The Aguila Ammunition Company isn’t exactly a new player in the world of high-quality ammunition—they’ve been around since 1961, after all. They are an established leader in the manufacture of rimfire and centerfire ammunition for the home-defense and law enforcement markets, but one of their offerings caught the attention of this old gun aficionado last year when I had a chance to shoot a round of trap with Aguila’s 12-gauge, 1¾-inch, 5/8-ounce Minishells.
You heard that right: 1¾ inches long (1 3/8 inches unfired), carrying 5/8 ounce of 7½ shot, with 1¾ dr. eq. of powder, and propelling the load at a respectable 1,175 feet per second. The little-shells-that-could had no trouble breaking clays at standard trap ranges as long as I did my part.
I finally had a chance to use the Minishells on wild birds during Wisconsin’s grouse and woodcock season this fall. It came as no surprise that they worked equally well on gamebirds as they did on clay pigeons. At the range, they’re just odd enough that they draw a crowd when you break open the action of an old 12-gauge double and out pop two tiny, smoking hulls. I can only imagine what people would think if I left them lying around in the grouse woods.
Offerings for the little shells are extremely limited. They only come in 12 gauge, and the only upland-friendly load currently available is the aforementioned 5/8 ounce of 7½ shot, but Aguila plans to introduce 8- and 9-shot Minishells in the next year, which will appeal to skeet shooters as well as quail and woodcock hunters.
The quality of the shells I’ve used are very good. Aguila forms the pellets using a 72-meter drop tower, so the pellets are truly round and pattern wonderfully in the two guns I’ve tested. Both of those guns have lengthened forcing cones, however; I can imagine that short cones might make the patterns spottier. And short cones might also increase the felt recoil. In other words, your mileage may vary.
Thus far I have only had the chance to use them on woodcock and ruffed grouse, but since I also use 28-gauge loads—with their nearly identical specifications—for quail and Hungarian partridge, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them there, too. Anything bigger and tougher, like wild pheasants or prairie grouse, I would shy away from using the Minis. But that’s just me—I know my shooting abilities.
Other specialty rounds in the Minishell line are 5/8-ounce slugs and 00 buckshot, which are obviously designed for the home-defense market (as is the 7 ½ load), but the birdshot offering gives us upland hunters with old doubles another choice in ammunition.
Chamber pressures weren’t available as of this writing, but if felt recoil is any indication, they are certainly mild enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to use them in the oldest double I currently use in the field, built in 1905. In fact, that old gun and Minishells have taken a dozen birds so far this season. As always, you have to know the condition of your old firearm before putting anything into the chambers, but I feel comfortable using them in my well-maintained shotguns. And given their performance on upland birds around here, I hope that Aguila sees fit to start shipping the additional shot sizes soon.
Aquila is a Mexico-based company, but the demand for Minis was so high that they recently built a new facility in the U.S. In fact, Aguila manufactures everything but the powder for the Minishells in-house in Conroe, Texas. The biggest issue right now is finding them. Distribution is limited, but with Aguila’s increased production rates in Texas, hopefully your chance to try them will come soon.