Reloading Shotgun Shells: With Non-Toxics, Stick to the Load Data


If you are already familiar with the basics of reloading, you probably know that non-toxic loads are a little different in composition – in the load data or recipe – and that you can never simply substitute ingredients: using steel in a lead load, or a different primer or hull because you have a few left over. Switching ingredients or volumes, or something as simple as a wad type, may cause your load to perform poorly … or even disastrously. If the load data calls for a Windjammer WJI 20078 and you are out of this particular wad, find another recipe. If there is one universal caution before beginning this discussion, it is to stick tight to the load data.

Plated shot is not non-toxic. Plated shot is simply a lead ball with a fine coating or wash of copper or nickel. The intent is to give soft pellets better flight and penetration characteristics by giving them a harder coating and thus preventing their acquiring flat spots during the shot. The practical effects are difficult to demonstrate without resorting to a pattern board.

Also, should you decide to hand load shotshells, be cautious about taking advice. A 12-gauge load develops barrel pressures between 6500 and 11000 psi. Rifle and handgun loads, even a .22 Hornet or a standard police-carry .40 S&W, operate at significantly higher pressures, two or three times safe shotgun levels, and one body of knowledge does not translate into another shooting medium. Beware also of individuals who are casual in their approach to loading shells. Freelance at your own risk!

Stick to the Load Data

Regarding load data for non-toxic shot, adhere strictly to established loading recipes. They will most likely spell out ingredients very specifically as in these examples, randomly selected 12-gauge loads from Alliant’s reloading manual for Steel Power which was formulated specifically for steel shot:

  1. 2 ¾-inch steel: Remington Nitro Mag hull and Federal 209A primer filled with 29.5 gr. of Alliant Steel powder, a TUPRW12 wad from Precision Reloading, and 1 1/8-ounce of steel shot, gives 1361 fps with safe barrel pressures of about 10,400 psi.
  2. 3-inch bismuth: Remington SPELV Yellow BW hull and Federal 209A primer filled with 45 gr. of Alliant Steel powder, a Rem RP12 wad, and 1 ½-ounce of bismuth shot gives 1441 fps with only slightly higher 10,700 psi.
  3. 3-inch Hevi-Shot: Fed 7/16 Paper BW hull and Federal 209A primer filled with 33 gr. of Alliant Steel powder, a TUPR23 (orange) wad from Precision Reloading, and 1 ½-ounce of Hevi-Shot, gives 1274 fps with 10,500 psi. The load requires a ¼-inch thick felt spacer under the shot for additional cushion and to take up space in the shell column.

~ from Gun Digest Book of Green Shooting by Rick Sapp

Get Started in Reloading:

44-Targetposters-pack-GD-reduced-300NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Storm Tactical Printable Target Pack

62 Printable MOA Targets with DOT Drills - Rifle Range in YARDS This impressive target pack from our friends at Storm Tactical contains 62 printable targets for rifle and handgun range use. Target grids and bullseye sizes are in MOA. Ideal for long-range shooting!

Subscribe to the Gun Digest email newsletter and we'll send your print-at-home target pack right away. Just enter your email address below.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.