CCI .22LR snake shot loaded with No. 12 shot

Snake shot, rat shot or dust shot,[1] more formally known as shotshell[2] (a name shared with the shotgun shell) or canister shot by technicality, refers to handgun and rifle cartridges loaded with lead shot canisters instead of bullets, intended for pest control (essentially small arms canister shot). As the names suggest, the main targets for such ammunition are serpents, rodents, birds and other pests at very close range.

The most common snake shot cartridge is .22 Long Rifle loaded with No. 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) that can extend as far as 15 metres (50 ft).[citation needed]


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

Snake shot is generally used for shooting at snakes, rodents, birds, and other pests at very close ranges. Used as foraging ammunition by hikers, backpackers and campers, snake shot is ideally suited for use in derringers and revolvers (especially "kit guns"), chambered for .22 Long Rifle, .38 Special, or .357 Magnum. Snake shot may not cycle properly in semi-automatic pistols.

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.[3][4] 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 No. 7 1/2 birdshot.[5] The boxes were marked "For use in hunting small game effective range 25 feet [8 m]".[6] While they were best used in the M1917 revolvers, the M15 cartridge would actually cycle the semi-automatic M1911 pistol's action.[7] The current CCI .45 ACP shotshell cartridge is virtually identical to these rounds.

Snake shot shells

A regular Winchester .22 LR cartridge (left), with a star-crimped .22 Long Rifle snake shot cartridge loaded with No. 12 shot (right).
CCI .38 Special shot shells using plastic capsule

Both Winchester[8] and Federal[9] make star-crimped .22 Long Rifle snake shot loaded with No. 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, 9×19mm Luger, .38 Special, .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.[10] 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[11]
Name/caliber Muzzle velocity in ft/s (m/s) Shot size No. Approx. weight in grains (grams) Box count
.22 Long Rifle 1000 (300) 12 31 (2) 20
.22 Magnum 1000 (300) 12 52 (3.36) 20
9mm Luger 1450 (440) 12 53 (3.43) 10
Big 4 9mm Luger 1000 (300) 4 45 (2.92) 10
.38 Spl/.357 Mag 1000 (300) 9 100 (6.48) 10
Big 4 .38 Spl/.357 Mag 1000 (300) 4 84 (5.44) 10
.40 S&W 1250 (380) 9 88 (5.7) 10
.44 Spl/.44 Mag 1000 (300) 9 140 (9.07) 10
Big 4 .44 Spl/.44 Mag 1000 (300) 4 110 (7.13) 10
.45 ACP 1100 (335) 9 120 (7.78) 10
.45 Colt 1000 (300) 9 150 (9.72) 10
Big 4 .45 Colt 800 (245) 4 140 (9.07) 10

Garden guns

Main article: Garden guns

"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 at distances greater than 15 to 20 metres (50 to 70 ft), and are quiet when fired with snake shot, compared to standard ammunition. The guns are especially effective inside barns and sheds, because the snake shot will not injure livestock with a ricochet, or shoot holes in the roof or walls. They are also used for pest control at airports, warehouses, stockyards and the like.[12]

Safety considerations

Federal 22 Long Rifle snake shot with crimped case

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Reed, C.K. & C.A. Reed (1914). Guide to taxidermy. Worcester, Mass., C.K. Reed. pp. 22–23.
  2. ^ "CCI.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-04-30.
  4. ^ .45-70 Forager round, picture and information.
  5. ^ History of the M15 .45 ACP shotshell
  6. ^ History of the M15 .45 ACP shotshell
  7. ^ History of the M15 .45 ACP shotshell
  8. ^ "X22LRS | Winchester Ammunition".
  9. ^ "Buy Small Game for USD 18.99 | Federal Ammunition".
  10. ^ Brister, Bob (1975). "Two Magnum movies and Other News". Field & Stream. 79 (11): 129.
  11. ^ CCI ammunition product list
  12. ^ Eger, Christopher (28 July 2013). "Marlin 25MG Garden Gun". Marlin Firearms Forum. Outdoor Hub LLC. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  13. ^ Horton, David (1971). "New Handgun Shotshell". Field & Stream. 76 (7): 16–18.
  14. ^ Handgun Shot Loads Work For Pests But Not Defense. by R.K. Campbell
  15. ^ Shotshells in Revolvers. Jun 15, 2015. by Howard Hall. in Ballistics