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>> Modern Shotgunning, Progressive Views :: By James C. Gates on 2002-02-14
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Some Thoughts on Specialized Shot Shells
James C. Gates

After many years of stagnation, there is a renewed interest in specialized shotshells. The publicity of today’s turkey hunting has brought about a rash of new shotshell loads and shotgun chokes! Is all these development new? Not really! If one reads Frank Forrester’s notes published in 1838 and later, W.W. Greener’s finds that only recently have shotgun patterns matched what was the norm in blackpowder days. The first experiments on chokes was done the this country for the market hunter, but real development was done by Greener. The question arises...can the handloader/reloader of today put together a shotshell that will throw a more dense and uniform pattern than the available factory loads. The answer to that is a definite, yes! To do this it takes more time than the factories can invest in a single shotshell. I will present some suggestions for you to try.

Francis Sell discovered some years ago that by reducing the muzzle velocity below the speed of sound...there was less tendency of the pellets shock wave against each other. Another interesting discovery of his was that the tightest patterns were when the velocity was from just below the speed of sound. The turbulence of the pellet passing back down through the speed of sound opened up the pattern.

His next test showed that the harder the pellets were. the less deformation in the forcing cone and choke. Today the overall best pellets are nickel, with copper plates very close.

The next consideration is selecting a suitable hull for specialized shot shells. For less pellet deformation, we need a slow uniform powder burn. This calls for bulky powders like Blue Dot, which in turn call for a high volume powder capacity hull. The best on the market today is the Activ hull available from Ballistic Products Inc. is a extra strong straight walled hull. Its high volume lets you tailor your load with many type of wads and fillers.

Next to consider is what type of wad to use. Here we have a choice between a one piece wad or a wad column made up of an over powder wad, with filler wads. Which ever you decide to use, the single most important is a good seal over the powder. O.P. wads like the famous Alcan P.G.S. wad or Ballistic Products “Obturator Wad” is essential for a good seal. For back-bored barrels (.740”+/-) the best is the X12X, also from Ballistic Products. If the wad is too heavy, it will ram into the base of the shot column as it leaves the barrel and open up the pattern. Years ago it was thought that an overshot wad of the rolled crimp shells was causing blown patterns. Only today with high speed photography do we find that it was the heavy filler wads hitting the base of the shot column. We are now experimenting with Styrofoam filler wads and they seem to be the answer to the heavy filler wad problem. If one decides to use a one piece wad, I suggest you consider the excellent “Pattern Driver” sold by Ballistic Products, Inc. The wad is uncut and you can tailored the tightness on the pattern by varying your slits. If you decide to use filler wads, an excellent shot protector for 12 gauge can be made from paper coin wrappers sprayed with silicone.

There is nothing more important than the crimp of the shell. It must be tight for the slow burn powders. If one uses the rolled crimp instead of the folded crimp the volume of the case is increased. Here again, we are testing styro over shot wads. The roll crimp device can also be purchased from Ballistic Products, Inc. and is used in a drill press or hand drill.

All this I have written is an over simplification and If anyone is interested, they should contact me at my email address.

To summarize....Keep the velocity just below the speed of sound. An excellent muzzle velocity is 1150’/”. Keep your wad column as light as possible. Use the slow burn powders like Blue Dot. The tight rolled crimp is best. And foremost of all...use good round hard shot like copper plate.

Some quick thoughts on there are two ideas on chokes/patterns. One school of thought leans toward the idea that the longer time it takes for the wad to release the shot, the tighter the pattern. The other is that if there are fingers in the choke that retard the wad and allow the shot to move ahead, then the wad will not ram the back of the shot column. The oldest method is the former and the latest the latter. I have some thoughts on that, but will not post them as they are argumentative. I will add that specialized shot shell show the most improvement over factory loads when shot sizes from #5 and larger are used. There is a tremendous improvement in buckshot loads, but here again I will not open that can of worms on an open forum! I am available at all times to discuss this subject at my email address.

