Ballistics by the inch

My new (bull)puppy.

Last August, I got to shoot a new IWI Tavor TS12 shotgun. You can find the full review here, but here was my conclusion:

Final thoughts: it’s a hell of a package. I’m not sure I’d use it for “sport shooting”, but for fun at the range or as a home defense gun, yeah, it’d be fantastic, though a little pricey.

Well, after thinking about it for a few months, I decided to go ahead and get one. Here it is:

I put a Crimson Trace CT-1000 optic on it:

And took it out to the range this morning to break it in.

IWI recommends minimum shot weight and velocity for the gun, for it to operate properly. I started out with some standard target loads of 2.75″ #8 shot, 1.125oz, 1200fps. I set the gas regulator to the “L” (light) setting for these light loads. The first couple of test loads operated correctly. So I loaded all three tubes to capacity, just to run through them as quickly as I could. Everything was flawless.

Time to try some heavier loads. I went to full-power 00Buckshot. These were 2.75″ 9 pellet 1325fps loads. I kept the gas regulator on the “L” setting, since some reviewers suggested this was a good idea for the initial break-in. But the gun cycled too quickly, and caught the spent cases in the mechanism. I reset the gas regulator to “H” (heavy) and tried again. All the subsequent 00Buck and slug rounds fired & cycled perfectly.

To this point I was just getting a feel for how the gun felt, operated, etc. Because while I had tried my friend’s gun previously, it was just with half a dozen rounds in a “what’s this weird thing like to shoot” go. Now I wanted to see what it would take to become proficient with my own gun.

My initial thoughts were, in no particular order:

  • The trigger was mushy. To be expected with a bullpup.
  • Recoil was mild, if the gas regulator was set correctly.
  • Getting down behind the optic took some practice, and I was happy for the riser on the CT-1000.
  • Getting used to the paddle-catch to change tubes took a bit of practice.
  • But damn, that’s a quick way to burn through ammo.

I set up some cardboard (about 18×18″) and a sheet of 11×17″ paper at 25 yards to see how well the optic would indicate where the pellets hit from 00Buck. I had the “Improved Cylinder” choke in the gun, and was getting patterns of about 14″.

Next I put up a larger piece of cardboard (24×48″) at 50 yards to see how well the optic would do with basic Brenneke slugs. These are some old Remington 2.75″ 1oz 1560fps rounds I had. I hadn’t done anything yet with the optic other than just mount it and turn it on, so this was just a test.

Here were the first three shots, shot freehand while standing:

That’s a 4″ group. Out of a brand new gun, with a brand new optic, the first time I’d shot slugs out of it. Since 50 yards is about twice the distance I would ever imagine using this gun for, I’ll take it.

Next up: 00Buckshot at the same 50 yards. Here’s that result:

I didn’t run back and forth, just fired 5 rounds with the optic at the same position I had used for the slugs. At 9 pellets each, about half were on the cardboard, and notably most were on the lower half of the board. But once again, this is about twice the range I would ever really envisage this gun would be used at, even for hunting, and about 4x the range I might use it for home defense. Again, acceptable.

Lastly, I reset the gas regulator to “L”, and loaded it full with the target loads. I figured it was time to see what fun I could have at speed on the falling plates on my range. Here’s a run at 15 yards:

That little foot shuffle I do at the start? I was standing on the wire rope that sets the plates, so they weren’t falling. I had to get off it in order to knock them down.

I’m sure I’ll get much faster with it, with practice. But as you can see, even being completely new to the gun, it’s easy to achieve a surprising amount of speed with it. You can definitely go through a lot of ammo with one of these guns, there’s no doubt about it.

Overall, I’m very happy with the Tavor TS12. Altogether I ran about 75 shells through it in an hour, half the light target loads, the other half full-power, high-brass slugs and 00Buck. It’s been decades since I shot a 12 gauge that much in that short a period of time, and my shoulder isn’t the slightest bit sore.

Yeah, the TS12 is a keeper. And I really like the Crimson Trace optic.

Jim Downey

March 3, 2021 Posted by | Discussion., Shotgun ballistics | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Diablo 12ga double barrel pistol.

Want some fun? Get an American Gun Craft 12ga double-barrel pistol.

