotshells and doesn't want to get several hundreds or more into equipment, would I be better off roll crimping or buying the cheap Lee press? I watched a video on the Lee's operation and it looks wobbly -- don't know if that really matters though.

Anyway, interested in what people who know their stuff with shotshells have to say.
Cool video.
 
OP
awshoot
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I have my components together but I have a small problem with combining them. Here is the data I have -- first is Hodgon load data for 1oz shells with Longshot (a powder I have) -- the problem is that the wad indicated won't hold one ounce of #3 buck. I also bought a book with load data "The Buckshot Manual" from BPI but in 20 gauge, there is only one recipe for roll crimped shells in 20 gauge. I have the wads indicated in that recipe, but not the powder they call for IMR PB.

So I'm considering my options. One is to try to run down some IMR PB. This is the annoying expensive option. The other one is try using Hodgon Longshot and starting with a very reduced load and working up. Obviously, this could be even more expensive if it goes wrong, but it is tempting.

Looking at a burn rate chart, the powders aren't even close -- IMR PB is #31, and Longshot is #74. I do have some Accurate No. 2 which is #33.

I guess first question, does anyone have a shotgun load data book with a 20 gauge recipe for #3 buck, 2 3/4" shells, roll crimped, using Longshot powder? Even if I have to buy different wads or gas seals, I'd rather do that than pay a hazardous goods fee.

On the more regressive side, has anyone gone out and worked up their own loads starting with very low power and working up? Should I just put that out of my head and track down some IMR?

EDIT: IMR doesn't manufacture PB anymore.
 

gmerkt

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I've dabbled with loading shot shells over the years. I haven't used a press to do it for over 40 years. I still have the goods for hand loading them. Literally hand loading as you suggest. I load 28 ga. Anything other than shot loads for 28 is hard to find, so if you want specialty loads, you've got to make them yourself. I've loaded buckshot, round ball, Foster slugs (when I could get them) and flechette loads.

Yes, PB was discontinued by IMR back shortly after Hodgdon took over that line of product. So look on one of those powder burn rate charts that are horizontal with comparisons of products by various powder companies. That will put comparable products in line with each other. I don't have such a chart in front of me, but I'm sure you will find something close like an Alliant product, for example. They're still making powders that they've done for decades. Flake powders, see below.

Some of my comments will be heresy to some but here goes. Shotgun working pressures are significantly lower than centerfire. Consequently, I've never felt the same degree of danger attendant to experimenting myself with various load combinations. Which are surely more variable than centerfire considering the components involved. My feeling is that the result of not using the exact shot shell components will be more one of reduced performance rather than an issue of safety. I would rather stay away from ball type propellants if I were not to use an exact recipe because those powders tend to like being used in certain, exact amounts. Flake powders in my opinion would lend themselves more to load experimentation and development. I don't have a problem with substituting wads that are "close." Mind you, I'm mostly doing the specialty loads. I've patterned some of my loads but only for defensive results. I'm not shooting clay birds with them on a shotgun field. Which sounds about like what you, the OP, are looking into.

I've found in hand loading shot shells that getting enough wad pressure is important. Not getting a wad seated tight enough will get you a blooper, insufficient pressure, the opposite of over pressure. I have a shot shell vise to hold the hull while I'm working it. I use an arbor press and a torque wrench to get my wad pressure right. You can get a cheap made-in-China bench arbor press from Harbor Freight if you don't already have one. The shell vise came from Ballistic Products Inc. I may have gotten my wads from them as well. The petals of which sometimes have to be modded for various specialty loads.

Someone else said it above, you might want to see about getting new, unfired hulls. You can get Fiocchi or similar pretty cheap. They come primed, you don't have to do that or worry about resizing the hull head. Or split or burnt hull mouths. Years ago when I was using a press, unresized hull brass was never a problem for me.

I sprung for the roll crimping tool, I think it's worth it. Also from BPI. Like all reloading tools, if you give up the effort you can get some of your money back out of it later on ebay or whatever.

In my experience, any load data supplied by BPI is apt to be not of much value. I don't know that they are trying to stay current on anything, maybe these days it's a liability issue. Their institutional memory isn't very deep, either. Some years ago, they sold me some 28 ga. Foster slugs. When I ran out, I contacted them about getting some more. I was told they didn't sell them and never had. I got back to them with a picture from their catalog. The employee who responded, "Well I'll be darned."

As to loading full brass shot shells. Oh yes, I've done that too. It's a lot of bother and I never was all that satisfied with the results. I was loading 20 ga. It's a fussy proposition. I was loading them with smokeless powders, maybe people have better luck with BP loads in those.

A long time ago, I had one of those RCBS shot shell die sets. They've been out of production long enough that now they get collector's item prices.
 
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awshoot
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I've dabbled with loading shot shells over the years. I haven't used a press to do it for over 40 years. I still have the goods for hand loading them. Literally hand loading as you suggest. I load 28 ga. Anything other than shot loads for 28 is hard to find, so if you want specialty loads, you've got to make them yourself. I've loaded buckshot, round ball, Foster slugs (when I could get them) and flechette loads.

