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Thread: Help me get started with round ball loads for 12 and 20 gauge

  1. #1
    Boolit Man



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    Help me get started with round ball loads for 12 and 20 gauge

    Friends,

    I'm throwing in the towel on the Lee key drive molds. I can't get them to shoot worth a darn in smoothbore guns; i don't want to buy a rifled barrel or rifled shotgun.

    i want to try out the round ball technique. I've read Ajay's long thread and a bunch of others, including Longshot's advice. i'm really looking for simple getting started guidance that will help me buy the right round ball molds and load accurate slugs. not interested in blazing velocities, just accurate -- if it has to go fast to be accurate, that's fine too.

    you'll see my post count is low. I have been loading metallic cartridges for more than a decade. I have loaded 10's of thousands of shotgun shells in all 4 skeet gauges. I'm pretty comfortable with the fundamentals. I use claybuster wads and remington or winchester hulls exclusively.

    I want to use fold crimp and standard wads for simplicity, if that is at all possible.

    I will also consider using big bullets, i.e., 45-70 or larger caliber bullets. would prefer to stick with affordable Lee molds.

    thanks for your help.

    -john

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    My best three round ball loads are:

    - 0.662" patched in shotcup
    - 0.678" in shotcup
    - 0.735" naked over hard card wad column and plastic gas seal

    Personally I have not had good success with 0.690" ball but several others have. I find that the 0.690" ball is too tight a fit with any shotcups I have. Even some that seem to provide reasonable slide fit have not worked for me.

    Having said that, I think the same principles hold true for round ball loads of any kind ~ the ball has to be centered firmly in the bore and the fit should be a "snug" sliding fit with no "rattle".

    In my experience, the round ball needs a solid platform to perform well. If loaded into a shotcup then at least one 1/8" nitro card wad should be under the ball and two is better. Also a small scoop of cornmeal or Cream 'O Wheat over the card wad(s) makes a nice seat for the ball and seems to help as well.

    For an inexpensive mould, you can't beat the Lee 0.690" ball mould but it will require thin petal shotcups to give a sliding fit in the bore. BPI has a load recipe using 0.690" ball in one of their shotcups and I read good things about Federal wads too so that is a possibility. Brush wads are another option I have not tried. VdoMemorie (Ajay) has posted lots of good info on slug and ball fits with different wads... unfortunately I can't find the threads on 12 ga. balls. If you do a search you will come up with lots and he may post here as well.

    I like the 0.678" ball mould as it fits most standard shotcups well and is just over 1 oz. so there are lots of available slug recipes that are suitable for use.

    Also, you can replace an equal weight of shot with a slug/ball though it will be somewhat lower velocity than slug specific loads. This allows you to use pretty much any published birdshot recipe for 1 1/8" oz. shot safely. You just need to adjust ball height for good crimp.

    If you have a choke then the ball/shotcup combo has to fit through the choke with not too much effort or accuracy will likely suffer.

    Using smoothbore you need a drag stabilized slug or round ball to get any sort of accuracy. Solid boolits will tumble.

    So, if you want an inexpensive mould then there is the Lee 0.690" ball mould which may take some fiddling with shotcups to get it to work or you might look at:

    http://www.trackofthewolf.com/Catego...1/MOLD-BAG-680

    This one should fit standard shotcups.

    Otherwise, Lyman and RCBS both make 0.678" ball moulds but they are considerably more expensive.

    My good ball loads produce 3" to 4" groups at 50 yards which is better than most hollow based slugs I have tried.

    I should ask what group size you are getting from Lee slugs? Also, what load recipes are you using?

    So far I am getting about 6" groups at 50 yards but have not done much experimenting with wads and loads yet.

    Longbow

  3. #3
    Boolit Man



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    Longbow


    Thanks for your reply. I find your posts informative and exceptionally clear.

    By drag stabilized ball or slug do you mean what you describe here: http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...ew-Slug-Family ?

    Does this mean a simple ball in shot cup is a pointless effort?

    I am getting one foot groups using the lee supplied data for 1 ounce drive key. I have used blue dot and unique/universal. I find unique and universal interchangeable in most applications so long as they aren't near max loads. I also tried my Clays and Titewad data for 1-1/8 trap loads. No luck with that either.

