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Shot is a collective term for small balls or pellets, often made of
lead Lead is a chemical element with the symbol Pb (from the Latin ) and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metal that is denser than most common materials. Lead is soft and malleable, and also has a relatively low melting point. When freshly cut, lead ...
. These were the original
projectile A projectile is any object thrown by the exertion of a force. It can also be defined as an object launched into the space and allowed to move free under the influence of gravity and air resistance. Although any object in motion through space (for e ...
s for shotguns and are still fired primarily from
shotgun A shotgun (also known as a scattergun, or historically as a fowling piece) is a long-barreled firearm designed to shoot a straight-walled cartridge known as a shotshell, which usually discharges numerous small pellet-like spherical sub-project ...

shotgun
s and less commonly from
riot gun In current usage a riot gun or less-lethal launcher is a type of firearm that is used to fire "non-lethal" or "less-lethal" ammunition for the purpose of suppressing riots. Less-lethal launchers may be special purpose firearms designed for riot c ...
s and
grenade launcher A grenade launcher is a weapon that fires a specially-designed large-caliber projectile, often with an explosive, smoke or gas warhead. Today, the term generally refers to a class of dedicated firearms firing unitary grenade cartridges. The most c ...
s, although
shot shell A shotgun shell, shotshell or simply shell is a type of rimmed, cylindrical (straight-walled) cartridges used specifically by shotguns, and is typically loaded with numerous small, pellet-like spherical sub-projectiles called shot, fired through ...
s are available in many pistol calibers in a configuration called "
birdshot A shotgun shell, shotshell or simply shell is a type of rimmed, cylindrical (straight-walled) cartridges used specifically by shotguns, and is typically loaded with numerous small, pellet-like spherical sub-projectiles called shot, fired through ...
", "
rat-shot Snake shot (also commonly known as rat shot and dust shot) refers to handgun and rifle cartridges loaded with small lead shot. Snake shot is generally used for shooting snakes, rodents, birds, and other pests at very close range. The most common s ...
", or "
snake shot Snake shot (also commonly known as rat shot and dust shot) refers to handgun and rifle cartridges loaded with small lead shot. Snake shot is generally used for shooting snakes, rodents, birds, and other pests at very close range. The most common s ...
". Lead shot is also used for a variety of other purposes such as filling cavities with dense material for weight/balance. Some versions may be plated with other metals. Lead shot was originally made by pouring molten lead through screens into water, forming what was known as "swan shot", and, later, more economically mass-produced at higher quality using a
shot tower A shot tower is a tower designed for the production of small-diameter shot balls by free fall of molten lead, which is then caught in a water basin. The shot is primarily used for projectiles in shotguns, and also for ballast, radiation shielding, ...
. The ''Bliemeister method'' has supplanted the shot tower method since the early 1960s.


Manufacture

Producing lead shot from a shot tower was pioneered in the late 18th century by William Watts of
Bristol Bristol () is a city and ceremonial county in England. With a population of 463,400, it is the most populous city in South West England. The wider Bristol Built-Up Area has the 10th-largest population in England. The urban area population of 6 ...

Bristol
who adapted his house on Redcliffe Hill by adding a three-
storey A storey (British English) or story (American English) is any level part of a building with a floor that could be used by people (for living, work, storage, recreation, etc.). Plurals for the word are ''storeys'' (UK) and ''stories'' (US). The ...
tower and digging a shaft under the house through the caves underneath to achieve the required drop. The process was patented in 1782. The process was later brought above ground through the building of
shot tower A shot tower is a tower designed for the production of small-diameter shot balls by free fall of molten lead, which is then caught in a water basin. The shot is primarily used for projectiles in shotguns, and also for ballast, radiation shielding, ...
s. Molten lead would be dropped from the top of the tower. Like most liquids,
surface tension Surface tension is the tendency of liquid surfaces to shrink into the minimum surface area possible. Surface tension is what allows heavier than water i.e., denser than water objects such as razor blades, insects (e.g. water striders), to floa ...

