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The Truth About Shotgun Ammo: 6 Questions Answered at Federal's High-Tech Range

Our tests at a high-tech ballistic research laboratory may change the way you buy loads and guns...and even how you hunt.

Four decades ago, Field & Stream shotgun columnist Bob Brister spent six months shooting at 16-foot-long homemade targets mounted on a trailer hitched to a station wagon that his wife drove past. Brister conducted this novel experiment to understand the effect of shot stringing at crossing gamebirds.

While it had long been known that a swarm of shot lengthened as it flew downrange, no one agreed on what it meant. Brister’s patterns, which sometimes splattered the length of his 16-foot-long targets, indicated that if you shot at a bluebill streaking past your decoys, up to 30 percent of the pattern might arrive too late to hit the bird.

A lot has changed since 1976. There are new questions about shotgunning to answer and, fortunately, new ways to answer them.

I don’t own an $80,000 high-speed camera, but Federal Cartridge Co. has one in its underground test range (above). They also have a computerized shotgun pattern analyzer, a walk-in cooler full of ballistic gelatin, and a factory full of shotshells to test. Federal granted my request to spend a couple of days there in April to test shotgun loads. I had countless questions, but was able to answer these six.

Some things I thought I knew turned out to be wrong. Others were right. And several changed the way I think about shotshells.

1. Is a 3 1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective Than a 3-Inch 12-Gauge?

I’ve always believed the brutal recoil of a 31⁄2-inch 12-gauge magnum negates any ballistic advantage over the standard 3-inch magnum. I have always suspected, too, that cramming what amounts to a 10-gauge load into a 12-gauge barrel produced poor, ragged patterns and longer shot strings that made the extra pain even less worthwhile.

Test Loads:

- 12-gauge, 3-inch, 11⁄4-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1450 fps (Modified choke)
- 12-gauge, 31⁄2-inch, 11⁄2-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1500 fps (Modified choke)
Results: Both loads patterned almost identically on a 30-inch circle at 40 yards: The 31⁄2-inch load put 72.6 percent of its shot in the circle, with 77 pellet hits. The 3-inch placed 71.8 percent of its shot in the circle, with 63 hits.

There was no significant difference between the lengths of the shot strings, which averaged 42 inches for the 3-inch and 49 inches for the 31⁄2-inch midway between muzzle and target. Both loads exhibited equal penetration in ballistic gelatin at 30 yards—5 inches—despite the 31⁄2-inch shell’s 50 fps head start in muzzle velocity.

The Takeaway:
I expected the 31⁄2 to string out longer and pattern worse than the 3-inch load, but it patterned just as well. The higher pellet count of the 31⁄2-inch resulted in significantly more hits in the circle, but both loads put enough hits on target to kill geese.

However, the improvement in performance comes at a cost of a whopping 50 percent increase in recoil. Even with a gun seated in a massive rest, I could feel the difference, and the muzzle blast was noticeably louder in the test tunnel, too. I shot some of those same 31⁄2-inch shells while trying to shoot a triple on a five-stand range. I could hit the first target always, but recovering from the shot to make the next two was almost impossible.

Is the 31⁄2-inch more effective than the 3-inch? Yes—if you can withstand the recoil. “More” is only better if you can put it on target.

2. Is the .410 a Suitable Gauge for Young, Beginning Hunters?

The .410 is a ballistic disgrace, and a crippler of gamebirds. Just ask me and all the other gun writers who have repeated that “fact” over the years. I believe beginning hunters should shoot a 20-gauge, not a .410, despite the higher recoil and extra weight of the 20. A comparison between the two, I was sure, would dramatically show the 20’s superiority.

Test Loads:
- .410 11⁄16-ounce loads of Game-Shok Upland No. 6 shot at 1135 fps (Full choke)
- 20-gauge 7⁄8-ounce loads of Game-Shok Upland No. 6 shot at 1210 fps (Modified choke)
Results: Unlike other gauges, which are patterned at 40 yards, .410s are typically patterned at 25 yards. We picked 30 yards as a compromise distance and to reflect the shorter ranges at which beginners shoot. The Full choke .410 shot 87.8 percent patterns at 30 yards, while the Modified 20 shot 84.6 percent. The higher pellet count and higher velocity of the 20 combined to put more pellets in the 30-inch circle (173) than the .410 (139). Penetration was better, too—3.3 inches vs. 3 inches. The 46-inch-long shot string of the 20-gauge, which was measured at 20 yards, was a full 20 inches shorter than the .410’s shot string.

The Takeaway: The .410 surprised us with great patterns. However, the .410’s shot string, which was 50 percent longer than that of the 20-gauge, revealed a shortcoming: The longer the string, the slower the trailing pellets are traveling, and therefore the less energy they retain. The .410 not only puts fewer pellets on target than the 20-gauge, but the .410’s tail-end pellets won’t hit as hard. Even so, I will give the .410 more respect in the future. I waited until my kids were 11 and 12 and big enough to shoot 20-gauges, but if a child is too small to handle a 20, a .410 can work.

