Don’t be a Turkey! Know your Shot Size & What’s in your Shotgun Shells


Don’t be a Turkey! Know your Shot Size & What’s in your Shotgun Shells

As we are approaching the spring turkey season you might assess your personal stash of shotgun shells and realize you are getting low. So it is time for a trip to your local gun store, but then what? There are lots of different shot sizes that can be found in shotgun shells all with different intended purposes. Some can be so small its difficult to pick them up with your fingers while others can be nearly the size of a marble. As the old adage goes there’s always a right tool for the job, so which shotgun shells do you buy? Regardless of the length or caliber of the shotgun shell, whether its a small 2.5″ .410 Gauge shell or a big 3.5″ 10 Gauge shell, knowing your shot size and its applications are key. This is valuable not only for turkey hunting, but all of your hunting seasons.

The literal size of the shot inside shotgun shells can vary considerably when we begin to speak exact numbers. Some shot sizes are huge and you will never see them in turkey shells while others are so small you may have never heard of them at all. Here is a simple breakdown of shot size from heavy self-defense loads to small target loads.

shot size

Its sometimes nice to see the numbers behind… ahem, the numbers, to bring more clarity to a sometimes murky topic. If this still doesn’t give much of a frame of mind for you, think of this. If a shotgun shell for any caliber is a fixed size (fixed capacity or volume) by changing the size of the shot inside; thus, the number of pellets, you can accomplish different things.

The large “000 Buck” size shot is great for large fur-bearing animals like fox, coyote, or even personal home defense. This is because you need a larger projectile to take down larger game like fox or coyote. The small #9 size shot is great for smaller animals like quail, snipe, and even turkey considering you are aiming for their small head. With this smaller shot size you can throw more pellets at your target (can fit more in the shell because of the smaller size shot). To better understand how many pellets are leaving your shotgun based on the shot size, here is another helpful table.

shot size

By knowing that the further you shoot the larger your pattern is going to become, you can begin to appreciate the #9 shot size having 579 pellets on your target! That’s a whole lot of pellets to nail a small turkey’s head with if he is strutting his stuff 60 yards away! Oppositely, the large, but small in volume “000 Buck” shot size definitely packs one hell of a punch, but most people do not shoot it over great distances. With only 6 pellets you could make a perfectly placed shot on a coyote and miss because the pattern is all around him.

The final consideration for most hunters is what caliber to shoot for turkey hunting: 10, 12, 16, 20, 28, or .410 Gauge. The most common calibers people are tagging turkeys with are 12, 20, and .410 Gauge, but which is the perfect one? The one you can shoot most comfortably and accurately. There is no perfect choice, but you should never have a flinch response and you should be confident you will make a clean, ethical shot every time you pull the trigger.

So what do you guys and gals think? Were some of these graphics pretty helpful to put things into perspective or were you up to speed on most of this? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate feedback.


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