Multi Shot
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'"It is false" says Napoleon "that we fired first with blank charge - it had been a waste of life to do that". Most false. The firing was with sharp and sharpest shot - to all men it was plain that here was no sport the rabbets and plinths of Saint Roch Church show, splintered by it to this hour, singular in old Broglie's time. Six years ago this Whiff of Grapeshot was promised but it could not be given then, could not have profited then. Now, however the time is come for it and the man and behold: you have it and the thing we specifically call "French Revolution" is blown into space by it and become a thing that was'

The French revolution: a history, Volume 2, Chapter VII "The Whiff of Grapeshot" Thomas Carlyle

Basic Information

A multi shot round is a type of ammunition that consists of multiple sub-calibre projectiles to be fired from a single weapon - this is the standard diet of the shotgun but is found in other places as well. Even some rifle calibres can be found in multi-shot format - generally low velocity microshot for killing vermin indoors.

More commonly, this is - or has been - a popular load for ordnance class weapons since someone discovered that you could load a pile of pebbles into a catapult to attack multiple personnel targets at once. Common names for ordnance class multi-shot include:

  • Case shot or
  • Cannister (shot) : Both of these being named for the containers in which the sub-munitons were packed.
  • Grape shot: from the appearance of the sub-munitions1
  • Flechette rounds: from the multiple "little arrows" that comprise the submunitions
  • Beehive rounds: a type of flechette round - possibly from the "swarm of death" concept
  • Splintex: a brand name for a specific type of flechette rounds
  • Shrapnel shells: somewhat confusing for the modern reader, but the historical Shrapnel shell was a means to extend the range of cannister.

In an ordnance class weapon, multi-shot rounds are primarily designed to attack multiple soft targets at once (usually enemy infantry) and burst at the muzzle, allowing the submunitions to spread in a cone downrange. Some designs (e.g. the Shrapnel shell) burst on a time fuse instead and spray their submunitions from the bursting point - this extends the range of projectiles which otherwise would not carry well due to their low mass. Armoured users - such as tanks and fortifications can even fire multi-shot rounds at one another to remove enemy infantry from their hulls. This is not without risk as persicopes, gunsights and the like can still be damaged but in general the low mass projectiles penetrate hard targets very badly and will be stopped by the receivers armour2.

The multi-shot round also has a (limited) anti-aircraft role, generally allowing heavy ordnance to contribute in a role that it would normally be too unwieldy to assist with. This is fairly rare, but is re-invented from time to time - the most impressive example probably being the shanshiki3 round, used by the Japanese Empire in WW2; a combination multi-shot/incendiary round for a variety of calibres, up to and including 18" battleship guns.

In small arms the multi-shot round is mainly used to improve first-shot accuracy and/or to limit over-penetration of soft cover (e.g. during house clearance work). "Birdshot" - shotgun loads composed of a large number of small pellets4 - can also be used as a form of less lethal weapon as the individual munitions lack penetrating capacity and can cause painful but shallow wounds that are less likely to be fatal. Salt Shells can have a similar effect, with the addition of the pain caused by the dissolution of any salt crystals that penetrate.

Multi-shot in heavy weapons (e.g. grenade launchers) is generally employed as in ordnance.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • PCs faced with swarms of foes will probably like these … as will anyone who is not that good with a firearm.
  • May be useful for attacking swarm shifters.
  • A good round for battlesuit infantry.
  • In several battles in Vietnam and Korean (not to mention the Pacific Theatre of WW2) artillery batteries being overrun by a zerg rush of enemy infantry fought their guns to the muzzle with cannister. This was, obviously, a lot less common than in earlier wars.
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