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Cheney's shotgun

Scripps Howard News Service | February 14, 2006
By LISA HOFFMAN

- Vice President Cheney was using a 28-gauge shotgun loaded with shells containing hundreds of tiny pellets when he accidentally shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on Saturday while quail hunting in Texas.

On Tuesday, doctors said some of the birdshot had moved into Whittington's heart, and he suffered a minor heart attack.

Here's a general look at the gun and pellets involved:

Barrel diameter of 28-gauge shotgun: .550 inch, one of the smallest shotgun barrel bores. A shotgun's gauge is determined by the number of round lead balls with the diameter of the bore that would be needed, when weighed collectively, to equal one pound. The higher the number of balls, the smaller the bore. Cheney was using a Perazzi shotgun made by Brescia, an Italian firm.

28-gauge shells: Each is 2.75 inches long. The shells Cheney was using were packed with size 7-1/2 shot, a tiny pellet recommended by some hunting experts for shooting small birds like quail or grouse. Size 2 is used for shooting larger birds, such as Canada geese.

Number of pellets per shell: About 262.

Size of each pellet: Much smaller than BBs, each pellet is about .095 inches in diameter, or about the size of a single grape seed. From the 25- to 30-foot distance from which Whittington was shot, dozens of pellets could have penetrated his skin.

Pellet makeup: Each is a sphere of very dense metal such as lead, which is often plated with copper or nickel to preserve its round shape during flight. Non-lead shot made from steel, bismuth, and alloys such as tungsten steel, iron and polymer, also are available. Wildlife advocates say lead shot sprayed by hunters can be toxic to animals that ingest it. Federal waterfowl hunting regulations require only non-lead pellets.

Cost of shotgun shells: About $13-14 for 25 28-gauge shells.

Sources: Americans for Gun Safety Foundation; Shooting Times magazine; FirearmsID.com, a non-profit Web site on firearms forensics; other sources.


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