Why Do Shooters Cut Shotgun Shells?

Reloading ammo can be risky business.

Tom P. is a farmer in Iowa. He works with his hands every day.

One day he was clearing pigeons off his property with his shotgun.

As he fired a round, the shotgun exploded in his hands.

The blast broke bones in his hand and fingers, almost tore his thumb off, and opened a deep gash his hand.

After the explosion, Tom was flown by medical helicopter to Christchurch Hospital.

He had to have hours of surgery and stayed in the hospital for three days.

Tom told local media, “A shotgun blowing up in my hand – it’s pretty sore.”

What exactly caused the gun to explode is unclear.

Police believe it was likely bad ammunition.

Tom recalled that he loaded the gun, it went dead, and then he reloaded it again.

Tom is adjusting to a different life. For the next few months, he can’t drive, or even open a jar.

As you know, these days, ammunition is expensive and hard to find.

This fact has caused many shooters to buy cheap ammo since it’s the only thing they can find.

Some have started reloading their own ammo too.

And some have even started tinkering with their shotgun shells – to cut shotgun shells.

People like to cut around the circumference of the outer hull of the shell.

Why cut shotgun shells?

The idea of cutting shotgun shells has been around for a long time. It was even common during the Great Depression.

The idea behind cutting the shells was that it could make birdshot shells shoot more like a slug.

Birdshot does not penetrate like a slug.

So, if you were using a shotgun for hunting, birdshot would not be powerful enough for larger animals.

But, when you cut the shotgun shell it keeps the mass of the birdshot together.

It stops the shell from dispersing.

How to cut the shell. 

First, I’m not recommending anyone do this. It is dangerous.

However, if you wanted to cut the shell to see what it looks like, here is what you do.

With a knife, cut around the circumference of the shell in the round direction.

Start with two cuts on opposite sides of the shell, but don’t let the two cuts meet.

Cut around the outer hull of the shell only. Don’t cut the innards of the shell.

The best place to cut is around the shock absorber portion of the inner shot cup wad.

Again, I don’t recommend cutting your shells, or using cut shells in a shotgun.

But, if you were going to shoot cut shells, the only type of shotgun you should use is a break-open design.

This is the only type of shotgun that might safely fire cut shells.

Why shooting cut shells isn’t a good idea. 

As I’ve said, firing a cut shotgun shell is dangerous.

But it’s not necessarily from the shell exploding, rather the overpressure in the shotgun.

A shotgun projectile is moved down the barrel by pressure.

But with a cut shell, there’s more pressure inside the barrel.

And it can be higher pressure than the barrel is designed to handle.

Another thing to watch out for is that the shell may become uncrimped as it moves down the bore.

This can leave parts of the shell in the bore of the shotgun.

If you fired another round with a bore blockage it could have deadly consequences.

So, if you fire a cut shell, check the bore each time.

As I mentioned, I would never use cut shotgun shells unless it was my only option.

But, if we continue to see an ammo shortage you may only be able to buy birdshot.

And if birdshot is all you have, and you need to hunt big game, then cutting shells could be a last resort.

So, while dangerous, it’s a good thing to know in case you need to use it in an emergency survival situation.

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