surface tension
makes drops of molten lead become near-spherical as they fall. When the tower is high enough, the lead droplets will solidify while still dropping and thus will retain their spherical form. Water is usually placed at the bottom of the tower, causing the lead to be cooled immediately after dropping. Roundness of manufactured shot produced from the shot tower process is graded by forcing the newly produced shot to roll accurately down inclined planes. Unround shot will naturally roll to the side, for collection. The unround shot was either re-processed in another attempt to make round shot using the shot tower again, or used for applications which did not require round shot (e.g., split shot). The hardness of lead shot is controlled through adding variable amounts of
tin Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn (from lstannum}) and atomic number 50. Tin is a silvery metal that characteristically has a faint yellow hue. Tin, like indium, is soft enough to be cut without much force. When a bar of tin is ...
,
antimony Antimony is a chemical element with the symbol Sb (from la, stibium) and atomic number 51. A lustrous gray metalloid, it is found in nature mainly as the sulfide mineral stibnite (Sb2S3). Antimony compounds have been known since anci ...
and
arsenic Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As and atomic number 33. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in combination with sulfur and metals, but also as a pure elemental crystal. Arsenic is a metalloid. It has various allotro ...
, forming
alloy An alloy is an admixture of metals, or a metal combined with one or more other elements. For example, combining the metallic elements gold and copper produces red gold, gold and silver becomes white gold, and silver combined with copper produc ...
s. This also affects its melting point. Hardness is also controlled by the rate of cooling that is used in manufacturing lead shot. The ', named after inventor Louis W. Bliemeister of Los Angeles, California, (, dated April 11, 1961) is a process for making lead shot in small sizes from about #7 to about #9. In this process, molten lead is dripped from small orifices and dropped approximately into a hot liquid, where it is then rolled along an incline and then dropped another . The temperature of the liquid controls the cooling rate of the lead, while the surface tension of the liquid and the inclined surface(s) work together to bring the small droplets of lead into highly regular balls of lead in spherical form. The size of the lead shot that is produced is determined by the diameter of the orifice used to drip the lead, ranging from approximately for #9 lead shot to about for #6 or #7.0 shot, while also depending on the specific lead alloy that is used. The roundness of the lead shot depends on the angle of the inclined surfaces as well as the temperature of the liquid coolant. Various coolants have successfully been used, ranging from diesel fuel to antifreeze and water-soluble oil. After the lead shot cools, it is washed, then dried, and small amounts of graphite are finally added to prevent clumping of the lead shot. Lead shot larger than about #5 tends to clump badly when fed through tubes, even when graphite is used, whereas lead shot smaller than about #6 tends not to clump when fed through tubes when graphite is used. Lead shot dropped quickly into liquid cooling baths when being produced from molten lead is known as "chilled lead shot", in contrast to "soft lead shot" which is produced by molten lead not being dropped as quickly into a liquid cooling bath. The process of rapidly chilling lead shot during its manufacturing process causes the shot to become harder than it would otherwise be if allowed to cool more slowly. Hence, chilled lead shot, being harder and less likely to deform during firing, is preferred by shotgunners for improving shot pattern densities at longer (> ) ranges, whereas soft lead shot, being softer and more likely to deform during firing, is preferred for improving shot pattern densities at very close (< ) ranges as the softer and now deformed shot scatters more quickly when fired. Soft lead shot is also more readily deformed during the firing process by the effects of chokes. The manufacture of non-lead shot differs from that of lead, with
compression molding Compression molding is a method of molding in which the molding material, generally preheated, is first placed in an open, heated mold cavity. The mold is closed with a top force or plug member, pressure is applied to force the material into ...

compression molding
used to create some alloys.


Sizes

Shot is available in many sizes for different applications. The size of numbered shot decreases as the number increases. In hunting, some sizes are traditionally used for certain game, or certain shooting situations, although there is overlap and subjective preference. The range at which game is typically encountered and the penetration needed to assure a clean kill must both be considered. Local hunting regulations may also specify a size range for certain game. Shot loses its velocity very quickly due to its low
sectional density Sectional density (often abbreviated SD) is the ratio of an object's mass to its cross sectional area with respect to a given axis. It conveys how well an object's mass is distributed (by its shape) to overcome resistance along that axis. Sectiona ...
and
ballistic coefficient In ballistics, the ballistic coefficient (BC) of a body is a measure of its ability to overcome air resistance in flight. It is inversely proportional to the negative acceleration: a high number indicates a low negative acceleration—the drag on ...
(see
external ballistics Schlieren image of a bullet travelling in free-flight demonstrating the air pressure dynamics surrounding the bullet. External ballistics or exterior ballistics is the part of ballistics that deals with the behavior of a projectile in flight. The p ...
). Generally, larger shot carries farther, and does not spread out as much as smaller shot.


