]Editor’s Note: See my warning about this technique, below!]
With the current ammo shortages that have been plaguing the country and seem to have no end in sight, having a way to stock up on a key caliber for your preps is vital. Hindsight being 20/20 many of us now wish we would have put more of our valuable prepping budget towards stocking up on ballistic wampum. I believe I’ve found a way to still stock up on some very useful ammo while still making your valuable prepping dollars stretch just a bit farther.
The shotgun is universality accepted as being a part of almost every prepared person’s arms locker due to its flexibility and firepower. Of course the ammo shortage has also reached into the shotgun gauges, trying to find a box of 00 buck or slugs is almost impossible, and if you do their price has significantly increased in the last year. On the other hand a box of bird shot can be found relatively easily and for less than ten dollars ($8.99 at our local Wal-Mart.) While I wouldn’t want to be hit with bird shot its use as a self defense round is very limited. I’d like to discuss how to turn readily accessible bird shot into a formidable self defense frangible slug.
The “Waxer Slug” is a simple but great idea in my humble opinion. By removing the shot from a bird shot shell and mixing it with melted wax and putting it back you have made a frangible slug. The benefits of a waxer slug are pretty impressive. First and foremost is cost, they are dirt cheap to make, giving us the ability to stock up. Another benefit is that the effective range of the birdshot is actually increased, but it still has the low recoil of a bird shot load. Another benefit the waxer slug has is its slug like penetrating power, along with its unbelievable stopping power. This is due to the high transfer of energy into the target that frangible rounds are famous for. Basically when a wax slug hits something it penetrates a bit then shatters (fragments) back into its original shot form which can create massive wounds and unreal destruction to tissue and bone. You have to see these in use to really appreciate their destructive power. Of course there is always a downside to consider. High temperature can affect these so desert climate users beware. Taking into consideration the melt temperature of wax, I would never uses these shells in Temperatures over 95 degrees. Also range is less than a real factory slug. A wax slug just isn’t very aerodynamic and has been known to tumble, so the optimal range is 50 yards, with 65 yards being the limit that I’ve been able to hit a torso target with six out of seven shots. Please balance the pros and cons to decide if this is for you.
Okay if you’re still interested… the first step you need to do is gather a few low cost materials. Of course Bird shot shells are the first item to procure. I’ve found the best success using shot ranging from 7.5 to 9. The larger size pellets tends to tear apart the slug while these smaller sizes cost less and work better (Win-Win). There are some other very basic materials that are needed and as you become familiar with the process you can add or substitute a few of them. One item that you will need will be a small pot (that your wife will not want back) this will be used to melt the wax. A larger pot that the small pot can fit into is optional but this you can borrow from your wife as you won’t mess it up. You’ll also need a cheap soup spoon (that your wife won’t miss). I suggest using a vice or a pair of pliers to bend the spoons end into more of a scoop to approximately fit the diameter of a shot shell. This will significantly cut down on the mess. The next item you will need will be a pair of scissors or a box cutting knife. Gloves also might come in handy as you will be dealing with hot items and lead.
Of course you will need some wax. The wax can be found in any number of places. Focusing on keeping this process as cheap as possible I have used broken crayons which of course are free if you have children. Another supply source of course is candle wax. My candle wax is also free because I recycle the last ½ inch that seems to never be used from my wife’s scented candles. Yes I have to put up with scented shells but I keep them in a separate ammo can so I don’t take them into the field by mistake. I don’t want to chase away game or give away a position because I saved a few pennies on wax. Another source of wax is of course is gulf wax. For only a few bucks a block of Gulf wax will make a couple hundred shells easily with none of the afore mentioned scent problem to mess with.
A side note, if are a organizational freak like me, you can color code your wax for different shot sizes to be different colors or you can color code all the scented shells are red while the unscented shells are blue. Pick which ever colors work for you. My good friend has mixed up a “Zombie Green” color just to look cool. No one said you can’t have fun while getting prepared.
After you have gathered all of your materials, the first step is to trim off the top 16th of an inch off of the shot gun shell. If possible just remove the crimped edge of the shell so that you can remove the top. You can use scissors, a sharp knife, or a box cutter whichever you are more comfortable with. Please be careful as it is easy to slip and trim your thumb instead of the plastic shell using a box cutter. Something to keep in mind before you trim your first shell is that your goal is to remove (and retain) the shot pellets and leave as much of the shell intact as possible, so the wad doesn’t become loose. It only takes 1-2 shells to get the amount to trim right. After the top is open pour the shot (small ball bearings) into a small container as we will need it again in a few minutes.
