Shotguns are the go to weapon for hunters, home security or personal defense. They are fun to operate, easy to use and not so difficult to maintain. You just shoot ammo out of it, place in new shells and repeat. The shell contains shots of different weights and sizes, which cover different distances and work on separate targets.
After releasing the shots contained inside, the shells are shot out of the gun’s barrel. Usually these shells get too damaged to be reused or refilled with powder and shot. But sometimes shells remain in reusable conditions. You can reuse these shells by: refilling them with gun powder, shot and wad.
But to reload a shell, you’ll first need to check if your shells are reusable or not.
How to Check If Your Shotshell Is Reusable or Not?
The shotshell is usually made of plastic and has a brass base or a brass plated steel base. When used up, this plastic case is distorted, sometimes broken and the brass plating may fall off. From these shells you’ll need to select the ones that aren’t too deformed or too caved in. If the shell is too deformed, it is not suitable for reloading.
How Much Will It Cost To Reload A Shotgun Shell?
The materials you’ll need to hand load shotgun shells are:
- Plastic wads
- A press
Before you start buying all the needed components, you’ll need to calculate how much it’ll cost you to reload a shell. For this you’ll have to consider the prices individually for each item. As you’re reloading, you have to select hulls that are in repacking condition, not too deformed from their previous usage.
First, you’ll need to purchase a press.
A shotshell press is a machine that helps you deprime, prime, load and crimp your shotshell cartridge. You can purchase a single-stage or a progressive shotshell press.
Single-stage shotshell presses work on one cartridge at a time, you’ll need to manually move the shell each time you’re depriming, loading powder, loading your shots, putting in the wad and crimping the cartridge close. It may take you around 30 seconds to repack each shell. You can purchase single-stage shotshell presses for prices starting from $64.
A progressive shotgun shell press will let you load, deprime, crip and wad multiple shells simultaneously. This makes mass preparation of reloaded shells easier and saves you a lot of time. Progressive shotgun reloaders are a bit on the expensive side as you can use them for professional preparation of shotshells. The prices usually start from $600 and climb higher.
Depending on what sort of shot you’re purchasing, the material and your gauge size, your price will vary.
Usually 12 gauge and 20 gauge birdshot prices start from around $70 a bag which weighs 25 lbs. Buckshots for 12 gauge shells are around $170 per box which will last you around 25 rounds.
Make sure to check out different shots, compare the prices and then select the one which works best for you.
Primers, Wads And Powder Cost
Primers can be bought for around $55-$60 a box, containing 1000 pieces. You can even purchase a larger number of primers for $250-$300, containing 5000 pieces per box.
Plastic wads would cost you around $40-$50 a box, 500 pieces packed in each.
Shotgun powder costs around $20-$30 for 1lb. You can buy a long lasting supply of 8 lbs for $120-$160.
After you’ve planned out a budget and chosen all your materials, you’re ready to start repacking shotgun shells.
How To Hand Load Shotgun Shells?
Firstly get your hull ready. Remember to check for any damage on it, if there’s any breakage on your cartridge, pick another one. I’ll be talking about reloading shotshells using a single stage press.
Step 1: Deprime the shell
Fit the cartridge in the slot at the front to deprime it. Bring the press down so that the old primer pops out. Replace it with a new primer and use the press to fit it into place.
Step 2: Add new powder
Move the cartridge to the slot for the powder and bring the press down. But don’t close the press all the way down, leave a little space on the top, maybe just bring it halfway down. Slide the slider on the powder holder to release powder into your cartridge.
Step 3: Fix the wad
Move the cartridge into the slot for wad fixing and bring down the press to seal the powder. This will prevent your shots and powder from mixing with each other. You wouldn’t want that mess.
Step 4: Fill with shots
Just like with the powder, don’t pull the press all the way down. Just bring it halfway and then release the shots on top of the wad.
You’ll need to check the cartridge to make sure the right amount of pellets are in it before crimping it shut. If you feel like there’s way too many pellets, just take a few off with your hand, eyeballing the right amount. Overfilling the cartridge would cause problems when you’re crimping it closed and also make it heavier than it should be.