    I am looking for 3 shot groups that stay on a 4x6 inch card at 50 yards, and less than 8 inches at 75 yards. That doesn't seem too much to ask of a handload.

    I am partial to Hodgdon powders for shotguns. I will use others but need a good reason to do it. I am going to make an excursion with 4756 for 38 super as soon as I can find some, so I can try that in a slug too.

    I would like to stay with the 2-3/4 inch hull for convenience. I can easily get federal top gun hulls if they might work better. The downside is the need to buy a straight-walled wad. I like to standardize wherever possible but poor accuracy is false economy.

    Thanks

    -john

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    Sorry, I guess I'm not as clear as I could be this time.

    No, I meant round ball or drag stabilized slug.

    The Lee Drive Key slu, Lyman Foster slug, Brenneke, Gualandi and other hollow base or attached wad slugs are drag stabilized.

    The plain old round ball does just fine out to at least 50 yards as long as it leaves the barrel centered and not bouncing or spinning. Any ball that fits reasonably well into a shotcup should produce 6" or smaller groups at 50 yards.

    My good round ball loads as well as those of Missionary5155 and some others are around the 3" to 4" group size at 50 yards. To be honest, I have not shot a lot past 50 yards with the round ball loads but plan to see what the maximum range is before groups start to open up. Goodsteel was getting pie plate sized groups with bore size round ball at 100 yards or possibly further. I also read of smoothbore musket shooters getting groups of 3" at 75 yards and some competing with rifles to 100 yards so it can be done.

    I think I can say that groups of under 6" at 50 yards with round ball should be fairly easy to achieve. However, I have not found the same for home cast and loaded hollow base slugs. Keeping groups under about 8" has been a challenge for me anyway. I will be doing some more testing to see if I can improve on that but so far round balls and attached wad slugs have given me better results than most (not all) hollow base slugs.

    For ease of casting and loading though it is hard to beat a round ball in a standard shotcup... with some help form nitro card wads and COW of course!

    I can't say much about Unique and slugs because for the most part I have been using Blue Dot and more recently IMR4756. However, with a 1 oz. to 1 1/8 oz. slug Unique should be fine.

    You might try some different wads to see if they improve groups before abandoning the Lee slug. Fit to barrel is important. Another trick that may work is to turn the Lee slug into a Brenneke like slug by adding a hot melt glue "skirt". I made forms up from CPVC couplings bored to suit the slug and groups were smaller than with the as cast slug. More testing is required though as that is based on very limited shooting and no playing with components to tune loads.

    Sorry, got to go. I am probably getting too wordy anyway.

    Longbow

  5. #5
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    Seriously, if you can find a Lyman .735 RB mold, just buy that sucker! Good times!

    We were shooting RB out to 130 yards, and most of them went right where we were aiming (in about a 12"-18" circle) I mean for 130 yards with no rifling whatsoever, and no sights other than the front bead, and a gob of plumbers epoxy for a rear, that was impressive! I noticed that the first two were always pretty darn consistent, but the barrel got warm and the groups would really open up after 5 shots. We'd just go to the pond and use our hands to dump water on the barrel to cool it off, and then we'd go again!
    Seems like after just about every shot, my buddy and I are standing there shaking our heads and laughing cause we can't believe how accurate this 20" barreled shotgun is. I mean, I've seen rifles (like Rugers) that can't shoot that good strait from the factory.
    Last edited by goodsteel; 03-09-2013 at 08:53 AM.
    Tim Malcolm

    Cast boolits are the most effective projectile ever devised by man.
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...e-in-the-world

    There is no such thing as magic. Magic is just good science, badly explained.

    "Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them" - Albert Einstein

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    Thanks for the link Longbow. They have a .710 that might patch up to 12 Ga. too.
    Not to hijack a thread, but having not yet bought a 12 Ga. press, I googled "homemade hull vise" and found an improvised hull vise, made from scrap lumber, an improvised roll crimper made from a 3/4 inch socket and a 5/16 carriage bolt and an improvised guide for trimming hulls.
    Anybody here used anything like these?
    Bill
    Micah 6:8
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  7. #7
    The simplest roound ball loads I have ever used were the ones I first started with:

    Lee .690 round ball loaded in the LB12 Light Brush Wad from Ballistic Products.

