FEDERAL RECENTLY PRESENTED its 12-gauge 1.75-inch Smooth Bore Barrel cartridge and chamber designs, otherwise known as their Shorty shotshells, to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI) to be voted on for standardization. The specifications were approved, and the new cartridge has been officially recognized by the organization.
Technical data and drawings of the 12-gauge, 1.75-inch SAAMI Standards are now published and available (you can see the full cartridge and chamber specs at the bottom of this post).
Now, why should you care? Shotshells in 1.75” length have been around for a long time, right?
Well yes, they have, but they haven’t been standardized until now, which means gun companies have been reluctant to design a shotgun, or modify existing designs, to cycle the short shells if the dimensions of the cartridge weren't consistent or subject to change.
And while break actions can use the Shortys just fine, most pump guns made for at least 2.75-inch shells have trouble cycling them, and nearly all semi-autos won’t even try.
Now that the smaller shells have been standardized, who knows what kind of shotgun models we might see rolling out of gun factories.
“This is big news for our new Shorty shotshell ammunition,” says Rick Stoeckel, Federal’s shotshell product director. “The 12-gauge 1¾-inch cartridge has been around for more than a decade, but it was never brought to SAAMI to be considered by its Technical Committee. Once we decided to start manufacturing this load, we immediately submitted it to SAAMI for industry standardization. We’re excited about this approval, and we deeply appreciate SAAMI’s support.”
And shooters aren’t sacrificing power for size. Federal’s 1.75” shells, introduced at SHOT Show 2019, have been designed to deliver performance similar to that of standard-size shells, the company says.
“Although only 1.75-inches long, the new Shorty shotshells offer patterns, energy, and accuracy similar to that of full-size counterparts,” he says. “They are now available in No. 8 shot, No. 4 buck, and rifled slug loads.”
All well and good, but it begs the question: Why did Federal decide to run with this load in the first place? Simple: the longer shotshell hull design is simply outdated for many applications, according to Stoekel.
“Larger 12-gauge loads were invented a long time ago when the 2-3/4-inch length was required to fit the amount of powder needed to propel the payload of shot,” Stoekel says. “With newer, modern powders, we don’t need that much space, so air gaps in wads are used.
“Today, short shotshells are all you really need when using modern powders. It is way more efficient on the amount of materials needed to make modern shotshells. It just makes sense.”
And less materials will, hopefully, mean lowers ammo prices for you.
Though Federal had plans a decade ago to introduce shorter shells, it held off because it saw that the market was not there to support the big sales necessary to justify the cost of production and distribution.
“So, we sat on that work until the time was right,” Stoekel says.
And now the time is right.
“Recently our customers have been asking for us to produce Shorty shells that can outperform loads available from our competitors,” he says. “We listened to those requests and are now delivering the loads they want.”
And just who are those customers?
“Customers who shoot speed competitions, like 3-Gun and others, often are concerned about magazine capacity,” Stoekel says. “They are looking for ways to speed up reloads and shoot more rounds before reloading. With Shorty shotshells, you can fit more rounds in the (tubular) magazine.”
Stoekel also notes that Shorty shells should appeal to sporting clay shooters as well.
“You can put more rounds in a vest pocket or belt pouch, and those who use an over-under will feel less recoil,” he says. “I think these shooters will also find that the rounds are a lot of fun to shoot. So, retailers will find this shell will appeal to a broad group of their customer base.”
And, of course, a higher shell capacity is always a benefit in a defensive shotgun.
As this shell design moves toward the mainstream, Stoekel says the next step is up to shotgun manufacturers. “As the industry and marketplace already knows, feeding of short shotshell ammunition in semi-auto and pump action shotguns is not guaranteed.”
That’s because shotguns today are designed to feed and eject a 2.75”and/or larger 3” or 3.5” magnum shells. The small 1.75" shells can tumble around in those large chambers and actions and get jammed up. There are products on the market, like the Mini Clip from OpSol for the Mossberg 500 and 590 pump guns, that help mitigate these problems, but operation is still not as reliable as it should be, and there's no such adapter for other popular shotgun models, like the Remington 870.
“Shooters have been working around this with aftermarket modifications to the gun to help with function,” he says. “Ultimately, the market will have to rely on the gun manufacturers to adapt or design gun systems around the shorter designs.
“SAAMI’s approval of the cartridge was a crucial step in legitimizing it within the industry, paving the way for broader acceptance with the shooting public. Our hope is that SAMMI’s work will inspire shotgun manufacturers to purposely build pump-action and semi-auto shotguns that can specifically run 1.75-inch loads.”
MSRP: No. 4 Buck, box of 10: $11.95 • Rifled Slug, box of 10: $11.95 • No. 8 Shot, box of 10: $5.95