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You also must choose the correct type and size of shot for the shotshell. In general, as the size of your target decreases, you should decrease the diameter of the shot you use.

  • As pellet diameter decreases, more shot can be placed in a standard shotshell.
  • The smaller the shot "number," the larger the pellet diameter.
  • Shotshell marked as "magnum" means the shell has more shot or more gunpowder than a regular shell. Magnum and regular shotshells are interchangeable if the correct gauge and shell length are used.
Comparison of three shot sizes

Steel shot pellets react differently than lead when fired. Because steel shot pellets are not as dense, they weigh about 1/3 less than lead shot pellets the same size. Also, steel is harder, does not deform, and is not as unstable in flight as lead. It produces a tighter and shorter pattern than lead shot, thus requiring the hunter to practice more to develop better skills with leading the target and distance estimation. Steel shot has proven to be just as effective as lead and other non-toxic shot in numerous studies. If using steel shot for hunting, you may want to choose a steel shot size one or two sizes larger than the lead shot you would select.