Buckshot

Buckshot is a shot formed to larger diameters so that it can be used against bigger game such as
deer Deer or true deer are hoofed ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the red deer, the fallow deer, and the chital; and the Capreolinae, including the ...
,
moose The moose (in North America) or elk (in Eurasia) (''Alces alces''), is a member of the New World deer subfamily and is the largest and heaviest extant species in the deer family. Most adult male moose have distinctive broad, palmate ("open-han ...
or
caribou The reindeer (''Rangifer tarandus''), also known as caribou in North America, is a species of deer with circumpolar distribution, native to Arctic, sub-Arctic, tundra, boreal, and mountainous regions of northern Europe, Siberia, and North Amer ...

caribou
. Sizes range in ascending order from size #B (0.17 in, 4.32 mm) to Tri-Ball. It is usually referred by the size, followed by "buck", e.g. "#000" is referred to as "triple-aught buck" in
America The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, 326 India ...
or "triple o buck" in other English speaking countries. Buckshot is traditionally swaged (in high volume production) or cast (in small volume production). The Bliemeister method does not work for shot larger than #5 (0.12 in, 3.05 mm), and works progressively poorly for shot sizes larger than about #6.


Lead shot comparison chart

Below is a chart with diameters per pellet and weight for idealized lead spheres in USA.


Applications outside firearms

Lead shot is also often used as
ballast Ballast is material that is used to provide stability to a vehicle or structure. Ballast, other than cargo, may be placed in a vehicle, often a ship or the gondola of a balloon or airship, to provide stability. A compartment within a boat, ship, s ...
in various situations, especially where a dense, pourable weight is required. Generally, small shot is best for these applications, as it can be poured more like a liquid. Completely round shot is not required. When used as a pourable/mouldable weight, the shot may be left loose, or mixed with a bonding agent such as
epoxy Epoxy refers to any of the basic components or cured end products of epoxy resins, as well as a colloquial name for the epoxide functional group. Epoxy resins, also known as polyepoxides, are a class of reactive prepolymers and polymers which co ...

epoxy
to contain and stabilize the pellets after they are poured. Some applications are: * Stress testing: Providing variable weights in strength-of-materials stress-testing systems. Shot pours from a hopper into a basket, which is connected to the test item. When the test item
fracture Fracture is the separation of an object or material into two or more pieces under the action of stress. The fracture of a solid usually occurs due to the development of certain displacement discontinuity surfaces within the solid. If a displac ...
s, the chute closes and the mass of the lead shot in the basket is used to calculate the fracture stress of the item. *
Hydrometer A hydrometer is an instrument used for measuring the relative density of liquids based on the concept of buoyancy. They are typically calibrated and graduated with one or more scales such as specific gravity. A hydrometer usually consists of a se ...
s: use a weight made of shot, since the weight has to be poured into a narrow glass vessel. * Split shot: a larger type of lead shot where each pellet is cut part-way through the diameter. These type of shot were formerly commonly used as a line weight in
angling Angling is a method of fishing by means of an "angle" (fish hook). The hook is usually attached to a fishing line and the line is often attached to a fishing rod. Modern fishing rods are usually fitted with a fishing reel that functions as a mecha ...
. They are no longer solely manufactured from lead but instead are often made from softer materials that can be easily pressed onto the fishing line instead of being closed in a crimp using pliers, as was once common. * The heads of some dead blow hammers are filled with shot to minimize rebound off the struck surface. * Shot belt: some
scuba diving#REDIRECT Scuba diving#REDIRECT Scuba diving {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
weight belts contain pouches filled with lead shot. * Loudspeaker, speaker stands can be filled with lead shot for additional acoustics, acoustic Acoustic quieting#Mechanical acoustic quieting, decoupling, as well as stability. * Model rocketry: to add weight to the nose of the rocket, increasing the stability factor. * Due to its heat capacity and low thermal conductivity at low temperatures, lead shot has been used as a suitable material for a regenerative heat exchanger, regenerator in Stirling engines and thermoacoustic cryocoolers. * Due to lead's high density, it is used to attenuate radiation, especially X-rays and gamma rays. Lead shot may be enclosed in a bag and then be placed around a point source for radiation protection or for radiation shielding.


Bird lead poisoning

Lead shot-related waterfowl Animal lead poisoning, poisonings were first documented in the US in the 1880s; by 1919, the spent lead pellets from waterfowl hunting was positively identified as a major source of deaths of bottom-feeding waterfowl.Federal Cartridge Company Waterfowl and Steel Shot Guide. Volume I; 1988. Once ingested, stomach acids and mechanical action cause the lead to break down and be absorbed into the body and bloodstream, resulting in death. "If a bird swallows only one pellet, it usually survives, although its immune system and fertility are likely to be affected. Even low concentrations of lead have a negative impact on energy storage, which affects the ability to prepare for migration." Upland game birds such as mourning doves, ring-necked pheasants, wild turkey, northern bobwhite quail and Chukar partridge, chukars can also ingest lead and thus be poisoned when they feed on seeds. Lead from spent ammunition also impacts scavenging bird species such as vultures, ravens, eagles and other birds of prey. Foraging studies of the endangered Californian condor have shown that avian scavengers consume lead fragments in gut piles left in the field from harvested big game animals, as well as by the consumption of small game, or "pest animal," carcasses that have been shot with lead-core ammo, but not retrieved. Not all lead exposure in these circumstances leads to immediate mortality, but multiple sub-lethal exposures result in secondary poisoning impacts, which eventually lead to death. Among condors around the Grand Canyon, lead poisoning because of eating lead shot is the most frequently diagnosed cause of death.