3. Is a 20-gauge as Effective as a 12-Gauge for Doves?

There’s a faction of smallbore shooters—including some people I hunt with—who condemn the 12-gauge as “unsporting.” As a 12-gauge shooter, I see it as being versatile and ballistically efficient. This test was my chance to crush my detractors with science. One area where 12s and 20s can be compared in an apples-to-apples format is the dove field, where many hunters shoot 1-ounce loads with either gauge, so that became the basis for the test. 


Test Loads
:

- 20-gauge 1-ounce loads of Game-Shok Upland No. 71⁄2 shot at 1165 fps (Modified choke)
- 12-gauge 1-ounce loads of Game-Shok Upland No. 71⁄2 shot at 1235 fps (Modified choke)
Results: The 12-gauge delivered a 50.7 percent pattern with 202 pellets in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards. The 20 did just 39.6 percent with 149 pellets inside the circle. The 12 achieved slightly deeper penetration (2.875 inches vs. 2.5625) in gelatin at 30 yards, likely due to the higher muzzle velocity. The high-speed camera showed no statistical difference between the lengths of the shot strings, which averaged 55 inches for the 12-gauge and 57 for the 20 at 20 yards.

The Takeaway:
I thought the 12 would win, but I hadn’t expected it to beat the 20 so badly. Out of curiosity we tested the 20-gauge with one size larger shot to see if we could improve its performance. With No. 6 shot the 20 delivered a huge 15 percent increase in pattern density. That gave us a bonus takeaway: If you want to tighten patterns (sometimes by a lot), shoot larger shot.

A 20-gauge is fun to handle and shoot, but when it comes to putting pellets on target efficiently, it loses out to the 12.

4. Is Steel Shot Suitable for Pheasants?

A growing number of pheasant hunters have to shoot nontoxic ammunition. Pheasants are tough birds and elusive cripples, so choosing the right shell matters, especially when you go from dense lead to lighter steel. In the field I have had no trouble killing wild birds with steel shot, but while dead is dead, I wanted to quantify the differences between steel and lead loads.

Test Loads:
- 12-gauge 11⁄8-ounce loads of Federal Prairie Storm No. 3 steel at 1600 fps (Modified choke)
- 12-gauge 11⁄8-ounce loads of Wing-Shok High Velocity No. 6 lead at 1500 fps (Modified choke)
Results: As expected, the hard steel pellets patterned tighter than lead (62.5 percent vs. 52.6 percent) inside a 30-inch circle at 40 yards. Nevertheless, the higher pellet count of the lead load meant more pellets in the circle: 128 hits, compared to 102 hits for the steel load. The lead pellets also penetrated 4.12 inches into the 30-yard gelatin, compared to steel’s 3.43 inches. The lead load had a shorter shot string (55 inches) at 20 yards than the steel load (61 inches).

The Takeaway: Even with advances in steel ammunition, lead is still superior. Usually hunters switching from lead to steel compensate for steel’s light weight by following the “rule of two” and going up two sizes in shot. Yet despite my choosing three sizes larger in steel and driving it 100 fps faster than the lead load, it didn’t perform as well as lead in the test. The “rule of two” should be the “rule of three or maybe four.” Steel 3s and 2s make the best pellet choice. Steel pellets, which remain round and fly true, patterned more efficiently than lead, resulting in tighter patterns. Given the lower pellet count and retained energy of steel, though, I would not go to a more open choke if switching from lead to steel. Still, modern steel loads are effective for pheasants.

5. Are Premium Buckshot Loads Worth the High Cost?

One important lesson Brister learned was that hard shot loaded with ground plastic buffer protected the pellets from deforming in the barrel. Premium buffered magnum waterfowl loads clearly outperformed nonbuffered loads. But would this be true for the biggest pellets of all? Premium buck costs nearly $2 per shell, twice the cost of standard loads, so I wanted to see if it was worth the price.

Test Loads :
- 12-gauge, 3-inch, 15-pellet loads of Federal Vital-Shok buffered, copper-plated 00 buckshot at 1100 fps (Modified choke)
- 12-gauge, 3-inch, 15-pellet handloads of unbuffered, unplated 00 buck at 1210 fps (Modified choke)
Results: Premium buckshot averaged 12.4 pellets in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards, whereas unbuffered buck averaged 11 hits. The pattern diameter of the buffered load at 40 yards was 31.65 inches; the unbuffered load spread out to 36.89 inches. The unbuffered buck penetrated deeper (16.84 inches vs. 14.62 inches) than the premium, probably due to its higher muzzle velocity.

The Takeaway: There was a dramatic difference in the shape of recovered buffered and unbuffered pellets. I had thought the deformed, unbuffered pellets would string out farther due to increased air resistance and pattern much worse. That didn’t happen. Unbuffered buckshot tore uneven holes in paper, yet it penetrated deeply into the gelatin.

We did notice an odd phenomenon during this test. Occasionally two pellets would fly through the same hole in the paper or into the gel. With only 15 pellets in the pattern, the odds against that happening are very high—unless there is a drafting effect where a trailing pellet falls in behind a pellet in front of it, the same way race cars draft one another. You can’t rely on that happening, but when it does, the second pellet into the hole will penetrate almost twice as deeply as the rest.