Yes, PB was discontinued by IMR back shortly after Hodgdon took over that line of product. So look on one of those powder burn rate charts that are horizontal with comparisons of products by various powder companies. That will put comparable products in line with each other. I don't have such a chart in front of me, but I'm sure you will find something close like an Alliant product, for example. They're still making powders that they've done for decades. Flake powders, see below.

Some of my comments will be heresy to some but here goes. Shotgun working pressures are significantly lower than centerfire. Consequently, I've never felt the same degree of danger attendant to experimenting myself with various load combinations. Which are surely more variable than centerfire considering the components involved. My feeling is that the result of not using the exact shot shell components will be more one of reduced performance rather than an issue of safety. I would rather stay away from ball type propellants if I were not to use an exact recipe because those powders tend to like being used in certain, exact amounts. Flake powders in my opinion would lend themselves more to load experimentation and development. I don't have a problem with substituting wads that are "close." Mind you, I'm mostly doing the specialty loads. I've patterned some of my loads but only for defensive results. I'm not shooting clay birds with them on a shotgun field. Which sounds about like what you, the OP, are looking into.

I've found in hand loading shot shells that getting enough wad pressure is important. Not getting a wad seated tight enough will get you a blooper, insufficient pressure, the opposite of over pressure. I have a shot shell vise to hold the hull while I'm working it. I use an arbor press and a torque wrench to get my wad pressure right. You can get a cheap made-in-China bench arbor press from Harbor Freight if you don't already have one. The shell vise came from Ballistic Products Inc. I may have gotten my wads from them as well. The petals of which sometimes have to be modded for various specialty loads.

Someone else said it above, you might want to see about getting new, unfired hulls. You can get Fiocchi or similar pretty cheap. They come primed, you don't have to do that or worry about resizing the hull head. Or split or burnt hull mouths. Years ago when I was using a press, unresized hull brass was never a problem for me.

I sprung for the roll crimping tool, I think it's worth it. Also from BPI. Like all reloading tools, if you give up the effort you can get some of your money back out of it later on ebay or whatever.

In my experience, any load data supplied by BPI is apt to be not of much value. I don't know that they are trying to stay current on anything, maybe these days it's a liability issue. Their institutional memory isn't very deep, either. Some years ago, they sold me some 28 ga. Foster slugs. When I ran out, I contacted them about getting some more. I was told they didn't sell them and never had. I got back to them with a picture from their catalog. The employee who responded, "Well I'll be darned."

As to loading full brass shot shells. Oh yes, I've done that too. It's a lot of bother and I never was all that satisfied with the results. I was loading 20 ga. It's a fussy proposition. I was loading them with smokeless powders, maybe people have better luck with BP loads in those.

A long time ago, I had one of those RCBS shot shell die sets. They've been out of production long enough that now they get collector's item prices.
Awesome reply -- thank you. You're completely correct that I want to make the rarer stuff -- buckshot loads to have on hand just in case everything goes nuts.

I actually did buy pre-primed Fiochi shells -- they were something like 16 or 17c each and it seemed like it would reduce labor and headaches for not that much more -- plus by the time the hazmat fee gets added to primers, they aren't all that cheap (at least my recollection is that I didn't have to pay a hazmat for the primed new shells).

I also got the roll crimper. I'll look at the shell vises but will probably just make one -- either 3D printed or CNCed. I did do one practice shell tonight on my drill press just to see how it went with my left hand substituting for a vice. It worked, but a vice I could fix in place would make it less fiddly. I'll also check out the arbor press -- although --- I could make a shell holder for my reloading press and maybe a sort of rod setup that screws into the place dies go. Might be fun.

Anyway, thanks for the post. I feel good about this project.

EDIT: as for BPI's load data -- I must say I was disappointed to pay $15 for a book that one single recipe that applied to my needs, and even then, it requires a powder no longer manufactured. But -- c'est la vie. I've spent more money on worse things.
 

oremike

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The lyman shot shell book has a section buck shot loads. What I found is that you can kind of mix and match a little bit as long as you keep the shot and powder weight in the book. By that I mean an oz of shot is an oz of shot no matter how big the pellets are. What I did was find a light target load for the powder I wanted to use and the right wad for the 4 buck. I was using mixed used shells so this combination worked well in some and not so good in others. Hence the recommendation to use new, same brand shells, once you find what works it's easy to make lots of the same. You can go to the hodgdon reloading website and get an idea of powder charges for shot weight, I was just there and saw there were 21 20 ga loads using Longshot for 7/8 oz loads. One thing to note is Longshot is for heavy field loads so a powder like Clays, Universal, Unique or International might be better suited to your buckshot loads.
 

gmerkt

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my recollection is that I didn't have to pay a hazmat for the primed new shells
Primed hulls don't have to go hazmat, but they are required to be shipped by ground transportation. Ditto primed centerfire brass just for info. Neither one can go in US mail but okay for common carriers.

For my purposes, the primed new hulls were the way to go for the money spent. Plus, in special purpose loads I wasn't gonna be firing them off in huge quantity, not like a practicing wing shooter might.

