Stars and Stripes
Custom Shotgun Ammunition

By Chuck Hawks

For those of you not yet familiar with Stars and Stripes ammunition, it is premium new product, not reloads, made entirely in the U.S.A. Stars and Stripes offers a huge line of custom loaded rifle cartridges, handgun cartridges, and shotshells at prices comparable to premium factory loaded ammunition from the "Big Three" American loading companies. Stars and Stripes sells ammunition custom tailored for specific purposes. You can check out their web site at:

All of the shotgun shells provided to Guns and Shooting Online for review were in 12 gauge and loaded in standard length 2 3/4" hulls. The loads included a premier 1 1/8 ounce Dangerous Game Slug (DGS12), #1 Super Buck hunting load, and a light close quarters combat (CQC) buckshot load designed primarily for home defense purposes.

All shooting was done at an outdoor range at 25, 50, and 100 yards. The weather was sunny and warm with a high of about 80 F degrees.

The DGS12 slugs were fired from a Caldwell Lead Sled rest loaded with 50 pounds of lead shot to diminish recoil. The buckshot loads were fired offhand at distances of 7 yards and 25 yards. Guns and Shooting Online gunsmith consultant Rocky Hays assisted with the testing and did the actual shooting, as my shooting shoulder is recovering from an injury that is aggravated by recoil.

A Mossberg Marine shotgun was used for all testing. This pump gun has an 18" cylinder bored barrel. It is essentially a rust resistant "riot gun."

First up was the Dangerous Game Slug load. This throws a 1 1/8 ounce slug at a muzzle velocity (MV) of 1570 fps from a 23" smoothbore barrel with an I.C. choke. It can be fired from smooth or rifled barrels. Claimed accuracy is 4 MOA from a smooth bore and approaching 1.5 MOA from a rifled barrel. Unfortunately, we had no other slug loads available for comparison.

Rocky initially shot at an Outers Score Keeper target at 100 yards, which he insisted that he could hit. (Rocky is a fine rifleman, but has little more experience with rifled slugs than I do, which isn't much.) Note that the Mossberg Marine shotgun has no sights, only a brass bead at the end of the barrel.

All five shots flew completely over the sizeable 100 yard target board and into the berm beyond. The next five were fired at a 50 yard target with the same results. I could see the slugs impacting far downrange in the upper area of the 100 yard berm. That ended our slug shooting as we were out of ammo. My (rifleman's) observation was that I could have easily shot-up both targets with my Winchester .30-30 carbine.

In a shotgun with rifle sights, properly zeroed-in, I have no doubt that these DGS slugs would perform as advertised. Perhaps because I have been a rifleman all my life, living in the western U.S. where slug guns are practically never used for hunting, I have never had much use for slug loads. Unfortunately, the rest of the Guns and Shooting Online staff is in the same position. None of us own a slug gun, so we were unable to give these Stars and Stripes DGS loads a fair test. (In our defense, I didn't request any slug loads from Stars and Stripes, they were a "bonus.")

Next up were the pair of Stars and Stripes buckshot loads. Our Mossberg test gun was primarily designed to shoot such loads, so we were able to give them a more useful review. We also had some other factory loaded buckshot shells, in the form of standard (not magnum) 00 buck shells from Remington and Sellier & Bellot to shoot for comparison.

The Stars and Stripes Super Buck load has a MV of 1390 fps with 1 1/8 ounces of #1 buck (12 pellets). This load uses hardened shot and an inertial dampener. I.C. choke is supposed to give the best patterns. The point blank range is about 35 yards.

The Stars and Stripes CQC load is a specialized load that uses 3/4 ounce of hardened Super Buck shot at a MV of 1575 fps. It is designed for room to room combat. The goal is an effective load with reduced recoil for faster recovery times and fast reacquisition of targets. The wad and internal dampener are intricately designed and very efficient, made specifically for this load and nothing heavier, so they work at peak efficiency. Small caliber pellets limit over penetration and the low pellet count reduces non-combatant risk from misses. The ideal shot size is BB to #4 buck, but the loads provided were loaded with #1 buck as they were from a run ordered by an agency that specified that shot size.

It is worth noting that the Stars and Stripes fired hulls showed a residue of white dust inside the shell. This is a dry lubricant used in all Stars and Stripes shot shells. It is alleged to increase velocity within permissible pressures and also results in more uniform velocity from shot to shot. It will not foul gas systems in autoloading shotguns.

First we fired the Stars and Stripes Super Buck hunting load and the Remington and S&B buckshot shells at 7 yards. All three loads put their entire charge of pellets into a small, roughly 4 inch diameter area. This was no surprise, as I have tested buckshot before and learned that, contrary to legend and what you see in the movies, even from a cylinder bore gun it has very little spread at short range. You must aim a shotgun if you intend to hit anything at short range, just as you would have to aim a rifle.

What we did learn was that the Stars and Stripes Super Buck load kicked significantly less than the standard Remington load. The S&B buckshot load, subjectively, kicked the hardest of all.

We then moved to the 25 yard line, where Rocky engaged Outers Score Keeper targets with all three buckshot loads. Here the Stars and Stripes Super Buck load definitely out performed the other two brands. It simply put a higher percentage of pellets into the target than the other factory loads. Actually, at 25 yards both the Remington and S&B loads were pretty thin. I would not choose to shoot at deer with either of them. The Stars and Stripes Super Buck load, on the other hand, was deadly. As noted in the Stars and Stripes literature, it can flip-flop into an effective combat shotgun load.

Last to be tested was the light 3/4 ounce Stars and Stripes CQC load. Despite its low pellet count and the fact that this load is specifically designed for indoor ranges, it also put a greater number of pellets into the 25 yard target than either of the "other" brand factory loads. It would definitely tear things up at short range.

On the other hand, Rocky could not tell much subjective difference in recoil between the two Stars and Stripes buckshot loads. Both certainly kicked less than the Remington and S&B shells. I think that, loaded with #4 buck, the CQC would be a superb home defense load.

The Stars and Stripes shells come in a translucent white plastic hull that allows the contents to be seen. The wads are clearly different from, and more complex than, those found in normal buckshot loads. These special wads are obviously designed to cushion the shot more effectively. I believe that this contributes greatly to the relatively mild recoil of the Stars and Stripes buckshot loads. The internal lubricant may also have a beneficial effect.

The Stars and Stripes shotgun shells functioned like any other premium factory loaded ammunition. There were no malfunctions of any kind. Rocky and I agreed that the Stars and Stripes buckshot loads were superior to the other factory loads tested. Stars and Stripes is now our ammunition of choice for all buckshot applications.

Stars & Stripes Custom Ammunition
Custom, Obsolete & Hard to Find Ammunition

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Copyright 2005 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.

Stars & Stripes Custom Ammunition
Custom, Obsolete & Hard to Find Ammunition