How to work up a load for shotgun shell reloading

Written by gerry arlen good
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How to work up a load for shotgun shell reloading
Shotgun shells are loaded in a progressive reloading press (shotgun shell reloader image by Julianna Olah from

Shotgun reloading manuals contain the various powders, primers and shot loads that can safely be used in the form of data tables. Although the data tables found within reloading manuals provide safe reloading information, each gun responds differently to various powders, primers and shell cases. As a result, working up a load for a specific gun will usually improve performance.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Shot shell reloading manual
  • Shot shell reloading press
  • Resizing and decapping die
  • Smokeless powder
  • Shot shell primers
  • Shot shell cases
  • Shot shell wads
  • Shotgun lead shot
  • Reloading log
  • Range log

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  1. 1

    Sort all shot shell cases so that only similar cases are loaded together. While sorting, take care to differentiate between gauge and 2 3/4-inch or 3-inch shot shells, discard any damaged shell cases and clean any dirty shell cases.

  2. 2

    Insert the resizing and decapping die into the loading press and resize and remove primers from all the cases you wish to reload. Clean all primer pockets after the primer has been removed.

  3. 3

    Insert new primers in each shot shell case, ensuring that the same brand primer is used for all shells. Select a powder charge appropriate for the gauge and shot weight from the reloading manual. Double-check the charge weight dispensed from the press, using a powder scale, before actually loading a shell (make sure the press is dispensing an accurate powder weight).

  4. 4

    Load the smokeless powder charge, insert the shot shell wad and fill the case with lead shot (these three steps are accomplished at the same time). Crimp the shot shell and inspect for any defects, bulges or cracks in the case for damage (discard questionable shells).

  5. 5

    Reload new shot shell loads in 10-shell increments and then test-fire each group at an approved shooting range. Take notes in your range log indicating shell performance, taking care to inspect each shot shell for signs of excessive pressure such as split walls or bulging primers. If you detect signs of excessive pressure, reduce the powder charge 10 per cent and reload 10 shells for test-firing.

  6. 6

    Increase or decrease the powder charge in 0.1-grain increments to change shot velocity. Continue changing the powder charge until the desired performance level is reached, but do not exceed or reduce the recommended powder charges by more than 5 per cent.

  7. 7

    Change smokeless powder, primers and shell cases to change performance. Make a change in only one component at a time, such as the powder, primer or shell case. Test-fire and record the results in your reloading and range logs.

Tips and warnings

  • Check performance and the shot velocity by shooting several trap or skeet rounds.
  • Each shotgun will perform differently with each shot shell combination, so work up a load for each shotgun you own.
  • Do not interchange 2 3/4-inch shot shell data with 3-inch shot shell data.
  • Changing guns, the powder, primer or shell case will change the performance of shotgun shells.
  • When reloading, where protective eyewear.
  • Store shot shell primers in the original shipping box.
  • Use eye and hearing protection when shooting.

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