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CCI .22LR snake shot loaded with #12 shot

Snake shot (a.k.a.: bird shot, rat shot and dust shot)[1] refers to handgun and rifle cartridges loaded with small lead shot. Snake shot is generally used for shooting at snakes, rodents, birds, and other pests at very close range. The most common snake shot cartridge is .22 Long Rifle loaded with #12 shot. From a standard rifle these can produce effective patterns only to a distance of about 3 metres (10 ft) - but in a smoothbore shotgun (or Garden Gun) this can extend as far as 15 metres (50 ft).


Snake shot is generally used for shooting at snakes, rodents, birds, and other pest at very close range. Commonly use by hikers, backpacker and campers, snake shot is ideally suited for use in derringers and revolvers (especially "Kit guns"), chambered for .22 Long Rifle, or .38 Special and .357 Magnum. Snake shot may not cycle properly in semi-automatic pistols.

Military Issue .45 ACP M15 "shot shell" on the far right.

Shot shells have also been historically issued to soldiers, to be used in standard issue rifles. The .45-70 "Forager" round, which contained a thin wooden bullet filled with birdshot, was intended for hunting small game to supplement the soldiers' rations.[2][3] This round in effect made the .45-70 rifle into a small gauge shotgun, capable of killing rabbits, ducks, and other small game.

During World War II, the United States military developed the .45 ACP M12 and M15 shot shells cartridges. They were issued to pilots, to be used as foraging ammunition in the event that they were shot down. The M15 cartridges were loaded with 118 pellets of # 7 1/2 birdshot.[4] The boxes were marked "For use in hunting small game effective range 25 feet."[5] While they were best used in the M1917 revolvers, the M15 cartridge would actually cycle the semi-automatic M1911 pistols action.[6] The current CCI .45ACP shotshell cartridges is virtually identical to these rounds.

Snake shot shellsEdit

A regular Winchester .22 LR cartridge (left), with a star-crimped .22 Long Rifle snake shot cartridge loaded with #12 shot (right).
CCI .38 Special shot shells using plastic capsule.

Both Winchester[7] and Federal[8] make star-crimped .22 Long Rifle snake shot loaded with #12 shot. These cartridges resemble traditional crimped blank cartridges.

CCI is by far the largest single manufacturer of snake shot ammunition, making cartridges in .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, .38 Special, 9×19mm Luger, .40 Smith & Wesson, .44 Special, .45 ACP and .45 Colt. CCI rimfire ammunition and nearly all of its centerfire snake-shot cartridges use a hollow plastic capsule which holds the shot, and is often shaped like a bullet to aid in feeding.[9] The plastic capsule shatters during firing, and allows the shot to disperse after it exits the muzzle.

CCI pest control and centerfire pistol shot shell ammunition[10]
22 Long Rifle shotshell 1000 12 31 20
22 Win Mag Maxi Mag 1000 12 52 20
9mm Luger 1450 12 53 10
Big 4™ 9mm Luger 1000 4 45 10
38 Spl/357 Mag 1000 9 100 10
Big 4 38 Spl/357 Mag 1000 4 84 10
40 S&W 1250 9 88 10
44 Spl/Mag 1000 9 140 10
Big 4 44 Mag 1000 4 110 10
45 Auto 1100 9 120 10
45 Colt 1000 9 150 10
Big 4 45 Colt 800 4 140 10

Garden GunsEdit

"Garden Guns" are smooth bore guns specifically made to fire .22 caliber snake shot or 9mm Flobert shot-shells, and are commonly used by gardeners and farmers for pest control. They are short range weapons that can do little harm past 15 to 20 yards, and they are quiet when fired with snake shot, compared to standard ammunition. These guns are especially effective inside of barns and sheds, as the snake shot will not shoot holes in the roof or walls, or more importantly injure livestock with a ricochet. They are also used for pest control at airports, warehouses, stockyards, etc.[11]

Safety considerationsEdit

Federal 22 Long Rifle snake shot with crimped case
  • Snake shot may be mistaken for traditional crimped blank cartridges.
  • Snake shot may not function properly in semi-automatic firearms causing malfunctions.
  • Snake shot may not function properly in rifles not specifically made for their use.
  • Snake shot may not function properly in light weight revolvers, as they may cause "cylinder lock" due to the capsule movement resulting from recoil inertia. However, crimped cases do not exhibit this problem.
  • Snake shot plastic capsules may shatter when being fed from a magazine. Crimped cases do not exhibit this problem but may fail to extract in semi-automatic firearms.[12]
  • Do not use snake shot in firearms with suppressors, ported barrels or ported recoil compensators.
  • Do not use snake shot for home or self defense. Snake shot is effective only against snakes, rodents, birds, and other small pest at very close range.[13][14]

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Reed, C.K. & C.A. Reed (1914). Guide to taxidermy. pp. 22–23.
  3. ^ .45-70 Forager round, picture and information.
  4. ^ History of the M15 .45 ACP shotshell
  5. ^ History of the M15 .45 ACP shotshell
  6. ^ History of the M15 .45 ACP shotshell
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Brister, Bob (1975). "Two Magnum movies and Other News". Field & Stream. 79 (11): 129.
  10. ^ CCI ammunition product list
  11. ^ Eger, Christopher (28 July 2013). "Marlin 25MG Garden Gun". Marlin Firearms Forum. Outdoor Hub LLC. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  12. ^ Horton, David (1971). "New Handgun Shotshell". Field & Stream. 76 (7): 16–18.
  13. ^ Handgun Shot Loads Work For Pests But Not Defense. by R.K. Campbell
  14. ^ Shotshells in Revolvers. Jun 15, 2015. by Howard Hall. in Ballistics

External linksEdit