Thoughts on Shotgun Chokes, Loads, and Patterns

Fifty years ago this Fall, as a Florida Cracker boy of seventeen, shotgunning was an uncomplicated, but time consuming drill. After scraping up a little money, we went to the local hardware store and bought five or ten low power 7 1/2’s. Anyone remember when you could buy just a few shells out of a box? We would then proceed to a large lake North of town, fire up our old Johnson Sea-Horse and chug out on the lake in a waterlogged Cypress boat. In those days, when the water level was higher, there would be thousands of Coots down in the winter, along with hundreds of ducks! After spending some time in ever decreasing circles around the Coots, we would give them a hearty broadside (on the water of course). After doing this, we would trade the pile of Coots to Yankee visitors for an assortment of 12 gauge shells. They liked the big gizzards. Then........sorting these out to bird loads, small game loads, and duck loads was the next procedure. If we were lucky...there would be some orange colored Western Super X shells with that little “C” ( for chilled shot) in the batch. We would then be set for a week's shotgunning!

How things have changed over the next fifty years, of which I spent twenty-six working for the gun and ammo companies! We now have a shell for all types of shotgunning. Back then, you used whatever shotgun you owned, or could borrow, whatever the chokes. Mine was borrowed from my black guru, Dutch Hutchinson and was a field grade L.C. Smith double. Now we have guns in twelve gauge ranging from 2 3/4”, through 3” Mags, to the 3 1/2” Ga. “Something”. Add to this assortment, both fixed and factory screw-in chokes, plus after-market specialized screw-in chokes! Beside that we have European guns with tight barrels (.725”), standard American barrels (.729”), and now back-bored (.740”+) to think about. We have low antimony, high antimony, copper plate, nickel plate, Bismuth, steel, and other assorted makeup shot. Is it any wonder that “Chokes and Patterns” have become a major topic of conversation? Let’s now talk about chokes and how they are supposed to perform as far as patterns are involved.

There are two basic schools of thought as to what makes a choke give good patterns. One is the idea that the choke constriction funnels the shot column into a tight stream much like a water nozzle works. This idea says that the constriction will cause a pause, retarding the wads to let that shot fly ahead and not hit by the wads from the jet effect of the burning powder gas. The other school says the opposite. Let the wad contain the shot longer, releasing it yards from the muzzle, there by adding these yards to the overall long range pattern. For the short range game, whether clay birds or live game, these arguments are of no great importance as long as the patterns are not patchy. However, to the shooter who needs dense center core long range patterns, they are most important. Generally the following rule of thumb works.....for smaller shot (#7 1/2, #6, and #5’s) the tight choke, down as far as .675” works best. This, of course, means with hard, buffered shot! As the pellets get larger, and harder, the slow release wad comes into play. The harder the shot, like steel, requires less constriction. Many times, with steel and plated lead shot, the modified choke will give tighter center core patterns. When one looks at an overchoke patterns he notices small tight clusters throughout a scattered pattern. By using a less constriction, the pattern will even out and have a dense center core.