Step 5: Crimp it
Move the loaded hull into the last slot and pull the press down, shaping the cartridge and making its mouth narrower.
Here’s a tip: try keeping one of the creases towards yourself. This helps you later when you’re gonna align the cartridge for the second crimping.
After the first crimping, choose the same crease as before and keep it turned towards you when you put the cartridge back into the crimping slot. After the second crimping, your shotshell is now crimped, closed and ready to be shot at whichever target you’ve picked.
If you’d like a visual on these instructions, check out this video.
This simple 5 step process will work if you’re trying to reload a 20 gauge, 12 gauge or .410 gauge shotshells.
However, there is another way of reloading a .410 gauge shell without using a press.
How To Reload .410 Shotgun Shells Using A Loader?
If you don’t want to buy a press or simply don’t want to put in the effort of pulling down one, you can try purchasing a loader. It has more steps though so be prepared for a memory jog!
Things you’ll need to reload shotgun shells using a manual loader:
- A loader kit
- .410 gauge hull
- Smokeless powder
- Funnel large enough to fit through a .410 hull
- A rubber/plastic/wood mallet
- A cartridge reloading block to keep the hulls upright
- Powder container
- Powder measuring cap and shot measuring cap
i) Deprime your used shell: First you’ll need to deprime your used hull. Grab the diabody tool from the loader kit and take out the rammer. Cover the hull with the diabody and go all the way till the hull is inside the tool. Insert the decapping rod through the top hole of the diabody and tap with the mallet till the primer pops out the other end.
After you’ve removed the used primer, grab a new primer and place it under the hull. Place the recapping rod back in, this time in an upside down position so the hole is at the bottom. Grab the mallet and tap the rod to install the primer.
ii) Fill the cartridge with gunpowder: Once the primer is in place, you’re ready to fill your cartridge with powder. Use your powder measuring cap to fill the bottom of the hull with powder and keep it in the cartridge holder after shaking it a bit, to level the powder.
iii) Place the wad: After placing in powder, you need to seal it with a plastic wad. Your hull’s mouth may not be open enough to accomodate a new wad. Your tool kit should include an object for opening up the mouth more. Insert it into the hull’s mouth and move it around to make space. Fit the wads into the hulls and place the hull into the diabody. Use the rammer to press the wads safely into place.
iv) Fill with pellets: After securing the wad, use a measuring cap to put the .410 gauge pellets into the cartridge. Fit only the amount of pellets carried by your .410 gauge cap and avoid overflow.
v) Crimp the cartridge shut: Finally all that’s left to do is crimp or curl your hull closed. Put the hull inside the diabody tool and place it on top of the tiny spacer tool provided within the kit. Press the diabody tool down to make the hull’s mouth crimp. Once the crimp is narrow enough, use the rammer to press the crimp down and seal the hull’s mouth.
If you want to curl your hull closed, place a covering cap on top of the pellets and curl the cartridge mouth using the diabody tool. Use the rammer at the end to curl the mouth closed. This process takes a lot of effort though and I recommend crimping your hulls closed instead.
That was a lot to take in so here’s a video to help you understand the process better.
Well that’s it! Now you know how to reload 20 gauge, 12 gauge and .410 shotgun shells.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Many Grains Of Powder In A Shotgun Shell?
This depends on what brand of powder you’re using and what size gauge you’re using. Some 12 gauge shotshells use 1 ounce of powder while some can require 7 or 8 ounces per round.
How Much Is A Box Of Shotgun Shells?
Depending on what size shells you’re buying, what brand or what color you’re buying, shotgun prices will fluctuate. Usually a box of birdshot weighing 25 ounces will cost you $8-$9. Buckshots and larger shots will cost more.
How Many Times Can I Reload A Shotgun Shell?
Usually it’s better to not keep reusing your fired hulls as they get weaker and weaker with each use. But depending on your hull’s strength, you can reload them 8 or even 12 times. But it’s better to limit reusing them to 3, or at most 4 times. You’ll need to purchase new shotshells eventually.
Knowing how to repack shotgun shells by yourself is a hand skill as you won’t need to keep purchasing new shells each time you run out. And as the hulls are reusable, this is also environmentally friendly. You’re reusing and at the same time saving some money, good for you!