WON Landing Page OCT 2022

How to Read a Shotgun Ammo Box for Information

I get asked a lot if one of the features of the Syren shotgun includes less recoil. Before addressing that point, I like to comment on the shotgun ammunition that has been loaded into the gun first. That brings up the subject of how to read a shotgun ammo box.

Syren Shotguns for women, the goal of Syren is to provide products that are designed exclusively for Women. No more compromises.

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We have some 1400 fps “super crushers” that will make any gun have a lot of recoil. I believe like with food, the ingredients that you put into the food to make some mild or burn your tongue off are the same as the shotgun shells you use to have your shoulder blown out or a very pleasurable experience!

shotgun shells

I had a young girl in her mid-teens demo a Syren shotgun last summer. When she came back into the booth, she claimed that it had quite a bit of felt recoil. When I checked what shells she was shooting, she had 1 1/8-ounce, 1300 fps shells. That’s like taking a bite out of a habanero pepper and then being surprised that it’s hot! I handed her some 12 gauge, 7/8 ounce, 1200 fps shells to shoot and when she came back and said it was much nicer and almost no recoil!

Read a Shotgun Ammo Box
Fiocchi Shotgun Ammo Box

I have to warn you that I get on my soapbox about ammo. It’s from my own personal experience over 20 years of sporting clays, skeet, trap and hunting that I’ve come to this.  It’s not “scientific” on my part, just knowledge I’ve gained and sore shoulders that I don’t have now. And believe it or not, it isn’t just the ladies that can benefit from lower recoil shells … it’s the men too.

Read a Shotgun Ammo Box

I have been told that when USA Shooting (Olympic Skeet and Bunker Trap) went from 1-1/8-ounce shells, to 1 ounce, and then 7/8 ounce that scores went UP! Yes, they got better. I believe that if the body is less fatigued from recoil over 100 shots, or 250 shots, or 500 shots, then that person can focus longer and better and ultimately have better scores.  I’ve heard so many people say, “I’m not bothered by the recoil.” Well, maybe not consciously, but I believe your body will ultimately tell you differently – especially over the long term.  

There’s a reason that old trap shooters that have been shooting hot shells for decades, have to switch to release triggers. Everyone has their own opinions and mine is that their brains are screaming at them to not pull their triggers because it will hurt … so, they flinch and physically cannot “pull” the triggers. 

So, all that being said, I try to purchase shells based on specs, not necessarily by brand. Of course, once you find that brand that has your favorite spec of shells, by all means, use that one.

Read a Shotgun Ammo Box
Winchester Shotgun Ammo Box

How to Read a Shotgun Ammo Box 

Understanding the technical stuff:

Dr. Eq.

This stands for drams equivalent. The first shotshells were loaded with black powder. 

According to our pals over at Field and Stream, “Drams Equivalent is a measure of how much powder is in there. It refers to the corresponding amount of blackpowder in drams it would take to get the velocity you’re getting with the given load from the smokeless that’s in there. Max means that there’s as much as they can safely stuff in there.”

For target shells, that ranges from 2-¾ dram to 3-¼ dram. Yes, the higher dram will give more recoil. My recommendation is to choose the lower amount all the time – especially for youth and new shooters. The chart below gives a good example of gauges, shot ounces, velocity and drams equivalent.

Read a Shotgun Ammo Box Dr. Eq.

Shot Size

I’ve included a few charts to give reference to this.  As the number gets smaller, the size of the BBs loaded into the hulls gets bigger. In target shooting, you can’t shoot larger than a 7.5. Most target shooters use 7.5, 8 and 9s. If you are on a hunting preserve for birds, talk with your guide as what they recommend for the bird and the terrain. Sometimes, more pellets per shot is good (lots of skeet shooters use #9s since the targets are always at a defined distance and they like more pellets), and sometimes larger BBs are better for longer shots in sporting clays and trap.

shot size
shot size

Fps = Feet per Second

Obviously, the faster the BBs get to the target, the better – especially when that target is moving away from you. But faster usually indicates more felt recoil, so you’ll need to determine what is good for you for the volume of shooting you’ll be doing. I use a 7/8-ounce, 2-¾ dram, 1200 fps, 12-gauge shell for all my demos with new shooters … and, I use it to shoot targets also!  

Read a Shotgun Ammo Box

I find that 95% of the apprehension that women feel when starting out shooting shotguns is the anticipated recoil. They’ve either had bad experiences in their pasts or have seen or heard something to scare them. Once she shoots that first shell and there is little felt recoil, that fear immediately goes away and we can work on hitting targets.

My recommendation is to shoot a lot of different shells to find the one that gives you the confidence on the course or in the field to hit the targets, while also balancing the amount of felt recoil that comes with that shell.

For new shooters and anyone wanting to not get beat up by recoil, stick with the following:

  • Trainer Load
  • Feather light
  • Low Recoil
  • Extra Light Target Load
  • Light Target Load
  • Target Load

Stay away from words like these:

  • Super Sport
  • Nitro
  • Handicap
  • Super Crusher
  • Heavy Target Load
  • Super Target
  • Heavy Game Load – unless you are hunting

Shell Lengths

Rather than me trying to explain this, I found this really good video that has great graphics.


Target sports are at the bottom. Again, when hunting, be sure to ask your guide what they recommend.

Shotgun shell recommendations

Another great resource comes from our friends at NRA Family: How to Read a Box of Shotshells.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me through comments here at The WON if you have questions or concerns.

  • About Lynne Green

    Lynne is on to her next adventure after over four years in Maryland with Caesar Guerini and Fabarm as the Brand Manager for Syren (a line of shotguns made for the ladies). She has attended dozens of demos and events and has been honored to get to meet and introduce hundreds of ladies and young girls (and lots of boys and men too) to all 3 brands and to shotgun shooting! Lynne has learned so much about shotguns – gun fit, eye dominance and mechanics – that shows her just how much more there is to learn. She now is doing marketing and branding consulting and also plans to stay active in the outdoor industry, do more hunting and sporting clays, shooting lessons and add some fly fishing to her repertoire. She’ll be based in the Dallas Fort Worth area.