Reloading Winchester's New High Tensile AA Shells
by: Tom Armbrust

Posted: 06/15/2008

Since the introduction of Winchester's new High Tensile hull design at last years shot show, much interest has been generated among trapshooters and reloaders alike.   I have received a number of letters and phone calls from clay target shooters throughout the country asking me these questions:   Can the earlier compression formed one piece plastic AA shells use the exact same reloading components developing similar ballistics as the new style AA High Tensile (HT) hull configuration?   Have I conducted any case life reloading tests using the new AA High Tensile shells?

I must admit that I was just a little skeptical when Morris Buenemann, Winchester's ballistic research and development engineer, told me that the newly developed AA High Tensile hull, with its two piece hull design could use the same reloading data as the previous AA shells.   The new Winchester AA HT hull is a straight walled, two piece design with an integral plastic base wad.   Its curved interior forms a snug fit on Winchester's AA wad over powder cup section.   In this way, elimination of powder migration especially fine granules of ball powder getting past the gas seal section of the over powder cup.   Measurements of the interior of the AA High Tensile hull, at the top inside of its radiused interior insert run 0.700.   Just above the base wad insert the inside case wall measured 0.740.   The outside diameter of the over powder gas seal cup on a Winchester WAA12 AA wad ran 0.698.   So a very close tolerance fit exists between the inside base of the hulls interior and over powder gas seal of the AA wad creating a unique design by innovative Winchester research and design people.   Many months were spent in development and testing this new Winchester hull.

Wallace Labisky of Dak-Tech Ballistics, 1323 Fourth Avenue S.E., Aberdeen, SD 57401, phone: 605-225-7906, and I had both been running ballistic tests on the new Winchester High Tensile hull, plus case life tests.   So we decided to pool our ballistic resources and collaborate on this article from knowledge gained by our test efforts.

In reviewing Wallace's ballistic comparisons between the two different Winchester hull types, he chose seven different loads.   Out of those seven different hull comparisons this following combination set of reloading components showed the most differences in regards to both velocity and pressure between the two hull designs as follows:

Primer: Winchester 209
Powder: 30 GR Hodgdon Longshot
Wad: Federal 12 S4
Shot: 1-1/8 oz 8 lead
Hull: Old AA C/F:
1,392 FPS    (EV 15)
9,020 LUP    (EV 500)
Hull: New AA HTS:
1,423 FPS    (EV 30)
9,740 LUP    (EV 1,100)

The above set of components showed a velocity increase of 31 FPS for the new AA HTS hull, and a pressure increase of 770 LUP.   In this case, the powder charge may have to be reduced by one grain in the new AA HTS hull to have a similar velocity and pressure reading as the old style AA compression formed hull.   The other six tests of Labisky's ballistic comparison differences between the two different Winchester hull types ran much closer.   Keep in mind Hodgdon Longshot powder is a slow progressive burn rate type that is more susceptible to hull and or component substitutions versus the faster type burn rate fuels.   See accompanying ballistic test tables.

Wallace's ballistic comparisons of the two different hull types focused on high velocity levels for use in field hunting situations.   My idea was to compare the two hull design types using popular fast to medium burn rate powders behind 1-1/8 oz shotcharges favored by trap shooters as follows.

Dave Ennis, owner of Darien Sporting Goods, N2669 Hwy 14, Darien, WI, 53114, phone 262-724-3433, told me he sells more IMR Hi-Skor 700-X, Alliant Red Dot, and Hodgden Clays by a wide margin versus the various other clay target powders.   So Dave's comments regarding popular clay target powders had us start our test series with Alliant Red Dot.

Primer: Winchester 209
Powder: 18 GR Alliant Red Dot
Wad: Winchester WAA 12 (white)
Shot: 1-1/8 oz 8 lead
Hull: Old AA C/F:
1,185 FPS    (EV 15)
11,460 PSI    (EV 1,100)
Hull: New AA HTS:
1,188 FPS    (EV 27)
11,650 PSI    (EV 900)

In this test the difference between the two hull types was 3 FPS and 190 PSI. Next I tried this combination.

