Shotshell and Multiball Cartridges

LivingA Shot Round for Anything But Shotguns

You may have seen shotshell rounds floating around your local sporting goods store but unless you actually live in the country and need to do some pest control you may have overlooked these interesting rounds. Instead of the standard lead and copper rounds that we are used to seeing today, shot and multiball cartridges pack anywhere from two to dozens of small pellets in a cartridge normally meant for a single bullet. While you won’t be using these any time soon for taking down big game or fighting ISIS, multiball and shotshell rounds still have a place in gun safes around the world today while their cousins, the multiball cartridges have fallen into disuse.

So What’s the Big Idea?

45-70 Multiball Cutaway
47-70 Multiball Cutaway – Image via

Both shotshell and multiball rounds take the standard idea of a shotgun round and scale it down to something that would fit into a handgun or rifle. Today we are familiar with shotgun shells as they evolved from early brass cases, through paper hulls, to the standard plastic hulls we see today. However the development of their smaller counterparts is much more murky. The earliest examples that we can find are the multiball cartridges manufactured by the Frankford Arsenal in 1901. Reports indicate that these multiball rounds were manufactured for use by the Federal Government to arm the guards of Federal Prisons. During this initial 1901 run 1,000 cartridges were made and a year later an additional batch of 29,060 rounds were made for the same purpose in 1902. The ammo was made in .45-70 caliber with shot of both .45 and .30 caliber. With the outbreak of World War I the Government mandated that should riots break out that there be at least 10 rounds of ammo for each soldier stationed  at military installations. This time Remington would answer the Government’s needs and would end up producing 2 million rounds of the .45-70 multiball ammo. In order to meet this demand commercial cases were used and thus it was not uncommon to find boxes with cartridges carrying mixed headstamps. The image shown is a sectioned cartridge most likely produced in 1903 and carried a “UMC 45-70” head stamp while later, 1917, runs would most likely have carried a “REM-UMC” headstamp.

.45-70 Govt Multiball
.45-70 Govt Multiball – Image via

The .45-70 would also see a very unusual shotshell type of loading, known as the .45-70 “Forager”. Here we see a bridge between the multiball and shotshell ammo.  The “Forager” loading held a small wooden ball with a thin shell holding a payload of birdshot pellets. This .45-70 “Forager” round was issued to US troops so that they could hunt birds and other small game to supplement their rations. Though this was not the only time this type round would ever be developed for this purpose. 1943 would see the development of the “M-12” .45 ACP round. This wax and paper round was also developed and issued to US Military troops for the same purpose as the .45-70 “Forager” round.

Not to be left out, .357 Magnum also saw some commercial multiball loadings from Remington, however data on these seems to be scarce and they are currently out of production. What is known however is that they were loaded with two 70 grain 000 buck for a total of 140 grains of lead.

Enter the Shotshell

Remington .357 Magnum Multiball - Image via
Remington .357 Magnum Multiball – Image via

Next we have the shotshell cartridges. These small, typically meant for handguns, rounds are manufactured in .22 Long Rifle, .22 Magnum, 9mm, .38 Special, .40 S&W, .44 Special, .45 ACP, and .45 Colt. Manufactured by CCI these rounds carry #12 or #11 shot from the .22LR to the 9mm and #9 shot in the .38 Special and up. The shot encased similarly to the “Forager” round previously mentioned, with a small plastic capsule keeping the shot in place. While definitely not for self-defence, as you can see in the video below, these rounds are great for dealing with small game as well as pests. Shooters should also take note, due to the comparatively low weight of these rounds, many semi-auto firearms may be finicky when cycling these types of shot shells. Yet another reason as to why you should not utilize these for self-defence. If you’d like to see how these rounds typically pattern you can check out this great write-up by on them.

Chambered Firearms

As we have already discussed these shotshell and multiball ammo types come in a variety of flavors and at least for the shotshells from CCI they are not, normally, difficult to find. Thus chambered firearms are readily available from all major manufacturers. However given the low recoil, revolvers such as the GP100 in .22LR or the LCR in 9mm might be a better option than a semi-auto for pest control as users have reported issues in some semi-auto handguns such as the Glock 17. However at the end of the day you are probably not going to be ambushed by a dozen rattlers, so this is probably not a major consideration for most people looking to do pest control with shotshell ammo.