Restrictions on the use of lead

Depending on hunting laws, alternatives to lead shot are mandated for use by hunters in certain locations or when hunting migratory waterfowl and migratory birds or when hunting within U.S. federal waterfowl production areas, U.S. national wildlife refuges, or some state wildlife management areas. Lead shot is also banned within an eight-county area in California designated as the California condor, condor's range. As of 2011, thirty-five states prohibited lead shot use in such specially-specified areas when hunting. While hunting non-migratory or upland birds, as well as animals, in the United States, lead shot is generally approved, except within the specially-designated non-toxic shot pellet zones. In an effort to protect the condor, the use of projectiles containing lead has been banned for hunting deer, wild pig, elk, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, ground squirrels, and other non-game wildlife in areas of California designated as its range. The bald eagle has similarly been shown to be affected by lead originating from dead or wounded waterfowl—the requirement to protect this species was one of the biggest factors behind laws being introduced in 1991 by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to ban lead shot in migratory waterfowl hunting. Hunting restrictions have also banned the use of lead shot while hunting migratory waterfowl in at least 29 countries across by international agreement, for example the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. Depending on hunting laws, alternatives to lead shot are mandated for use by hunters in some locations when hunting migratory birds, notably waterfowl. In the US, the restrictions are limited to migratory waterfowl, while Canadian restrictions are wider and apply (with some exceptions) to all migratory birds. The hunting of upland migratory birds such as mourning doves was specifically excluded from the 1991 US restrictions as scientific evidence did not support their contribution to the poisoning of bald eagles. In 1985, Denmark banned the use of lead in wetlands covered by the Ramsar Convention, later expanding this restriction to the whole country. The use of lead has been banned for all hunting activities in the Netherlands as of 1992. The Missouri Department of Conservation introduced regulations in 2007 in some hunting areas requiring the use of non-toxic shot to protect upland birds. Some clay pigeon shooting, clay pigeon ranges in the US have banned the use of lead after elevated levels of lead were found in waterfowl, small birds, mammals and frogs in their vicinity.


Non-toxic alternatives to lead shot

Approved alternatives while hunting migratory waterfowl include pellets manufactured from steel, tungsten-iron, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-nickel-iron, and bismuth-
tin Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn (from lstannum}) and atomic number 50. Tin is a silvery metal that characteristically has a faint yellow hue. Tin, like indium, is soft enough to be cut without much force. When a bar of tin is ...
in place of lead shot. In the United States, UK, Canada, and many western European countries (France as of 2006), all shot used for hunting migratory waterfowl must now be non-toxic, and therefore may not contain any
lead Lead is a chemical element with the symbol Pb (from the Latin ) and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metal that is denser than most common materials. Lead is soft and malleable, and also has a relatively low melting point. When freshly cut, lead ...
. Steel was one of the first widely used lead alternatives that the ammunition industry turned to. But steel is one hundred times harder than lead, with only two-thirds its density, resulting in undesirable ballistic properties compared to lead. Steel shot can be as hard as some barrels, and may therefore damage choke (firearms), chokes on older firearms that were designed only for use with softer lead shot. The higher pressures required to compensate for the lower density of steel may exceed the design limits of a barrel. Within recent years, several companies have created non-toxic shot out of Bismuth#Lead replacement, bismuth, tungsten, or other Chemical element, elements or alloys with a density similar to or greater than lead, and with a shot softness that results in ballistic properties that are comparable to lead. These shells provide more consistent patterns than steel shot and provide greater range than steel shot. They are also generally safe to use in older shotguns with barrels and chokes not rated for use with steel shot, such as for bismuth and tungsten-polymer (although not tungsten-iron) shot. (Unfortunately, all non-lead shot other than steel is far more expensive than lead, which has diminished its acceptance by hunters.)


See also

* Slug (projectile) * Bullet * Pellet (air gun)


References


External links


Shot Size Table
compiled from Winchester Reloading Guide and NRA Firearms Fact Book data {{DEFAULTSORT:Shot (pellet) Ammunition Lead Shotgun shells