Difference Between Canister Shot and Buckshot. Canister shot and buckshot are both types of ammunition, similar in their application method and the principle of impact. However, they are not the same. There are quite a few differences, and they are significant. Let’s delve into the specifics of how canister shot differs from buckshot.

What is Buckshot

Buckshot refers to hunting ammunition designed to target small game, primarily birds. Structurally, buckshot consists of metallic (usually lead) pellets with a thin layer of nickel, chrome, or copper. This outer layer is necessary to prevent the lead from fouling the gun barrel or oxidizing it. Specialized hunting literature specifies that the diameter of the pellets should not exceed five millimeters.

The distinction between canister shot and buckshot lies in the size (here referring to hunting canister shot), which ranges from five to ten millimeters in diameter. It is mainly used for hunting boars, deer, or wolves. Some reference materials position canister shot as large buckshot. Essentially, this assertion is correct since the manufacturing and usage of buckshot and hunting canister shot are similar. The differences between them are only two: the size of the ammunition and the size of the target.

Hunting canister shot and buckshot are used in the following way. In makeshift production, gunpowder is poured into the casing, on top of which a wad called a powder wad (usually made of paper, leather, or felt) is placed. Then the charge of buckshot is loaded, covered by a buckshot wad. The hunter must ensure that neither the buckshot nor the gunpowder spills out of the casing. Currently, shotgun shells are factory-made, with the edges of the casing compressed to prevent the contents from scattering. Both buckshot and hunting canister shot are effective at short ranges, with a wide spread of projectiles that efficiently hit the target.


Now, let’s take a brief historical excursion. Chronologically, canister shot first appeared not for hunting but for military purposes. Initially, it was an artillery shell designed to strike enemy forces at short distances (up to 300 meters). The first canister shot consisted of small pieces of metal (primarily iron) or stone. It was poured into the gun barrel over the gunpowder and compressed using a wad. As artillery advanced, so did canister shot.

Later, for convenience, it was packaged into cardboard or thin metal containers and placed in the gun barrel. Upon firing, the container would burst, and the canister shot would shoot out in a deadly cluster. At that time, they began using not just stones or irregular iron pieces (such charges significantly damaged the gun barrel) but rifle bullets or specially made ammunition. Interestingly, the famous Tsar Cannon was specifically designed for firing canister shot, although the cannon never fired a single shot. In ancient times, it was even called the “Russian Shotgun.”

The principle of incapacitating enemy forces through a large number of small projectiles ejected from the gun barrel in a single shot further developed with the invention of shrapnel. This type of projectile was a metallic container containing canister shot, a gunpowder charge, and a fuse tube (which also acted as a time-delay device). Upon firing, the container would fly out of the barrel, and the fuse would ignite. When it burned out, the gunpowder inside the container would explode, breaking the shell and causing the canister shot to scatter in all directions. Since the fuse tube of the required length was inserted directly into the projectile just before firing, artillerymen could regulate the distance at which the target was hit. This was significantly more effective than ordinary canister shot fire. As for hunting buckshot, being the “descendant” of artillery canister shot, it did not require such complex engineering solutions as its goals were entirely different.