Want a serious self/home defense gun? Get something else.

Oops. I gave away my review’s conclusion. But you should go ahead and read the rest of this, anyway.

* * *

When one of my friends sent me a link about the new American Gun Craft 12ga double-barrel pistol, I thought it looked like a lot of fun. A lot of people thought so, and the cool little pistol got a lot of attention.

For good reason. It looked well made, well designed, and easy to use.

And it is. Check it out:

Diablo 1

Diablo 12ga

And this is what it looks like in the hand:

Diablo 2

Seriously, this is a very high-quality gun. It’s very solidly made. The fit & finish is impressive. The bluing is rich, deep, and lovely. The rosewood handles fit perfectly, and are warm & comfortable in the hand. They’re polished so highly I at first thought that they were plastic. The trigger is smooth, crisp, and much better than I expected.

The design is simple, but there are little things about it that are quite nice. Such as when the gun is broken open, you can rest it on any flat surface with the barrels pointing up, and it is perfectly stable for loading. If you’re shooting by yourself, this would be very handy.

Since we didn’t know what to expect, we went with the manufacturer’s recommended load of black powder to start with.  That’s just 40gr of ffg, with a recommended half ounce of shot. But all we had to shoot out of the gun were 12ga balls (.69 cal ball, about 500gr — say 1.2 ounce). So we expected it to be mild shooting.

It was:


Well, according to this video, that’s probably just about 250fps, and maybe 70ft/lbs of energy. That’s about the same power as a low-performing .22 round out of a 6″ barrel. And it felt like it.

So, since the amount of lead we were shooting was more than double the recommended amount, we doubled the amount of black powder, to 80gr of ffg. Here’s that:


Well, again according to this video, that’s probably about 560fps, and maybe 340ft/lbs of energy. That’s about the same power as a typical 9mm round out of a 6″ barrel. And it felt like it. There was a bit of recoil out of the heavy pistol, but it wasn’t at all hard to manage.

Given how well the gun was made, and the mildness of the first shots, we didn’t have any qualms about increasing the amount of powder to double what was recommended. And that was a fun load to shoot. Others have pushed that boundary MUCH further, as you’ll see in either this video (referenced above) or this very long review. By using much bigger loads and different types of powder, it is possible to get up to energy levels in the range of a .357 or even .44mag out of a 6″ barrel.

So yes, it would be a pretty reliable self/home defense gun, in those terms. And we were shooting it at applicable ranges for that use, with adequate accuracy.

But consider several factors here. First, black powder is very hygroscopic: it sucks up moisture out of the air. That can be a problem with a muzzle-loading gun, and was the reason why Old West gunfighters would commonly shoot off their loads each morning and load their pistols fresh. Because wet powder can underperfom very badly. So you wouldn’t want to load the Diablo and then just set it aside for future use.

Black powder is also a slow-burning and very smoky powder. Shooting it indoors would fill the room with very acrid smoke, and may very well spew burning bits of powder out into the room, causing fires.

Lastly, while the Diablo is indeed easy to load and shoot for a black powder gun, that still takes a hell of a lot more time than it would take to load two additional cartridges into a derringer. And almost every common modern self/home defense gun offers more rounds for use than a derringer.

So we’re back to what I said at the start:

Want some fun? Get an American Gun Craft 12ga double-barrel pistol.

Want a serious self/home defense gun? Get something else.

Jim Downey



August 28, 2020 Posted by | .22, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, 9mm Luger (9x19), black powder, Data, Discussion., Shotgun ballistics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

IWI Tavor TS12 review

This past weekend I got to try the new(ish) Tavor TS12 semi-auto shotgun, made by IWI.

This gun got a LOT of attention when it was announced at SHOT 2018, and generated a fair amount of interest later when the commercial version was finally released not quite a year ago. And for very good reason: it’s a hell of a package.

OK, the basics: this is a gas regulated semi-auto 12ga shotgun, which will handle either standard 2.75″ or 3.00″ Magnum shotgun loads. It has an innovative three-tube magazine design which will hold up to 16 rounds (15+1) of 2.75″ shells or 13 rounds of magnum shells. It is a bullpup design, with an 18.5″ barrel and 28″ overall length. It weighs 8 pounds unloaded. It uses standard Benelli/Beretta choke tubes. It has M-LOK compatible rails, a continuous Picatinny rail on top, and multiple sling mount points.

