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Thread: The great "High Brass vs. Low Brass" question

  1. #1
    Marksman swagge1's Avatar

    The great "High Brass vs. Low Brass" question

    I have always heard as most people have, that generally speaking, High Brass 12 gauge shells were "hotter" than Low Brass shells. You shoot trap and skeet with Low Brass and you hunt with High Brass. Thats just the way it was. Recently I have been doing some reading online and have come across some interesting opinions. From what I can gather High Brass was a necessity back in the days of paper hulled shotgun shells to prevent the paper from being burnt by the gunpowder upon firing. With todays plastic hulls, the need for high brass is no longer required. I have run across a few opinions online that claim that High Brass is simply a large scam for ammunition companies to make money by using the same assumption that I and many others make... that High Brass has more power.
    Now I'm sure many of you have seen and even owned auto loading shotguns that would not cycle low brass shells. This is not uncommon, but is this simply an extraction issue or a power issue? According to the reading I have done, High Brass loads are not necessarily higher powered than Low Brass loads. I am specifically talking about #7.5 and #8 shot which are typically dove/upland hunting shells.

    What are your opinions and does anyone have any links with scientific data disputing the claim that High Brass is basically a huge scam to make us believe that it has higher knockdown power and thus commands a higher retail price?

  2. #2
    0-60 in 5.11 Narco's Avatar
    this could get interesting unfortunately I cannot contribute anything meaniful to this discussion other than this comment.

  3. #3
    Mag Whore

    Premium Member
    Richard in LA's Avatar
    Look at the Dram Eqivalent to tell you the "power" of the load. IMHO, high brass, low brass means nothing, look at the dram's to see what it is. Mag, Max, 3 1/4, etc.....

    Activ used to make shells with NO brass. it had an internal metallic skeleton, and were smooth feeding hulls, and I believe used the same hull for all of their loads. Some of the B&P (italian) shotshells only have a "ring" of brass which I believe is just there for the extractor to grab onto. By looking at the headstamp, you can see the primer, then a ring of plastic (hull) and then the brass at the outer edge.

    Activ hull:

    most autoloaders that do not cycle is due to underpowered loads, in my experience. if the gun does not cycle, it is usually very easy to pull back on the action to hand cycle it. if you get one that is stuck, due to overpressure, etc... you know it when you try and pull back on the handle.
    Last edited by Richard in LA; August 17th, 2009 at 02:48 PM.

  4. #4
    Marksman Gumbo's Avatar
    From what I understand, the difference in the length of the head makes no difference, but today's manufacturers do put a higher power load in their high brass shells versus a lower power load in their low brass shells. If I had to guess a reason why, I'd say to make it easier to differentiate between whats what. At my camp we have a giant carboard box full to the top for each gauge and it's a grab bag of shells from half used boxes. If I'm goin to creep woodies and I'm digging around and feel a low brass shell, I know that's not what I'm looking for.

  5. #5
    SEND IT Barney88PDC's Avatar
    For what it is worth Richard is right the Dram Equivlent describes the power of a shotgun shell by equating its load to the same velocity produced by an equivalent load in black powder (in drams). So the higher the Dram Equivlent then the more powder the shell has. Also look at how much shot is in the shell. That is how much lead/BB's it contains.

  6. #6
    Marksman

    Premium Member
    I remember Gibsons on Airline. we were one block down and sold ammo in our hardware store. in fact I still have some paper shells, mostly 410 left now tho and they go bang when trigger is pulled.

  7. #7
    Dark Lord ofcmetz's Avatar
    Gibson's, LOL. Dude I'm only 29 years old and have no memory of that retailer. As far as high, low, and paper. What about all brass shells, as seen in some westerns. I wonder if those are historical.
    We are forced to defend ourselves with firearms because lightsabers were not mentioned in the bill of rights.

  8. #8
    Go away,Batin...
    You can buy all brass shotgunshells, some cowboyaction shooters like em for authenticity. They were making them commercially during ww2 if I remember also.

    As far as high vs low. Makes no difference as to construction of the case if the shell has more power or not. Reloading data is the same for high or low brass of the same shell type. Truth be told, I like reloading low brass cause its easier to resize.
    However factories know that most shooters are not reloaders, and that most shooters " know" that low brass if for doves and High brass is for squirels so they load there shells accordingly so they will sell.

    Now Dram equivilant is another mystery, truth is that even most manufacutrers dont know what a Dram is. There was an article in Handloader magazine a few years ago that tried to find what the answer was. All they could say is that it was an attempt to give a reference for black powder loads to smokeless, but could find no formula or conversion for it. They also discovered that there was no "dram" before the conversion to smokeless and that blackpowder was never measured in "Drams".

    All I can say is that I have several black powder measures from the 1800's including one for shotguns that has an adjustable cup with markings on it for black powder measurments and shot weight. It measures black powder in grains.
    I'm just a Redneck with too many guns.

