Well, I guess it's time we finally put this one to rest.

People are steadily asking me to try a load of dimes in a 12 gauge shotgun as a defense load. I guess all the westerns that use this load have created a myth that needs to be busted.

First a little education. One of the ways old timers used to test an unmarked shotgun barrel for choke, was to try to insert a dime in the muzzle.

If it would not go, it was a Full Choke. If it went through the choke, it was a Modified Choke or larger.

The reason for this lesson is this… Do not try to shoot a load of dimes through a Full Choke or you will have a bad day.

Or at least your shotgun will.

My shotgun was sawed off at 20 inches, so has no choke, and is called an Open Bore or Cylinder Bore.


I had to do a little trial and error to set this one up.

First, I opened up a couple of 12 Gauge shells and poured out the #6 shot.

I then tried to fit dimes into the shell, but met with a problem.

It seemed that with the normal shot cup, the petals were just too tight of a fit for the dimes.

I tried, but couldn't get them to lay flat in the shell.


I then thought about it for a while and decided that maybe if I removed the "wings" or petals from the shot cup, the dimes might fit better.

This turned out to be a problem, as the shot cup would not come out of the crimped portion of the shell.

I finally just cut off the crimp with a razor knife and was able to remove the shot cup.


I then cut off the petals and replaced the bottom of the shot cup back into the shell to use as wadding.

The dimes then went in just fine, tight, but laying flat.

I could get 16 dimes in the shell.35-4I cut a small piece of thin cardboard for a top and placed a couple of drops of candle wax on the sides, just to hold it all together until I could shoot them.


Let's look at some facts and figures.

I weighed the load of #6 shot on my Pacific reloading scale.

It would not go high enough to weigh the whole load, so I split it into two parts and added them together.

The total weight of the shot was 598 grains.

We'll round it off to 600 grains.


I then weighed 16 dimes, the most I could get into the shell, and they weighed 560 grains.

That's close enough to expect the powder charge to work okay.

Another small digression, if I may.

I weighed 10 of the individual #6 shot and they weighed a total of 18 grains.

That means each pellet weighs 1.8 grains.


Some folks have mistakenly said, "A load of #6 is like getting shot with a solid piece of lead weighing 600 grains".

Nope. Not at all. Because that 600 grain load is composed of 333 #6 sized shot, each weighing 1.8 grains.

And the penetration of the shot is dependant on the weight of "each pellet", not the total weight.

And a 1.8 grain pellet will not penetrate very far into a goblin.

That is why birdshot is for little birds and buckshot is for bad guys.

Now we were ready to go to the range.

First we will test for pattern at across-the-room distance.

We set up a target at 12 feet and gave it a shot.


It made a pattern that was about 6 inches wide at 12 feet.

Not as much as some thought. But it did cut nice, round holes in the paper.


Next we set up the Waterbox O' Truth, with gallons of water, behind some cloth.

We will try a shot at about 15 feet.


As Tman said, "What a great money shot!"

As you can see, it busted the first jug pretty well, but did not penetrate through the back of the first jug.

That means less than 3 inches of penetration into ballistic gelatin or bad guy.

Not nearly enough to reach the vital organs.


Notice this dent one of the dimes made in the front of the Waterbox.

Notice this dent one of the dimes made in the front of the Waterbox.​

We then backed up to 25 feet for one more shot.

Much less of a water plume.

35-13Again, it busted the first jug, but did not fully penetrate the first one.


Here's some of the recovered dimes.

Here's some of the recovered dimes.​

And here's my old buddy Tman, (who has lots of money) on his hands and knees, trying to pick up all those dimes

I told him, "You've got money, why are you worried about a few dimes?"

He told me, "That's why I've got money."


Lessons learned:

  1. Dimes are much too light in weight and un-aerodynamic to fly very far, no matter how fast they are started.
  2. They do not spread out as much as some expected.
  3. Dimes do not penetrate enough, even at close range, to reach the vital organs of a goblin and STOP a fight.
  4. It only costs about $1.60 a shot to have some fun shooting stuff with dimes.