So, one of my friends got a new TS12, and wanted to try it. He figured we’d test it with his standard home defense ammo, Dupo 28 explanding steel slugs. The Tavor had not been fired previously, and we decided to try it without an optic, just using the Picatinny rail on top as a guide.

We looked the gun over and figured out the operating controls. It’s very intuitive, and we quickly got the hang of loading and using the gun. Since it was brand new, we expected a little bit of break-in time, and indeed the first few rounds didn’t cycle completely. But after about a half dozen or so, it ran flawlessly.  The automatic-reload feature when you move from one tube to the next is really slick, once it was working correctly.

What were my impressions of it?

Well, when you first look at it, the gun *looks* big. I think that is due to the boxy shape of it. The proportions are a little weird, and you figure that it’s a shotgun, so it has to be big. But because it’s a bullpup design, it actually isn’t that big. And when you pick it up to use it, then it feels much smaller, more compact, and very well balanced. In fact, it feels like a tight little package of lethality. This video from TFB really shows how it operates in heavy use.

And it feels really solid. For me, the ergonomics were excellent, and even shooting these substantial 1oz slugs there was minimal perceived recoil. That’s thanks to the gas operating system. Comparing the TS12 to the KelTec KSG, well, there’s really no comparison in terms of recoil. The KSG, while a cool little package (it’s slightly shorter and weighs less than the Tavor) is fairly brutal to shoot. Of course, the KSG is about half the price.

The fit & finish of the TS12 are very good. Like I said, the gun feels solid and well made when you hold it. And when you are just looking it over, the quality is likewise evident. Of course, IWI is a well known firearms manufacturer with a solid reputation.

One note: when the TS12 was announced, it was said to be completely ambidextrous. The final version released isn’t, though you do have your choice of getting a left- or right-hand version, according to the IWI website.

As mentioned, we decided to try the TS12 without an optic. Which was a little difficult, wearing muff-style hearing protection, but quite doable. And at about 20 yards from the target, it was easy to put multiple rounds right where you wanted them:


Final thoughts: it’s a hell of a package. I’m not sure I’d use it for “sport shooting”, but for fun at the range or as a home defense gun, yeah, it’d be fantastic, though a little pricey.

Jim Downey

August 25, 2020 Posted by | Discussion., Shotgun ballistics | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Reprise — Storing Ammo Long-term: Because without Rounds, Your Gun Is Just a Poorly Designed Club

Prompted by my friends over at the Liberal Gun Club, this is another in an occasional series of revisiting some of my old articles which had been published elsewhere over the years, perhaps lightly edited or updated with my current thoughts on the topic discussed. This is an article I wrote for, and it originally ran 8/17/2011. Some additional observations at the end.


It’s a classic scene: Mad Max rolling a shotgun shell between his fingers, trying to see whether it is still any good.

Will it crumble? If it doesn’t, will it still fire?

Only his script-writer knows for sure.

But how much does it have to do with reality? How long will ammunition stay good, and under what storage conditions? Talk about classics – that basic question has been a standard of firearm discussions online going back to before there even was an “online”.

Whether you’ve just found an old box of shotgun shells in the back of your closet or you’re planning ahead for the Zombie Apocalypse, it’d be good to know whether you could trust those rounds to go bang when needed.

So, what’s the answer?

Well, it depends.

Chances are, if the ammunition has been made in the last century, and has been stored reasonably well, then it’ll still be good.

OK, let’s qualify, qualify, qualify that statement. Chances are, if it was a quality factory ammunition, made in the last century, and has been stored reasonably well, then it’ll still be good.

Chances are, if it was a quality factory ammunition, made in the last century using modern smokeless powder, and has been stored reasonably well, then it’ll still be good.

Chances are, if it was a quality factory ammunition, made in the last century using modern smokeless powder and with a non-corrosive primer, and has been stored reasonably well, then it’ll still be good.

Chances are, if it was a quality factory ammunition, made in the last century using modern smokeless powder and with a non-corrosive primer, and hasn’t been immersed in water or subject to prolonged sub-freezing temperature, then it’ll still be good.

