Skip to main content

Reloading 12- and 28-Gauge Shotshells

The 16 forms a nice bridge between the 12 and 20, and the 28 makes a much better light-recoil gun for the field than the tiny .410.

Reloading 12- and 28-Gauge Shotshells
The 16 forms a nice bridge between the 12 and 20, and the 28 makes a much better light-recoil gun for the field than the tiny .410.

Both the 16 and 28 gauge seem to experience a meteoric resurgence about once a decade, then fade into semi-obsolescence for a time, only to later rise again in popularity. Thankfully, we appear to be in one of the mini-booms, with several new shotguns available for both gauges.

For preparing ammo for either gauge, I used a pair of MEC loaders that I've had for many years. Winchester and Remington offer one-piece plastic 16- and 28-gauge wads, and Ballistic Products Inc. is an excellent mail-order source. In addition to these brands, BP has an extensive line of specialty 16- and 28-gauge wads for other than the traditional charge weights and offers loading manuals for both gauges.

Prepare your test loads just as if you were developing a new elk load. Weigh each powder and shot charge. Shoot (at least) a five-round sample, and record your data. Then chronograph your ammo to see how it compares with your favorite factory fodder. Strive for uniformity (i.e. a low SD). After you select a load, install an adjustable bar in your loader, and use the scale to set the powder and shot weights.

There is only so much volume in a shotshell, so components have to be selected for optimum fit and good crimps. For most loads, a one-piece plastic wad is just the ticket for traditional shot weights. For light loads, old-fashioned card wads can be used as filler to take up space in the shot cup. Use 28-gauge card wads for the 16 and .410-bore wads for the 28. In addition, for some 16-gauge loads, a 16-gauge card wad can be placed under the plastic wad column to raise it up, and, if necessary, a 28-gauge card can be placed in the shot cup to bring the shot level up to the top of the cup. Several of the loads shown in the nearby tables were put together using these techniques, and they work just fine. (Check the BP manuals for more details.)

The 16 gauge is designed around 1 1/8-ounce loads, but a couple of lightweights offer a step down in recoil. A charge of ¾ or 1-ounce of shot at a nominal 1,135 to 1,200 fps will break clays and bust birds with authority, and it won't kick off your boots. Good powders for such loads are Nitro 100, IMR-PB and Winchester Super Field. Here we can use over-powder and under-shot card wads to good effect.

The traditional 16-gauge one-ounce field load is easy to duplicate. Velocities vary from 1,023 fps with 26.0 grains of HS-7 to 1,212 fps over 21.0 grains of Herco. A great all-around load is 20.0 grains of Universal at 1,160 fps. This almost exactly duplicates the velocity of one-ounce factory loads.

Although not widely publicized, a shot weight of 1₁₆ ounces of shot makes a fine balanced load for the 16. My pick is 22.5 grains of SR-7625 for a speed of 1,178 fps. Patterns are great; recoil is modest.

Field loads of 1 ounce of shot are the most popular, and component fit is perfect with most plastic wads. Green Dot is a traditional powder for the 16 gauge, and a charge of 18.6 grains with a Remington SP-16 wad duplicates the factory load at 1,183 fps. Unique and HS-7 are also fine for this shot weight. Finally, there is the "magnum" load of 1¼ ounces of shot for the 16. The one load shown is a good one, but at 1,208 fps, recoil could be a bit grim in a light gun.

The 28 gauge has much to offer with handloads. The load with ⅝ ounce of shot may raise some eyebrows, but it is perfect for white-tailed ptarmigan or blue grouse in the black timber. No. 4s or 5s are perfect for these birds, as all you have to do is hit 'em with a couple of pellets. A charge of ⅝ ounce of this large shot usually fills the shot cup, but for smaller shot sizes, just place a .410-bore card wad — or two — under the shot, if necessary, for a good fit.

I've shot thousands of 28-gauge reloads with ¾ ounce of 9s at skeet, and I've settled on a load that duplicates Winchester's AA. A charge of 17.0 grains of Winchester 540 (or Hodgdon HS-6) gives a velocity of 1,188 fps, and no clay bird could escape as long as I pointed the M-101 right. It's also a great dove and quail load with 8s or 7½s.