    The balls cast right at .690 and weigh 490grs cast from range scrap. The LB12 has a very short cup that cradles the ball and centers it very well. Some people have used felt wads or filler inder the ball, but I havent found it necessary.

    The LB12 has less bearing surface than any wad with a full shotcup, and you can use almost any data for 1 1/8 ounce loads. It's designed for straight wall hulls but also loads well in the tapered Remington and Winchesters. Roll or fold crimp, whatever you want.

    I have been shooting these over 22-26grs Unique, and later today will load some over Longshot for some faster loads. I may also try Alliant Steel.

    The RB/LB12 combo is the fastest, easiest loading thing you will ever put together, and most any reasonable load puts them into 3-4 inch groups. It shoots so well that I have really not experimented to try for better accuracy.

    I run most of these through a Mossberg 930 SPX and they do equally well in my old Mossberg 500 smoothbore.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master

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    I gotta order me some of those brush wads! That is something I have not tried.

    You should be able to use any equal weight lug load data for those too. In fact Lyman sabot slug loads produce some pretty speedy slugs and that 0.690" round ball is lighter so would be safe with those loads.

    Also, William Yanda ~ I have not done this but several people have posted about patching balls up to bore size. The method is about the same as patching for a muzzleloader. First the hull is loaded with primer, powder and wads (no shotcup), then pre cut patching cloth is placed over the mouth of the hull, ball pushed in so patch wraps evenly then seated with press.

    Now, I would have figured that patch would peel off due to rough hull/opening crimp/jump through forcing cone but from what I have read it works well so that is certainly another option. In fact thanks for reminding me because I have been intending to try it with my 0.690" and 0.715" RB's.

    Of course this would only work for cylinder bore barrels as there would be little give if the patched ball met a choke.

    Tim: What were you using for wad column? I remember your thread but I don't recall specifics. I have found a plastic gas seal and hard card wad column gave me best results with 0.735" RB. I tried cushion legs and also soft fiber wads, both with poor results.

    One other comment I will throw in here. I always look for wads after shooting especially if accuracy is off. I find that some gas seals (like Win AA Red) tend to fail at the thin edge of the lip. Stiffer and thicker gas seals have done better for me.

    Longbow

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by longbow View Post
    I gotta order me some of those brush wads! That is something I have not tried.

    One other comment I will throw in here. I always look for wads after shooting especially if accuracy is off. I find that some gas seals (like Win AA Red) tend to fail at the thin edge of the lip. Stiffer and thicker gas seals have done better for me.

    Longbow
    One other good thing about the LB12's, when you find them most could be loaded and shot again, there is almost no damage to the wad.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    Cerberus62:

    Have you ever checked the cup size as to suitability for different ball diameters?

    Some use cut off inverted shotcups under the ball but none of the wads I have or have seen have small enough cups for balls of even 0.690" diameter.

    My 0.678" balls fit about perfectly in several shotcups I have but I like the idea of the brush wads. I guess I should just order a bag and try them. None available locally. I can always use them up some other way if they don't suit my balls (now that just sounds rude!).

    Longbow

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by longbow View Post
    Tim: What were you using for wad column? I remember your thread but I don't recall specifics. I have found a plastic gas seal and hard card wad column gave me best results with 0.735" RB. I tried cushion legs and also soft fiber wads, both with poor results.
    Longbow
    I used Win AA hulls, Fed 12S4 wads with the pettles removed, and 1.6CC of COW between the ball and the wad. Powder was SR4756. Primer was Remington. Absolutely a hienz 57 of a load, but it worked like a charm.
    The biggest thing with RB loads in shotguns seems to be fit (surprise, surprize) The ball, wad, and any other junk, needs to fit the barrel properly, and the whole mess needs to fit the shell properly. What is "proper" fit? sorry still figuring that out, but I can say that the components were a very tight fit in the barrel and were neither loose nor squished tight in the shell, especially when the support die was around the shell as the crimp was laid in. It needs to go together like it was born there.
    Tim Malcolm

    Cast boolits are the most effective projectile ever devised by man.
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...e-in-the-world

    There is no such thing as magic. Magic is just good science, badly explained.

    "Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them" - Albert Einstein

  12. #12
    Boolit Master

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    Goodsteel:

    There's another wad I have not used as they are not available locally. I should just order a bag of BPI brush wads and Federal wads to try as both get good reviews.

