Shotgun Reloading Supplies


Everyone now must make the choice between the “red reloading pill” and the “blue factory pill” because the pandemic has changed everything about getting supplies for shotgun and rifles.

With supplies dwindling on store shelves, many hunters and target shooters must make the choice of either to stop shooting or join the ranks of shotgun and rifle reloaders. Supplies of all kinds of bullets and shotgun shells will be limited because supply chains are broken all over the world. Companies that “globalized” their supplies are now reaping the consequences of that approach. Other companies who maintained a vertically integrated business model and ensured that suppliers of raw materials were nearby have been able to continue production, though transportation to the market remains a problem.

This has resulted in shotshell reloading supplies such as shot, Claybuster wads, shotshell realoders, powder measure, powder bushings, smokeless powders, buckshot and more are in short supply because some on the manufacturers have also globalized and cannot get the necessary materials to make their products. In normal circumstances marketing and sales is the problem most businesses must keep in focus, but in these abnormal circumstances sales are not a problem, but supplies are.

If someone wants to get shotshell reloading supplies, a reloading kit, shotgun reloading data, reloading powder or magnum lead shot for instance, to make their own ammunition, they must first determine what they need and are willing to spend, and then find a merchant that has what they need. The problem at present is that though someone can determine what they need by getting and reading a good reloading manual, finding a merchant that has what they need is a much larger problem now than pre-pandemic, and prices everywhere have gone up through the simple dynamic of supply and demand.

All this is complicated by the fact that international borders are not transparent to shipment of reloading components or ammunition, and unlike a shirt, components or loaded shotshells cannot be ordered on Amazon and be delivered a few days later.

To narrow the focus of this article to a manageable size, the following suggestions apply to Canada and to shotgun reloading supplies. Variables include options for different loads, types of supplies available such as primers, hulls, wads, powder, delivery or shipping costs.

Shotshell Reloading 12 Gauge (Lead)

First it must be acknowledged that making 12ga 2 ¾” target shotgun hulls is not a particularly good economic argument for reloading: if you can make a box of 12ga 1 1/8 oz target ammo for about $8.00 per box (25) and you can buy it for about $9.00, a saving of $1.00 per box cannot justify the initial expenditure for equipment ($500.00 +/-) to start reloading. However, it must be remembered that it is foolish to compare apples to oranges, and bargain loaded ammo is far inferior to high quality handloaded ammo which costs less. Note that lead reloading equipment can only be used to load lead and bismuth.

Shotgun Reloading 12 ga / 10 ga (Steel/ Non-Toxic Shot)

Handloading steel shotshell hulls for waterfowl is a vastly different proposition, since a box of high velocity, high quality loaded 12ga 2 ¾” steel shotshell hulls costs about $10.00 to make and a comparable factory product will cost $20.00, the saving of $10.00 per box can easily justify getting the equipment ($800.00) to reload steel ammo, which incidentally can be used to load lead, tungsten, or bismuth. A MEC Reloader called the Steelmaster Press 12ga 3 ½” can be used to load 12ga 2 ¾”, 3” and 3 ½” shells.

The saving by loading 12ga 3” steel at $12.00/box vs $25.00 +/- box factory, and 12ga 3 ½” steel at $15.00/box vs $35.00 +/- makes an excellent economic argument for reloading. Added to the economics is the fact that handloaded steel can be made with far more variety and higher quality that can be found in stores.

Some important details in selecting a steel load are: “Speed Kills!” a lighter, higher velocity load is far more effective that a heavier, lower velocity load. A goose hit with 10 steel pellets that come out with a muzzle velocity of 1400 fps will not be as effective as a goose hit with 4 steel pellets that came out will a muzzle velocity of 1600fps. A load that has high velocity, but low pressure will pattern better and have less felt recoil than a load with the same velocity but high pressure.

Find out what your gun likes. Specific loads will perform better in specific guns than the same load in another gun. Take the time to do some work with a pattern board and chronograph to see what loads your gun likes/dislikes and you will be rewarded amply for the extra time and effort spent in preparation when you are in the field.

The 12ga bore will shoot steel shot from BBB to #6 reasonably well, but some guns will shoot B shot very well (good pattern coverage) and not shoot BB. Other guns will shoot #4 shot very well but not #6. The heaviest steel shot #T, #TT and #F do not usually perform very well in a 12 bore, but the 10 bore can shoot the heaviest steel very well.

Some field testing of 10 bore and #T shot have provided very impressive results. An important detail in this is that in a 10ga, the heaviest shot can be loaded with a lower velocity and a heavier load because the heavy pellets retain energy better than smaller pellets, and pattern coverage is more of an issue than with smaller pellets.

Shotgun Reloading .410 bore, 28 ga, 20 ga and 16 ga (Lead)

As soon as potential hand loaders start to consider the economics of loading shotshell hulls for any of the other gauges than 12ga, the economics take a quantum leap.

For example, lead loads for 410 bore can be made for about $4.00/box vs $25.00/box factory (if it can be found), 28ga $5.00/box vs $20.00/box, 16ga $7.00/box vs $20.00/box and 10ga $18.00/box vs $40.00/box. The outlier here is the 20ga which can be loaded for $6.00/box vs $10.00/box, but only if supplies of 20ga ammo are available and in a load that matches the needs of the shooter.

Shotshell Reloading .410, 28 ga, 20 ga and 16 ga (Steel)

Some of the same principles for loading steel apply to lead: when hunting, high velocity loads perform better than low velocity loads. Low pressure loads will pattern better and have less felt recoil. Specific loads will perform better in a specific gun: find out what your gun likes.

Loading steel in 410 bore and 28ga can be done, but the results are not very good. If you want to use small bores to hunt waterfowl, bismuth and tungsten shot are a much better choice and will be the subject of another article.

20ga 2 ¾” steel ammo can be loaded for about $8.00/box vs $16.00/box, but 20ga 3” $9.00/box vs $20.00/box is a much better choice if you have a 3” gun. #B steel is about the heaviest shot for the 20ga 3”, but #1 and #2 are better choices for geese, and #3 and #4 are the best choices for ducks. In one instance, a friend’s gun really likes #5 steel and since he uses a light, fast load, this is not surprizing.

16ga 2 ¾” steel ammo can be loaded for $10.00/box vs $25.00/box if you can find 16ga steel ammo. The 16ga is far more effective than many waterfowl hunters think, and #BB, #B, and #1 shot all perform in a 16ga, though #B seems to pattern particularly well. A light, fast 16ga #4 steel load, seems to be effective on ducks, and #2 and #3 could also be used. The key point here is that 16ga steel ammo is hard to come by, and hand-rolled 16ga allows the hunter to make what is needed to suit his gun and hunting conditions.

It is hoped that the shortages and supply problems for ammo and components will fade with the end of the pandemic. But it seems that many things in the world will not go back to “normal”. Some companies that were consistent, established suppliers of components and reloading equipment were locked down, and now will not reopen. Others have changed hands and will not be producing the same ammo or components in the future. Adapting to change is a skill that many people have lost, and it is times like this that brings the ability to adapt back into use.

We are fortunate that Ballistic Products and MEC (MEC Outdoors) continue to operate and can supply us with shotgun reloading supplies and reloading equipment in limited quantities. We ship powders, steel and lead shots, non-toxic shot, powders, primers and other featured products across Canada. Shipping is determined by weight and size of box, and there are no hazmat fees.

As the only official importer to Canada of Ballistic Products, we look forward to receiving your orders and we will do our best to accommodate your requests.

Don't forget we are a gun dealer that imports firearms (shotgun and rifle) in all gauges and various calbers.