Premium buckshot put roughly 13 percent more pellets on target. Whether that’s worth double the cost is a personal decision.

6. Which is Better for Turkeys: Lighter, Faster Loads or Heavier, Slower Loads?

The trend to lighter, faster turkey loads made me wonder if heavy and slow loads would perform better. Theoretically, a lower-velocity load will pattern tighter than a faster load because the lower launch speed deforms fewer pellets, leaving more of them round to fly true. But at the same time, a lighter load should pattern tighter than a heavier load for the same reason: the more lead pellets on top of one another in a shell, the more pellets deform when that shell is fired.

Test Loads:
- 12-gauge, 3-inch, 13⁄4-ounce loads of Mag-Shok Lead High Velocity No. 5 shot at 1300 fps (Modified choke)
- 12-gauge, 3-inch, 2-ounce loads of Mag-Shok Lead No. 5 shot at 1150 fps (Modified choke)
Results: The 13⁄4-ounce load patterned more efficiently, putting 70.2 percent of its charge in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards, compared to 61.4 percent for the 2-ounce load. It also outpenetrated the 2-ounce load in gelatin at 30 yards, 4 inches to 3.65 (though the latter is certainly adequate to kill a turkey). In number of hits, however, the 2-ounce load narrowly won, 216 pellets to 209. Recoil is about the same.

The Takeaway:
Essentially the test resulted in a tie, although the heavier load snuck a few extra pellets into the target area. Recoil from both shells was almost identical. I would favor the lighter load because more penetration, while it may not help, can’t hurt, either.

Looking at these results, however, I can’t help but wonder if a slower 13⁄4-ounce load wouldn’t pattern better than either of these. Unfortunately, “slow” is a tough sell to the American public, so unless you handload your own turkey ammo, you may never find out. It’s a tie, so choose the one that patterns best in your gun.

BONUS: Does Shot String Length Matter?

Load Lab: Phil Bourjaily and engineers at the Federal test range.

It matters some, but not for the reasons we think. During these tests, Federal engineers Erik Carlson and Adam Moser measured shot strings at 20 yards and extrapolated lengths for 40 yards. The longest shot string in our tests, the 66-inch .410 string, would be about 10 feet long at 40 yards. Match that against a bird flying 40 mph at 40 yards, as Brister simulated in his tests, and you will lose only a small percentage of pattern density, perhaps about 5 percent, not the 30 percent loss Brister saw with some 1976-era lead waterfowl magnums.

Brister believed long shot strings were more forgiving of error than short strings. If you were to overlead a target, he thought, the trailing pellets might still break it, so the longer the string, the greater the margin for error. In theory that is true, but practically speaking, the chance is very slim of a trailing pellet breaking a target. The disadvantage is that the longer the string, the slower the trailing pellets, and the less energy they’ll have on target.

From the September 2013 issue of Field & Stream

Comments (47)

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from 31Alpha wrote 34 weeks 6 hours ago

Good set up of the test and good analysis of the results. I would have liked to have seen some testing done with the newer square shot vs. round shot debate to see if one penetrates better, creates deeper wound channels, and flies more accurately.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from spiaailtli wrote 34 weeks 3 hours ago

Great job! Please give us more of this type of information/testing in the future.

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from Dangle wrote 34 weeks 3 hours ago

I still believe in the retained energy of a heavier pellet at killing range over length of penetration. Knock down power is more important than penetration. Lots of waterfowl fly off to die using steel shot that penetrates, but has far less knockdown power than lead. And many gunners buy the 3" shells thinking they are far superior beyond 40 yds., and claim they down geese at 60 yds using the 3.5" shells. I do believe that tests demonstrate that steel, in particular, blows patterns, and provides lousy performance beyond 40 yds.

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from Dangle wrote 34 weeks 3 hours ago

Don't know why it posted 3" shells. I meant 3.5" shells as performing well beyond 40 yds.

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from William W Simon wrote 34 weeks 1 hour ago

You were testing Turkey Loads why didn't you use Turkey chokes instead of modified

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from William W Simon wrote 34 weeks 1 hour ago

You were testing Turkey Loads why didn't you use Turkey chokes instead of modified

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from fishtronics wrote 34 weeks 59 min ago

Sorry you can't just dis Bob Brister my Guru without real proof. Read Brister's book "Shotgunning The Art and Science" and see what he did. He actually got his wife to drive the family station wagon pulling a boat trailer with a long billboard target with a bird at the leading edge of the target. He had to actuall lead far enough for goose ranges to be pointing at his wife driving. And she did it nayway. What a gal. Anyway it is plain as day that the length of the shot train matters big time. And saying that a 20% difference doesn't matter matters big time. Do the math. Your statement that the shot train does not matter just does not hold water. If the speed of the load at the muzzle is 1200 fps and the target is 40 yards away (120 feet) that means the leading edge of the shot train if it spot on will hit in 1/10 of a second. If the train is 48" that means the last piece of shot arrives only 0.03 seconds(1200fps/4ft) later or a speed 1196fps. Now tell me that the energy that last pellet has at 1184fps won’t do the job. What’s that you say? You will get a bigger spread of velocities from different shells in the same box.