Hmm. That makes it sound like there’s not a good chance, doesn’t it?

But I don’t mean to say that. The truth is, if you come across a box (or can or pallet) of ammo made after WWII, and the exterior doesn’t show signs of obvious damage or corrosion, it should be fine. I’ve shot plenty of such ammo over the years – stuff that is older than I am. And it’s likely that if the ammunition was made after the shift to non-corrosive primers in the 1920s – which covers most non-military ammunition – it’ll also be fine. In the West, even military ammunition made since WWII has predominantly been made using non-corrosive primers, and is likely very stable. Eastern bloc countries used corrosive primers until much, much later, which meant not only could they present a problem with barrel damage if the firearm wasn’t cleaned properly, but that there was a chance that the primer would become weak with age and wouldn’t completely ignite the gunpowder in the cartridge.

How about storage? I mean of ammo made recently – how should you store it to increase the chances of it staying good?

The biggest thing is to keep it from resting in water. Sounds like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised.

Some ammunition is sealed (tracer rounds, for example) after manufacture. But most of it just relies on the mechanical qualities of manufacturing to keep moisture out. This is actually pretty good, and serves fairly well in the case of metallic cartridges. You don’t have to worry about a brief exposure to water, from rain or dropping a round into a puddle or something. You should avoid allowing non-sealed rounds from sitting in water for a prolonged period, since such exposure could allow water to seep into the cartridge and compromise the gunpowder. It could also lead to case or primer corrosion, which could weaken the structural integrity or loading problems. So, if you want to store ammo for a long time, keep it in some kind of waterproof container. Double-bagging, using a vacuum sealer, and related strategies should all work fine.

Oh – did you notice that I specified “metallic cartridges” above? Yeah. That’s because plastic shotgun shells are not as water-tight. They’re still pretty good, given modern manufacturing tolerances, but you probably want to be a little more careful with them for long-term storage. Just sayin’.

One other thing to be aware of: freezing can cause some gunpowders to “crack” – to make smaller particles. While it may not seem to be a big deal, it can greatly increase the surface area of each small particle of the propellent. Which can cause it to burn faster. Which can cause over-pressure. Which can cause case rupture or even potentially the dreaded “ka-boom.”

So, there you have it, whether you’re wanting to have a rainy-day stash, just stockpile ammo when you find a good sale, or are wanting to be accurate for your next screenplay – take these things into consideration and you should be fine. Modern ammunition is generally of very high quality, and very reliable. A little planning ahead on your part should maintain that reliability for as long as you want.

Because it’s better to have a gun than a club.


There’s isn’t a lot that I would add to this piece regarding old ammo. But since I wrote this we’ve tested something like an additional 20,000 rounds of new commercial ammo from the biggest manufacturers to boutique ammo from small shops. And I continue to be impressed with just how uniform the quality has been — it’s easily in the 99%+ range. It’s to the point where if commercial ammo fails to fire reliably, I would always first inspect the gun to see what the problems was, because it’s much more likely that the gun has some kind of problem than the ammo.

Which isn’t to say that all ammo will work reliably in all guns. I still advocate that for self-defense firearms in particular, you should always run at least a couple of boxes of a given type/brand of ammo through the gun before considering it sufficiently reliable enough to depend on to save your life. YMMV, of course.

Jim Downey

April 9, 2017 Posted by | Anecdotes, Data, Discussion., Shotgun ballistics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Effective shotgun ranges.

One of the questions we get regularly is asking whether we’re going to do some velocity/chop tests on shotguns. For a variety of reasons (both logistical & legal) we’ve decided that such tests are beyond the scope of what we want to tackle.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s not something of interest to us, collectively and individually. I’ve previously posted about tests which John Ervin at Brassfetcher has conducted showing the effectiveness of buckshot at 50 yards. And from personal experience, I knew that slugs from a 12 gauge are effective for hunting (or self defense) out to 100 yards, depending on the skill of the shooter.

But how about slugs at 200 yards? And how about DIY ‘cut shells’, which mimic slugs? And, say, if you did happen to hit a target at 100 yards with buckshot, would it be lethal?

