Skip to main content

Federal Shorty 12-Gauge Ammo Evaluation

Federal loads big fun in a small package.

Federal Shorty 12-Gauge Ammo Evaluation
Federal’s new Shorty 12-­gauge ammo has joined Aguila Minishells in the market of minimum-­length shotshells. Makers like Challenger and Exotic Ammo also offer the ultra-­short configuration. (Photo by Michael Anschuetz)

There is no law that says shotshells have to be 2¾ -­, 3-­ or 3½-­inches long. And Federal reminds us of that fact with its new Shorty 12-­gauge shells that increase magazine capacity, decrease recoil and make for a great time on the range.

If, as I do, you live in a rural area with lots of personal shooting ranges, you will have noticed that people seem mainly to shoot one way these days — as fast as they can for as long as they can. Tactical rifles and increased-­capacity pistols have facilitated this trend, but shotgunners have largely been left out. Unless you’re willing to buy a shotgun with a box or multi-­tube magazine, you’re pretty much limited to the five rounds a tubular magazine can hold. Magazine extensions will add a couple rounds to that total, but even seven rounds seem uninspiring when the guy next to you is triggering off 30 from his AR-­15.

If you can’t make the magazine longer, make the ammo shorter. Mexican-­manufacturer Aguila and Canada’s Challenger have been offering 1¾ 3-­inch shells for some time, and now Federal has joined this North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) club with its new line of Shorty 12-­gauge ammo.

Federal Shorty 12-­Gauge
Federal Shorty ammo are available loaded with 15 pellets of No. 4 buckshot, 1-ounce slugs or 15⁄16 ounce of No. 8 shot for clay target shooting. All are packaged in 10-round boxes. (Photo by Michael Anschuetz)

The vast majority of shotshells expended in the world are 2¾ -­inches long, but there’s no magic in that number. We all know about 3-­inch and 3½-­inch magnums, and if you shoot skeet, you’re familiar with 2½-­inch .410s.


In the great days of British shooting, many swore by 2-­inch shells. Centurion Ammo sold a 2-­inch Mini-­Buck shell with 6 pellets of 00 Buck, though it seems to have been discontinued. The standard 16-­gauge shell was formerly 2 9⁄16 inches, while the standard 10-­gauge was 2⅝ inches back in the day. When the dollar became abnormally strong during the Reagan Administration, European ammo manufacturers dumped lots of 65mm ammo on the U.S. market. (The standard 2¾-­inch shell is 70mm, the 3-­inch, 76mm.)


So, lengths other than 2¾ inches have been around for years, and the 2¾-­inch length dates back to black powder days, when a bulky charge of black powder was topped by a column of card and fiber wads. With modern smokeless powder, there’s really no great need for all that volume, which you know if you’ve ever examined a spent wad.

Keep in mind that the shell-­length measurement reflects the fired length, or the length before loading, if you prefer. So, a loaded 2¾ -­inch shell is more like 2¼ inches long. Similarly, the Federal Shorty 1¾-­inch load is 1½ inches long before firing.

Federal plans to offer three Shorty loads: A 1-­ounce rifled slug at 1,200 feet per second (fps), a buckshot load with 15 pellets of No. 4 Buck driven at the same velocity, and a target load with 15⁄16 ounce of No. 8 shot at 1,145 fps. The target load wasn’t ready when we tried Shorty ammo, so Guns & Ammo’s evaluation was limited to the slug and buckshot loads.

Both slug and buck loads are roll crimped. The slug has a plastic ball in its hollow base, while the buckshot load is nestled in plastic buffering to help keep patterns together. The first question on most anyone’s mind will be, How much extra capacity do I get? I grabbed a Remington Model 1100 and found that with the magazine plug in, it will hold four Shorty shells, while removing the plug upped capacity to seven.


Next, I turned to a new Mossberg 590A1 Retrograde, which has both an extended magazine and a vintage-­style ventilated handguard and bayonet lug. This would swallow a full dozen Shorties, which constitutes some real magazine capacity. But how, reliable are they? There is obviously no problem in any sort of break-­open shotguns, and I suspect no one is worrying too much about whether they’ll go through a lever-­ or bolt-­action shotgun.