If you wife will let you play in her kitchen, it will save some additional money, if not a single eye hot plate for your work bench is the answer. At around twenty dollars it might be worth it if you plan on making a lot of wax slugs. Either way take your large pot and fill it 1/3 full of hot water. Place your chosen wax supply in the smaller pot and then put the smaller pot inside the larger pot. Then turn up the heat to bring the water to a boil. This will melt the wax while reducing the risk of overheating it. The melt temperature of wax differs but 125 to 175 degrees is a good target. Be careful as wax can combust. The flash point is different for different waxes but the rule to follow is “If the wax begins to smoke lower the temperature!” Practice vigilance when you melt wax, don’t leave it unattended while heating. If it does combust DO NOT pour water over it, remain calm turn off the heat and put a lid over the pot to smother the flame. I have never had this problem but we are supposed to be prepared aren’t we?
After the wax has liquefied pour in the shot from the prior step. Mix them with the wax and let them warm up a bit so the wax infuses the shot. Take your shells from the first step and place them on a paper plate or a pie pan. This is to contain the mess, no matter how steady your hand is you will spill some shot. Slowly spoon the shot into the shell directly onto the wad. You can use the bent spoon as I do, a small funnel, or I’ve even used a folded piece of paper for this step. Whatever works best for you. As you fill the shell with the shot mix, wax will leak through the cuts in the plastic wad but this is fine as it will keep your slug from falling out on accident. The goal is to fill the shell with mostly shot–not all wax. Some wax is fine, but you want as much shot as possible up to the top of the wad. Do not have shot past the top of the wad.
After the shell is full of shot (within a 16th of an inch of the top) top it off with a bit of liquid wax to make a sort of smooth top seal. This is an important step as you do not want any shot sticking out on top. There is a very slim chance of a pellet that does protrude striking another shell’s primer in a loading tube thus ruining your weapon and possibly ruining you. Plan for the worst and make sure that never happens by having strict quality control.
Set the shells to the side for a few minutes to cool. After about two or three minutes the wax will have cooled and hardened enough to clean off the outside of the shell. I use the knife from the first step to lightly scrape off the excess wax that tends to drip down the side of the shell. This is a tedious final step but vital to ensure proper feeding in pump shotguns.
Now to answer two questions before they are asked:
1. I’ve shot a few hundred wax slug rounds and have found no noticeable wax build up in the barrel. Of course I still clean my weapon after each use, but I’ve found no additional cleaning was needed above what I do when I shoot normal factory rounds.
2. How is adjusting the weight of shot sent downrange safe? The truth is that you’ll actually end up loading slightly less shot following this procedure and the weight of the wax is insufficient to change the weight of the shot in any significant way. So the power load is still well within the safe range.
One other thing to consider, adding some extra flexibility to this process is another option. Instead of using wax try using hot glue. Hot glue will increase your cost but it will make a much harder slug which will not fragment as easily thus ensuring greater penetration, also using hot glue instead of wax will significantly reduce the temperature limitation of wax. Depending on your needs this option might be useful to you, but as always YMMV.
I realize this isn’t for everyone but with the proper safety checks in place, I do believe that the ability to turn an inexpensive, readily available round into a formidable defense round is worth sharing.
JWR Adds This Important Safety Warning: Reader Ken S. wrote:
“Making slugs using wax is VERY DANGEROUS!!!! It is an old idea from the past that got some traction in the old timers myth telling. On the second or third shot you can have enough wax build-up in the barrel to cause the next shot to stick [part way down the barrel] resulting in a blown up shotgun [when a subsequent shell is fired.] I know. It happened to me about 50 years ago. I totally destroyed a Remington pump gun and am very lucky I escaped with some minor cuts and bruises. [The usefulness of wax-filled shells] is a rural myth. Do not try it. I have heard this story re-surfacing every few years and everyone I ever heard of that tried it ended up blowing up their gun. Sometimes with serious injury. Please alert your readers.”
Based on Ken’s experience, clearly the wax shell technique would only be suitable for a single-shot shotgun, and only then if the gun’s bore were inspected and thoroughly cleaned between shots. Therefore, I cannot recommend using “waxers” for self defense, or anything beyond single shot use, in absolutely desperate situations. (And I mean truly desperate, such as: You have ONLY a handful of birdshot shells, yet you must kill a deer or face starvation for the coming winter.)
As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, a much more safe technique that yields similar results is making cut shells, but this is not advised for repeating (pump or auto) shotguns. As with any other ammunition modification, use great caution. If a cut shell were to come apart inside your gun’s magazine tube, it would create a horrible mess and probably result in a jam that might take a long time to clear. Therefore, I cannot recommend using cut shells for self defense either. (That is, where someone is returning fire–unless you are desperate and have no other alternative.) But cut shells might suffice for hunting or for culling large garden raiders like deer or feral pigs.