We should now look at shotshell construction and see how it relates to the two schools of thought on chokes. There are two types of construction of today’s shotshell hulls. One is the tapered inner body of the one piece plastic hull, like the WW compression hull and the RP Uni-body hull. Then there is the straight plastic tube, with a base wad of some material. The taper hull has less powder capacity and is best with the faster burn dense powders. On the other hand, the straight wall hull comes into play with the slow burn bulky powders. Since most long range high density loads are in twelve gauge, I will cover these. In the twelve gauge, a 1 1/8 oz. of lead shot is as tall as wide. This, and the 1 1/4 oz. load is about the break point in efficiency of the one piece wad. Go above that and there is unprotected shot above the plastic cup or not enough room for the slow burn powder needed to move the heavy shot load with safe pressure. With these heavy shot loads, the straight wall type of hull and wad design comes into play. In this design we have an overpowder wad of some design, a filler wad (fiber, wool, or cork), and a shot cup or sleeve(plastic or paper). These high density shells can be closed with either a folded crimp (6 point) or rolled crimp with an overshot wad. The latter, contrary to old beliefs, does not cause blown or doughnut patterns, rather it was the heavy waxed filler wads blowing into the base of the shot column leaving the muzzle. With this in mind, the lighter the filler wads, the better chance the reloader has for even patterns. Another plus for the rolled crimp/over shot wad is it does not allow the fine buffer to leak through the crimp. This is why most factory buffered loads with a folded crimp has the heat seal in the middle of the crimp. At this point, I must cover another argument going on top. That is whether a long forcing cone in front of the chamber is good or bad. A short (or standard) forcing cone is needed when using the stacked wad column of OP wad, filler wads, and cup/sleeve. This gives a good seal quick and the minimum blowby. Most European made shotguns have even a shorter forcing cone as the stacked wad column is used more than one piece plastic wads. The long forcing cone when used with one-piece wads and smaller soft shot, may reduce recoil and shot deformation. We can’t talk about wad column without discussing a another fad on the market...back bored barrels. A back bored barrel is simply an oversize bore for the gauge. In twelve gauge 2 3/4” and 3” chambered barrels they run .740”+ and the 3 1/2” is even larger. Most, if not all, one piece plastic wads have an over powder cup designed to seal .729/.730” barrels. These wads just ask for blowby in the .740”+ barrels and I have seen it time and time again, in reloaded shells for back bored barrels. There is one plastic over powder wad, when using stack wad columns, that work. That is the X12X plastic over powder wad from Ballistic Products. For those reloaders that still have some of the old Alcan plastic PGS wads....2 out of 10 will blow unless a nitro card (.135”) is placed on top of it. Since there are 12 gauge back bored barrels out there in both 2 3/4” and 3” Mag., the load testing I am doing now is with a back bored .740” Browning BPS barrel. If the load seals in this size barrel. it will work in the tighter bores(.729”/.730”).

Now for shot cup suggestions in high density reloads. Success has been found with the old Federal plastic shot cup and the shot cup cut from an RP 1 1/4 oz Power Piston. Then adding a 1 1/4” x 2 1/4 “ plastic mylar, or Teflon, strip inside the shot cup. Shot loads as high as 1 5/8 oz of shot will have all the shot protected from barrel rub. Another great plastic shot cup/wad is ballistic Products Turkey Ranger wad. By adding 20 Ga. wool wads (1/8”) to the inside of the cup, shot columns from 1 1/4 oz to 2 oz of shot can be protected. This wad is unslit and I have found that three equal cuts, 2/3 of the way down to the base seems to give the best patterns with #4 and #2’s. For #BB’s and steel, two cuts seem best. If filler wads are needed outside, then by all means use a good wool wad and not a hard waxed wad. An outstanding wad for this is the Ox-Yoke wool wad used in muzzle loading shotguns. This wad runs a little under 1/8” and has an excellent dry lube. One note of importance here.......if you are going to add pressure on the powder, do it when you load the over powder wad! Then lightly seat the wool filler wads and plastic shot cup. Whether you roll crimp or fold crimp, this leaves the wool wad uncompressed. Then upon firing these wads can compress and give some shock absorbing to the shot column. If you roll crimp, use a ultra thin .015” wad.

Of all the powders I have tested, none has given the uniform pressure curve needed for these high-density loads as Blue Dot. It’s bulky, but good. There is some high muzzle pressure when using it, but if you use the light wads I have mentioned you will be all right. I don’t publish my loads on the open board. This is due to the fact I don’t know what you will be shooting them in. If you deal direct with me and tell me the gun, choke, and bore size...I will tell you what has worked for me.

Back to shot.....I use only Lawrence high antimony copperplate or Ballistic Products shot for my high density loads. I have tried other, but have never found any to be as uniform in size or quality plating. I do mix 1 teaspoon of Motor Mica to quart of shot, rolling it around in a quart jar until it is all covered. Another point worth thinking about. Depending on the antimony and plating, all shot weights are not equal by volume. Check your bushing against your scales and adjust. High antimony and plated shot gives more pellets by volume.

