While the current emphasis in law enforcement weaponry is the patrol rifle/carbine, we shouldn’t loose sight of the fact that more shotguns are still carried in routine law enforcement patrol than any other long arm. Some of the improvements to the weapons system over time have included extended magazines, folding or collapsible stocks, and improved sight systems, the latter being both iron sights and optical.
But we have paid little attention to the ammunition. Until recent developments by Federal Cartridge
, the standard 1 oz. 12 ga. soft lead ‘rifled’ slug, and a load of either 9 pellet 00 buckshot or 27 pellet 4 buckshot has remained the issue round, little improved over the last 60 years.
Yes, we have reduced the powder charges to make the system more ‘shootable’, and plastic wading has been added to both the slug and buckshot loads to improve performance, but the ‘improvements’ have largely been the application of technology that was introduced in hunting shotgun ammunition and then added to law enforcement ammunition.
In late 2003 and early 2004, Federal Cartridge changed that process and went to work to develop an entire new line of shotgun ammunition for the law enforcement market. This utilized, in the case of buckshot, several entirely new components and processes, and in the case of slug ammunition, the application concurrent with a hunting round introduction of a revolutionary new accuracy enhancer.
They also have incorporated brass case heads, no longer using brass plated steel that has caused extraction problems, and color coded ammunition for those officers who have a problem determining, by looking at the case mouth, whether they have slug or buckshot loadings. Red is retained as the color for all LE buckshot loadings and blue is now the color denoting LE slug rounds.New Tactical Buckshot
While buckshot loadings have been effective fight stoppers at close range, one problem that has consistently reared its litigious head has been the ‘stray’ or ‘errant’ pellet that leaves the center mass of the buckshot pattern and strikes out for parts unknown, or at least not at the intended target. The implications are obvious.
Various methods to maintain pattern integrity have been tried, including the use of buffering material around the pellets to prevent deformation and the use of plastic wads to encapsulate the shot, again to prevent pellet deformation. Velocity reduction, again to preclude pellet deformation during the payload launch cycle, also helped as did the other improvements; but still, less frequently than before, a stray pellet or two would not be with the rest.
Federal Cartridge decided to look at the entire payload launch process. They determined that to truly improve buckshot on target performance was not only the traditionally used hard alloyed lead pellets and buffer, but also a revolutionary new wad design to protect and properly launch the pellets when they left the shot gun barrel.
Federal calls this new wad the FLITECONTROL system, and it truly is unique. Very different in design from its predecessors, the FLITECONTROL wad is a one piece design that prevents the pellets from forming a vertical mass when exiting the shotgun barrel, instead launching them horizontally like a stream from a garden hose.
Coupled with super hard high antimony copper plated pellets and buffering material, the pattern integrity even at 25 yards is impressive. Federal has incorporated the new FLITECONTROL wad in both reduced recoil and full power 00 buckshot loading and in 8 and 9 pellet payloads.New Tactical TRUBALL Rifled Slugs
For well over 60 years, the Foster-style, 1 ounce, soft lead rifled slug has been the standard LE shotshell long range loading. While the slug does provide impressive on target terminal ballistics, sometimes getting to the target at the intended point of aim was a problem. Since many law enforcement issued shotguns do not have precise sighting systems, the accuracy problem, coupled with a loose to rattling fit of the slug to the shotgun bore, was accepted as a fact of life.
While some manufacturer’s rifled slugs shot better than others, and the addition of rifle type sights did improve on target shot placement, still the shotgun was not, nor was it intended to be a precision weapon.
In 2004, Federal Cartridge Company obtained manufacturing rights to a truly revolutionary accuracy enhancer for rifled slugs. Designed and patented by Jay Menefee, owner of Poly Wad, Inc, a high tech shotgun ammunition think-tank, the TRUBALL system utilizes a unique plastic wad and ball that fits into the base cavity of the conventional rifled slug.
The wad/ball system accomplishes several things. First, the plastic wad is a gas seal that prevents gases from the burning propellant from leaking and mitigating the propulsion force. Second, the wad has a compression feature that reduces recoil and prevents deformation of the base of the rifled slug. Third and most importantly, the wad hosts a separate plastic ball that fits into the base cavity of the slug which forces the walls of the slug out into contact with the bore of the shotgun barrel.
Similar in concept to the Minie’ ball designed by Captain Claude Minie’ of the French Army in the 1850’s, this accuracy enhancer allows the slug to fit tightly, but not too tightly for pressure concerns, the varying bore diameters and chokings of shotgun barrels, precluding the historical loose fit, and as a result tremendously improving accuracy. The test targets shown are honest examples of what can be expected from the average LE issue patrol shotgun using the new Federal TRU BALL Tactical shotgun slug.
While the shotgun may not have the same patrol appeal as the tactically enhanced and appendiged newest LE patrol rifle or carbine, we should never loose sight of the fact that for a vast majority of US law enforcement officers, the shotgun remains the ‘go to’ immediately accessible support weapon. Given that, these new, dramatically improved shotshell LE loading from Federal Cartridge Co. are a welcome addition to the law enforcement arsenal.Sheppard Kelly is a former supervisory special agent with a federal law enforcement agency. He was in charge of its firearms training and weapons and ammunition research & development program. He may be reached at email@example.com.