What I found is that you can kind of mix and match a little bit as long as you keep the shot and powder weight in the book. By that I mean an oz of shot is an oz of shot no matter how big the pellets are. What I did was find a light target load for the powder I wanted to use and the right wad for the 4 buck.
This. An ounce is an ounce. And doesn't much care what kind of wad is holding it.
 
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awshoot
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New question. I am using 2 3/4" shells to load with. I have commercial 2 3/4" Federal #3 buck for reference. My shotgun will chamber 3" shells. I am roll crimping.

If I add sufficient paper wads, I can roll crimp it closed but end up with a shell that is taller than my reference Federal. If I omit the paper wads, I have to cut about 1/4" off the top of the shell, but that allows me to make a shell the same length as the reference Federal.

If I end up with a shell somewhat longer than a 2 3/4" shell and somewhat shorter than a 3" shell, but which will chamber fine, does it matter? In other words -- is it better to build up the wad stack and have slightly oversized shell, or should I cut my shells back so that I can make a standard sized shell? I get there could be problems with long shells in guns that won't take 3 inchers, but I'm only loading for my gun, which will.
 

oremike

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You might be over thinking this a bit, if you take a brand new never fired shell, un crimped and drop it in the chamber it'll fit just fine. As for trimming or not make a couple of each and see how they shoot and feed thru the action.
 
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awshoot
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I tested the velocity of some shotshells. I made sets of three ending at 18 gr. I wish I'd made some 19 and 20 gr loads. My goal is to hit about 1150 FPS. My commercial buckshot loads advertise 1200 (haven't measured though) and I figure if I go a little less, it'll give me some safety margin pressure-wise. These aren't intended for hunting anyway -- just home defense and beyond 20-30 ft, is probably not a defensive range.

My components:
  • Fiochi low base 2.75" shotshell, pre-primed with a Fiochi 616 primer.
  • 20 #3 Buck pellets: (Remmington Field Grade, 395-405 gr range when weighed on a scale, I accepted the shot as I grabbed it rather than try to uniform the overall shot weight).
  • Hodgon Longshot powder, each charge hand weighed.
  • Gualandi wad identified by Precision Reloading as TUWG2120 for 7/8 to 1oz of shot.
  • Two cardboard overshot cards.
  • RTO crimp
I'm not quite there yet but another two or three trips to the range should do it. My hottest load today:

18 gr of powder:
1045 fps
1055 fps
1031 fps

Anyway, another 100 fps and I'll be ready to roll I think.

NOTE: my 16 gr. load used trimmed shells, a cardboard overpowder wad, and GU wad with the petals removed. It averaged 1009 fps which is fairly close to the velocity I got with the untrimmed shells using only the GU wad and 18 gr of powder. I'm thinking the increased velocity means increased pressure with trimmed shells and that using the untrimmed shells is probably safer because it takes more powder to boost the pressure, meaning a small error has less impact on pressure. My 17 gr untrimmed shells were slower than the 16 gr trimmed shells with the 17 gr untrimmed averaging 920 FPS.
 
Last edited:

oremike

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437.5 grains in an ounce, I say this because you can up your shot count and it sounds like you've got plenty of room. If I remember right Longshot is a higher end powder so adding more shot weight might get you where you want to go.
 
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awshoot
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On a side note I just bought a 12 ga so think I might try my hand at loading with out a press. Back in the day I had a 11/4 oz load of #6 shot that was 1300 fps.
Having only done metallic cartridges, I'm surprised at how easy it is -- the large sizes of all the components is a real plus. I've never been much of a shotgunner, but I think by the end of this project, I'll have the bug -- it's turning into a lot of fun. Hmmm ... maybe the reason I've never really gotten into shotguns is because I've never reloaded for them before. Makes me wonder whether I'm a gun nut, or whether shooting is just an excuse to reload.
 
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awshoot
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More testing. All variables same as above except for powder weight (all shells untrimmed). I also set up a target 15 paces away and patterned the shot with a new sheet of 14" square paper for each shell. I counted the number of pellet holes. I was using a cylinder choke for all shots.

GrainsFPSFPSFPS
18.5117611701158
Pellet Holes for above ->14 (aim too low)8 (aim too low)19
19.0116211901184
Pellet Holes for above ->161315
19.5117011281180
Pellet Holes for above ->161915 (aim off center)

Tested my Federal commercial buckshot shells: 1227 and 1243 fps. Each achieved 20 pellets on a 14" square paper. Visibly tighter group than my loads. The Federal do not use a petaled wad, but are buffered.

I've read that Longshot is a slow burning powder and read of people complaining of muzzle flash and loudness. In looking at these results, I seem to have peak velocity with 18.5 gr. with only a slight increase at 19.0 gr. and an actual decrease with 19.5 -- as if extra powder was just expelled perhaps? It is quite the jump from my 18 gr. tests yesterday which averaged 1044 fps, and my 18.5 gr shots today which averaged 1168 fps. I think for my next test I'll try 18.1, 18.3, 18.7, and 18.8.

I am interested in what techniques can be used to tighten up the pattern, if anyone has suggestions.
 

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