Reading a recent post regarding a ‘Snake Slayer’ over on my favorite blog (besides my own), my own small supply of pistol type shot cartridges came to mind. It was languishing in the back of the ammunition locker, acquired long ago for reasons long forgotten.
Digging a bit found CCI shot cartridges for .22 long rifle and 9mm Luger, as well as empty shot capsules meant to be filled and loaded into .38 special and .44 Magnum cases. These unused and aging capsules were made by Speer, and are still produced today.
Shot cartridges in rimfire and pistol calibers have long been around. Meant to turn a sidearm into a close range pest remover, they have been bought by homeowners, gardeners, and farmers for ages. In my own youth they were handed to me by my father, with instructions to shoot any rat, flying or not, seen in the barn. I recall trying out the old
As a boy, I turned to more useful tools such as my trusty
Today I decided to put the miniscule shot cartridges to the test, on paper at the range. Gathering suitable instruments of instruction, along with a camera, it was off to the club! With me went a .410 single shot shotgun, a CZ .22 rifle, my old Taurus .38 snubby, and a Ruger P-85 in 9mm. Ammo to be tested included the CCI offerings in .22lr and 9mm, and a few .38 special rounds loaded with the Speer capsules and #8 shot. The .410 was to serve as the baseline, being considered the quintessential garden gun and pest eradicator of all time. Many a farmers’ barn and gardeners shed boasts an H+R Topper in .410 standing sentry near the door, ready for the call of duty when snake, rat, or bunny appears in the wrong place at the wrong time.
On the subject of ‘Snake Guns’, I can see and agree with the need for protection from poisonous snakes in habitats where they live. Although most snakes will run away from a man rather than attack, there are exceptions to that rule. Cottonmouths in particular have been known to give chase to someone crossing their path. In areas where these critters live, I would happily keep a sidearm with me while hiking or working the garden. In other area’s where poisonous snakes are rare, but beneficial ones are present, I avoid killing snakes when I can. They are no threat to man, but rather eat the rodents that are.
Taking a fifty foot pistol bay for today’s testing, I put up targets featuring a pest I’d happily shoot on sight. Rats! I can handle snakes, but a rat or two will have me kicking over boxes with a club in my hand as fast as you can say ‘disease ridden vermin’.
The full choked .410 was fired at 25 feet, well within its range, but about normal for pest control ranges. Using #4 shot, the little shotgun performed with easy and quiet efficiency and fairly obliterated the rat target. Any plans on garden raiding evaporated.
Next up, the .22 long rifle CCI shot cartridges. Loaded with #12 shot, these minuscule shot shells with their little cup of ‘dust shot’ were fired from a CZ 452 bolt action rifle. Tried first at the same 25 feet as the .410, the rat on the target actually seemed to giggle a little at being tickled with sparse shot impacts.
Moving to 10 feet with the .22 caused the rat some concern, but I doubt it was more than discomfort.
Taking it to almost muzzle touching distance, 5 feet, the rat came into range of the .22 LR shot cartridge and perhaps it was an effective range. While there were strikes on the body of the target, it remains to be seen if they would have been effective. Probably they would, but not instantly. Perhaps a pistol would show a better pattern, but I lacked one for testing today.
Moving up to the 9mm pistol, it was fired first at 10 feet, and its 64 grain load of #9 shot spread fairly wide. If the rat was hit, it was by luck and with only a few pellets. Perhaps a full auto H+K MP5 rat destroyer special might have done better.
Closing range to 5 feet, the 9mm seemed to pattern much better, and would likely be fairly effective on pest like objects. If nothing else, the increase in noise over the .22 should act to alert the rat to someone’s dislike. Still, it would not surprise me to see either a rat or a snake not instantly dispatched with the .22 or 9mm at more than a few feet of distance. The 9mm with it's slightly larger shot and better pattern should be substantially more effective.
On another, and worthy, note... the CCI 9mm luger shot ammunition fed and cycled in the Ruger P-85 perfectly. That was not a sure thing, as the light projectile weight and unusual configuration can cause serious feeding hiccups in self loaders.
Advancing to the .38 special snubnose loaded with 100 grains of #8 shot over a moderate charge of fast Bullseye powder, the test target at 10 feet gave a telling tale. While not as effective a pattern as the .410, it was quite good compared to the lighter pistol rounds at the same distance. Shooting at a closer range was unnecessary, as the 10 foot target showed sufficient pattern density to easily dispatch pests. The heavier shot was more impressive as well, judging from the backstop upheaval on impact.
Given the easy carry characteristics of the snub nosed pistol, and the fairly decent results of pattern testing at a reasonable pest shooting range, it seems the .38/.357 revolver might be the way to go for pest control, given a situation where a .22 rifle or a light shotgun are inappropriate. While the single barrel shotgun is far better suited to garden pest elimination, it’s just a little hard to pull weeds with one in hand. As for walking a trail in snake country, a decent revolver on the belt with a shot cartridge up first under the hammer would sure settle a travelers mind as to Mr. Slithers intentions.