Rifle cartridges and shotgun shells have similar designs, share the same basic parts, and depend on the same physical and chemical reactions to work, but are used for different purposes.
cartridge: Ammunition used in modern rifles and
handguns; a case containing primer, gunpowder, and a bullet
shotshell: Ammunition used in modern shotguns; a case containing
primer, gunpowder, wad, and a slug or shot
Basic Components of Ammunition
The basic components of ammunition are the case, primer, powder, and projectile(s).
Shotshells have an additional component called wad.
- Case:The container that holds all the other ammunition
components together. It’s usually made of brass, steel, copper, paper,
- Primer: An explosive chemical compound that ignites the
gunpowder when struck by a firing pin. Primer may be placed either in the
rim of the case (rimfire) or in the center of the base of the case (centerfire).
- Gunpowder: A chemical mixture that burns rapidly and converts to an expanding gas when ignited. Modern smokeless powder will burn slowly when ignited in the open (outside of the case). Black powder is less stable and can be explosive when impacted or ignited in the open.
- Projectile: The object(s) expelled from the barrel. A bullet is a lead projectile, usually containing lead, fired through a rifle or handgun barrel. A slug is a lead projectile fired through a shotgun barrel. Shot is a group of lead, steel, tungsten, alloy, or bismuth pellets fired through a shotgun barrel.
- Wad: A seal made of paper or plastic separating the powder from the slug or shot in a shotshell. The wad prevents gas from escaping through the shot and holds the shot together as it passes through the barrel.