I can debunk your junk science results of the effects of the length of the shot train using exactly the same math, but I have already lost 90% of my readers, so I leave it as an exercise for you.

Get the book. Worship at the feet of Bob Brister.

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from fishtronics wrote 34 weeks 49 min ago

Oops my math is almost oK good enuff for a sanity check, but I can't type. I meant the last pellet is going 1184fps.

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from JerryQuill wrote 34 weeks 42 min ago

I was suprised that the 28 gauge was never mentioned, or the subject of upland bird hunting with a 28 gauge. 95% of the upland birds, all species, I hunt is with a 28 gauge with SK and SK or SK and IC. I dislike hunting upland with a 12 gauge as it is overkill. I see too many hunters shoot at birds with a 12 gauge mod choke pump or semi auto with 1 1/4 or 1 3/8 of 5's or 7.5 with the birds rising in the 20 yard range and blasting the bird into 3 or 4 pieces and there is nothing left to eat. That's not hunting, that's total stupidity. I hunt upland as I like eating the differnt species in different dishes I cook up. I don't aim at the bird I aim at the head. Last year in Colorado I had 13 pheasant and chucker in an hour and all were head shot. Only one chucker had a pellet hole in the left breast. It makes for better eating and not having to worry about the lead. It also helps if you have a good guide with good dogs as all the birds were crossers or quartering and outgoing, but their heads were always showing enabling me to make the kill and not ruin the meat. And yes, a low pressure RST shotshell at 1150 7/8's #7 shot will kill a chucker at 78 yards. CVO has the info.

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from Blowfly basher wrote 34 weeks 42 min ago

A valuable investigation, thanks, but one with deeper considerations than numbers.
I will always extrapolate and criticise as well as praise as I think we are in a world
more isolating of events than even 20 years ago.I feel entitled to do that.

Hopefully lead will be banned completely simply on the basis of pollution
however the alternatives must be engineered towards less "collateral damage"
on a flock of birds. "Hunters" block out the cruelty of their 'bagging" which
for me typecasts them. A bird for them is not a living entity with individuality
but a "thing" considered low on the scale of value....an inversion of reality
quite often. Birds are highly skilled at their craft...I venture to say the majority
of shooters are not.

I completely reject the 'hunter gatherer' excuse. It's a choice for most of us
today not a driver-hangover from primitivity, still it sounds macho and some people
admire it.Nothing I have seen was more pitiful than (when in Australia of course)
a koala sitting docilely on an ants nest looking very aged and dull with what I thought
was mange. As I came closer I realised that at this clay site pellets readily entered the
trees and this fellow was a survivor..riddled with pellets and perhaps dying from lead
poisoning as well as suffering in silence...until his skin healed. Perhaps ants biting was
the lesser evil

Was there a sign warning of Koala's there? Would some shooters get turned on by the
thought they might bag one?...unfortunately yes and that's the paradox...rying to
protect a species might lead to its demise owing to the planet's worst destructor, man,
with his endless excuses as to why he kills even including 'protection of the species'
which was quite ok thanks, until man with firearms started on it. I own plenty but
my interest has long been the pursuit of history through them more than killing.I kill
only to protect my sheep and I also know that killing the educator, the oldest adult
is what interrupts the learning of the young which even with foxes makes attacks more likely
and that is commonplace in the animal kingdom.

Irevolt when the lust to kill erupts when someone says something as simple as “I saw a deer
down the road not 5 minutes ago”...a mad scrample to gra ba rifle or gun to go kill it.

I really do hope that for the comparatively few shooters with intelligence and integrity
and awareness that this valuable test draws them to condition (as not all rise as individuals
as in the quaint British scenario but fly past in groups) ...and to discuss the results
and the issues with others so to encourage their greater knowledge and awareness be translated
into a more humane approach towards shooting animals.

I can hear my co shooters saying "'get over it”! as they regard me witheringly however
as I said "few shooters".......

For them science and panoramic awareness might not only be retrograde but 'rubbish"
and yes, dead IS dead as Phil says ....but along the way to being dead?...Look at
what we tolerate even enjoy.....Abu ghraib,A man sitting down for dinner with family
and friends in Afghanistan not realising in a few seconds some will be viscera and gore
and some will be pbits and pieces still sufferig, protesting in front of a bulldozer in
Palestine or being a child who picks up a metal thing in Vietnam,Cambodia Palestine or Iraq
or prisoners being packed into containers in a desert and left there, being a Kurd in the
wrong place wrong time as American cannisters of chemical agents targeted by Israeli
satellite co-ordinates are dropped around you or on you. If we don't care about animals
suffering and use the information put together in this article to change our behaviour
we will not care about humans either as there is an anaesthetising process, however long
it takes. Voila

-7 Good Comment? | | Report
from oldandcreaky wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Phil: This article justified the price of my subscription for the year, Well done!

