How Shotshells Are Made

Even if you don’t handload, you probably have a good idea how shotshells are loaded. Powder, wad, shot, crimp. It’s pretty basic. But what about the actual shell? Ever thought about how those are made? I have to say I was impressed when I first saw it.

Shotshells start as big hoppers full of little plastic pellets that are melted into thick tubes that look much like a very thick-walled PVC pipe. That pipe is heated and extruded to the right diameter and shell wall thickness depending on the gauge shell being made. If the shotshell is grooved, the grooves are put in as part of the extrusion process.

The extruded tube is cut to different lengths depending on whether it will have an integral basewad, or a separate one inserted into the base. If it’s integral, one end of the short tube is heated and pressed into a die to form the basewad. Some shotshells have paper basewads that are “spun up” using thin ribbons of paper that are then seated into the end of the tube.

The “brass” head of a shotshell is actually steel (usually) and they’re frequently seen moving about shotshell factories on magnetic conveyor belts. Once the basewad is in place, the brass head is put on over the base and crimped on during final sizing. The hull is then trimmed, skived and ready to load.




Scott Mayer

“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”



Scott Mayer

Writer at John1911
Mayer began his outdoor industry career in 1993 on the NRA Technical Staff where he became American Rifleman magazine first Shooting Editor. Mayer left NRA and entered the business end of publishing in 2003 as Advertising Account Executive for Safari Club International SAFARI Magazine and Safari Times newspaper. In 2006, Mayer was named Publisher of Shooting Times magazine where he was also tasked with launching and leading Personal Defense TV, the first television show of its kind.

In 2008, Mayer returned to the editorial side of publishing, this time in the digital field, as Editorial Director for Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Handguns and Rifleshooter online magazines. After a brief stint in 2011 as the Digital Media Director for an ABC TV affiliate, Mayer returned to the outdoors industry and Safari Club International where he is currently Assistant Publisher and Multi-Media Communications Editor.
Scott Mayer

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