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March 06, 2008

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The World's Largest Shotgun Shell?

A guest post from Shooting Editor and Shotguns Columnist Phil Bourjaily

This video shows what must be the world’s largest shotgun shell:  the 120mm canister round designed for the cannon of an M1 Abrams tank. The 50 pound shell contains 1150 .40 caliber tungsten pellets launched at 4500 fps, with an effective range of 500 yards.

What’s fascinating to me is that you can see clearly that the shot charge of the canister round behaves exactly like a load of shotgun pellets. As the round leaves the muzzle, the pellets at the front of the pattern encounter air resistance and begin to peel off and fall behind the main charge, opening the pattern and forming a shot string. The pellets to the rear of the shot column draft behind the leaders, retaining velocity and moving to the front. The canister flies with the pattern for quite a ways (our light plastic shotcups have petals that open open and slow the cup quickly). Eventually, though, the poor aerodymic shape of the canister causes it to slow down, and you can see the trailing pellets catching up and passing it in flight.

The last shot shows how much the pattern opens up at long range as the shell decapitates every one of a row of targets that must be 30 yards across. Given the price of tungsten, I can only imagine how much the three shells fired in this video must have cost. Best not to think about it; just click “play” and enjoy the sight of your tax dollars flying downrange.

--Phil Bourjaily


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Just the thing for clearing snipers and terrorists out of dense patches of woods and cover. It would also work well in urban areas, or against a huge AK wielding mob coming at you in a human wave suicide charge (Mogadishu?).
Or, you could just use it to jump shoot flocks of elephants.


If that's real I'm more impressed with the camera that could track the load than I am with the shell.


Any idea if we can rent one for our next duck hunt?


Speaking of the price of Tungsten. Has any checked the price of reloading components lately? It is not pretty.

Most of the sporting goods stores in my area don't have much in the way of inventory either. One store owner told me that the price of raw materials is going up so rapidly that the manufacturers are reluctant to take any orders that cannot ship almost immediately.

I am thinking about buying a new rifle in 338 Federal, but I am going to have to get a second job to buy components.


Reminds me of a Punt Gun!


It's a shame that we have to use non-toxic shot on terrorists also... But plain old lead ain't cheap anymore either!

In my neck of the woods lead shot is $59 per 25 pound bag at Bass Pro. If I had known this 4 years ago I would ahve bought all I could haul at $16.50.

I think the best investment in America right now is lead shot and rifle bullets! My wife is a buyer for a local hardware company that sells ammo. Last year she booked promo Dove Loads at 2.99 per box. This year they were $5.09... cost... Don't even ask about the good stuff!

Brian T

What a sweet street-sweeper! How did they propel the camera at 4500fps to keep up?

Walt Smith

Holy Mother Dugan,now thats a street sweeper.

Clay Cooper

Notice that shock wave in front of that hypersonic flying wasp nest, WOW!

Clay Cooper

How did they propel the camera at 4500fps to keep up?

Easy, they strapped the cameraman on top of a F-22 Rapture and flew it inverted alongside!

Clay Cooper

next duck hunt?
Ya' and you can clean them too!
You just might be over limit a tad

Walt Smith

Holy Mother Dugan,now thats a street sweeper.

Walt Smith

Holy Mother Dugan,now thats a street sweeper.


Easy Walt,

Yeah, a magnificent sweet streeper! A REALLY, magnificent sweet streeper! A REALLY, REALLY, magnificent sweet streeper!



Hummm - effective range of 500 yards... like those .40 pellets would just bounce off at 501 yards! Couldn't they have used this on those hogs instead of a helicopter? BOOOOOOMMMMMMM! SQUEEEEEELLLLL! Mmmmmm... Pulled Pork!

Ralph the Rifleman

That is some awesome sh*t!

Del in KS

This is an improved version of the old beehive round we had in nam. Same effect only longer range.
Tungsten shot instead of steel darts.

Blue Ox



That thang is a gen-u-ine alley
clearer!! Dad-blame and gosh dang


That thang is a gen-u-ine alley
clearer!! Dad-blame and gosh dang


Awesome photography!!!

Frank Lopez

Amazing photography that shows how a pattern actually blooms and develops in a shot string! The 120mm cannon is a smooth bore with what amounts to a cylinder choke. I'll bet Brister and Burrard would have loved to have seen this! It basically confirms all their predictions.


Just the thing for those hard 45 yd crossers in sporting clays.
The old time punt gun market gunners would have pissed down both legs at the sight of this.
I think I will stick with my DeHaan S2 28ga.

WA Mtnhunter

Don't show that to the Jihadists. Maybe they will be foolish enough to charge an M1..... One can only hope.


As a current Marine Corps tanker in Iraq I hate to say that our main gun privilages are highly restricted. My tanks carry 2-3 canister rounds, but the collateral damage is so significant I can't imagine ever getting cleared to fire one. The coxial machine gun is our bread and butter now, puts quite a bit of steel on target with exceptional accuracy.

As for the old 105mm beehive round, it actual outranged the current 120mm canister round because you could set it to burst at a certain distance. That way you could launch it at troop targets over a kilometer away, and it would burst just short of the target for max effect. Plus it contained flachette darts and not ball bearings.

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