Saturday, May 30, 2009

A shotgun in your holster... pistol cartridges for pest control

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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 Winchester crimped brass .22 long rifle shot cartridge on grain stealing pigeons, only to find them mildly amused at all the fuss. Not only did the tiny and sparse #12 shot have no deleterious effect on them, it often bounced off the age hardened wooden beams and peppered me worse than the pests!

As a boy, I turned to more useful tools such as my trusty Sheridan air rifle and the ever present ‘Wrist-Rocket’ slingshot. At least they would drop a rat or a pigeon with authority, although an elevated miss might perforate a roof shingle too. That was never a danger with the .22 shot cartridges, as their pellets didn’t even seem to reach the roof.

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.

29 comments:

AKA Angrywhiteman said...

It appears that rifled barrels and shot are a minimal compromise.

http://carteach0.blogspot.com/search?q=rifled+slug+barrel

Mo said...

Good report. Thanks for posting

Michael W. said...

Good post!

Having played around with various shot cartridges, (I live in cottonmouth country) I have noticed that shorter barrels are the way to go. The longer barrels on rifles and pistols seem to put such a spin on the shot capsule that it causes big gaps in the center of the pattern.

Others mileage may vary.......

theotherryan said...

Good report I will keep that in mind. Rio did a test on the shot shells through a .45 and they seemed sufficient. Seems like these are all plenty good for snakes you stumble onto but if my plan was determined pest control carrying around a shotgun would be the way to go.

Old NFO said...

Good report, thanks! I could have used a couple of those .38 ones today at the range... Mr. No Shoulders showed up as I was walking out to pick up my target. Needless to say, I moved a little quicker than normal :-)

Everett said...

Have shot lots of the .22's with no kills ever really recorded. A question, does the little yellow cap go down the barrel or does it get removed before loading? Never seen one like that. Good post and will be looking for more reloading tips at your pleasure.

Carteach0 said...

Everett, I have no idea what happens to the capsule. I found no remains at all. My guess is the stress of being forced into the barrel and the imparted spin from the rifling tear it to pieces. Good question though.

Old NFO, or the M4 with a 30 rounder.... now that would be a picture. "AHHHHH...." bangbangbangbangbangbangbangbangbang

Huey148 said...

You used a snubbie with the .38 loads, I wonder how a 4" barrel would affect spread at the same distances? A snub would be a good carry piece but a 4" might be a bit more effective for the stated purpose. Acutally a 4" .357 with a mixed load of .357 and shot shells on you might be a good carry for both large and small critters.

Carteach0 said...

Huey148, I doubt the extra few inches of barrel would make a measurable difference. Now, that might change if I was playing with powder burn rates vs. barrel length.

As for mixed loads, I have just never been a big fan of that. I like things simple, rugged, and dependable. In a defensive situation, I'd rather not have the first shot be something annoying, instead of a stopping round. Likewise, if I was carrying a sidearm to deal with random garden and trail pests, it might take more than one shot charge, and probably would.

I guess... that means carrying two pistols (g).

Should I get my hands on a decent 4" .38/.357 revolver, I may just try the comparison. Good thought.

Conservative Scalawag said...

Good post. I have only one box of such loads,for .38 spcl. I do wish, eventually, to get a single shot .410, for both this reason,and the fun factor.

KelTex said...

Interesting. I bought a Hi-Point 995 9mm carbine several months ago with a box of shotshells thinking it would be a more versatile varmint gun. I thought the functionality of a Snake Charmer/Tamer type of shotgun combined with the greater firepower of the 9mm for bigger critters would be a good compromise. I think I'll setup a big cardboard box and check the pattern before using the rat shot on any varmints. It might be slightly more useable in my KelTec PF-9 but your results don't give me much confidence.

Matt G said...

Good report.

I once loaded up a bunch of #7.5 shot in some CCI plastic cups in .38 SPL, using the setting we already had the Dillon 550 set for: 5 grains of Unique.

Whoa. Blew the baseboard out from under the sink in the kitchen when I shot a rat. Mayhaps shoulda backed off the load a tad bit, and gotten some #9 shot. Or #8, at least.

Everett said...

Matt, loved the story about the rat. Two of my OLDER boys used to live in a dump and would lay on the couch and shoot at rats they saw traversing the kitchen floor. After one such episode they thought they smelled gas, LPG. Turns out they had put a round right thru the gas line and when the gas reached the pilot, all the windows in the kitchen and all the glassware was turned to shards! They set mucho traps after that trick!

Tom Stone said...

I once used a .22 shot cartridge fired from a 6" barrelled Ruger on a field mouse at a range of about 8 feet.The mouse had a broken foreleg and left a blood trail as it ran away.Tracking was not successful...

oldblinddog said...

