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The density of lead shot is the quotient of the mass of a solid homogeneous body divided by its volume. It is a function of the composition of the material and, more specifically, of its shape. The more spherical the shot is, the higher the density. For example, the density of a piece of size 8 chilled lead shot is about 6.32 grams per cubic centimeter or 3.47 ounces per cubic inch. This is why many reloaders use the weight of a specific size of chilled lead shot in their charge bar and charge bushing calibrations.
While non-toxic shot options have come on the market since the advent of front stuffers and fowlers, lead has remained a staple in waterfowling. It is relatively cheap, very dense and offers adequate knockdown power for most situations.
For these reasons, lead has been the standard material for shot since antiquity. It is still the material of choice for upland and waterfowl shooting, but is losing ground to bismuth and tungsten alternatives. Bismuth, such as Hevi-Shot or Rem’s Wingmaster HD is about 10% denser than lead. This allows a shooter to drop a full shot size down and still achieve similar penetration (i.e., Hevi 6’s penetrate about like lead 5’s).
Other uses for shot include line weight in fishing and abrasion resistance in masonry applications. Its high density is also used to attenuate radiation, notably X-rays and gamma rays. It is common in radiation shielding to fill voids in equipment or walls and barriers.