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from Dangle wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Fishtronics...Your math is way off because round shot is ballistically a terrible performer. It slows down greatly as it leaves the barrel, and isn't travelling at half the muzzle velocity at 40 yds. And lead eliminated because it is a pollutant? Only in extreme heavily shot areas. In marshes it quickly buries. And steel has been proven to kill literally millions of waterfowl in Canada, and then in our flyways...birds that fly off with steel shot that don't have the KO power of lead. And a pollutant for upland game birds? Please!

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from fishtronics wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Dangle my point was the shot arriving 48" later has practically the same energy as those just 48" ahead, and hit just as hard, whatever the speed is. All Hail Bob Brister.

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from Eric Hollenbach wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Disagree with .410 being a disgrace. Why would anyone hunt game birds with a .410? However it's great for rabbits, squirrels and close range varmint disposal. It's a good starter shot gun for youth. It's great for practicing trap as well. Just my $.02.

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from elmer f. wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

VERY interesting. i would LOVE to do a slew of tests in a ballistics lab. i think that there is a good number of people who would. maybe that would be a good "give away" for a future contest.

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from Tigerbeetle wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

I think the new cameras and all are technically quite good. But Bob Brister put the shot string to the real test on an actual moving target at 40 mph, or there abouts. The proof was in the pudding. I agree with Fishtronics. I read every column Brister every wrote, or tried to. He was great. There were some great writers years, all are sorely missed by yours truly.

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from lorne.prince@ut... wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Good comparison of lead versus steel shot, but what about some of the other compounds being used today. Personally I use Kent Tungsten Matrix for water fowling and Tungsten Matrix Upland for, well upland bird hunting. Use the Waterfowl for rabbits as well.

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from PanzerIV wrote 33 weeks 5 days ago

Great article Phil, thanks; and no offense to Bob Brister, one of the greats.
As for "blowfly basher", do you really think anyone cares about your ranting? Get a life dude.

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from Dangle wrote 33 weeks 5 days ago

.Fishtronics..gotcha, and agree. And tungsten?...more dense than lead, and best of all, just expensive for most anyway, but depends on how you look at it.

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from philbourjaily wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

Brister's work and his ability with a shotgun and a typewriter are an inspiration and I meant no disrespect whatsoever. My point only is we have higher tech ways to pattern shotguns now, and that ammunition has changed a lot since 1976. Many of the worst-performing loads Brister tested were heavy waterfowl loads full of low-grade shot that performed very badly in pattern tests. Steel shot suffers from very little stringing and lead loads have improved a great deal.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

You said what about 410's? Ya, sure the above is 99.9% true but as usual in the sporting world, not all things are equal... I remember Dad shooting 410 inserts for Skeet and the 410 I had (age 7) shot like a rifle reaching out just as good if not better than a many 12 ga. It all depends on load, type of barrel & choke, so don't expect two firearms one digit apart in serial number to shoot the same.

Bill C. usta say, "The only reason they make magnums is so the Cajuns in south Louisiana can feel pain and hear noise when they pull the trigger!"
- FirstBubba

I often wonder if Uncle Phil is Col. Julian S. Hatchers Grandson who was switched at birth?

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from hutter wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

OK, Mr. Phil or is it Phill or Fill, shot string, shot column, shot spread, shot pattern, and now the new one shot train. We've been through this before Phil, explain each term. To me and my 1970s brain, "shot string" is the left to right "string" of pellet holes a "shot spread" or "shot pattern" leaves on a left to right moving object. The string is made because the "shot pattern" arrives on target at different times on a moving object. You CAN NOT make a shot string by shooting at a stationary target and swinging your gun through the target. "Shot column" is the mass of pellets confined by the barrel inside the wad and when fired it exits the barrel in a cylindrical group caused by the choke to spread and make a pattern on a fixed target. Is it true that a "shot string" as I described it would be longer or shorter depending on the choke, full vs. cylinder bore or would it just be wider as the two loads are the same. To, too, two, 2 confusing in terminology.

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from Dangle wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

And I do think length of shot string does relate to muzzle diameter....the smaller bores have longer shot strings, but as demo'd in the testing, not all that much diff between the 12 and the 20. I remember a guy telling me who was shot walking the side hill, and other gunners on the flat bottom.....guy swings, and shoots this guy at some distance, say 50 yds. and he remembers the significant delay as the shot hit him from above the belt on down his leg.

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from philbourjaily wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

Hutter --
the left-to-right pattern you mention is a representation of shot string. Shot string is the length of the shot column as it flies downrange. It can stretch out to eight feet long or more.

You are totally correct that you can't make shot string out by swinging the gun fast. It's surprising though how many people, including some very good shooters, believe that to be true.

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from Longbeard wrote 33 weeks 3 days ago

Excellent research and analysis, Phil. Give us more!

