Monday, April 25, 2011

Praxis: The Lost Art of 12 Gauge "Cut Shells"

A tip of the boonie hat to Skip who forwarded this:

Which led me to find this post of Veral Smith's: "Cut shells for shotguns."

Perhaps this subject gets a little outside the prescribed limits of this forum, but so what, quite a few of my answers do, if I think it will benefit the readers. So hear goes with a bit of survival information which every shotgunner should know about, and try when he has no need, just so he knows an option for turning his shotshells into a mean big game killer.

Cut shells used to be a legal ammo for deer in Michigan, and during the last great depression, were the only ammo available to many deer hunters. It worked well with paper hulls back then, but even better with modern plastic hulls, using factory made rounds. Reloads may not have enough crimp grip to hold the slug together. They DO NOT work well in semi autos, as they can't eject the stub cartridge. In pumps, you'll have to play with it to get the empty out. In break barrel or bolt action guns the short hull will come out easily, and most importantly, with the breakbarrel, one can look down the tube to be sure the hull didn't remain in the barrel, in case he doesn't see the slug make impact. I've had barrels which ruptured the hull inside sending only the normal swarm of shot out, but never had a hull remain in the tube. Yet it's a concern of mine, and I always check if not absolutely sure a SLUG hit out there somewhere.

Use a sharp knife and cut at a slight diagonal through the shot shell case just a little more than half way, roll the shell a half turn and repeat. This will leave a slim strip of plastic on each side which will loosely hold the "slug" of shot against the powder charge. Make the cut about center of the area on the shot cup where you can see the hollow section.

Use any shotshell. Even dove loads of #8 shot will stomp a deer down with stunning speed, but I prefer heavier shot, #5 and heavier, and heavier loads. There is no need for magnum loads, but they are fine if that's what you are carrying.

I've probably shot them in 40 different shotguns and the only ones which didn't work were one with a rough bore, from someone shooting ball bearings, and a couple with the old adjustable Poly Choke.

How they work. I've never shot a shotgun with barrel good enough to send the whole slug down range, which was not more accurate with cut shells than with factory slugs. The effect on impact is identical to holding the shotgun barrel an inch or two from the animals side, but with cutshells the range goes out to way beyond 100 yards! Seeing one hit will leave an impression you'll never forget.

I wrote this up because they worked so well in the great depression. There is no reason why they won't work every bit as well in this current greatest depression of the nations history.

Veral got a lot of positive comment, and over the next weeks he added more posts:

Wide flatnose glazer danger slug. Pretty descriptive, I'd say. The hull ruptures on contact. Entrance wound will be bore size, then the shot scatters out. Penetration is VERY shallow with fine shot, and ranges to serious depths with heavy buck shot.

Perhaps of interest. My brother in law shot 6 deer in a row with cut shells, #6 shot, 2 3/4 inch shells, from a 12 guage break barrel which he found near a bridge when the river was low. The rattiest gun I ever saw in the woods. Every one of them dropped instantly and never moved. A couple were huge bragging bucks, but they couldn't stand after taking a cut shell in the chest. -- With a broadside shot in the ribs, using fine shot, they kill deer as quick as a 22-250 kills ground hogs, but mess up very little meat. If the shooter messes up and hits in a meaty area, the impact is normally enough to deck a deer, yet meat waste is suprisingly low, for the massive force delivered by a cut shell.

Later "Woodsrunner" asked: "Don't pressures really go up when a cut shell hits a full choke?"

Veral answered:

There are no indicators to make one believe so. I don't believe there is any difference than if the shell were fired normally, and if so it wouldn't matter. You see, by the time a shot charge, cut shell or any kind of projectile reaches the end of the barrel pressures have dropped WAY below maximum chamber pressure, which occurs when the projectile, or shot charge is only inches from the case, and with some loads, perhaps while the charge is still partly inside the case. A better and more accurate way to visualize what happens when the choke is hit is that the constriction slows the projectile a little, maybe. - In my more salad years I made up some slugs which were just under bore diameter, without lube grooves or lubrication of any kind. When they hit a full choke there was pretty heavy leading with just one shot, but no indicators of pressure changing, and the choke did not get larger, or banna peel, which would probably have happened if sizing pressure against the barrel would have been anything like a normal person would suspect. The choke on this particular 16 gauge single shot, was precisely 18 1/2 inches from the breech, which is where I had sawed the barrel off. I didn't like the open bore, so split the barrel with a hack saw, length wise, for about 1 1/4 inches, closed it up a bit tighter than a full choke and gas welded it using chrome moly rod. I then squeezed the choke round as I could and polished the inside. It definitely shot extra full, but a bit to one side, as I didn't get it perfectly straight. One thing for sure, my weld wasn't as strong as the original barrel, it was extra full, yet it didn't show stress from my stupid slug experimenting. Read those last three words again before you try duplicating what I did!

