| Bug Hunt
by Kevin Kelley
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as a tinkerer. This
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article require special tools and cannot/should not be performed
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Writing this has reminded me of the 1986 movie “Aliens” where one soldier,
Hudson, asks his commanding officer, “Is this going to be a stand-up fight, sir,
or another bug hunt?” Enough of the
movie nostalgia . . .
more years ago, when my kids were young and still at home, we had a frightful
plague of grasshoppers. This being
Texas, everyone knows “everything’s bigger in Texas” and these grasshoppers
where no exceptions and were eating everything in sight.
Wanting to entertain the kids inexpensively while (very marginally) helping
control the problem, I spent some time thinking about what we could do.
The kids and I enjoyed shooting “those flying disks” in the hay pasture,
as they called it, so shotguns where a plausible option.
What ammunition would be appropriate for the task at hand was the
pressing question. Obviously
conventional shot would be costly, needless, and potentially dangerous.
First, I tried Couscous as it is pretty hard in the uncooked state, and
certainly biodegradable. But it
proved too light to carry any reasonable distance and lacked kinetic energy and
penetration. Eventually I hit on the
idea of loading 20-gauge shells with a tiny bit of powder and glass bead blast
media for the "shot." It is about
the right size and right specific gravity to make a relatively safe but lethal
(to grasshoppers) "bug load!" The
whole family had hours of good clean “splattery” outdoor fun that year and many
other years since shooting grasshoppers!
convinced, my boy, who is a fine young man now, is a much better shot in the
dove field than me because he'd take those shells into the hay patch and flush
and shoot grasshoppers on the wing!
This article won't be so much a load recipe but is intended to be general
guidance on loading shotshells with glass bead blast media for successful "bug
hunts.” Bugs are not quite as
dangerous as those Hudson and his mates encountered in “Aliens”, though we do
have some pretty nasty critters here.
Best be armed when one encounters this hombre:
may let it crawl on him, but I have other ideas.
are reading this it is likely you have some experience with shotshell reloading
and this is assumed, so, many details such as the need of a new, live primer,
won’t be addressed herein. The focus
is on the ejecta and, to a lesser extent, powder, and charge weight.
bead blast media is made of soda-lime glass, same as a windowpane, and comes in
many sizes of spherical beads.
Soda-lime glass has specific gravity normally 2.4 to 2.6 depending on the
manufacturer’s formula. For
comparison, according to the American Institute of Steel Construction manual the
specific gravity of steel is 7.85 and lead 11.37 on the heavier side, Aluminum
being 2.65 on the lighter side.
These values will vary a little depending on the alloy.
You wouldn’t want to use aluminum beads because they will oxidize, and
aluminum oxide is a common grinding wheel abrasive.
It could prove to be a little hard on the bore.
So, glass is dense enough to carry a little distance, round enough to
pattern well, small enough for a pattern dense enough to cover small critters
with multiple hits, and soft and gentle on the barrel.
also inert, environmentally friendly, and totally non-toxic.
is measured by “mesh size” which is the number of openings per linear inch of
the wire mesh used. The lower
numbers the less and larger the openings.
Hence, larger beads that can pass through.
20/30 means it can pass through a 20-mesh screen but not a 30-mesh
screen. 20/30 is also known as
“Extra Course” and “#3”. This is as
large as glass bead blast media comes.
20/30 mesh glass is advertised as being 0.023” – 0.033” in diameter.
Compare that to shotshell shot:
#9 is 0.080” and #12, typically used in .22 rimfire shot cartridges, is
0.050”, 20/30 is just about the right bug size.
Glass bead blast media is available from Clemtex
and no doubt others. The photo above
is Swarco 20/30 from Clemtex.
Regardless of where you purchase it be sure to get glass beads and not crushed
will get into building a shotshell.
I will use nearly new components so the photos look a bit better though I
normally would use hulls that are nearly burnt out for this.
No sense wasting good components when we can save them for the field or
range. These are Multi-Hull from
Ballistic Products Inc.
made by Cheddite in Europe, but anything
will work. Use what you have.
Being a Reifenhauser type it has more internal volume and no taper in the
will use your press for decapping/resizing, priming, wad seating, and crimping
operations only. Because of the very
small powder charge weight you probably won’t have a bushing small enough.
A powder meter or small scoop will be needed.
Also, do not try to run the glass beads through the shot hopper and
bushing. It is a bit too fine and
will likely get in between the moving parts and cause the bar to hang up.
You will want a scoop for measuring out the glass as well.
powder is not particularly important except that it needs to be a fast burning,
high nitroglycerin content, double base type.
Because the total ejecta mass is very minimal there will be very little
pressure, way more than an automotive tire for sure, but way less than a typical
shotshell load. An “explosive”
powder (yes, I know that isn’t a technically correct term, but you get the idea)
that becomes fully enflamed virtually instantly will work best.
Don’t hesitate to try any of the first 20 on this list:
I doubt there is much difference in the
burn rates between any of those but do use good common sense.
Norma R-1 could be substantially faster than Solo 1000 for instance, and
under this “unusual loading condition”, no one can know for sure what might
happen. You will have to determine
the best charge weight for whatever powder you will be using.