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from Anhinga wrote 33 weeks 3 days ago

I certainly appreciate your testing and the conclusions you have made regarding the data you were able to generate. My problem is that when I have specifically patterned various "turkey loads" from the same manufacturer, in the same shotgun, with the same choke, I've gotten very different results in the patterns at 40 yards. My shotgun and choke combination patterns certain loads (same shot size but different weight and or shell length) much better than others. I realize you couldn't shoot dozens of rounds through a variety of shotguns with a variety of chokes for comparison, but I find your test somewhat lacking in data for a comparison of what you did shoot for pattern comparison (NO 2.75 vs. 3 vs. vs. 3.5"; or 1 vs. 1 1/8 vs. 1 1/4 vs. 1 1/2 vs. 1 3/4 vs. 2.0 vs. 2 1/4 oz. shot charges) and certainly inconclusive compared to what I have seen with same size shot in different loads and shell lengths fired through the same shotgun and choke combo. One needs (should/must) pattern his/her shotgun to determine how well it patterns with various loads and shot sizes (and types of shot; lead, steel, bismuth, tungsten-iron, etc.), especially when considering turkey hunting and shooting large shot (B, BB, T's) at passing geese or sandhill cranes.

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from Michael Jobe wrote 33 weeks 3 days ago

You demonstrated the biggest problem with the .410 in test #1, a Full choke. If you're going to hunt with a .410 (or 28 ga for that matter), it should be choked Skeet, IC, or Mod, and a shot should never be further than 30 yards. If you need more choke, or need to shoot further, you need a bigger gun. Unfortunately, most affordable .410s have a fix full choke in them and this leads to the crippling you mentioned. A poorly made shot at a bird 20 yards away, and the majority of the shot charge goes rocketing by the bird like a slug, and a couple flyers at the edge of the pattern wound it. The .410 is useful in the hands of a veteran hunter who can judge distance, but not a child. IMO, the 28 ga is the perfect choice for the 12 year old getting into shotgunning, and they should bypass the 20 ga and go straight to the 12 when they're 16 or 17.

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from Dangle wrote 33 weeks 2 days ago

Michael...Sure can not agree with you. First off the .410 needs to be used with game appropriate for 7.5 shot, and smaller..just not enough shot in the pattern using bigger sized shot that needs to be used for bigger birds. Secondly, you don't seem to understand much about the modern 20 ga. They shoot the 3" shells, and my lt wt 20 ga autoloader can shoot the 12 ga. standard pheasant load of 1 1/4 oz. of shot. I come up faster, and get on the target faster as well....my 20 weighs 5.6 oz.

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from FSU70 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I got to go with Dangle on the 20. The comparison of the 1 oz load in both the 12 & 20 may show the 12 having more impact but the 20 for me is lighter and i can be more responsive in my target aquisition. I primarily hunt doves all three season and quail. Being able to move my O/U 20 quickly to make up ground on a crossing dove or pickup on a quail before I lose him in the brush is a real advantage. Both birds kill with fairly low amount of 7.5 size shot . Your recommendation to up size to number 6 shot to get the same kill factor of the 12. Well I can't do that either. That is to heavy a shot when your only pulling the breast on a dove. Now in the second and third portion of the dove season I do go with my 12 as they are farther out and flying faster. I need the speed and greater number of shot the 12 gives.
Enjoyed the article.

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from Dangle wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

The reality in my SE Idaho area is most everyone is a big game hunter. I drove 6 miles of all pavement, pulled over on the edge of tree lined barley stubble field near water, and shot over a box of shells to get my 10 bird dove limit. Doves everywhere, a public access area with a state sign indicating such along the freeway before the turn into the area, and I was the only one there on the opener...pretty incredible.

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from William W Simon wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

I thought that someone would see the problem with the test of the 20ga verse the 12ga . Neather the 12ga or the 20ga was getting a modified pattern with the 1oz shells . The 20ga looked like a Cylinder and the 12ga was Improved Cylinder. To get a good test you needed at least a modified pattern out of both guns or the same pattern out of both guns. That was just a test of those particular shells. If you used some other shells in the 20 ga that gave a modified pattern with 1oz the test should be the same both 1oz mod patterns with the same count on paper the only thing different would be the shot string and the velocity because 1oz has the same count of shot in 12ga and 20ga shells to start.

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from PreserveTheWild wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

let me make this easier to erase the confusion.

You see, your shot density will not be proper if the shot string does not ride the shot train properly to the target at 40 yds. Your shot string can be calculated by dividing your shot pattern by the shot density and multiplying that by the age of the driver, in the station wagon. Now, if your using a modified choke instead of an improved cylinder you'll have to add an extra 24" to your shot string in order to ensure your shot pattern reaches the target at 40yds., with proper density to not miss. This should really help with the confusion.

P.S. if the station wagon is a Ford, you'll need to extend your shot string, Fords are slow ;)

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from PreserveTheWild wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

let me make this easier to erase the confusion.

You see, your shot density will not be proper if the shot string does not ride the shot train properly to the target at 40 yds. Your shot string can be calculated by dividing your shot pattern by the shot density and multiplying that by the age of the driver, in the station wagon. Now, if your using a modified choke instead of an improved cylinder you'll have to add an extra 24" to your shot string in order to ensure your shot pattern reaches the target at 40yds., with proper density to not miss. This should really help with the confusion.