I have a supply of the crimped brass/#12 shot and use them in my Remington 510 with great success on pigeons in an airplane hangar where no holes or bounce back are tolerable. The trick was to make head shots as a shot to the breast of the bird only wounded it.

TJP said...

Too bad rats don't recognize the danger in visiting the home of a man who keeps rat targets for practice.

I tried the Speer .22 shot years ago, and I swear that the pattern opens up a foot for every foot of distance.

My own experience with tree rats has shown me that rodents have a hide thick enough to withstand shot smaller than #6. If carrying the .410 around was not convenient, my second choice would be a greenhouse gas pellet repeater.

GunGeek said...

I was in a john boat in a flooded area when the boat brushed up against some semi-submerged bushes. The guy with me said not to move and then proceeded to take three shots at a cottonmouth about five feet above us. He hit it twice, both leaving nice 9mm semi-circular notches in the snake. The critter seemed to be rather perturbed by the whole situation.

I pulled out my S&W 4516 that had one of the 45 shotshells (they aren't like any in your photos- they have a sort of bottle neck to them with a curved crimped inward sort of top and a piece of plastic topping off the shot but not extending beyond the case. Their OAL would be the same as a loaded round.) in the chamber and one topping off the magazine. I pointed the gun in the general direction of the snake and pulled the trigger. That's all it took.

My buddy was rather impressed since his shots failed to stop it and you really didn't notice anything different about the snake at first when I shot it.

Since that time I have always had at least the first round be one of the snake shot rounds whenever I've been out in snake country.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article sir. I've pretty much found out that except for very close range (< 10 feet), rimfire shot loads don't have enough shot to be really useful. Snub nose .38 with one CCI shot load, followed by 4 HPs - good south Texas ranch carry gun. Though the viboras are getting somewhat scarce, haven't killed one in several years.

Conservative Scalawag, those T/C Contender .410 barrels are a lot of fun. Not nearly as punishing as firing the derringer .410s. My only complaint with .410s - factory cost. Otherwise, potent medicine - wing shooting is VERY challenging, at least for me.

Old NFO said...

Nah, the range was "cold" so I didn't have the M4, just my snubbie in my pocket. Next time, I WILL have some snake shot loaded believe me!

J.R.Shirley said...

We hates cottonmouths. Hates them. About the only NA snake I feel that way about, actually...

Carteach0 said...

I generally have a live and let live policy with snakes, unless they are aggressive or I am certain they are dangerous.

That said..... a buddy and I were once accosted by a very large black snake. Okay... by accosted, I mean we almost stepped on it. All parties were shocked and uncomfortable, with nothing good to say at the moment.

Said snake made his escape, but sadly in the direction of my buddy, who promptly screamed like a girl scout and turned tail.

I unleashed the fires of hell upon Mr. Slither in defense of my friend.... well, it was more like a magazine dump from a pocket .22... and missed with all ten rounds at close range.

Everyone survived the incident, including the rather confused black snake.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carteach0.
Does firing shot through a pistal damage the barrel? I have a Sig Sauer mosquito which is not made of the most durable material to begin with. Any danger of excessive wear to the barrel or loss of rifling using shot pellets?
Thanks.

Carteach0 said...

I have seen no evidence that shot will harm a rifled barrel at all.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Quinn over at Gunblast worked up a good "snake stoppter" round for .38 and .45 with excellent, real-world results:

http://www.gunblast.com/Snake_Stopper.htm

JT

Anonymous said...

Summer camp I attended as a teen occasionally had trap sessions: small clays thrown by a small hand operated device, the business element being a single-shot loading the crimped .22 shotshells. The gun was reasonably accurate and would regularly break clays out to 25-30 feet. Its secret must have been that, while the chamber held .22 shotshell, the actual bore opened out to around 410.

Craig said...

I hear that .22 shot is supposed to be fired from a smooth-bore barrel and allows for a longer reach of ~20 feet. They used to shoot something Mo-Skeet with .22 shot shells

The New American Revolution said...

I live in a swamp in south Ga.
Cottonmouths, rattlers, copperheads, 5 water moccasins in the last 3 weeks have fallen victim to a long barrel .357 with shot. They tend to lose their heads, missed 1 b/c of the combo load slugs and shot my dad miscounted the rounds. Was pretty funny tho, poor tree he will be missed.

Will said...

If you convert a .22 to smoothbore for these shotshells, make sure it is at least 18", since that is the legal minimum length for a shotgun barrel here in the US.

Jonathan H said...

I have successfully taken squirrel with the Remington crimped mouth 'rat shot'. Note that I didn't say killed - I had to finish him off afterwards, but it stopped him enough for me to grab him and wring his neck.
I found that when the crimp expands, a robust extractor is needed to eject it. My 10/22 won't eject it, but my single shot Rossi has no trouble.