I recently decided to try my hand at “Frontier Cartridge” category in the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting

Frontier Cartridge requires the use of Black Powder in all the firearms used in this category.

I’ll be shooting 38-40 cartridges in the revolvers and the lever action rifle, and loading for these is quite simple as it is basically the same way you would load for smokeless powder cartridges.

But the shotgun was a bit different.

Many folks simply load like you would with smokeless powder, using plastic wads and whatever reloading press they might be using. Quick and Easy……But I wanted to use a relatively traditional roll crimp (although using plastic hulls rather than paper) and I did not want to use plastic wads. I wanted to use fiber wads like in the olden days.

So here is how “I” load for Cowboy Action Black Powder Shotgun.

First, I needed a way to trim the hulls down and remove the factory crimp.

Years ago I acquired a bunch of surplus GE gear motors and threaded the shaft to accept a standard drill chuck. I kept two for myself and sold the remainder. Wish I could find a few dozen more! Huge torque and slow RPMs. I used them to prepare cases for benchrest shooting when I competed in that sport.

Here is a video showing it in operation:

Inserted into the chuck is a device for trimming shotgun shells made by Creative Reloading Solutions. This device is designed to be used with hand power. The creator has told me that it is not recommended to use it in this fashion under power as you can really hurt yourself. So if you decide to go in this direction you have been warned. Don’t do it!

Not listening to my own advise, the unit was easily disassembled and used under power

Once the hulls are shortened, they are off to be deprimed and primed.

I do this on an RCBS Rock Chucker but just about any single stage press will do. (In all honesty, this deprime and prime can be done on my MEC 9000, but what fun is that!)

I made a few tools on my lathe for the following operations

Using an RCBS 12g shotgun shell holder and my DIY deprimer, all cases are deprimed

Next, primers are placed on the table and a deprimed hull is placed over the primer and pushed down, securing the primer in the primer pocket

A flat thimble is in the press’s ram and another DIY device pushes the primer into the hull

Hulls are primed, now adding powder

Using a LEE 4.0cc powder scoop, powder is dropped into each hull. 4.0cc equates to roughly 60g by volume of powder

Once the cases have powder, its back over to the press to install wads

Two, 1/2″ Precision Reloading wads are placed in each shell. Why 2 wads? I want the hulls long enough to easily grab from the cartridge belt. One wad makes the case a 1/2″ shorter and just not right for my fingers.

Once the wads are installed it time for shot.

Two scopes with a 2.8cc LEE scoop is just about 1 1/8 oz load. Why 2 scoops? I built a scoop out of a cut down 45-70 case to add 1 1/8 oz load all at once, but the BBs didn’t settle well. Two scoops has them laying down nice and flat waiting for the card over shoot

Once the shot is installed it is back to the press for the “Over Shot Card”

Now for the fun part. The Roll Crimp

Using a $50 Harbor Freight drillpress and a roll crimp die from Precision Reloading.

I built a hull holder and mounted it to the table of the drill press. Shell/Hull holders are available from Precision Reloading

The Roll Crimp die needs heat to perform its function. After two or three crimps, friction has heated up the die sufficiently. But until then you might get a couple wonky crimps. I simply preheat the die with a heatgun so I get great crimps right from the getgo.

Loaded hull is inserted into the holder, clamped down and spinning roll crimper is lowered. A bit of experimenting and you’ll get the hang of how long to hold it there.

If doing a bunch of crimps at once, the die will become so hot that it will start melting the roll crimp too much. Stop, take a 5 minute break and resume. I usually stop after 15-20 crimps.


Last stage is simply uniforming the nose of the shell using one of the available shell presses available. I recently saw a beautiful version available from Scarlett Darling at Bullets By Scarlett

Pack Em up and go blasting!

Hope this quick article helps anyone else searching for advise on how to load Roll Crimped Black Powder Shotgun Shells!

Visit my YouTube page if you have a minute



How many times can you reload?

One and done! The shells come out of the shotgun in a pretty nasty state. They could be trimmed again and reloaded, but that starts a whole nuther ordeal. If you want to reload after firing black powder, you might want to stay with modern loading techniques and folded crimps.

Where can you get the devices I made?

I’ve never seen them available that why I made them.

Can you make me those tools?

I could, but it would cost a fortune. Shop time is very expensive now a days.

Where do you get the reloading supplies?

Precision Reloading

What are the best hulls for this?

I’ve found the green Remington hulls work the best. Winchester AA are fine but don’t crimp as consistently as the green Remingtons. I’ve not tried any others yet.

How long does it take to load a box of 25?

It takes me about a 1/2 hour

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