    As for fit, generally I have had best results with slugs and balls in shotcups when they are a loose slide fit... almost loose enough to drop through but no significant "rattle". A bit contrary to Ajay's recommendations but it may be a shotcup/forcing cone/bore issue. I find with snug fit shotcup petals tend to get damaged.

    With 0.735" RB (which obviously is a "snug" fit to bore) I have had best results using hard card wads with a plastic gas seal. Any soft wads or cushion legs did not do as well for me. And yup! COW under the ball seems to help almost always.

    The 0.735" RB's were particularly accurate in a borrowed rifled gun. Not sure why anyone would want anything more "complicated" unless they want a really heavy slug. I suspect a 0.735" RB (585 grs.) at 1200 to 1400 FPS is plenty for most uses.

    There again, I did not use Federal wads and according to turbo1889, the Federal cushion leg is one of the best for slug shooting. Another one I have to get around to trying!

    Longbow
    Last edited by longbow; 03-10-2013 at 08:21 PM. Reason: Typo in Goodsteel's name!

  13. #13
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    Yes, the federal has a complex honeycomb for the bottom section. It demands a strait crush, and can't get too much of an angle on it at all. I thought it looked ideal for this application.
    Tim Malcolm

    Cast boolits are the most effective projectile ever devised by man.
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...e-in-the-world

    There is no such thing as magic. Magic is just good science, badly explained.

    "Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them" - Albert Einstein

  14. #14
    Boolit Man



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    Thanks for the great help.

    Anyone shooting balls thru the 20 gauge?

  15. #15
    Boolit Man



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    Goodsteel
    You got me thinking. I used touse federal 12SO wads quite a bit. Might be worth getting a bag of federal wads for this excursion if they hold up the best. I think my first effort will be with complete wads if I can find a ball that will fit. All of my guns have choke tubes, except my stoeger which is IC and mod side by side.

    As noted earlier, the Winchester and remington wads have very thin edges on the gas seal. Pretty sorry actually. Easy to see gas cutting on fired wads.

    Thanks again for helping me get started.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Yep. .600 balls with simply a gas check (or overpowder card) and cushioned with Cream of Wheat above and below the check. Works great! (For 20 ga that is.)

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    2 and 3 .6 round balls work good for 12 ga...

  18. #18
    Boolit Man



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    Thanks slingshot. Any idea where to get a mold?

    I came to the 20 gauge field gun late in life and totally by accident. Got "ripped off" on gunbroker by an auction listed as a 12 gage 870. Turned it to be a 20 gage 870 EXPRESS. Well at lest I got to keep the gun. No other recourse.

    Anyway, I started shooting the 20 in the woods after I recovered from surgery to fix a bad neck injury from My last (hopefully) deployment. I needed a lighter low recoil gun and I sure couldn't do that with my skeet gun me sub gage tubes. Turns out I really dig carrying a light gun that will get the job done for upland game. I thought it would be a good slug gun too.

    Of course I want to learn how to make solids for my 12 gage too.

    Tinkering in the garage and loading good ammo is getting to be more fun than shooting it. The learning is what give me a real sense of accomplishment. This forum is a great source of inspiration and information.

    -John

  19. #19
    Boolit Master



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    Check out Ajay's thread - plenty of 20 gauge info/data/diagrams/photos
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...-Blazing-Sabot!
    I would start with the newest/last page
    "Had his shooting been as good as his running, he might have given a better account of himself."
    James. C. Henderson

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by longbow View Post
    Cerberus62:

    Have you ever checked the cup size as to suitability for different ball diameters?

    Some use cut off inverted shotcups under the ball but none of the wads I have or have seen have small enough cups for balls of even 0.690" diameter.

    My 0.678" balls fit about perfectly in several shotcups I have but I like the idea of the brush wads. I guess I should just order a bag and try them. None available locally. I can always use them up some other way if they don't suit my balls (now that just sounds rude!).

    Longbow
    Sorry for the late reply. I went out and measured a couple and the dimensions run like this:

    Cup Depth = .270"
    Cup Diameter inside at base = .580-.585"
    Cup Diameter inside at top = .665-.670"
    Cup Diameter External = .720"

    Being a bi-directional unit, both ends are the same.

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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
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