When choosing a buffer, I have found none better than Ballistic Products “Original Design” buffer, bar none! The factories pre-mix buffer and shot, giving inconsistent weights. Best to add buffer (around 20 grains) after you have dropped your shot. Vibrate it in until it just covers the top layer of pellets. I hold the shell against my vibrator cleaner. Most buffer adds about 1000 psi to the load.

In closing I might added that I have found the Fiocchi hull, in 2 3/4” and 3” offered by Ballistic Products the very best I have worked with! The hull comes primed with the Fiocchi 616 primer, which is a hot primer, and works best for slow burn powders and cold weather. The hull has an asbestos-like low basewad and 16mm high brass.

In closing, these have been just thoughts on Chokes, Loads, and Patterns and may well be different than you have discovered. If so, use what you have found. None of this, as in other things, is written in stone. Anytime I can be of help, my latch-string is always out.

Thoughts on Shotgun Patterns

Have you ever seen some one shooting extremely nice patterns on the pattern board and then they give you a detailed load description and choke number.......only to find you can’t duplicate the results? I sure have! Each shotgun barrel is an identity of it own. One can have what appears identical barrels, in all respects, and yet pattern quite differently. During this last month I have been loading , and testing, some very specialized long range turkey loads in 12 gauge 3” Magnums. The test firearm has been a Browning BPS VR 12 Ga. 3” Magnum with a 30” back-bored .740” barrel with a Invector-Plus full choke tube installed. Using a 1 5/8 oz. load of copperplate #4’s, the gun acted like it wanted to pattern very tight at 50 yards better than any other shot weight. After correcting the problem of some blown over-powder wads by using Ballistic Products X12X OP wad, everything went to sleep. The load would average 24 #4 in a 10” circle, with a dense center pattern at 50 yards. I had tested various velocities, all within the specified pressure range and found that 1200 fps with Blue Dot was ideal. Going above that velocity, the pattern became patchy and below that velocity the pattern opened up. This was my first clue to the relationship of velocity to pattern, while holding the same shot weight. Over the last 40 years I have seen little mention of this, however Don Zutz did run into a similar situation with trap loads.

The next tests were to be conducted with a friends Remington 870 with a 28” VR barrel with the Rem-Choke full choke tube. You got it! The load did not pattern as well. In the end, by adding 5% more powder ( 1% increments), I increased the velocity up to 1260 fps (still within my pressure envelope) and his shotgun duplicated the previous BPS patterns.

So, here again.....There is a definite relationship between Powder Burn Rate (muzzle pressure) - Velocity - Shot Weight and Hardness - Choke Design and Constriction ( as related to bore). Change any and you may well change the pattern. This is the most frustrating fact when advising other reloaders on a shell’s recipe! Of all the above variables, the best to change is the powder charge in 1% increments, therefore changing the velocity of the shot through the choke tube (or fixed choke). One must stay within the pressure envelop, remembering that an increase of a % gives a double % in pressure! Therefore, a 5% increase in powder, gives a 5% increase in velocity, but a 10% increase in pressure. This rule of thumb is pretty close with all powders, except Ball. It’s best to move up or down in 1% powder change. Pressure is very hard to judge in shotguns. The best is probably watching expansion of the brass head.

Another problem in the developing a shotgun recipe is the tendency of the reloader to add more choke constriction to tighten up patterns. This may work in shot sizes up to #6, but seldom in the larger shot size! I have seen many cases where going to a more open tube tightened up patterns on large shot! If one is getting patchy patterns, with shot clusters, the problem may well be a combination of too high a velocity or too tight choke constriction. This problem really shows up with steel shot! One should get at least a 10% tighter pattern with 3% Antimony - Copperplate shot. So....You get coming out, what you got going in.

If you have the recipe of a shotgun load that has been proven, use it. If your patterns are not as good, reduce or increase velocity in 1% increments. If the load was right, as far as components are concerned, it’s still right.....just needs adjustment in your shotgun. If your pattern is larger, add a little velocity. If it is patchy, with tight shot clusters here and there, reduce velocity. If neither works, try a different choke tube. This is nothing but fine tuning a proven load to your particular shotgun and you will hit that “sweet spot”.