  9. #9
    Marksman
    Site Sponsor
    Quote Originally Posted by LSP972 View Post
    Anyone here remember the Wanda brand? As in, ALL plastic?

    And by the time I was old enough to go hunting by myself (with friends of a like age), plastic hulls was about all one could find in Gibson's... and who remembers THAT retailer????

    .

    I remember both.

  10. #10
    3 Gun / F Class Player tactical723's Avatar
    Damn Donnie, did they have blackpowder in them??, I do remember Gibson's in downtown Covington, but I know we're not as old as LSP, I heard he worked the security detail at the last supper
    Last edited by tactical723; August 17th, 2009 at 05:57 PM.
    USAF Desert Storm Vet, SSGT (926 Tactical Fighter Grp, A-10 Sq, Crew Chief) Longtime and woreout LEO, USPSA/ISPSC, 3-GUN, IDPA, NRA F Class -Precision Tactical Rifle Competitor / Life Member, LSA, God Bless the USA

    Thank a vet for your freedom -
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  11. #11
    Marksman swagge1's Avatar
    Thanks for the info guys and LOL at some of the comments!

  12. #12
    Nope. spanky's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by tactical723 View Post
    ...I heard he worked the security detail at the last supper

    USPSA # L3344 - CRO
    Vice President - East Ascension Practical Shooters
    Board Member - Louisiana Shooting Association

    Become a Site Donor or Advertiser

    Quote Originally Posted by speedracer
    as long as a B-27 silhoutte breaks into your house and stands still exactly 15yds away you'll have no problem protecting yourself and your family.

  13. #13
    Mag Whore

    Premium Member
    Richard in LA's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by LSP972 View Post
    I have in my hand an intact Wanda 12 gauge cartridge.

    I'll post pictures this evening when I get home. I thought we had a few Activ shells in the stash, too; but no joy on that.
    I had some activ's somewhere, I'll have to dig around and see if I can locate them.

  14. #14
    Mag Whore

    Premium Member
    Richard in LA's Avatar



  15. #15
    Nope. spanky's Avatar
    You have to copy the "hotlink for forums" line.

    USPSA # L3344 - CRO
    Vice President - East Ascension Practical Shooters
    Board Member - Louisiana Shooting Association

    Become a Site Donor or Advertiser

    Quote Originally Posted by speedracer
    as long as a B-27 silhoutte breaks into your house and stands still exactly 15yds away you'll have no problem protecting yourself and your family.

  16. #16
    Mag Whore

    Premium Member
    Richard in LA's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by LSP972 View Post
    Thanks, bud.

    Guess the one time I did it was a fluke...
    No problem. Soooooo, whatcha gonna do with that purty shell? Sure would go nice with the other old shotshells I got

  17. #17
    Butthole charlie12's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ntruder800 View Post
    I remember Gibsons on Airline. we were one block down and sold ammo in our hardware store. in fact I still have some paper shells, mostly 410 left now tho and they go bang when trigger is pulled.
    I remember Gibsons at Airline and Plank that was the place to go. I used to live on Monarch third house on the right off Plank when I was little.
    Man I'm glad we moved to the country

    I think my daddy got the S&W model 10 & 36 I have there or when it became Howard Brothers.
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  18. #18
    BSGA
    As far as the high/low brass discussion, it's only used for identification. That will probably slowly change in the future. It's as others have said, a leftover from black powder days and is totally uneccessary, however, when manufactures tried in years past to go to low brass exclusively, Amercians shied away from the shells as low power shells, so the practice continues to this day. I used to love the Active hulls for reloading back when they could be had in volume. They had a larger internal capacity and allowed for higher velocity loads at sane pressures, especially with steel shot. Speed being the key for steel. As for drams, IIRC it was only a velocity approximation, again based on what the old black powder loads gave with a given dram charge. Therefore a dram equivilent of a higher amount, would produce a faster shot charge with a given payload weight. BTW, I also recall the old Wanda's and Gibson's. I bought my first climbing deer stand (Baker) from Gibson's. I even still own that piece of crap!!! Now, for another quiz question, anyone know what the guage # represents??? (That term is a hold-over from the old time barrel making days of damascus steel barrels) Care to guess?

  19. #19
    Mag Whore

    Premium Member
    Richard in LA's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by LSP972 View Post

    .410 of course has always been the actual bore diameter.
    yep, and IIRC, isnt it a 67 gauge if using the old, pointless, terminology?

  20. #20
    Marksman
    There is a lot of misconception about shotgun shells. As has been stated here, the length of the brass has nothing to do with it. Another little known fact is that when comparing "magnum" loads to "high brass", the magnum actually has a lower velocity. I'm talking about lead here not steel. In shotshells magnum loads have a heavier shot payload, not more velocity.

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