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HULLS (In General)

Shotshells, or those sometime strange empty hulls are produced in four general categories.

TARGET – These hulls made of the same design for a number of years. We think of these hulls as trap, international trap, skeet, and the various sporting clay shotshells.

PROMOTIONAL HULLS - Generally of cheap construction. Hulls never seen before and likely not to be seen again after short runs by manufacturers. These hulls are produced for load promotional sales usually in discount stores. The "Turtle & Snake" cut-rate load made for the sometime shooter.

FIELD – Hulls designed for robust hunting loads.

UNIQUE – Made for some special purpose and for limited use.


Rule#1. All hulls change over the years. Original hull manufacturing equipment wears out and/or the economics of producing a type of hull changes so dramatically the old hull design is abandoned. Often the original color or brand name may continue on – thus baffling reloaders.

Rule#2. Shotshell manufacturers may produce field shotshells with modifications in the internal capacities or overall lengths. With Remington – both! (Remington has produced many more slightly modified or "engineered" hulls than any other manufacturer.) Some hulls changed to fit a specific load or special lot. Manufacturers may change the internal base heights, internal base types, overall length of the hull, the color or type of plastic used. In other words, anything with the original hull that suits any particular need. It is the duty of the reloader to detect and deduce hull specification changes or variances. Be alert for these changes! For example: A hull marked THREE-INCH may be shorter than 3-inches! The internal depth of the same appearing hull - may be deeper or shallower than other hulls of the same type. A single duck blind can produce four different look-alike hulls. Some plastic materials crimp better than others do. Some hulls are designed to be crimped – once!

Rule#3. The brass head height may be any length. The reason for HIGH-BRASS goes back to paper hulls. Paper hulls often produced pinhole burn-through(s) parallel to hull powder containment section. When the powder amount was higher than the brass section a burn through could occur. Magnum (additional powder height) paper shotshells were made with a higher brass head to protect against burn through. Thus a fantasy was born! The higher brass indicated a more powerful paper shotshell - (i.e. magnum). With current plastic shotshells the head (steel – brass or nickel-plated) height/length has no bearing on the strength of the load. Hulls (ACTIV) were made with no metal heads. The important feature is the strength and often the thickness of the head and not the height. Promotional hulls are always suspect, because the metal of the head is often rolled super thin to save costs. Promotional hulls are expected by one and all to be discarded in the field. Perhaps the factory downloaded this hull with some load designed for cheapness such as a Mouse & Cockroach promotional load at 7000PSI. Some reloader tries to cram a SuperDuck formula into this hull and then wonders why the hull did not hold up.

Rule#4. Note; there is a big difference between fiber-base hulls and paper-base hulls.

Federal produces paper-base hulls and these are first-class hulls. The paper is wound and pressed tight as a rock. The hull is wonderful to reload and reload again. (Yes, these hulls are sometimes referred to as fiber-based, but this is in error. All Federal hulls are either hard paper-base or plastic-base.

Beware of "true" fiber-base hulls. The squishy fiber-based hulls need to be hurled – as far as the reloader can fling them. Before you throw it, take a good look at that fiber-base "wad" with a flashlight. (The flashlight is the reloader’s best friend. Use it!) You will see a shattered (one shot did it) lunar surface of the fiber with chunks of fiber ripped away. Ugly! When will the whole damn base tear away? And if torn away, it is the last item (behind the shot and wad) rolling slowly down the barrel looking for a home.

Rules of thumb. Any hull marked "BUCKSHOT" is immediately suspect of having some strange internal depth or overall length. These hulls are special hulls – designed for some particular buckshot load. Reloaders, hurl this hull.

Target hulls are usually made the same for years and years. If they change, it is often a big change. The old hull passes into oblivion. Change is not always for the better, as far as the reloader is concerned. Some hulls such as the Winchester-AA compression formed two-piece hull were produced for decades with only slight modifications. (Different plastic materials were tried.) Part of the sales logic was the hull was a favorite of target reloaders and reloaders bought factory shells to get once-fired hulls.

The new AA-HS made in all gauges is NOT identical to the old AA. The move from a two piece compression-formed hull to a three-piece assembled hull is close, but no cigar. Red = yes. Height = no. Capacity = almost. The internal base, the new and third element in this hull, produces a deep-set "ring-around-the-collar." This collar must be taken into consideration with wad/powder heights. (The AA-HS hull needs it’s own assessment and it is too much for this summary. Even vintage Winchester wads do not fit into this hull.) The WW-HA reloads nicely, but you have to change many of your old formulas. And do not expect the AA-HS hulls of any gauge to be marked. Sometimes it is a yes and sometimes it is a no. Use your flashlight.

For years Winchester produced a high-brass version of the AA (SUPER-X, DOUBLE-X, alas, the same markings appeared on the dreaded fiber-based Winchester hulls – use your flashlight.) What may be next for this fine old hull we do not know? But I’m guessing it’s a goner.

A fine do-all hull for target is the Remington STS in green and the same hull in bronze, the NITRO 27. This hull is made in a number of gauges. The Ballistic Products, Inc. wad – the STS (designated long ago) fits nicely in the Remington STS hull for steel target loading. There is no internal "ring-around-the-collar" and they reload sweetly. But these are not field hulls.

Federal FIELD hulls rarely differ in overall hull length or depth. All Federal hulls tend to run the same overall length per gauge, per chamber. Except BUCKSHOT hulls.

Winchester FIELD hulls usually follow expected lengths and depths but changes are in the wind. Keep your inspection eye open.

Remington FIELD hulls are all over the lot. Some three-inch hulls can run to 2-3/4" and the internal base heights are up and down - all over the map. Many of these hulls have the same external markings varying only with the amount to shot marked as in the load. These hulls are impossible to describe over the telephone. Use a flashlight and a micrometer with a depth gauge. Perhaps think about hurling these hulls. Reloading information cannot keep up with Remington’s many modifications.

The longer the hull length, the more variation between the produced length and a "standard" - expected length. In looking at four 12-gauge 3-1/2" hulls from three different manufacturers we can expect to find four different lengths and quite different internal volumes. In looking at five Remington 10-gauge 3-1/2" hulls we find various plastic base colors. White, yellow & black. Bases are made of waste plastic and can be of any color. We also have three different overall hull lengths. And four different base heights and four different internal capacities. Wheee! Try to describe that over the telephone. Hey, it’s a green hull!

But there is light at the end of this tunnel. You can cheaply buy new spec-design hulls. (Multi-Hulls) from Ballistic Products. These are new, unfired hulls engineered to be consistent, tough, and reloadable.

Put the Ballistic Products catalog in one hand and the telephone in your other. Or like me, peck away at the computer and tell them "Send me a big sack of good hulls!"

The Reloading Curmudgeon


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