Another Bug-a-boo.....If the proven shotgun load was worked up in a back-bored barrel (.740+”), reduce the powder charge 5% up front, if you have a regular (.729”/.730”) barrel. In the case of my friend’s Mod 870, it worked out with a powder increase, but may have gone the other way.

In closing, I must add that there are constant mistakes made in checking patterns out at 50 yards. Many shooters, who think they have poor patterns are just not centering them due to poor sighting. Use a large sheet of paper, where all the pattern is on it! Use a large piece of poster paper with a 20” to 30” circle cut out. Move it around to find the dense center of the pattern. Many turkey hunters use a 10” cut out, where buckshot shooters use a 18” circle. Each is looking for what they consider the kill zone. One can always sight the shotgun in later.........

Thoughts on Buckshot

Long before a rifle was ever thought of there were smoothbores. Even today, many qualified people think the smoothbore shotgun is the most versatile tool one could hunt with. The Shotgun and buckshot has remained popular in the Eastern States far more than west of the Mississippi. With this in mind, some understanding is needed for the theory, loading, and shooting buckshot. I do not recommend gauges small than 12 gauge for deer/bear hunting with buckshot.

Until just a few years ago we had to try different ammo makers and buckshot size to see which patterned best in the fixed chokes. Now, with the screw-in chokes, we can fit the choke to the load. There is some controversy as to which size buckshot is best for large game. Some believe in increasing the number of hits with smaller pellets, while others opt for the greater energy and penetration of the large size. Taking into consideration that a deer size kill-zone is some 18” X 24”, that should be used as a target area. If your load puts four to five #000 or #00 in that area, it is a minimum needed for a positive kill. The decision of the needed number of pellets at whatever yardage is left up to the shooter. I for one, consider fifty yards as the maximum range for buckshot and that is with the larger pellets mentioned. For the most part there is no difference in loading small vs. large pellets except how they are stacked in the shell. In 12 gauge this covers buckshot size from #1 through #000, all of which will stack either 4 pellet layers, 3 pellet layers, or 2 pellet layers. This stacking is where the need to know the inside diameter of the choke! To get the recommended size of buckshot for the choke....multiply in diameter of the choke by .4639 for a 3 stack load, .4531 for a 4 stack load, and divide by 2 for a 2 stack load. I have found that the factory stacks are not always the best for tight patterns. The #00’s stacked 2 on 2, with buffer and plastic shot cup patterns very close with reloads, even in full choke guns.

Buckshot sizes run........#000 @ .35” ( many publications say .36”, however all I have found were .35”), #00 @ .33”, #0 @ . 32”, and #1 @ .30”.....I do not recommend any smaller size for deer/bear loads and only the #000 for wild hogs. As an example, let’s say one has a 12 gauge barrel that mikes .70” inside the choke. .70” X .4639 ( 3 stack load) = .3247” pellet. Which means a #00 - 3 stack load could pass through the choke without deformation of the pellets. This lack of deformation is most important for tight patterns at longer ranges. The difference in the .729”/.730” bore diameter and the choke diameter just lets the load consolidate as it leaves the barrel. For any good pattern, the buckshot must be hard to resist deformation. We need the minimum of 3% antimony, regardless of whether the buckshot is plated with copper or nickel. Ballistic Products carries an excellent brand of buckshot.

Now to discuss shotgun hulls....There are two types of manufactured hulls, tapered insides like the Winchester AA and Remington Uni-Body and straight insides like Federal Gold Metal, etc. Since one-piece wads have small shot capacities, I rule out the tapered inside cases. The best hull I have found to date is the Fiocchi (16mm high brass - low base wad) hull**. These hulls are also available from Ballistic Products and are new and primed with the Fio616 primer. The Fio616** is a rather hot primer and is perfect for the slower burn powders.