Factory Ammo & Hand Loading

Multiball Loading Manual by Matthew Collins
Multiball Loading Manual by Matthew Collins – Image via

Multiball ammo however has not been in commercial production for quite some time and makes reloading the only real option. However given the effectiveness of the shotshells for small game there seems to be little reason to reload multiball ammo as CCI has kept its line of shotshell ammo in major handgun calibers for years now and it does not seem to be going away anytime soon.

For those looking to reload multiball ammo as an experiment there is some data available, however its accuracy has yet to be proven, as always be careful when working up a loading. These multiball loads below come from John Goins and he also provides information on forming the wads and other tips for loading these multiball rounds. However, they have not been tested by us and are presented for educational purposes. For those especially curious there is a book called Multiball: Guide to Duplex and Multi-Projectile Pistol Cartridges. However it seems to be out of print and very hard to find.

Multiball Load Data –

  • Caliber – 38 Special
    • Firearm – Model 15 Smith and Wesson, 4”
    • Bullet – x2 – .360” Balls – 139.4 grains total payload
    • Case – .38 Special Case S & B Unplated
    • Wadding – x1 – .040” Card Wad
    • Powder – 4.8 grains WW231
    • Velocity – 996 FPS
    • Accuracy – 2″ at 15 Yards, 5″ at 25 Yards
    • Notes – This load is very good for general woods carry and is adequate up to 50 yards.
  • Caliber – .357 Magnum
    • Firearm – Ruger Blackhawk, 6”
    • Bullet – x3 – .360” Balls – 139.4 grains total payload
    • Case – .357 Magnum Case
    • Wadding – x1 – .040”Card Wad
    • Powder – 7.0 grains Blue Dot
    • Velocity – 1047 FPS
    • Accuracy – 2″ at 15 Yards, 5″ at 25 Yard
    • Notes – Makes a good woods load up to 50 yards for varmints, small game and general fun shooting.
  • Caliber – .44 Magnum
    • Firearm – Ruger Super Blackhawk
    • Bullet – x2 – .429” Round balls – 244.2 grain payload – bumped to .431”
    • Case – .44 Magnum case
    • Wadding – x1 – .040” cardboard wad
    • Powder – 8.0 Grains, Unique
    • Velocity – 1211 FPS/1184 FPS single ball
    • Accuracy – 4″ at 15 Yards, 5″ at 25 Yards
    • Notes – Good woods load for the .44 Magnum. I tested at 50 yards by plinking and also at 100 yards and it provides adequate accuracy for plinking at both ranges.
  • Caliber – .45 Colt
    • Firearm – Ruger Blackhawk convertible, 5 ½”
    • Bullet – x2 – .451 Round Balls – 273 grains total payload
    • Case – .45 Colt Case
    • Wadding – x1 – .040” cardboard wad
    • Powder – 6.5 grains, Unique
    • Velocity – 771 FPS
    • Accuracy – 2″ at 15 Yards, 3″ at 25 Yards
    • Notes – This is a very good load for woods loafing. There was adequate accuracy at 50 yards to make this a quite interesting load out to that range. I’d recommend a .454 ball for use in the .45 Colt over the .451 if available.
  • Caliber – .45/70
    • Firearm – M1895 Marlin (Ballard rifling)
    • Bullet – x3 – .457” Round balls (bumped to .459”) – 427.5 grain payload
    • Case – .45/70 case
    • Wadding – x1 – .040” Card wad
    • Powder – 12.0 grains Unique
    • Velocity – 1112 FPS
    • Accuracy – 6″ at 25 Yards
    • Notes – The load would be handy to have for pests up to 50 yards. The accuracy was not there for me at 100 yards to make it useable past 50 yards. Initial tests made with the .45/70 using 2400 powder provided better accuracy with a lower velocity. Keep this in mind when developing a load for your rifle.

For reloading more modern shotshell rounds there is much more information available. Below you can see an excellent video tutorial on how to load your own .45 ACP shotshell ammo for small game. You’ll see the entire process from start to finish as well as load data for the round. Additionally The Ammo Channel offers some tips for reliable feeding in your semi-auto.


Ok So Why Not .410?

When out in the backwoods hunting and the danger of snakes is a real threat, these pistol caliber shotshells make an excellent way to turn your EDC gun into a snake repellant or pest control device without having to invest in a firearm for that specific purpose. While a .410 shotgun might offer more power than these rounds, the simple convenience of being able to load up your pistol with a shotshell round is undeniable. Despite the very niche role that these shotshell and multiball rounds fill it is one that remains to this day.

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