Cartouche Part Deux

Paper CartridgeWith the ammo shortage I’ve been shooting a lot of black powder lately. Nothing like an $80 asking price for a brick of .22 to make you reach for the old smoke pole. I promised an evaluation of the paper cartridges and below are the results.

To begin with, it’s dirty. Like real dirty. I was using my 1851 Navy Colt and the cylinder required way more cleaning than under normal conditions. Every 12 rounds or so I would find several large pieces of unburned paper in the chambers. Below is a picture of 20gr cartridges with the wadding rolled in at five yards. You can see the partially combusted grime peppering the target. There’s even some wadding smooches for effect.

Black Powder Paper CartridgeBelow is the same distance but using 15gr cartridges. I got better groupings and had less garbage coming out of the barrel with the lighter load.

Black Powder Paper CartridgeThe best part was the speed. What once took me 5-10 minutes now only takes moments. Simply tearing the end of the cartridge and pouring the powder into the chambers made loading a snap. I loaded some without wadding and actually got decent results. I twisted the paper around the ball and then poured in the powder and the zig zag acted as a simple wad.

I did not have any failure to fire or smoldering burns. I even loaded some cartridges without tearing them first and still got them to fire each time. The paper is definitely thin enough for the caps to burn through.

I can’t wait to get these out into the field. When I do I promise I’ll return with results.

-Richard Hammack

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Novelty

I settled my crosshairs on a squirrel. He sat up on a pine branch about 15 yards away. I squeezed the trigger on my .22 and watched as he exploded in my scope. Literally evaporated. I had never seen a .22 do that. I was agog. I was hunting squirrel for dinner and I didn’t want them in tartar form. Before venturing out on this hunt I picked up a box of .22 LR made by CCI. These are no regular .22, these are .22 shotshell. A box of 20 set me back $7.00 (pre ammo panic). It was a little pricey for my Scottish blood but I liked the idea of it. The shells have a little plastic nose filled with #12 shot in 31 grain. The box reads approximately 165 pellets per shell. It says the range of this shell is 250 yards. That’s a long way. A .30-06 drops an inch in that distance. Why then did the squirrel burst if I was only 15 yards away? I was pondering that question as I watched the pine needles drift gently to the forest floor. I suddenly heard the strangest thing. The beast I just dispatched was chittering away. Had the poor creature returned to haunt me so quickly? No. The squirrel did not explode, the needles of the tree did. It turned the needles around him into a fine greenish brown mist. The pellets decimated the needles and spent all their energy in the process. I followed him through a few more trees until he presented a better shot. I would give CCI another chance. It was the same distance as the first encounter but had a purely unobstructed lane. No needles, no snow, just me and Mr. Scurrius. Pop! The critter did a jig and ran like he was on fire. The shotshells had failed me. I bagged him with a proper hollow point and went to inspect the hide. I found one small hole near his rump that didn’t have a pellet in it. It was more of a laceration than a penetrating wound. I don’t think an animal would even hear this round at 250 yards.

I took these trick shells to the range for some serious scientific scrutiny. Using a revolver at five yards I got a decent pattern with good penetration. Not a single pellet from a six round volley would hit the target at 15 yards. I tried the same distances with my Stevens Model 954 and got dismal results. If there’s insufficient power to propel the pellets a mere 15 yards, there is certainly not enough oomph to cycle the action of a semi-auto. Each, and I repeat each, round jammed. I finally managed to get some pellets to hit the target at 15 yards. If every shell has 165 pellets, then six shells should have 998 pellets. Does the target below look like it has 998 holes in it?

CCI .22 Shotshell ReviewThe problem has four components: Housing, Bang-Bang, Numbers, and Rockwell.

1. Housing

I shot 100 rounds and almost half the casings deformed. A dozen split completely down one side. With poor casing, the energy of the powder is wasted before it has a chance to act on the shot. It also causes failure to feed and stove pipe problems as discussed above.

2. Bang-Bang

Even if the housing didn’t suck there’s simply not enough powder to push the shot. Below is a dissection showing the dismal amount of powder and the, ahem, wadding.

CCI .22 Shotshell Review

3. Numbers

The box reads “approx. 165 pellets”. There’s maybe a hundred per shell, tops.

4. Rockwell

The shot is way too soft. I could flatten each one with a pair of hemostats. I’m not expecting something that will take out a raccoon but these things are only hard enough to kill sparrows (at less than 15 yards).

At 5 yards they are devastating, beyond that they loose power and grouping quickly. If these shells were loaded with a little more powder and some denser, harder shot, I think they would be effective against close range small game. Until then save your money. CCI makes a wide selection of other ammo. Their .22 LR Velocitor makes short work of tree rats, bunnies, and other tasty critters. CCI has the power to make this .22 shotshell into something really unique. If they ever revamp this load I’ll give it another shot. For now I’ll stick with real bullets and leave the novelty alone.

-Richard Hammack