On to wads....The buckshot loads will have a stacked wad column consisting of an over-powder wad, wool filler wads, and a plastic shot protector sleeve or plastic shot cup. The best over-powder wad I have found, for both regular and back-bored barrels, is the X12X wad**. The filler wads should be of the best wool** in order to seal well and cushion the loads as the powders lights off. I prefer to buy the 3/8” so I can regulate the wad column better. We have a choice of sleeves or shot cups to protect the buckshot in the barrel. For sleeves the best choice is either Mylar or Teflon material. A sleeve cut 2 1/4” X 1 1/4” in the inside of the hull on top of the filler wads will protect loads up to 1 5/8 oz (710.9 grs). For loads above that, the Turkey Ranger wad** will cover up to a 2 oz (875.0 gr load). The Turkey Ranger wad come unslit. Three even slits down 2/3 of the wad seems best.

Buffers....A buffer is a filler of some kind that is vibrated in around the buckshot to reduce any deformation the in gun’s forcing cone or choke. Over the past 100 years all matter of material has been used. In the early days bone dust was best and is still good, but scarce. Flour has been used with a great deal of success, however I don’t recommended it due to its caking and causing pressure spikes. The best I have found is either the “Original Design” or “Mix #47” from Ballistic Products. This buffer (20 to 30 grs) is vibrated in and around the buckshot.

Powders.....For loads that weigh 700 grs up, I have found no powder better than Blue Dot. Below that weight, Herco seems best. The idea here is to flatten out the pressure curve. Powder bushings should be checked against your scale.

Over-shot wads were blamed in the past for blowing patterns. That just was not the case, as it was the cheap heavy waxed hard filler wads blasting into the base of the shot column as it left the barrel. Today’s thin OS wads are the best going. One can either buy them or cut them with a 3/4” punch. Some of us color code the pellet size with OS wads cut from cigarette cartons.

Putting the load together.....any good shotshell machine will work. I like the Ponsness-Warren since the hull is completely in the die throughout the loading sequence. I must warn you here that the powder bushing must be checked with a good scale. I do not use the drop for the buckshot, but rather hand place them in the shell. The OP wad is placed in the hull first and a little pressure applied. When inserting the wool filler wads do not press hard! Only seat them lightly followed by the sleeve or shot cup!

This is most important! We do not want to compress the wool wads in the shell, only seat them lightly on the OP wad! After stacking the buckshot, the buffer is vibrated in. It should just cover the top pellet stack.

Crimping the hull.....Here you have a choice of a fold crimp or rolled crimp. The fold crimp is OK on small shot where the folds can move down into the top of the shot, but I don’t think it is best for the buckshot loads. Many times the fold crimp will leak the buffer into the magazine tube of the shotgun. For the rolled the thin OS wad on top of the buckshot and buffer. With the roll crimper** in the drill press/hand drill, apply a light pressure to warm up the plastic tube’s mouth, then apply more pressure to roll the crimp over. If you plan to fold crimp, add a small piece of paper over the buffered pellets to keep the buffer from leaking. The rolled crimp also adds to the amount of components you can get in the hull.

In conclusion....Contrary to what some writers will tell you, there is no significant pressure change in a load, whether it is loaded with small #10’s or buckshot, as long as the weight of the shot/pellets is the same and the rest of the components are identical! The addition of buffer adds about 1000 psi the listed none buffered. I don’t like to go over 11,000 psi.

So the final question is to be addressed.....can one reload a buckshot shell that patterns better than the best factory offering? The answer is yes, if care is used selecting components, such as the quality of the pellets, flat pressure curves, wads, and crimps. One can expect a 10 to 15 yard advantage and that’s important when hunting with buckshot!

**Ballistic Products Inc. - 20015 75th Ave. North, Box 293 - Corcoran, MN - 55340 has all the products I have mentioned along with pamphlets on loading buckshot. Any further help I can be, please advise.