I didn’t expect they’d feed through an autoloader, but in the name of science, I tried them in the Remington 1100. I got the first round to feed from the magazine to the chamber, but the next round spun inside the receiver, hanging things up. I loaded some in a Benelli Super Black Eagle III and results were even more disappointing. Two Shorties were loaded onto the Benelli’s lifter. The verdict? Shooting them in an autoloader is likely a single-­load proposition.

Next, I tried them in a Remington Model 870 slug gun. When operated smoothly, the 870 would feed the Shorty ammo with little complaint. If you tried to pump fast and furious, a jam was the usual result.


Federal Shorty 12-­Gauge
The OPSol Mini-Clip 2.0 Flex adapts Mossberg 500 variants to fire Shorty and other 1-inch shotshells. No gunsmithing is required. Just squeeze to insert it in the rear of the loading port. (Photo by Michael Anschuetz)

Next up was the Mossberg 590 Shockwave, and results were about the same there. Pump it moderately and Shorty ammo would feed. Get carried away and you can practice clearing jams.

That’s all OK, but is there a way to get something like normal reliability? That’s where OPSol (opsolmini-­clip.com, $17) comes in. Its Mini-­Clip 2.0 Flex lets you adapt your Mossberg pump gun for reliable shooting of Federal Shorty or other 1¾-­inch ammo with no permanent modifications required.

The Mini-­Clip is a rubber plug of remarkably complicated shape that you simply cram into the rear of the shotgun’s loading port. It’s soft enough for you to squeeze it enough to go in, then it expands to grip the inside of the receiver. Its angled forward edge performs two functions: It prevents shells coming from the magazine tube from moving all the way to the back of the lifter, and it makes loading much easier by serving as a ramp that directs the Shorties toward the magazine tube.

The Mossberg lifter design allows this to work because it is open in the middle, letting it pass on either side of the Mini-­Clip. Translation: It won’t work with the 870 or other shotguns with a solid lifter. The unit pops right out to return the shotgun to conventional ammo use. I suppose it might wear out over time, but if it does, it’s affordable.

Installing the Mini-­Clip removes all concern about how hard or fast to pump. I could not induce a failure to feed with it. The only stoppages came because the Shorty shells don’t produce enough recoil to release the bolt unless you take a firm grip of the forend.

So, what are Shorty shells good for? There’s a lot of tiptoeing around the topic of defensive uses. Federal, for example, says they are for target shooting. OPSol’s website, on the other hand, touts “Home Defense for the Whole Family in 3 easy steps: 1. Mossberg Shockwave, 2. OPSol Mini-­Clip 2.0 Flex, 3. Buckshot MiniShells.”

We dug some slugs out of the backstop, and I for one, would not want to be hit by one at close range. I patterned the buckshot loads from the modified choke of a Remington 1100 at 15 yards, and they tended to land in a 6-­ to 8-­inch circle, which would transfer a lot of energy to its target.

Federal Shorty 12-­Gauge

I would need to see a lot more testing of the OPSol/Mossberg combo to recommend it for home defense, but it certainly makes the Shockwave, if that’s your choice of burglar gun, much more docile.

Where I can unequivocally recommend Shorty Shells is for fun at the range. Put up some steel targets, back off a safe distance, and you’re ready for hours of shooting fun. Federal’s website lists the retail prices at $9 for 10 shells of the buckshot and slug loads, and $7 for the No. 8 shot cartridges.

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

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Umarex Air Ruger 10/22 Rifle Review

Umarex Air Ruger 10/22 Rifle Review

In this segment of "Guns & Ammo TV," Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr head to the range to wring out the Umarex Air Ruger 10/22.

