Musings On The Perfect Mini Shell

I’ve dived deep into the world of mini shells. I’ve tested and tried buckshot, birdshot, slugs, and more. I’ve experimented with every minishell I could get my grubby little paws on. I’ve patterned them, tested slugs at range, and even tried a few different adapters designed to make the shells reliable. In all this experimenting, I’ve come up with what I think would be the perfect mini-shell.

When I say perfect, I mean one I would actually consider for self-defense. A load I’d toss in my gun and trust to get me through a defensive encounter. Of course, this is a mere musing, and maybe this particular load wouldn’t work, but I think it would do quite well.

The Current Problem With Mini Shells

The current crop of mini shells has a few problems. The first big problem is reliability. With a normal pump shotgun, you need an adapter for these things to function. I’ve heard they work fine in KelTec shotguns and even Winchester shotguns, but that’s not my experience.

The adapters produced so far have been limited to Mossberg series shotguns due to their
skeletonized shell lifter. Essentially, mini shells only reliably cycle in one type of shotgun with an adapter.

Second, they don’t work in semi-autos. I’ve tried 1.75, 1.95, 2-inch, and 2.5-inch. Only the 2.5-inch shells from Nobel Sport will cycle in a semi-auto. The rest turn the gun into a straight pull jamomatic.

Finally, we get to my main problem with these shells, which is a severe lack of payload. I like shotguns because they are a repeating claymore. I get to fire half a magazine of a Glock 17 per trigger pull. Most mini shells have a much smaller payload, with many relying on Number 4 buck, which isn’t always the best round for adequate penetration.

The Perfect Mini Shell

Technically, I might as well make this an open letter to Winchester or Olin. The Winchester brand of shotgun shells has done some odd loads in the past. They have the PDX .410 loads with the defensive disks, the buck and ball slug loads, and at one point, they released a home defense birdshot—much to my chagrin. These three oddball loads aren’t perfect, but they show a willingness to be creative.

A 2.5-inch load would make the perfect mini shell. As mentioned previously, a 2.5-inch shell would cycle flawlessly in a semi-auto shotgun and a pump-action shotgun. This slightly shorter shell would also expand your capacity by one round in a tube-fed shotgun. The 2.5-inch shell size also allows for a decent payload. The Nobel Sport load has six pellets of 00 buckshot. That’s good, but I would go with a Number 1 Load.

You could likely fit eight pellets in the 2.5-inch shell or maybe even ten. Number 1 buckshot is the smallest projectile that adequately penetrates a threat. A smaller projectile allows for more room and a sufficient payload.

In terms of velocity, we’d have to experiment with what gives the best pattern and ensures the cycle of semi-auto shotguns. I think something between 1150 and 1300 feet per second would be perfect. Since this is my dream load, it would also be equipped with the FliteControl wad, but I think that’s asking for too much.

Pure Potential

Most mini shells these days are novelties. They really aren’t a great self-defense option, but can be fun to shoot. The Nobel Sport 2.5-inch loads seemed to have disappeared completely, rendering my single box the last I’ll likely see. I do think a shorter shell could have potential, but it’s unlikely we’ll see it anytime soon.

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.