What Are The Different Type Shotgun Shells?

As an experienced shooter, you know that not all shotgun shells are created equal. With a range of gauges, shot sizes, and shell lengths to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know which one to pick. Fear not, my fellow shooters. In this post, we’ll explore the different types of shotgun shells, and I’ll sprinkle in some humor and sarcasm to keep you entertained.


First, let’s talk about gauge. For those of you who are new to the game, the gauge refers to the diameter of the shotgun barrel. Shotguns are available in several gauges, including 10, 12, 16, 20, and 28. Yes, there’s even a .410 bore that’s technically not a gauge but a bore size, but let’s not split hairs.

When choosing a gauge, it’s important to consider the purpose of the shotgun. A 12-gauge is a popular choice for hunting because it has a wider range of shot sizes available, whereas a 20-gauge is a good option for smaller game because it has less recoil. However, if you’re a true badass and want to shoot something really big, then a 10-gauge is the way to go.

Shot Size

Now, let’s talk about shot size. Shotguns shells contain pellets, and the size of the pellets can vary. Shot size is designated by a number, with a lower number indicating a larger pellet size. It’s important to choose the right shot size for the game you’re hunting. Otherwise, you’ll either miss your target entirely or pulverize it beyond recognition.

For example, if you’re hunting quail or other small game, then a shot size of 7 1/2 or 8 will suffice. If you’re hunting ducks or geese, then a larger shot size like 2 or 4 will do the trick. And if you’re really feeling confident and want to take down a bear, then you’ll need a shot size of 000 buckshot. Just remember to yell “Yeehaw!” when you pull the trigger.

Shell Length

Shell length is another important factor to consider. Shotgun shells come in several lengths, including 2 3/4, 3, and 3 1/2 inches. The length of the shell determines the amount of powder that can be used, which in turn affects the velocity and power of the shot.

When choosing a shell length, consider the type of shotgun you’re using. Not all shotguns can handle longer shells. If you’re unsure, consult the owner’s manual or ask a seasoned shooter for advice. And if you’re feeling particularly daring, go ahead and use a longer shell than recommended. Just make sure to hold on tight, cowboy.

Hull Material

The hull is the exterior of the shotgun shell and is made from different materials. The most common hull materials are plastic and paper. Plastic hulls are more durable and water-resistant, making them a popular choice for hunters. However, paper hulls are biodegradable and more environmentally friendly, so if you’re an eco-warrior, go ahead and use those paper hulls with pride.


The base is the bottom of the shotgun shell and is typically made from brass or steel. Brass bases are more common, but steel bases are becoming increasingly popular. Steel bases are more durable and better suited for use in harsh weather conditions. If you’re an adventurer who enjoys hunting in the rain, then steel bases are the way to go. Just make sure to bring a raincoat for yourself.


Powder is an essential component of shotgun shells, as it propels the pellets out of the barrel. There are two main types of powder: black powder and smokeless powder. Black powder is an older type of powder that’s made from charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter. It produces a lot of smoke and recoil, which may be fun for historical reenactments, but not so much for regular shooting.

Smokeless powder, on the other hand, is the modern alternative to black powder. It’s cleaner burning and produces less recoil, making it a popular choice for most shooters. There are different types of smokeless powder available, so make sure to choose the one that’s recommended for your shotgun and the type of shooting you’re doing.


The primer is the component of the shotgun shell that ignites the powder. It’s a small metal cup located at the base of the shell. There are two types of primers: boxer and Berdan. Boxer primers are more common in the United States and are easier to reload, while Berdan primers are more common in Europe and Asia.


The wad is the part of the shotgun shell that separates the powder from the pellets. It also serves to protect the barrel from damage and prevent gas leaks. Wads can be made from plastic or fiber, and they come in different shapes and sizes.

Plastic wads are more common and come in either one-piece or two-piece designs. One-piece wads are simpler to use but may not be as effective at cushioning the shot. Two-piece wads are more effective at cushioning the shot, but they’re also more complicated to use.

Fiber wads are biodegradable and more environmentally friendly than plastic wads. They’re also softer, which makes them more effective at cushioning the shot. However, they can break down over time and leave debris in the barrel, so make sure to clean your gun thoroughly after using fiber wads.

Shot Cup

The shot cup is an optional component of the shotgun shell that holds the pellets in place. It’s typically made from plastic and is inserted into the shell after the wad. Shot cups are used to improve the pattern of the shot and reduce recoil.

However, not all shooters use shot cups, and some even argue that they can actually decrease the effectiveness of the shot. It’s up to you to decide whether or not to use a shot cup, but if you do, make sure to choose one that’s compatible with your shotgun and the type of shooting you’re doing.

And there you have it, folks. The different types of shotgun shells explained in all their glory. Remember to choose the right gauge, shot size, and shell length for the game you’re hunting, and consider factors like hull material, base, powder, primer, wad, and shot cup when selecting your shells.

Of course, all of this technical stuff aside, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy your time on the range or in the field. So go ahead and let your inner cowboy or cowgirl out, yell “Yeehaw!” as you shoot, and most importantly, stay safe and responsible. Happy shooting!

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