AN ANALYSIS OF SHOTGUN PELLET PENETRATION
By Matt Sicard

Matt Sicard, a reader of this blog, was kind enough to send me a very extensive, detailed, and scholarly analysis of the penetrative power of shotgun pellets at various velocities and ranges. The treatment of this very complex subject involves a lot of mathenatics, but he has broken things down into and exhaustive set of tables that summarize his data.


His discussion of the material is given below. If you have questions or need assistance with the work, please feel free to e-mail Matt.

Because this is a very long document I've formatted it into a PDF and you can download it by clicking on this link.

My deepest thanks to Matt for the tremendous amount of work this sort of thing entails, and for his willingness to share it with the hunting and shooting community. It will no doubt be of significant importance to all of us who use shotguns in our hunting.


Over the past few months I have been busy writing and editing a 73 page document with penetration tables for lead shot sizes #2-#9, steel shot sizes BBB-#6, Buckshot 0000-#4, and a couple others for use as round ball slugs. The penetration tables cover muzzle velocities from 1000-1600 fps for lead shot, 1300-1700 fps for steel shot, and 900 fps-1300 fps for buckshot. From the muzzle to 75 yards for lead and steel, and to 100 yards for buckshot.

I used a shot ballistics calculator found on www.ctmuzzleloaders.com to determine the retained velocity over a distance (using an assumed altitude of 1000 feet above sea level, and air temperature of 66 degrees Fahrenheit. I live at 900 feet above sea level so the assumed 1000 feet isn't quite arbitrary). The formula I used to calculate the penetration is my own invention (I'm pretty sure), and it accurately models the penetration shown by the KPY Shot-Shell Ballistics Calculator, accurate generally to within +/- 1/100 of the penetration determined by that calculator.

I also include a basic recoil formula that omits the recoil created by the powder, and the mass of the wad, just to demonstrate how shot increases and velocity increases affect recoil. As well as the penetration formula itself, with explanations on how to use it. The final page I titled "Other Considerations" which asserts potential flaws in the data, and things that I think need to also be taken into consideration.

The practical experience behind this was performed by the people who created the KPY Ballistics Program, and Dr S Wardlaw, the man who created the ballistic calculator I used to obtain the downrange velocities. This specifically applies to shotgun projectiles, though the formula can be applied to round balls. The only issue is that I'd expect far more deformation with larger projectiles, and thus less penetration than my formula might represent.