I smile every time I see the interest in this post. Makes me feel good to be an American with all the rest of you! To my mind there is a bit of freedom in just knowing this little trick, even though one may not ever need to use it. I haven't shot one for probably 20 years, except to show some young hunters here, but I feel good knowing this trick and spreading it around.

A couple of days ago it occurred to me that I hadn't rightly explained what happens when cut shells are used in auto loaders, and to a lesser degree in pump guns. The short stub shell cocks a bit and binds, when the ejector jerks to hard on one side, and normally stays in the gun. It's a hassle to get the empty out with an auto, but worth it if you must get feed yourself and shot is the only thing you have when a big animal shows up for dinner. With a pump, the hull comes out fairly easy by jiggling the action a few times. With a bolt gun this will happen naturally, and with any break barrel gun, there are no problems with ejection.

Bad News Bob then asks:

I really like this ideal and even thou it is not required now it would be a handy bit of info when ya need it. What I was wondering thou how much do you leave uncut? I want to try a couple out of my NEF 20 gauge, Just so I'll know.

Veral answered:

Re: Badnews Bobs question. I'm glad you asked.

The cut should go a bit over halfway around the shell, and best position lengthwise, is near the upper part of the cushion web work which is visable through many semi transparent loads. Make the cut holding the shell just like you would if slicing a carrot, thumb backing the shell. But cut only through the hull, not the wad, as we want the wad to remain intact. It does the steering of the back end. Work your cut a bit over halfway around and at a slight angle, so that when a second cut is made on the opposite side a thing strip of shell remains between the two cuts. The cuts don't have to be neat and straight. If you see you are running at too much angle, or not enough bend your cut till the strips are about what you want. This strip between where the two cuts pass, should be anywhere from 1/16 to 1/8 inch wide and about 1/4 inch long if the strip is close to 1/8 wide. If your strip comes out closer to 1/16 wide the two cuts should pass each other a bit less than 1/4 inch, so the shell doesn't become shaky. The purpose of the strips is to hold the shell together till fired. When the shell is fired, the strips break, or are pulled in two. They should break with very little resistance so the crimp isn't loosened, or even completely released. If you should slip up and cut one side too thin or completely off, no problem, so long as it doesn't have to stand recoil. As long as one side remains intact it will hold the shell together if it is fired first in a double barrel, or shot in any single barrel. If you should cut it completely in two, which isn't likely, it is probably best to toss it, because if the shot slides forward, leaving an air space between it and the powder charge you COULD run into pressure problems when the hammer falls, though I've seen a coupld rounds fired this way without pressure signs. If I accidentally cut one completely in half in the field, and were short on ammo, I would slip a grass stem in along side the shell so it had to be forced a bit to chamber, thus holding the shot back against the powder charge.

Looks like the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words is going to stand here if I don't quit typing and post this! -- Kinda funny. I could demonstrate the cutting and shooting in 20 seconds and have time left over, without speaking a word. It is that simple.

There's more at the link, of course. The video makes a lot of the verbiage above superfluous. Remember, this is a trick to be used single-shot on game in any shotgun, but on evil bad guys only in single or double barrel break shotguns (if that's all you've got). I can see the shell coming apart in a pump or autoloader and that would be a badness thing in the middle of serious social discussion.

Still, it is a neat piece of history that continues to work.


Brock Townsend said...

An excellent piece of information. Thanks and posted.

Scott J said...

Very interesting.

As a caster and loader these are on my "check it out" list:

Anonymous said...

Been shooting them for years out of pump guns. They have to be hand loaded into the chamber but extract just fine. BTW I cut mine with three individual cuts, leaving three 1/8 inch strips intact. Less likely to give you trouble when loading them in a hurry.

Reg T said...

We used to call those "ringed loads", or "The Poor Man's Slug" and they worked fine in my Remington 870 pumps. I usually cut the hull just above the brass, leaving about 1/4 inch of intact hull on each side between the two cuts, and have never had the remainder of the plastic hull hang up in the barrel. Always traveled downrange.

Anonymous said...

In nearly all short-range shotgun engagements one properly delivered charge is sufficient, and a short double gun has much to be said for it. The classic "lupara," with its 18-inch barrels and exposed hammers, still keeps up with the best as a house gun.--Jeff Cooper

As the video demonstrates, "cut shells" in a lupara (AKA coach gun) has much to recommend it. You don't have to spend $1,000 to get effective deterrence.


Anonymous said...

herd tell of candle wax pored thru hole drolled in crimp to turn shot into slug to take down deer/hog

GreyLocke said...

I think I have a new hog load, as 00 buck isn't effective on wild hogs beyond 15 yards and slugs are twice as expensive as 00 buck down here when I can find them.

Anonymous said...

I just use a Lee 1 oz slug mold.