Buckshot Ammunition

There are three major manufacturers of buckshot ammunition in the United States: Remington-Peters, Winchester-Western, and Federal. Smith & Wesson produced shotgun buckshot shells for a short time in the early 1970s.

Buckshot is usually manufactured in seven sizes, ranging from No. 4 (0.24 in.) to 000 (0.360 in.). With buckshot ammunition, the number of pellets loaded into the shell is stated rather than the weight of the charge. Table 8.2 gives the diameter and weight of various sizes of buckshot pellets.

In 1963, Winchester-Western began loading their shotgun shells with buckshot packed in a white, granulated, polyethylene filler material

Table 8.2 Buckshot: Sizes and Weights

Diameter Average Weight of Pellets

Table 8.2 Buckshot: Sizes and Weights

Diameter Average Weight of Pellets

No.

(in.)

(mm)

(grains)

(grams)

4

.24

6.10

20.6

1.32

3

.25

6.35

23.4

1.50

2

.27

6.86

29.4

1.87

1

.30

7.62

40.0

2.57

0

.32

8.13

48.3

3.12

00

.33

8.38

53.8

3.42

000

.36

9.14

68.0

4.44

(Figure 8.9). This filler cushions the shot on firing, reducing shot distortion and improving patterns. The shot and filler material are enclosed in a plastic shot collar. The end of the tube is closed with a "pie" crimp. Most Winchester buckshot loads seen by the author contain the filler, the plastic shot collar, filler wads, and a cardboard cup wad.

In 1967, Remington began loading their shells with buckshot packed in a black, granulated polyethylene material. In October 1978, however, Remington changed to a white polyethylene filler similar to that of Winchester. Current buckshot loads by Remington-Peters contain a white polypropylene filler material and either a plastic "H" wad used in the overpowder position or a plastic shot-cup.

Federal buckshot loads contain a white packing material, usually polypropylene and are closed with a pie crimp. In the past, no filler was used and the shells were closed with a thin plastic disk over-the-shot wad.

Absence of filler material is preferred by some police agencies, because if a shotgun is carried in a car, the constant stop-and-go action of the vehicle can cause the buckshot to force open a "pie" crimp. This results in the granulated filler material coming out, entering, and possibly jamming the shotgun action.

The granulated filler is of interest to the forensic pathologist in that on firing ammunition loaded with it large quantities of filler are propelled toward the target (Figure 8.10). This filler becomes adherent to clothing and skin. At close ranges, it can produce stipple marks (pseudo-tattooing) on the skin identical in appearance to powder tattoo marks. Marks from the filler can vary from large and irregular, to small and regular, depending on the size and shape of the individual granules. The white filler in Winchester shells has changed in form over the years. Older shells contain large coarse granules that produce large irregular marks on the skin (Figure 8.11A). These marks should not be mistaken for powder tattooing under usual circumstances. Newer ammunition contains fine white granules that produce marks virtually identical to powder tattooing(Figure 8.11B). The black filler formerly used

Figure 8.10 Buckshot pellets traveling through air, accompanied by white polyethylene filler.

in Remington 12-gauge buckshot shells was very fine and produced marks similar to powder. Because the filler was black, it was mistaken for powder by the unwary. Remington always loaded their 20-gauge buckshot with white filler, possibly because of the translucent hull used for 20 gauge. All Remington buckshot is now loaded with finely granular white material. Federal uses a fine white filler as well.

For a time Smith & Wesson produced 12-gauge buckshot loads. These shells were loaded with what appears to be chopped up blue plastic casing material. The marks produced by it are relatively large and irregular.

Winchester, Remington, and Federal now load Magnum birdshot loads with polyethylene or polypropylene filler. In all shells seen by the author the filler has consisted of fine white granules. Filler is also available to reloaders.

Animal experiments have shown that with a 12-gauge shotgun, stippling caused by filler extends out to a greater distance than powder tattooing. Although tattooing can extend out to a maximum of one (1) meter, stippling from filler material can extend out to 2 to 3 m of range. The white filler can be deposited on a body out to a maximum of 6 to 8 yd.5

The most popular buckshot load in this country is a 12-gauge 2 3/4 shell loaded with 9-00 Buck pellets. Some police agencies, however, have begun using either #1 or #4 Buck, as they feel that these loadings give a denser and more even pattern with a greater probability of a hit (Table 8.3).

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