Guns & Ammo TV: Cameras Don

Guns & Ammo TV: Cameras Don't Lie: 9mm vs .45 ACP

The age-old question, 9mm vs .45 ACP. For some, this has been asked and answered already. For others, the debate goes on. In this segment of “Cameras Don't Lie,” competitive shooters Patrick Sweeney and Jim Tarr head to the range to put the vaunted loads on record, and then consider the footage.

Guns & Ammo TV: Irons vs. Optics

Guns & Ammo TV: Irons vs. Optics

How much of an edge do optics give shooters? In this segment of Pros vs. Joes, Guns & Ammo TV puts Coordinating Producer Jeff Murray against Professional Shooter Chris Cerino.

Guns & Ammo TV: 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .375 H&H

Guns & Ammo TV: 6.5 Creedmoor vs. .375 H&H

The 6.5 Creedmoor and the .375 H&H are almost complete opposites, or are they? The 6.5 Creedmoor is a newer and popular cartridge that transcends long-range precision rifle shooting and hunting big game. The .375 H&H is more than a century old, but still a popular and versatile choice for hunting big and dangerous game. For this shoot, Pro Tom Beckstrand, former U.S. Army Special Operations officer and sniper team leader, faces off against Guns & Ammo TV cameraman Ben LaLonde in a challenge that highlights the differences between these two cartridges.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan is arguably the best production-grade precision hunting rifle available.Review: Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan Rifles

Review: Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan

Joseph von Benedikt - March 25, 2019

The Browning X-Bolt Hell's Canyon Speed Long Range McMillan is arguably the best...

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a zeroed rifle scope. Here's how to sight in your rifle scope setup in five quick-and-easy steps.How to Sight In a Rifle Scope in 5 Steps How-To

How to Sight In a Rifle Scope in 5 Steps

Craig Boddington - June 04, 2018

Whether you're going hunting or to the range, hitting your target is more fun when you have a...

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of Mossberg, Tikka, Savage, Howa, Bergara, Weatherby and Remington.Starter Rifles for Under $1000 Rifles

Starter Rifles for Under $1000

Aaron Carter - May 09, 2019

Don't mortgage the homestead to get into PRS, this is what's available from the likes of...

The story of a confederate sniper’s revenge and an exclusive look at his rifle.The Story of Civil War Sniper Jack Hinson and His Rifle Historical

The Story of Civil War Sniper Jack Hinson and His Rifle

Kyle Lamb - January 12, 2018

The story of a confederate sniper’s revenge and an exclusive look at his rifle.

See More Trending Articles

More Shotgun

The new Federal Shorty 12-Gauge shells increase magazine capacity, decrease recoil and make for a great time on the range.Federal Shorty 12-Gauge Ammo Evaluation Shotgun

Federal Shorty 12-Gauge Ammo Evaluation

Robert W. Hunnicutt - March 30, 2020

The new Federal Shorty 12-Gauge shells increase magazine capacity, decrease recoil and make...

Craig Boddington talks about Hornady's new Heavy Mag Turkey Load.Hornady Heavy Mag Turkey Load Shotgun

Hornady Heavy Mag Turkey Load

Guns & Ammo TV - February 14, 2015

Craig Boddington talks about Hornady's new Heavy Mag Turkey Load.

The shotgun is the most versatile of all firearms. You can use it for everything from informal target shooting to big game hunting and personal defense. The key to getting the most from your shotgun is selecting the proper ammunition.Great Loads for Shotgunners Shoot 101

Great Loads for Shotgunners

Courtney Nicolson - May 11, 2020

The shotgun is the most versatile of all firearms. You can use it for everything from informal...

Federal Black Cloud TSS is now offered in a new 20-gauge load that blends No. 3 FLITESTOPPER Steel with No. 9 18 g/cc Tungsten Super Shot. Shipments of this new product have begun to arrive at dealers.Federal Black Cloud TSS 20 Gauge – First Look Shotgun

Federal Black Cloud TSS 20 Gauge – First Look

Guns & Ammo Staff - June 08, 2020

Federal Black Cloud TSS is now offered in a new 20-gauge load that blends No. 3 FLITESTOPPER...

See More Shotgun

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

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.

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 mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now