March 11, 2013
Shotgun Ammo: Supersonic Ping Pong Ball Shows Why Steel Shot Needs Speed
By Phil Bourjaily
Time for a special “Science Monday” Gun Nuts post. Steel shot, we know, is ballistically challenged because it’s light. Driving it at very high velocities is inefficient because it loses velocity quickly, but it’s the only way to make steel hit harder without going to a larger size pellet. Field experience among waterfowlers generally shows that high velocity steel does outperform slower steel shot.
By way of illustration, today’s video shows what happens when you increase the velocity of a ping pong ball—ping pong balls being even more ballistically horrible than steel—from 700 mph (1026 fps) to 930 mph (1364 fps). The 1026 fps ball, we are told, goes through a Coke can, which is pretty cool, but watch the video to see what you can do with a really high velocity ping pong ball.
It is my belief that the lighter the projectile, the more important it becomes to launch it at high velocity. I don’t care much for the new extremely high velocity (1500 fps and more) lead loads, because lead retains energy well and doesn't need to be driven so fast. With steel, I think high velocity to a point (about 1450-1550 fps) helps a lot. If I hunted with ping pong balls, I would insist on high velocity.