Strong opinions, weakly held

Shotgun pellets

The reporting on gun-related aspects of the “Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face” story has been woeful. Few reporters seem to know much at all about hunters, shotguns, shotgun shells, or anything else that might be helpful in explaining this story to laymen. I’m not incredibly knowledgeable about guns, either, but I know enough to know that the reporting has been atrocious.

According to the game warden’s report, Cheney was using a 28 gauge shotgun loaded with 7 1/2 shot, which is birdshot (not buckshot). Gunshop.com has a page listing shot sizes. As you can see, 7 1/2 shot and buckshot are not really comparable. The hospital also reported that the shotgun pellet lodged near Harry Whittington’s heart is 5mm in diameter. That’s not right, either. Unless it grew somehow, it’s about 2.5mm in diameter.

A little research on 28 gauge shotguns revealed that they use a 3/4 ounce load (it also reveals that 28 gauge shotguns are quite the trendy choice for discriminating hunters these days). Looking back at the reference page for various shot sizes reveals that there are 350 pellets in an ounce of 7 1/2 shot (317 if you’re using steel shot rather than lead). That means that the shell Cheney fired had around 250 pellets in it. Some articles say that Whittington was hit by up to 200 pellets, which would mean that Cheney got him with nearly every pellet in the shotgun shell. I expect that number to be revised downward.

None of this has much to do with the aspects of the story people seem to be interested in, but I’m a pedant.


  1. Good job. Just out of curiosity, how long did this research take you?

  2. I am more disturbed by the type of hunting Cheney and his cohorts are doing than I am by the accident.

    Upon his arrival at the exclusive Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, gamekeepers released 500 pen-raised pheasants from nets for the benefit of him and his party. In a blaze of gunfire, the group—which included legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), along with major fundraisers for Republican candidates—killed at least 417 of the birds. According to one gamekeeper who spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cheney was credited with shooting more than 70 of the pen-reared fowl.

    That’s not hunting or a sport of any kind. It’s massacre. Hunting has always been sold as a way to keep animal populations thin during high-population years. This is why I support the hunting of deer, moose and other animals in the wild that suffer from over-population. I also support the hunting of coyote and other predators that affect farming and crop production. But I do NOT support the kind of hunting described in the article linked above. Shooting birds that were held captive and then released solely for the benefit of the hunter(s) is not hunting. It should be a criminal act.

  3. I agree. I’m not sure that’s the kind of hunting they were doing in Texas, though. They were using guides to find coveys of quail in the brush and dogs to get them to take flight, which sounds like wild quail to me. Of course, there are all sorts of other disreputable things hunters and hunting ranches can do to make hunting less sporting, but it sounds like they weren’t just shooting livestock in this case.

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