The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, or SAAMI, just gave the mini shell its official blessing, in part due to Federal Ammunition. The mini shell is a popular, but until now, non-standard, 12 gauge offering made by a small number of ammo companies.
With the SAAMI specification now every ammo maker can put together loads in the compact 1.75-inch package. Standard 12 gauge shells run in the 2.75- to 3.5-inch range, give or take, depending on the manufacturer or even specific batch of ammo.
“This is big news for our new Shorty Shotshell ammunition,” said Federal’s director Rick Stoeckel. “The 12-gauge 1.75-inch cartridge has been around for more than a decade, but it was never brought to SAAMI to be considered by its technical committee. Once we decided to start manufacturing this load, we immediately submitted it to SAAMI for industry standardization. We’re excited about this approval and we deeply appreciate SAAMI’s support.”
Because shotshell length can vary so much, shotguns have a reputation for running reliably with all kinds of ammo even if the length of the shells isn’t exact. But at the extremes, with very long shells and very short shells, shotguns just can’t be expected to run flawlessly.
“SAAMI’s approval of the cartridge was a crucial step in legitimizing it within the industry,” said Stoeckel. “Their work creates industry standards for the cartridge, and will hopefully inspire shotgun manufacturers to purposely build pump-action and semi-auto shotguns to specifically run 1.75-inch loads.”
The SAAMI specification will help with mini shell use in three ways. First, it will ensure that ammunition manufacturers are at the very least putting mini shells together using the same basic overall dimensions. This will lead to good consistency between different ammunition manufacturers’ mini shells.
The second, and possibly more interesting thing about the SAAMI mini shell spec, is that it means firearm manufacturers can make 1.75-inch-specific 12-gauge shotguns.
Technically any 12-gauge shotgun can load and fire mini shells, but in the real world, not every shotgun runs these short loads well. Break-action shotguns handle them just fine, but magazine-fed shotguns typically don’t like them without modification.
And even with modification, not all pump-action or self-loading shotguns run mini shells consistently, simply because they aren’t designed to use them in the first place.
It’s been clear that without a SAAMI specification, shotgun makers haven’t bothered with mini-shell-specific shotgun designs. Hopefully this will change that and at least some manufacturers will put out dedicated, or even just optimized, mini shell-compatible shotguns that run reliably across the board.
Finally, this will be good news for reloaders and others in the ammo-making hobby. With SAAMI involved, there is now an “official” pattern to work from, even though shotshells are inherently on the make-shift side of ammunition types. This will mean factory-made components and better support down the line.
Mini shells are excellent on-paper alternatives to many reduced recoil buckshot and slug loads. These loads are very popular for law enforcement and self-defense when shooting lots of shells quickly and staying on target is more important than getting the most out of every shot.
Because they aren’t meant for hunting, which often requires higher pellet and slug velocities and tighter patterns, reduced recoil shells dominate the defensive shotgun market.
The downside to reduced recoil shells is that they have a lot of empty space taking up room in the magazine. Some companies use the space for special wadding and pellet packaging that helps promote accuracy while keeping patterns tight, but for the most part, it’s just empty shell filler.
By starting out an inch shorter than most defensive buckshot or slugs, mini shells take up a lot less room in a tubular magazine than standard shells. The only downside is that they just aren’t as reliable in all cases.
This standard means improved reliability and consistency in ammo and potentially firearms going forward.