If you think you deserve the best, you can have it with an investment that will pay great dividends. Handloading shotgun ammunition is fun, fulfilling, and it can improve your hunting efficiency.
Hunting coyotes calls for hard-hitting shotgun loads. You can buy it ready made, but you can make it yourself even better and for a lot less money. Specialized loads such as this are where handloading can save substantial money.
Newer powders are a big improvement over the older powders when it comes to making specialized loads. In the case of a load for hunting coyotes look at Longshot Powder, made by Hodgdon. The label of a one-pound container displays a few sample loads. One for 12 gauge shotguns gives 1-1/8 ounces of shot a muzzle velocity of 1,585 fps. This is approximately a 32 percent improvement over factory ammunition that was the best commonly available just a few years ago.
Factory loads have improved considerably, but you pay a premium price to get specialized loads, and the precise load you may want might be unavailable.
In the case of a load for hunting coyotes, the load I want is large shot traveling as fast as possible.
Another benefit of handloading is the education you will receive by researching for the loads you want. One of the things that surprised me many years ago was the great misunderstanding of '3-inch magnum' loads. Many hunters believe, as I did, that these magnum 3-inch loads hit harder than standard loads. But in fact what 3-inch magnum loads really offer is more shot, but at lower velocity. If you want a load that hits hard, stick with 1-1/8 ounces of shot in a 2-3/4-inch hull.
One of the few cases in which a 3-inch magnum load is an advantage is hunting turkeys, then only if the hunter aims for a head shot. The larger shot load in a 3-inch magnum shell produces a very dense pattern which greatly increases the odds of hitting the relatively small vital zone of a wild turkey.
Have you ever tried to find a hot load of no. 5 shot?
Through many years of handloading I have come to the conclusion that no. 5 shot is the best size for several purposes including hunting squirrels, rabbits and pheasants. The only way to have loads of no. 5 shot available whenever I want it is to make my own.
The first step in getting started at handloading shotgun ammunition is buying the tools. This tends to be simpler than buying handloading tools for rifle ammunition. Shotgun ammunition presses do just about everything that must be done, the major exception being weighing powder.
Powder scales are absolutely necessary. Never rely on a chart to determine which powder bushing you need to use. Small mistakes in powder measurement can be dangerous, or can lose any advantage of the load you might think you are making. Before you put the powder bushing to use, check it with the scales. Run the powder through the bushing, in the normal operation of the press, several times, weighing the load dropped by the bushing each time. This is the only way you can be certain of how much powder you are loading into your shells.
Powder bushing charts are useful only as a guide to narrow down the search for the right bushing.
A suggestion, keep your own powder bushing chart by plugging in all information you get through testing. Otherwise you will have to repeat the process with every new load.
Powder bushings usually have to be purchased separately from the press. You will find it much easier to work up loads if you buy a press for which powder bushings are readily available. The most common, in this area at least, appears to be Mec.
About 40 years ago I bought a Mec 650, and I still use it. Bushings are easy to find, although this press has been replaced by a newer model.
There are two basic types of presses, progressive and single stage. Progressive presses produce a loaded shell every time you pull the handle. It is possible to load more than 500 shells per hour. Single stage presses are much slower because you must pull the handle for every step. Unless you shoot a lot of shotgun shells, single stage is plenty fast.
This column does not come close to telling you everything you should know before starting to buy handloading tools. Before you do that get a good book on handloading. Some loading manuals will teach you everything you need to know. The Lyman Shotshell Reloading Manual is a good book for beginners or experts.