Want to Spice Up That Character’s Shotgun? Try Bolo Shells

TLDR: Two metal balls + wire + shotgun x crazy = bolo ammunition

What is Bolo Shotgun Ammunition?

If you’re looking to change things up a bit with your character’s shotgun setup, you might try assigning him/her bolo ammunition. It’s buckshot’s rough and tumble cousin who’s on parole but can’t say no to a bar fight.

Instead of using small spheres of metal (aka BBs) or a solid projectile (aka slugs), bolo (thankfully not related to #YOLO) shells use two balls connected by a wire. As you might imagine, these are strictly self-defense rounds intended for inflicting a serious injury, such as severing a limb. The wire increases the odds of making a hit compared to a single projectile, but only at close ranges (within 10 yards or so). Because of the way the balls spin, they’re not very accurate over long distances.


Note that other versions use more than two balls, as this mock up demonstrates:

If the legality matters to your story/character, know that some states ban bolo shotgun shells, so they’re not popular. (Research the laws of your setting.) Adding to their scarcity is the cost. As the video above mentions, every pull of the trigger costs $4 to $5.

Double ouch.

Bolo Shotgun Ammunition in the News

I don’t have first-hand experience with bolo ammunition, but many do. Friend of this blog, James Pierson, sent me this article from the UK about bolo ammo used in an apparent hit. The juice:

John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer was killed with a shotgun fitted with a silencer and ammunition containing wires designed to inflict maximum damage on internal organs, it has been claimed.

The article doesn’t mention the term “bolo” specifically, but the “wires” it does refer to the ammunition type. It also mentions the shotgun had a silencer (aka suppressor), but it’s not clear to me how law enforcement knew that based on the wounds or whether that pairing would even work with bolo ammunition. (Hint: Skip the suppressor-shotgun combo with your characters.)

On a final note, yes, bolo ammunition exists for handguns and rifles, although I can’t confirm the legality or popularity of this type. Here’s a video showing how that works:

But for you, dear spinner of yarns, bolo ammo might be the right choice for a particularly sinister character or for making you look like the smartest kid on the block. This ammo type doesn’t come up often in books, TV shows or movies.

Get the Book

The Writers Guide to WeaponsThe Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books) comes with everything but the ammo. Pick up a print or digital copy from these fine retailers:

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