Federal Premium Shorty Shotshell Loads

posted on February 20, 2020

Federal Premium offers its new, SAAMI-approved Shorty Shotshells in No. 8 and No. 4 buck as well as a 1-ounce slug for the 12-gauge shotgun.

The first thing folks think when they see the new Shorty Shotshells from Federal Premium is that they are cute, and indeed they are. The second thing they think is that, due to their shorter length, they could be used to increase the capacity of defensive shotguns. I’ve heard good and bad reports about the use of reduced-length shotshells in repeating shotguns. About 5 years ago I tested and reported on the Aguila short shotshells in this very column. I found them less-than-reliable in a Mossberg shotgun. With the release of the new Shorty Shotshells from Federal, and the availability of the OpSol Mini-Clip 2.0 Flex—an inexpensive accessory to adapt select pump shotguns for use with shorty shells—I figured I ought to give them a look as well.

Federal offers three Shorty Shotshell loads for the 12 gauge: A No. 8 shot load, a No. 4-buck load and a 1-ounce slug load. Regardless of the load, overall shell length measures a tad less than 1.75 inches. Shells are packaged 10 per container and retail for substantially less than $10 per box. Though primarily considered ammunition for break-action shotguns, I was curious to see how they would perform in an unmodified Remington 870 and Mossberg 590 shotgun, without the short shell adapter installed.

The primary test shotgun used was an 18-inch-barreled Remington 870 with a cylinder-bore choke. This is a shotgun similar to what many police agencies issue and to what many homeowners keep for defense. I wanted to see what type patterns could be expected from the No. 4-buck load at common defensive-engagement distances. Using a cardboard IPSC target, I fired single shots from 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. The resulting patterns measured a nominal 2, 5, 6, 11 and 18 inches. This is reasonably good performance for buckshot. With a center-mass hold all of the pellets should stay within the torso of a human adversary out to 25 yards.

To test the 1-ounce slug load, I did not get overly technical. Using the same shotgun, I simply fired 10, off-hand shots onto another cardboard IPSC target placed at 25 yards. The resulting 10-shot group measured 3.5 inches. This is more than enough precision to engage a hostile threat out to beyond 50 yards.

With a payload of 15 pellets of No. 4 buck, at 10 yards you’re driving about 830 ft.-lbs. of energy into the target. A standard 2¾-inch No. 4-buck shotshell will contain 30 pellets, meaning it will deliver twice the energy and double the chance for faster incapacitation. However, don’t assume this means 15 pellets of No. 4 buck is something some goblin will laugh off; it is, by any measure, a payload of manstopper goodness.

With regard to the 1-ounce slug Shorty Shotshell, its impact velocity will likely be a bit less than what the same-weight slug fired out of a 2¾-inch shotshell would be. However, a 1-ounce slug is still a 1-ounce slug, capable of cutting an almost ¾-inch hole through and through even a big, fat, mean and ugly bad guy or just about anything else you might need to shoot with a shotgun. 

Like with any gun-and-ammunition combination used for self-defense, reliability is the first concern. A gun you’re betting your life on has to work every time and all the time. With the Remington 870 I found that as long as I worked the action robustly, reliability was about 90 percent with the buckshot loads and about 80 percent with the slug loads. Out of a Mossberg 590 both loads—I fired 20 rounds of each—cycled 100 percent of the time.

Ammunition reliability, whether being established with a rifle, handgun or shotgun, is of course gun dependent. Just because a certain load works in one gun is no indication it will work in another. If you’re considering the Shorty Shells for self-defense, you would be quite wise to run at least four or five boxes through your shotgun to establish functioning reliability.

Practical Application
The Federal Shorty Shotshells offer several advantages over conventional shotgun ammunition. They generate noticeably less recoil. For those who are intimidated by the shotgun, use of the Shorty Shotshells will go a long way in relieving pre-trigger-press anxiety. The Shorty Shotshells also take up less space and weigh less, too. A standard 2¾-inch No. 4-buck shotshell will weigh about 570 grains. A No. 4-buck Federal Shorty Shotshell will weigh about 437 grains. This means that a 5-pound ammunition supply would equal about 60 rounds of 2¾-inch shotshells, while 5 pounds of Shorty Shotshells would equate to 80 rounds. That’s a substantial ammunition increase (more than 30 percent.)

If you’re keeping a pump shotgun, or one of those oddly ATF-classified “firearms” like the Mossberg Shockwave, for home defense and if that arm will 100 percent cycle, feed, fire, eject and extract Federal’s new Shorty shotgun shells, by all means I’d suggest you use them. (If reliabil-ity when feeding shells is an issue, you might try the OpSol Mini-Clip 2.0 Flex, which is available for $17 at opsolmini-clip.com). Either way, your shotgun’s capacity will be increased, recoil will be reduced and you will shoot the firearm better. If your defensive shotgun is a break-action, single or double barrel, the Shorty Shotshells should work just fine and provide the same soft-recoiling, less-intimidating benefits.

Maybe the most important aspect of the new, shortened shotshells from Federal Premium is that the company submitted these 1¾-inch shotshells to SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute) for approval. With that approval, there are now published SAAMI standards, which in turn should lead to the manufacture of new pump and possibly even semi-automatic shotguns specifically intended for use with 1¾-inch shotshells. If you’re a devotee of the shotgun as a tool for personal protection and/or home defense, that is both exciting and promising news.


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