Primer: Winchester 209
Powder: 16.5 GR IMR HI-SKOR 700-X
Wad: Winchester WAA 12 (white)
Shot: 1-1/8 oz 8 lead
Hull: Old AA C/F:
1,145 FPS    (EV 13)
8,760 PSI    (EV 1,100)
Hull: New AA HTS:
1,152 FPS    (EV 32)
9,110 PSI    (EV 800)

Again a very minimal ballistic difference of 7 FPS and 350 PSI between the two different hull types.

In our next test series Alliant American Select was our choice as this powder is very clean burning and shows excellent ballistic uniformity.   In a number of pattern tests I have conducted, American Select does not saturate the twenty inch core with shot, leaving the annular ring patchy in appearance.   Instead, in improved modified and full choke barrels this propellant moves more pellets out of the hot center core into the pattern fringe at 35 yards.   This translates into less lost or dusted clay targets due to more pellets on the outer edge of our pattern.   Even if our aim was not a centered target, a stronger annular area is a definite asset to a shooter who does not always smoke all targets.

Primer: Winchester 209
Powder: 18 GR Alliant American Select
Wad: Winchester WAA 12 (white)
Shot: 1-1/8 oz 8 lead
Hull: Old AA C/F:
1,165 FPS    (EV 38)
9,920 PSI    (EV 1,000)
Hull: New AA HTS:
1,171 FPS    (EV 15)
10,490 PSI    (EV 1,300)

Again a very small ballistic difference between the two hull designs only 6 FPS and 570 PSI.

In our final hull ballistic test comparison I selected Hodgdon International Clays powder for two good reasons.   Felt recoil is very mild using 1-1/8 oz shot loads due in part to its elongated progressive time pressure curve.   In other words, my face and shoulder detect a slightly milder recoil sensation when shooting this propellant at handicap clay targets.   Plus pattern quality is excellent at 40 yards and beyond.   The progressive burn rate quality of Hodgdon International Clays has a slightly gentler load start push on the rearward portion of the lead shotcharge.   This results in less deformed pellets due to jamming on load start and acceleration down the bore.   Patterns with this powder usually run from 5 to 7 percent better then faster burn rate fuels at 40 yards and beyond.   The core density is the secret, as less deformed lead shot pellets show up both in the pattern core and annular ring, resulting in very positive target breaking results at 40 yards and beyond.   As this longer range is where the AA 27 yard boys break their targets, as they realize both reduced felt recoil and dense, even patterns are very important.   This following load is one of my favorite handicap reloads for those reasons.

Primer: Winchester 209
Powder: 18 GR Hodgdon International Clays
Wad: Winchester WAA 12 (white)
Shot: 1-1/8 oz 7-1/2 lead
Hull: Old AA C/F:
1,135 FPS    (EV 32)
7,870 PSI    (EV 1,100)
Hull: New AA HTS:
1,127 FPS    (EV 36)
7,620 OSU    (EV 800)

Note again a very small ballistic difference between the two different hull types, 8 FPS and 250 PSI.   I don't think reloaders have to worry about substituting the older style Winchester AA compression formed hull with the new innovative Winchester High Tensile design since our velocity and pressure barrel tests showed minimal differences between the two different hull designs at least with the faster type, burn rate powders.

Winchester's Mike Jordan was kind enough to ship me a case of the new 12 GA Winchester AA Super Handicap heavy target loads.   These loads incorporated the new High Tensile hull design.   Shooting this load through three different shotguns on handicap trap targets resulted in very hard hit birds, if I did my part.   Velocity ran 1232 FPS in my test barrel with a pressure reading of 8225 FPS.   Felt recoil was less than previous Winchester AA Silver Bullet heavy handicap loads in the past.   Perhaps the new hull design coupled with reduced pressure resulted in less recoil and excellent patterns at extended handicap distances.