Thoughts on the Amount of Shot for Long Range
More is Not Necessarily Better

Look at any publication that is featuring turkey articles, tune into any TV showing turkey hunting, or read any factory propaganda on turkey loads.........and you will likely see loads using as much as two ounces of small shot being talked about. There are also tons of after market chokes out there. Enough to confuse anyone! Some work, some don’t and some are just a joke! Whatever happened to those old late, and great, turkey hunters that loaded their full choke guns with 3 3/4-1 1/4- # 4, 5, and 6’s?????? After shooting a regular 2 3/4” 12 gauge for many years, I learned out on the Mississippi flyway the advantages of the 3” magnum. It just carried more shot! What did not take me long to learn was, is that it did not matter how much shot was in the shell, but rather how much shot the shell put onto the kill zone! If I have ever made an important statement, this is the most important one in shotgunning! By now, all of you should be aware that hard round shot, that resist deformation in the shotguns forcing cone, in the choke, and when the powder’s pressure hammers into the base of the shot column on ignition is the only shot that will pattern for long range work. With that in mind, I will move ahead. With the introduction of one piece wads, it seemed that in the future the choke performance would be in the construction of the shell rather than in the barrel. In some cases that is true, as in clay bird shooting. We now see many different shell construction used for the various clay bird game. Does this theory apply to long range lead shot loads?..........maybe, maybe not! It is true that we now have some of the finest components ever for putting together long range wonders. A quick look at Ballistic Products catalog and one will find the best of the lot. All of this is good, however there is one thing that is overlooked. The relationship between the amount of shot ( its length) to the choke (its diameter or constriction). A long time ago, the famous W.W.Greener, proved that the closer that relationship, the tighter the patterns. I proved again to myself that the old master was correct. By increasing the amount of shot from 1 1/4 to 1 3/8 to 1 1/2 to 1 5/8 to 1 3/4 to 1 7/8 up to 2 ounces.....all at the same velocity...I found that the patterns tighten up and then opened up. The tightest and densest center core was with 1 5/8 ounces of 3% antimony copper plated shot!

Further test showed this remained the case with shot sizes from #4 (.130”) up to #BB (.180”). We have tested this pattern in various shotguns with 28” to 32” barrels of various makers, and in all cases it seem to hold true. The testing was done at 50 yards and pellet counts in 10” and 20” circles. If one drops back to 30 yards, or even 40 yards, you may not be able to see this difference I am speaking of.

So.....What’s this all about? Turkey hunting is the number one growing shotgun hunting sport. Turkey ranges are exploding all over this country! With this increase of huntable game, along comes every Tom, Dick, and Harry with the latest gizmo choke, etc. Kinda reminds me of what’s happened to Bass Fishing! Go to your local gun store, look over the latest Turkey Wonder Loads and you will find most have a large amount #6’s. Will #6’s break a turkey’s neck?.......sure they will out to about 35 yards! Will a #6 penetrate a turkey’s body? it gets iffy and depends on how he was standing! Some hunters try for a compromise by using #5’s, and I agree they are better out to 40 yards than #6’s. However all hunters are not adept enough to bring that Gobbler into 30/40 yard ranges and they would be better off with #4’s, factory or reloads. This is exactly where my comments on the amount of shot in the shell comes in. The hunter who has been hit with the idea of a ton of #6’s for neck shots will likely pick shells loaded with 1 7/8 oz to 2 oz in 12 Ga. 3” mag. In the 2 3/4” guns the same thing happens in shot amounts that happen in the 3” guns, however in these guns a 1 3/8 or 1 1/2 oz loads seems perfect. I will say that I have never found a 3” chamber gun that shot 2 3/4” loads that well out at 50 yards. Even if the shotgunner wants to shoot loads down at 1 1/4 oz, he would be better putting it in a 3” shell with some wool filler wads to take up space. There are some high velocity 1 1/4 loads that will surprise you when used in the 3” gun.

Remember, we are talking about long range loads that will put an average of 24-#4’s in a 10” circle at 50 yards. If you don’t need that kind of performance, Wally Mart Funny Paper Cheapies may work for you.

If you are a reloader/shotgunner and want to develop these long range loads.....There is no better supplier than Ballistic Products.

Contact Ballistic Products on the web

For the reloader/shotgunner building long range turkey loads, get their pamphlet called “Turkey Ranger - 12 gauge Pattern Driver” and study it well!

Best Regards As Always, James

James C. Gates

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