P.S. if the station wagon is a Ford, you'll need to extend your shot string, Fords are slow ;)

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from Sandhu Bhupinder wrote 31 weeks 3 days ago

pick your load intelligently and most importantly the gun that suits u.chokes or already choked guns have given me better results. only to comment you should shoot straight enough

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from truiz003 wrote 29 weeks 4 days ago

Great research !!!! thank you Phil !!!!!!!!

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from New Age Bubba wrote 26 weeks 2 days ago

Great article--what separates F&S from the "also-rans."

One thing, I have never understood the emphasis (by Michael McIntosh for example) on shot string length with today's ammo. If you use the figures in the article (55" shot string, e.g.) and assume a bird is flying at 30 mph you get a distance moved by the bird of 2" in the time it takes the shot string to pass thru the flight path.

The bird would be moving 44 fps and the shot at 1200 fps. You do the math!

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from Tyler Tidswell wrote 25 weeks 4 days ago

I really did learn some stuff from this

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from deedeemorgan1 wrote 24 weeks 3 days ago

Im glad I joined Field and Stream. Im learning many things about hunting and ammo. Being that I have missed 4 elk out of 5 yrs.......i need educated. thanks DD

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from SCBuilder66 wrote 22 weeks 3 days ago

As I do not bird hunt as much as I would like, this article is very enlightening. I recently moved to Kansas and am just now getting into bird hunting. Thanks for the great article.

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from JFHALL wrote 19 weeks 4 days ago

Thanks for such great reading on shotguns and patterns. I love this and I can't get enough of it - great read! :)

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from tcmeyer wrote 19 weeks 1 day ago

I've shot quite a bit of trap and skeet and am convinced that shot string length helps you on crossing targets. Check the score sheets at a trap tournament (especially local shoots) and I'll bet you'll find the majority of misses were from the center two stations. The outside stations have fewer going-away birds, which are the most common loss.
There are holes in many shot patterns at 35-40 yds. Hardly any in the cloud when it's penetrated from the side.

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from ChaseDillon wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Great read. I actually learned quite a bit.

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from JFHALL wrote 10 weeks 5 days ago

Great read on this Saturday night, informative and entertaining. Field and Stream rocks! :)

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from bilalarabaci wrote 6 weeks 4 days ago

Hello everyone,
Thank you very much for this spectacular article. But I have some questions:
12-gauge, 3-inch, 1-1⁄4-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1450 fps (Modified choke)
12-gauge, 3-1⁄2-inch, 1-1⁄2-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1500 fps (Modified choke)
I'm confused by this comparison.
First of all, I’d like to mention that I’m writing from Turkey. Our hunting and shooting habits are different from the United States. For example the popular hunts are partridges, woodcock, quail, dove, woodpigeon, hare and wildboar. Duck and goose hunts aren’t so popular because of the natural conditions. We go duck and goose hunts on some paddy fields. And we use only lead shots.
I’d like to translate this article (The Truth About Shotgun Ammo) into Turkish language and share with the Turkish hunters and shooters but the tests become meaningless in many ways.
For example, the 3-1/2 inch’s “brutal recoil”?!
My understanding about a 3-1/2 inch load is the cartridge that heavier than a 3 inch load.
The heaviest 3 inch (76 mm Magnum) shotgun (lead) load is 1-3/4 ounces (50 grams) in Turkish shooting market.
3-1/2 inch (89 mm) loads are generally called “Super Magnum” in Europe.
The most popular 3-1/2 inch (89 mm Super Magnum)lead load is 2-3/8 oz. (66 grams) in Turkey. And it is marketed as a cartridge that “prolonging range by 25 meters/yards” by Italian cartridge manufacturer Clever Mirage.
I’ve been looking at this comparison over and over again but I can’t figure it out.
12-gauge, 3-inch, 1-1⁄4-ounce loads (36 grams) of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1450 fps (Modified choke)
12-gauge, 3-1⁄2-inch, 1-1⁄2-ounce loads (42 grams) of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1500 fps (Modified choke)
Federal’s 3-1/2 inch loads are available on Cabelas.com:
1-5/8 oz. (46 grams)
1-1/2 oz. (42 grams)
1-3/8 oz. (38 grams)
Winchester’s 3-1/2 inch loads are:
1-5/8 oz (46 grams)
1-3/8 oz. (38 grams)
1-1/4 oz. (36 grams)
Remington’s 3-1/2 inch HyperSonic Steel Load is:
1-3/8 oz. (38 grams)

None of these 3-1/2 inch “89 mm Super Magnum” shells are heavier than the heaviest 3 inch (76 mm Magnum) 1-3/4 oz. (50 grams) lead load.
I understand that a 1-3/8 oz. (38 grams) lead load have higher recoil than a 1-1/8 oz. (32 grams) lead load (the most common field load for partridges, woodcocks and quails). Basically, heavier load needs more gun powder than a lighter load does. And it causes a more recoil. Interestingly these 1-3/8 oz. (38 grams) and 1-1/8 oz. (32 grams) loads both have the 2-3/4 inch (70 mm) cartridge case.
So why do we need extra longer cartridge case although the weight of shots are the same?!
Where is the secret of increased recoil on 3-1/2 inch load even though they are lighter than the heaviest 3 inch magnum load?
So, where does this “brutal recoil” come from?
Because of the Lead shot versus Steel shot differences?
The type of gun powder differences?
The amount of gun powder differences?
The increased pressure of the cartridge that needed to open the longer case (crimp) when gun is fired or something?
If we shot a 1-3/8 oz. (38 grams) shell why do we need extra longer cartridge case?
Why the same amount of load can cause more recoil in longer 3-1/2 inch cartridge case?