Test guns using this new Winchester loading functioned without a hitch.   Ejection patterns were strong both in my Remington 1100 trap and a Winchester Super X II 12 GA 3-1/2" Magnum.   Remington's 1187 12 GA 3-1/2" Supermag also functioned with this load.   This shotgun did fail to eject two rounds out of 100 targets shot at.   Please take note of the low pattern variation in the three different shotgun and choke combinations used in the pattern tests.   Highest variation was 8.2 percent using the new Winchester AA Super Handicap target loads.

Winchester's Super X2 did a fine job on a couple of pass shooting dove hunts, dropping these evasive little speeders with authority.   Due in part to the dense even patterns of the Winchester Super Handicap loads coupled with a Browning Invector Plus full choke tube.   Fast handling and flawless functioning make this 12 GA 3-1/2" shotgun a versatile combo.   With the dimunitive 1 oz target load all the way up to the heaviest 3-1/2" 2-1/4 oz turkey load and all loads in between.

Many trap, skeet, and sporting clays shooters have asked me if Winchester's new High Tensile shell is designed with the reloader in mind.   Does it really stand up to more repeated loads versus the AA compression formed hull.   At the Shot Show, when Winchester had on display some of their new AA High Tensile fired shells that had been reloaded twenty times, I had to admit I was just a little skeptical at first.   The only way I would convince myself was to run these new AA HT hulls through a torture test.

Dave and Mary Ennis had no objections to me lugging in my Mec 12 GA Size Master press and setting it up on their table inside the Darien Sporting Goods store.   Plus enough primers, powder, wads, and shot to shoot and reload the new Winchester High Tensile hulls twenty-one times.   Five new, once fired hulls were selected with the following reload.

Hull: 12 GA 2-3/4" Winchester High Tensile
Primer: Winchester 209
Powder: 16.5 GR IMR 700X
Wad: Winchester WAA 12 (white)
Shot: 1-1/8 oz 8 lead
Velocity: 1,170 FPS
Pressure: 9,110 PSI

Much to my surprise through the first ten reloadings, these new AA hulls looked hardly any worse for wear, almost no change in appearance.   By the fifteenth reloading, little cracks were starting to appear just below the crimp folds and a very slight blackening of the hull in the crimp area.   On the seventh reloading one hull developed a full length split in the crimp.   I stopped the project after twenty-one firings, as the hulls now had one or two full length splits in the crimps.   Primers still fitted tightly in their primer pockets.   Hull discoloration was much less versus the old style AA compression formed hull.   The plastic in these new AA High Tensile hulls seems softer and less brittle after many repeated reloads making this new AA hull design a real bargain for cost conscious reloaders.   In my limited test I would say this AA HTS hull has at least twice the reloading life as the previous AA hull design.   So once again Winchester's R & D department has a real winner!

Wallace Labisky also conducted another very interesting case life test recording velocity and pressure in his test barrel after ten reloads of the new Winchester AA HTS hull as follows:

Hull: 12 GA 2-3/4" Winchester HTS
Primer: Winchester 209
Powder: 21 GR Alliant Green Dot
Wad: Winchester WAA 12 (white)
Shot: 1 oz 8 lead

On the first reload, velocity averaged 1211 FPS EV 26, pressure 8200 LUP, EV 600; on the fifth reload 1220 FPS EV 39, 8400 LUP EV 1300; on the tenth reload 1222 FPS EV 39, 8220 LUP EV 700.   As we can see from this ballistic information, that after ten reloads velocity actually increased slightly by 11 FPS and pressure had almost identical readings.   Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt these new AA High Tensile hulls prove the Winchester AA legend lives on and on and on!   This new hull design should prove a real winner both at the traps and in the field with clay target shooters and reloaders alike.


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