Aguila mini-shells made a major impression on Daniel O’Dea
Founded in 1961 in Mexico and with production both in its home country and Texas, Aguila Ammunition is reportedly one of the largest manufacturers of rimfire, centrefire and shotshells in the world. Newly represented in Australia, Aguila pride themselves on innovation and one of their more interesting products would have to be their 12-gauge mini-shells which local distributor Raytrade sent for review.
So what are mini-shells, what can you use them in and what would you use them for? The first part of the question is answered in the name as they’re literally a miniature 12-gauge shotgun shell, at least miniature in length. The most commonly used 12-gauge shell these days have a length of 2¾” (70mm), historically 2.5” (63.5mm) shells were once also not uncommon, while 3” (76mm) and even 3.5” (89mm) shells also exist but are somewhat of a novelty and rarely seen nowadays, these longer shells mainly being the reserve of North American geese hunters.
Much shorter than their compatriots, Aguila mini-shells have a length of just 1¾” (44.5mm) making them a full one inch or 25-odd millimetres shorter than a standard 12-gauge shotshell. The theory as I understand it is that due to modern propellants and cartridge design, the performance of these mini-shells is almost equivalent to that of many lighter-recoiling (lower power) derivatives of full length (2¾”) shells available on the market.
Now there’s always been a market for lighter-recoiling 12-gauge shells, with lower-recoiling 28 and 24-gram loads dominating clay target sports for example. For hunting, lighter field loads have also always found a home and are used for training youngsters or for that matter anyone else who may be averse to recoil. So effectively Aguila mini-shells closely mimic low-recoil 12-gauge performance in a pint-size package providing a unique advantage – you can potentially jam upwards of 50 per cent more of them in your tubular magazine shotgun to significantly increase capacity.
Unfortunately this benefit may not likely be realised by a majority of Australian shooters for a couple of reasons, firstly restrictions on semi and pump-action shotguns and secondly firearm magazine capacity regulations. Potentially you could use these shells in a straight-pull or lever-action shotgun with a tubular magazine.
The question will be that if you do so and load your magazine above the listed capacity per the firearms registration, does this change the firearm to a higher category of licence or permit? Of course firearms laws vary from state to state and are often interpreted subjectively within each individual state as well so I’m not giving legal advice here, just advising to tread lightly and ensure you stay legal in whatever jurisdiction you’re licensed.
These mini-shells come in three loadings. First up we have a ⅝oz of 7½ sized shot at 1200fps which Aguila promote as: “The perfect option for anyone new to competition clay shooting, offering less recoil and quiet report.” Certainly the velocity is equal to many light-recoiling 2¾” shells but naturally ⅝oz (18g) of shot against ⅞oz is always going to deliver thinner patterns. The only way to see if they’d work was to shoot some clays which I did and I concur the shells will break clays effectively if you play your part – shoot them quick though before they get too far away. Likewise they’re both quiet and low recoiling, in fact recoil was almost non-existent in my over-and-under Trap gun.
The second offering was another ⅝oz payload but this time a shot cocktail of both 4B x 7 and 1B x 4 buckshot for 11 pellets in total. For the record, 4B buckshot are 6.1mm in diameter and 1B are 7.62mm or .30 cal with 1200fps velocity. To test these I set up a target about 350 x 350mm at 25m and used a 20” Remington 870 I had on licence with rifle sights and improved cylinder. Shots on target put half the pellets within a dinner plate while halving the distance tightened up the group size significantly so again, this would be effective at close range.
Last up was a ⅞oz 25-gram slug load at 1300fps delivering about 1300 ft-lb of energy at the muzzle. By comparison a solid slug from a 2¾” shell generally turns out at about 1600fps for around 2500 ft-lb of muzzle energy so a fair bit less but 1300 ft-lb of energy is still quite deadly (think ‘Brown Bess’ ballistics, meaning similar energy to some black powder muzzleloaders). Accuracy was good and I managed a three-shot group at 25m with two rounds within an inch of centre and one flying slightly high but all still under 3”.
So what would you use these mini-shells for? In Australia I see them as a great training tool for either starting people out on shotguns minus the recoil and noise or even just practice without pain for the recoil-shy. Likewise they could work well in some three gun-style competitions be it IPSC or single-action. These mini-shells should deliver the goods on most targets encountered in these disciplines while light-recoiling loads mean quick recovery for follow-up shots. In the field at moderate distances in the appropriate application they should also work just fine, pest birds around the orchard springing to mind.
Unfortunately the only part of the equation not so mini is the price. Packaged in boxes of 20, you can expect to pay upwards of two bucks a bang for the slugs or buckshot and about $1.50 each for the 7½s, more than your standard 12-gauge 2¾ equivalents but pretty much in line with other novelty-type shells. Once you overcome that they’re a unique little soft-recoiling shell and a lot of fun to shoot.