Maximum Range of Shot Pellets

Shot sizes relative ranges
Shot sizes relative ranges

Q: Shooters sometimes ask you about the maximum range of various bullets, but I don’t remember anyone ever asking about the maximum range of shotgun pellets. So what can you tell me about the maximum distances at which shotgun pellets pose a danger?
Neal Blackwell

A: The remaining energy of shotgun pellets smaller than No.2 at maximum range is minimal, but they could prove damaging to the eyesight of people not wearing safety glasses. Maximum range of shot pellets varies with pellet mass and velocity. It is interesting to note, however, that even a 16kph tail wind can increase the range of shot by up to 15 percent, and that range is increased at higher elevations. Fine shot such as No. 7-1/2 will travel about 250

metres at sea level, larger shot such as No. 2 about 305 metres, and BB to 360 metres. Buckshot will travel from 600 to 1000 metres, depending on size, with larger buckshot like 00 and 000 going the farthest. Rifles slugs of all gauges have a maximum range of about 780 metres at sea level, or about 760 metres. Buckshot and slugs retain enough terminal energy to be dangerous. For comparison, a .22 Long Rifle bullet has a maximum range of 1485 metres at sea level and would fall to earth with 5 ft/lbs of energy. This approximates the striking force of a single No.2 shot pellet from a 76mm magnum 12 ga. load at 50 metres.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.