Via The Firearm Blog, this video explores all these questions, and provides some VERY interesting answers:

It’s well worth the time to watch the whole thing. But the bottom line is that 00 Buckshot pellets would still be lethal at 100 yards, if you could connect with your target. And slugs? Easily to 200 yards, with a fair amount of control on hitting your target. At 300 yards, they’re still effective, but the trajectory is such that it’s much more difficult to reliably hit the target. And at 400 yards … well, watch to video to see for yourself.

Kudos to Iraqveteran8888 for conducting some really solid and informative tests, and sharing that information with the public.


Jim Downey

July 16, 2016 Posted by | Anecdotes, Data, Discussion., Links, Shotgun ballistics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six shooter.

Well, well, well, BBTI made it to six years of shooting fun and research!

Yup, six years ago today we posted the first iteration of Ballistics By The Inch, and included data for 13 different handgun cartridges. Since then we’ve continued to expand on that original research, including some extensive testing on how much of an effect the cylinder gap on revolvers has, what performance differences you can expect from polygonal over traditional land & groove rifling, and added another 9 cartridges, as well as going back and including a very large selection of real world guns in all the different cartridges. This blog has had 100,000+ visitors and the BBTI site itself has had something like 25 – 30 million visits (the number is vague because of changes in hosting and record-keeping over time).

We’ve had an impact. I’ve seen incoming links from all around the world, in languages I didn’t even recognize. There’s probably not a single firearms discussion group/blog/site out there which hasn’t mentioned us at some point, and our data is regularly cited in discussions about the trade-offs you make in selecting one cartridge or barrel length over another. I’ve answered countless emails asking about specific points in our data, and have been warmly thanked in return for the work we’ve done. And on more than a few occasions people have pointed out corrections which need to be made, or offered suggestions on how we could improve the site, sometimes providing the results from their own crunching of our data.

When we started, it was fairly unusual to see much solid information on ammo boxes about how the ammunition performed in actual testing. Now that information is common, and expected. Manufacturer websites regularly specify real performance data along with what kind of gun was used for that testing. And the data provided has gotten a lot more … reliable, let’s say. We’ve been contacted by both ammo and firearms manufacturers, who have asked if they can link to our data to support their claims of performance — the answer is always “yes” so long as they make it clear that our data is public and not an endorsement of their product. And we’ve never taken a dime from any of those companies, so we can keep our data unbiased.

And we’re not done. We have specific plans in the works to test at least one more new cartridge (and possibly revisit an old favorite) in 2015. I try to regularly post to the blog additional informal research, as well as sharing some fun shooting and firearms trials/reviews. There’s already been one firearms-related patent issued to a member of the BBTI team, and we’ll likely see several more to come. Because we’re curious guys, and want to share our discoveries and ideas with the world.

So, onward and upward, as the saying goes. Thanks to all who have cited us, written about us, told their friends about us. Thanks to all who have taken the time to write with questions and suggestions. And thanks to all who have donated to help offset the ongoing costs of hosting and testing — it makes a difference, and is appreciated.


Jim Downey

November 28, 2014 Posted by | .22, .223, .22WMR, .25 ACP, .30 carbine, .32 ACP, .32 H&R, .327 Federal Magnum, .357 Magnum, .357 SIG, .38 Special, .380 ACP, .40 S&W, .41 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .44 Special, .45 ACP, .45 Colt, .460 Rowland, 10mm, 6.5 Swedish, 9mm Luger (9x19), 9mm Mak, 9mm Ultra, Anecdotes, Data, Discussion., General Procedures, Links, Shotgun ballistics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Buckshot effectiveness at 50 yard range.

John Ervin at Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing is a friend, and I have a lot of respect for his research. We talked about this project a while back, figuring out how to get reliable data, and it’s cool to see the results.

The whole vid is worth watching, but if you’re looking for just the results, skip to about 7:00. For his conclusions based on the results (with some excellent advice), skip to about 9:30.

Bottom line: use at least 00 buckshot, if you want it to be effective out to 50 yards.  Know your gun, and test it to see what loads perform best at that distance.


Jim Downey

September 15, 2013 Posted by | Data, Discussion., Links, Shotgun ballistics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments