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Fired Shotshell Components

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Fired Shotshell Components

Components of a shot pellet load (primer, powder, pellets, wadding, and casing)
Components of a shot pellet load (primer, powder, pellets, wadding, and casing)
Courtesy of Jack Dillon (see reuse policy).

The construction and components of shotshells are described in depth in Module 5.

Shotshells may be comprised of a number of components:

  • Card (paper) or fiber disks
  • Plastic wadding components
  • Lead, steel, bismuth, or tungsten alloy shot pellets
  • Shotgun slugs
  • Shot buffer materials (granular plastic particulate)


Wadding Material

The examination of shot wads frequently revolves around a comparison of remaining observable physical characteristics to an unfired laboratory reference standard.

By examining wadding materials, the examiner may be able to determine

  • the gauge of the shotgun,
  • the manufacturer or marketer,
  • a range of possible shot sizes based on impressions in the wad,
  • individual characteristics (in some cases).

Paper and fiber wadding materials are similar in appearance across brands.

Wadding materials may include the following:

Although older fiber and paper wads are no longer widely used, their examination presents several difficulties because they

  • tend to absorb body fluids,
  • swell beyond their original dimensions,
  • often dry without retaining original dimensions,
  • are more easily damaged than plastic wadding materials.

Plastic wads are predominately used today.

Types of plastic wadding materials include

Examiners should be aware that combinations of plastic and card and fiber wadding materials have been used and continue to be found; these wadding types are not mutually exclusive.

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