Build Your Own Snake Loads

Prepping For Buzztail Season
; .

Duke’s favorite “rattler eliminators.” Above is a Colt SAA .45
with a 3 ½" barrel. At right is a Colt SAA Sheriff’s Model with a 3"
barrel. It came with .44-40 and .44 Special cylinders.

I dread snake season, for I have a 10-lb. dog that follows me most everywhere and he would never survive a rattlesnake bite. We also have feline companions also not likely to survive a strike. Oddly enough, cats have become our rattler warning system. Most of the last dozen or so we have killed have been pointed out to us by one or another of our cats.


Shortly after the photo of this big boy was taken, Duke ended his
buzzing with one shot from the Colt Sheriff’s Model .44.

Solidly Wrong

So, what makes a good snake gun? First off, it’s nothing firing a solid bullet. Such things could have devastating consequences around a dwelling with living beings about. After passing through a rattler, a solid bullet is apt to bounce off hard-packed dirt and do significant damage elsewhere. Solid bullets are not the answer.

CCI sells snake shot cartridges for revolvers from .22 LR up to .45 Colt. I’ve used several in .44 Special and .45 Colt; not trusting .22s or .38s to do for some of the sizeable rattlers we have encountered. By the way, CCI says on the package of .45 Auto shot capsules “NOT TO FIRE IN REVOLVERS.” I took that as a direct challenge and did so with an old S&W Model 1917. I lost the challenge after having to beat the ’17’s cylinder open with a piece of ax handle.

The CCI big bore snake cartridges are sufficient and in times of laziness, I’ve shot several rattlers with them. The reason they are not my favorites is they carry No. 7 ½ shot. Nigh on 40 years ago, a reader wrote me from Alabama saying he only used No. 12 shot and when hit by it, a snake was just plain dead. It wasn’t trashing about, wriggling away, or still buzzing. It was dead limp.

Try finding No. 12 shot — It’s darn near impossible. I searched in vain until I talked with a rep from one of the shot manufacturers. He sent me a 25-lb. bag to prove it exists. This was four decades ago and I’m still using it. Back in those days, Speer hadn’t yet offered their nifty plastic shot capsules for the .45 Colt so I went the old-fashioned way of producing shot shells for revolvers — putting one gas check in a cartridge case with the cup facing up, filling the case to its brim with No. 12 shot then squeezing another gas check cup down on top. The finish was a stout crimp.


Duke has settled on .44 Special and .45 Colt as his favorite rattler cartridges.
Duke's favorite "rattler eliminators." At left is a Colt SAA .45 with a 3-1/2" barrel.
At right is a Colt SAA Sheriff's Model with a 3" barrel.

Build Your Own

Once CCI made their plastic shot capsules available, I gave up the tedious gas check method and switched to the capsules for .44s and .45s. Here’s how I assemble shot shells — First off, pour your shot in a bowl. Make it deep enough so dragging the capsule through it fills it to the brim. Tap it gently on the table a time or two so the shot settles a mite. Then snap in the base plug. Make sure it snaps in place.

Two years ago, I shot at a rattler with a .45 Colt and the report was just a pop and the shot just dribbled out the barrel. My belief is the capsule’s plug was loose, allowing the shot to mix with the powder charge. If a snake could laugh, I bet this one did until the second shot put an end to his buzzing. Yvonne said it was buzzing — I can’t hear them anymore.


It came with .44-40 and .44 Special cylinders. With #12 shot
in the 3 ½” .45 Colt SAA, this pattern was shot at 10 feet.

Charge it

Many times I’ve been asked, “What do I need for a powder charge?” It’s simple — weigh your shot-filled capsule then consult a reloading manual for what would be a “starting load” for the same weight bullet with your chosen powder. Believe me: You don’t need maximum charges to kill a rattler 10 feet away. This is another benefit of No. 12 shot — it will kill a snake plain dead at 10 feet but likely won’t carry out to 10 yards.

Any .44 or .45 revolver will work for snake shot loads and I have several such. However, my favorites are short-barreled Colt SAAs. One is a .44 Sheriff’s Model with a 3″ barrel that came with both .44-40 and .44 Special cylinders. I keep the Special cylinder in it. It fits easily in my hip pocket with five rounds loaded and the hammer down on an empty chamber. The other is a .45 with 3 ½” barrel complete with ejector rod. It’s kept stashed near a door to be quickly at hand. I had a special holster made for it because pocket carry could be hard on the beautiful ivory grips.

Yvonne and I love our Montana acreage. In warm weather I’m often at my shooting house, stapling targets, or painting steel ones. She’s often with her horses at the barn or in the corrals. We are definitely aware we share our place with buzz-tails and take precautions.

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