Centerfire Multiball Cartridges

    Credit: Paul Smith -

    I have been using CCI .22 long rifle shot shells to dispatch garden pests fairly successfully this spring and summer. That is, until now. My arch nemesis, the chipmunk, shrugs off the anemic shot shells at any distance over seven yards. In fact I was sure the one who was eating our strawberries was wearing body armor. Anyway, I thought it might be time to upgrade the arsenal with with either a new gun or new ammo. While researching “ballistic lethality in chipmunk tissue”, I got sidetracked leading me to some old “Multiball’ loadings used in centerfire cartridges.

    After reading Nathaniel F.’s Ballistics 201 series this weekend, I was especially interested in energy transfer. Given the same velocity, does one projectile of a specific weight perform differently than three projectiles that add up to the same weight, assuming they all make contact with the target?

    And what about the barrel’s rate of twist? Does a Multiball loading require an especially high rate of twist to stabilize the short ball projectiles? Does it matter when you are shooting at ranges between 25-50 yards?

    Lastly, can you successfully suppress a Multiball load Without risking damage to your suppressor? (I told you guys that I like suppressors, right?)

    A bit of Multiball cartridge history from the International Ammunition Association:

    Starting in 1901, Frankford Arsenal began loading multiball loadings for use in federal prisons. The first 1,000 rounds were loaded for guards at federal prisons. An additional 29,060 rounds were made in 1902.

    Beginning in 1902 production of multiball cartridges (in both .45 and .30 cal) was increased because of an order from Washington requiring each post to keep on hand 10 rounds per soldier for use in case of riot. Commercial cases were used and as a result, mixed headstamps can be found within the same box.

    During WW1 it was necessary to guard military installations. Two million rounds were manufactured by Remington for this purpose.


    Remington manufactured commercial .357Mag Multiball loadings at one point, but I couldn’t find any muzzle velocity data.




    I didn’t have any luck finding this Muktiball handbook.

    If you are a reloader, there is some good information here from John Goins:

    Multiple ball loads are fun to shoot and plink with and may have an application for small game hunting and pest control.

    In my experience, their effectiveness is limited to no more than 50 yards and sometimes, less due to their shape and low ballistic coefficient. They lose velocity fast. Because of shape, round balls are also prone to ricochet more easily.

    2 – .457” Round Balls (Bumped to .459”)

    285 grains total payload

    .45/70 case

    12.0 grains Unique

    1 – .040” Card wad

    Velocity…1198 FPS

    25 Yards – 100% hits on 8” X 10” target

    50 Yards – 25% hits on 8 X 10” target


    3 – .457” Round balls (bumped to .459”)

    427.5 grain payload

    .45/70 case

    12.0 grains Unique

    1 – .040” Card wad

    Velocity…1112 FPS

    25 Yards – 100% hits on 8” X 10” target 6” pattern

    50 Yards – 67% hits on 8” X 10” target

    If using two balls, seat the first ball until there’s about 1⁄4” of case space at the case mouth. Then seat the 2nd ball about 2/3” of the way in the case and crimp. Then wipe the alox off and store.

    If you’re going whole hog and using the 3 ball 45/70 “hockshop” load, seat the first two balls until they’re 1⁄4” below the case mouth, seat the 3rd ball 2/3s of the way in the case and crimp.

    (Reload data has not been verified. Use at your own risk.)

    Does anyone know if there are commercial Multiball cartridge still available? Is it worth my time or should I invest in a .410 shotgun and be done with it?


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