The ₁₆- and ₁₆-ounce loads are also delightful to shoot. These shot charges fit nicely in most cases with the standard Remington PT28 and Winchester AA wads with Universal, HS-6 or HS-7 powder.

The heaviest practical shot weight in the 28 is â…ž ounce. Dense, spherical powders such as Longshot, Lil'Gun and HS-7 are perfect for conserving space for the shot charge, and velocities are right at 1,200 fps.


Older manuals list data for one-ounce loads for the 28, but these are less than optimum. It's almost impossible to get powder and shot in a case with a one-piece plastic wad and get a good crimp. Card and fiber wads can be used, but with no plastic to protect the shot, patterns suffer. Also, the observed velocities of one-ounce 28-gauge loads barely break 1,000 fps; this is also the case with factory one-ounce loads.

The 16 and 28 gauges date from the turn of the century. They may not be as popular as the 12 and 20 these days, but like a lot of old-timers, they're good to have around.


Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

David Fortier of Firearm News talks with Silencer Central CEO and founder, Brandon Maddox about the origins of the company and what led to its inception. From its humble beginnings at trade shows to inside the newly renovated complex in Sioux Falls South Dakota, Maddox talks through how Silencer Central is now everywhere owning a silencer is legal.

Behind Closed Doors; An Intro to Silencer Central

Jack Oller of Guns & Ammo and Josh Schirard of Byrna go over the future for Byrna Non-Lethal weapons. Introducing the 12 Guage projectile, just as powerful as Byrna's other projectiles just utilizable in the 12 gauge weapon you already own.

Non-Lethal 12 Guage

Jack Oller of Guns & Ammo and Josh Schirard of Byrna go through the three law enforcement and civilian home defense weapons, the Mission 4, TCR, and the MLR. Useable with the entire line of Byrna's projectiles, learn about the weapons law enforcement is becoming equipped with and how they can step up your home defense systems.

Non-lethal for Law Enforcement and Home Defense: Mission 4, TCR, MLR

Jack Oller of Guns & Ammo and Josh Schirard of Byrna go over the aspects of the rapid deployment body armor Shield Backpack that make it invaluable in today's world. No matter where you're going, Byrna's Shield backpack will protect and equip you the ability to provide medical assistance to anyone in need.

Anywhere Protection With the Shield Backpack

Jack Oller of Guns & Ammo and Josh Schirard of Byrna take a closer look at the pistol-style SD Launcher and how to set one up. Pneumatically powered, utilizing Byrna's "pull-pierce" technology, the SD Launcher is ready whenever you need it.

Everyday Ready With the SD Launcher

Jack Oller of Guns & Ammo and Josh Schirard of Byrna go over the various projectiles to utilize with any of their launchers, including Kinetic, Pepper, Inert, Eco-Kinetic, and Max.

Power to the Projectile

Jack Oller of Guns & Ammo talks with Josh Schirard of Byrna to discuss the aspects of Byrna launchers and projectiles that are revolutionizing the world of non-lethal protection.

Meet Byrna: An Introduction to Non-Lethal

Digital Editor Jack Oller reviews EAA's Girsan MC P35 9mm pistol. Based the original P.35 Hi-Power pistol, the P35 features easy-to-use rear and front dovetail sights, slide serrations, slim trigger, ambidextrous safety, 15+1 capactiy and more. Sitting between a subcompact and full-size handgun, this hammer-fired 9mm is a great option for open or concealed carry.

Range Tested: EAA Girsan MC P35 9mm Pistol Review

Digital Editor Jack Oller reviews EAA's Girsan MC312 Sport shotgun. With a 24-inch barrel, fiber-optic front sight, vented rib, enhanced loading port, extended magazine tube, integrated Picatinny rail, pistol grip and more, the Girsan MC312 Sport shotgun may be the perfect firearm for an entry-level 3-gun competitive shooter.

Range Tested: EAA Girsan MC312 Sport Shotgun Review

Guns and Ammo Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Guns & Ammo stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now