Monday, March 20, 2017

Review: Aguila Ammunition 12 Gauge "MiniShell"- A Game Changing Round for Wilderness Survival Shotguns

All photos ©2017 Rocky Mountain Bushcraft/Jason Schwartz

A 12 Gauge shell that's as light as a .410 shell, yet patterns significantly better......

The 12 Gauge Shotgun is probably the most flexible and efficient bush gun ever made. With the ability to shoot birdshot, buckshot and slugs, it can be used to hunt any land animal in North America. This makes the 12 Gauge an excellent survival gun, with one huge caveat-- ammo weight.

12 Gauge Shells are HEAVY. Just one 25 round box of Low Brass Birdshot Shells weighs in at a hefty 2lbs 6oz.

This means that if you were to carry just two boxes of 12 Gauge shells in your pack, it would be like carrying the weight of a full size wool army blanket!

This is the reason why survival shotguns have traditionally come in .410 Bore. .410 shells are much lighter and easier to carry than 12 Gauge Shells.

Now, all that has changed.

Enter Aguila Ammunition's new 12 Gauge "MiniShell:"

The MiniShell is a shortened 1 3/4" Shotgun shell with a 5/8 ounce load of #7.5 Birdshot. MinShells are amazingly light, weighing the same as a .410 3/4 ounce shell. 

To illustrate this, here is a box of 20 MiniShells weighed on a USPS Digital Postal Scale:

Here is a box of 20 Winchester .410 3" #7.5 Birdshot 3/4 oz shells weighed on the same scale:

Visual comparison of the MiniShell and .410 3/4oz shell next to each other:

I also weighed twenty Winchester AA 20 Gauge 7/8 Ounce shells to see how they compare with the .410 and 12 Gauge MiniShells. At 25.1 ounces, the 20 Gauge shells were 6 ounces heavier than the .410 3/4 oz shells and Aguila 12 Gauge MiniShells:

The Aguila MiniShell in between two full sized 12 Gauge birdshot shells:


To test the Aguila MiniShell, I wanted to see how well it would perform next to Winchester's .410 3/4oz shell.

The guns I used for the test were my trusty New England Firearms Pardner 12 Gauge Single Shot Shotgun (shown above), and my Chiappa .410 Double Badger, which has a 19" Barrel and a fixed full choke:

©Rocky Mountain Bushcraft/Monica Tymcio 2013

The Pardner, produced by Harrington & Richardson (H&R), was sadly discontinued in 2013. It has a 28" Barrel, fixed Modified choke, and a crisp 4lb trigger. Pardner shotguns are dead reliable and throw great patterns. They can easily be converted into a lightweight takedown survival shotgun with the addition of a Choate Survivor Stock. In my opinion, the Pardner shotguns were the finest single shot shotguns ever made.


I decided to test both shells at 35 yards using Birchwood Casey PREGAME 12" x 18" Squirrel Targets to see how both would perform. These targets are nice because they show where each pellet hits with a bright, easy to see "splatter" effect.

The results were surprising. The target on the left is the Winchester .410 3/4 ounce shell. The target on the right is the 12 Gauge MiniShell:

As you can see, the difference is startling. At 35 Yards, the 410 has run out of steam and is at the end of its effective range:

The 12 Gauge MiniShell, which weighs exactly the same as the 410 3/4 oz shell, is still going strong at this distance and literally covered the target with pellets:


Overall, I am extremely impressed with Aguila's 12 Gauge MiniShells, and believe they are a game changer for wilderness survival shotguns. Not only is the MiniShell as light as a .410 3/4 ounce shell, it patterns significantly better. It also has the same blast and recoil of a .410, which would make it great for training new shooters on a 12 Gauge.

Criticisms? Yes, two minor ones. The first is that Aguila only offers their MiniShell in #7.5 Birdshot. #7.5 shot will get you by in a survival situation, but it is generally too light for rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, turkeys, etc. A #6 Birdshot option would greatly expand the usefulness of this shell for hunting. 

Second is the price-- at $13-$16 for each box of twenty, these shells are more expensive than most full size high brass offerings from most manufacturers.

Criticisms aside, I think these shells are fantastic for survival use or for training new shooters on a 12 Gauge.

Because of their light weight, they finally give bush pilots, canoeists, field researchers, 4x4 and ATV enthusiasts and other outdoor adventurers the ability to carry enough ammo to make the 12 Gauge a viable wilderness survival gun.

 5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

Knife Porn: Benchmade 928 Proxy CPM20CV

All photos ©2017 Rocky Mountain Bushcraft/Jason Schwartz

(click to enlarge)

For more information visit:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Budget Bushcraft Gear: $8.99 Military Surplus 100% Wool Watch Cap - Great Filson Alternative!

(UPDATED ON December 12th, 2022)

Here's another budget bushcrafting gem I found while searching the net recently- Military Surplus 100% Wool Watch Cap. This cap is every bit as nice as the Filson Wool Cuff Cap I reviewed back in 2012. Whereas the Filson costs a whopping $50.00, this Military Surplus Wool Cap is only $8.99!

Cheers! Jason