Bullseye because that is what I have.
I have had a one pound can for some thirty years.
A little goes a long way! I
started with ten grains of Bullseye, and this gave a very sharp muzzle report
which told me I was getting a good burn.
I then went to eight grains and had good results.
I recently tried six grains, and this gave a quite soft report.
All work but I like eight grains better than six or ten.
Seven grains might make a nice compromise.
Keep in mind this is for 20-gauge, if you want to make glass bead loads
for other gauges you will need to do some experimenting.
Pick a wad that fits your hull, is inexpensive, and has a fairly large volume in
the shot cup. If you have
compression formed hulls, like Remington STS, you will probably want a
Claybuster or similar wad because the gas seal fits the tapered interior better.
For Reifenhauser hulls I use Ballistic Products BW20
as they fit straight interiors tighter and, with no shot cup, it allows for a
greater volume of glass beads. Don’t
worry about wad pressure as the powder volume is so small the wad likely won’t
reach the powder and double base powders don’t need to be packed like you would
expect with a powder for a heavy field load.
Seat the wad enough to barely jiggle the scale.
This will give some consistency of volume.
Or you may want to crush the cushion portion of the wad to increase the
volume available for glass. Wads for
non-toxic shot have a large volume shot cup too.
photos of my homemade glass scoop.
It is, obviously, a cut down hull with a piece of carbon arrow shaft super glued
to it. I knocked the spent primer
out and put a couple layers of cellophane tape over the flash hole to keep the
beads from running out, then reseated it.
It is sized for a volume comparable to that of a 1 1/8-ounce lead shot
bushing. You will have to determine
the correct volume for your hull and wad combination.
Then you can cut it down to that volume or cut it long and stack overshot
wads in the bottom until it is the correct size.
You could try an adjustable shot dipper as well.
I don’t have one so I can’t say how well they work.
My scoop holds 0.26-ounce of 20/30 mesh glass and is what I use for
Reifenhauser hull loads. If I’m
loading compression formed hulls and CB1078-20s I put an overshot wad in the
bottom of the scoop first. This then
delivers 0.23-ounce of glass.
little plastic funnel to add the glass.
A powder funnel works well.
Overshot wads aren’t as common as they once were when roll crimping was how
factories sealed shotshells.
However, they are still readily available.
You will need these for two reasons.
The glass beads move around readily under the folds so you won’t be able
to get a consistent crimp, and the beads are small and can easily escape.
The overshot wad will fix both these problems.
If you don’t have them and don’t want to place a special order, go to one
of the hobby crafts stores and buy a paper punch like this:
then make your own from the cardstock on the back of a writing tablet.
Be advised, too thick of cardstock will break the punch.
I had one that punched a 5/8” diameter hole and the coins were perfect
for 20-gauge until I broke it trying to punch too thick of cardboard.
With other gauges you may not be so lucky to find a good fit.
with any shotshell reloading you will need to pay attention to the “unfilled”
volume over the ejecta to get a satisfactory crimp, then crimp as usual.
As with any shooting sports, do observe all the safety rules and ensure you and
everyone around has proper eye and ear protection.
And don’t shoot the dog in the rump just to see if he howls!
tried to make photo of the pattern from ten yards with a modified choke.
But the holes are small and even with the sun directly behind the paper
they didn’t show in the photo. The average
velocity of my load with 8-frains of Bullseye and 0.26-ounces of glass bead
media is 941 FPS. Lethal range on insects will vary with the insect’s size and exoskeleton.
Some are rather delicate while others are quite hard.
Grasshoppers on the fence are penetrated consistently at 20 yards.
Flying red wasps generally go down out to about 15 yards if I do my part.
I did hit one that went down across the fence that was 20 yards from
where I was sitting. A lucky
accident, I’m sure. I can’t say how
consistently fatal the hits are because the dead red wasps are hard to find in
the grass. I have found several
floating in the swimming pool with holes in the wings and thorax or abdomen.
Rather rewarding that.
advised these loads are very dirty.
I think we can all agree that all the high nitroglycerin content powders burn
dirty under the best of conditions.
With very little pressure in these loads there is even less thorough combustion.
At least it cleans up easily.
If you’re doing this for your children or as inexpensive off-season target
practice, the dirt is worth putting up with.
I’m sure there is some flying pest wherever you live that will provide
entertaining and challenging shooting.
If it’s hornets, just don’t shoot the whole hive.
You probably won’t be able to reload fast enough!
that the kids are grown and gone and the doves are few, I've been sitting in the
corner of my tractor shed shooting red wasps (https://a-z-animals.com/blog/red-wasps-in-texas-identification-where-theyre-found/)
as they come and go. I get a kick
out of it even if the kids aren't home, and its good practice, I believe.
Currently there are no Asian Giant Hornets in Texas, that I’m aware of
anyway. However, I’m prepared should
they find their way!
Note from the Kitchen
Kevin and I have had a long-standing dialog about many firearm, shooting,
and gunsmithing topics. He graciously
provided this article for my web site, thanks Kevin.