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from jcmesq wrote 6 weeks 1 day ago

Phil: Now I know where you got some of the/your ballistic knowledge for subsequent articles. An interesting read...

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from bulldurham48 wrote 2 weeks 3 days ago

For the first time I have actually seen what I consider useful and helpful information on a magazine web site.
This is my first trip here but you can bet it will not be my last. Really enjoyed the reports. Some really surprised me, some did not, and one actually saved me from buying a gun I thought would work out better than it really would.I am a 65 year old retired soldier, and have had the luck to hunt all over the world, including 8 years in Germany, so reading this taught me that no matter how long and how much you hunt, shoot, and read about the 2 , you can always learn something by just paying attentin. Thanks for the continuing education.

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from Cazador119 wrote 3 days 5 hours ago

Layne Simpson said it best, IMO. The Light and Lively .410 PRIMO PHEASANT SLAYER!!! The littlest shotshell is better than ever.

Shotguns chambered for the .410, such as the Remington Sporting 1100, are deadly on birds from quail on up to pheasants.
Like the old gray mare, the .410-bore shotshell ain't what it used to be. Unlike the old gray mare, though, our littlest shotshell is far better than it has ever been. So are the guns.

My .410 is a Rizzini Aurum, I love it for doves.

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from 31Alpha wrote 34 weeks 6 hours ago

Good set up of the test and good analysis of the results. I would have liked to have seen some testing done with the newer square shot vs. round shot debate to see if one penetrates better, creates deeper wound channels, and flies more accurately.

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from fishtronics wrote 34 weeks 59 min ago

Sorry you can't just dis Bob Brister my Guru without real proof. Read Brister's book "Shotgunning The Art and Science" and see what he did. He actually got his wife to drive the family station wagon pulling a boat trailer with a long billboard target with a bird at the leading edge of the target. He had to actuall lead far enough for goose ranges to be pointing at his wife driving. And she did it nayway. What a gal. Anyway it is plain as day that the length of the shot train matters big time. And saying that a 20% difference doesn't matter matters big time. Do the math. Your statement that the shot train does not matter just does not hold water. If the speed of the load at the muzzle is 1200 fps and the target is 40 yards away (120 feet) that means the leading edge of the shot train if it spot on will hit in 1/10 of a second. If the train is 48" that means the last piece of shot arrives only 0.03 seconds(1200fps/4ft) later or a speed 1196fps. Now tell me that the energy that last pellet has at 1184fps won’t do the job. What’s that you say? You will get a bigger spread of velocities from different shells in the same box.

I can debunk your junk science results of the effects of the length of the shot train using exactly the same math, but I have already lost 90% of my readers, so I leave it as an exercise for you.

Get the book. Worship at the feet of Bob Brister.

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from Eric Hollenbach wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Disagree with .410 being a disgrace. Why would anyone hunt game birds with a .410? However it's great for rabbits, squirrels and close range varmint disposal. It's a good starter shot gun for youth. It's great for practicing trap as well. Just my $.02.

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from Dangle wrote 34 weeks 3 hours ago

I still believe in the retained energy of a heavier pellet at killing range over length of penetration. Knock down power is more important than penetration. Lots of waterfowl fly off to die using steel shot that penetrates, but has far less knockdown power than lead. And many gunners buy the 3" shells thinking they are far superior beyond 40 yds., and claim they down geese at 60 yds using the 3.5" shells. I do believe that tests demonstrate that steel, in particular, blows patterns, and provides lousy performance beyond 40 yds.

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from JerryQuill wrote 34 weeks 42 min ago

I was suprised that the 28 gauge was never mentioned, or the subject of upland bird hunting with a 28 gauge. 95% of the upland birds, all species, I hunt is with a 28 gauge with SK and SK or SK and IC. I dislike hunting upland with a 12 gauge as it is overkill. I see too many hunters shoot at birds with a 12 gauge mod choke pump or semi auto with 1 1/4 or 1 3/8 of 5's or 7.5 with the birds rising in the 20 yard range and blasting the bird into 3 or 4 pieces and there is nothing left to eat. That's not hunting, that's total stupidity. I hunt upland as I like eating the differnt species in different dishes I cook up. I don't aim at the bird I aim at the head. Last year in Colorado I had 13 pheasant and chucker in an hour and all were head shot. Only one chucker had a pellet hole in the left breast. It makes for better eating and not having to worry about the lead. It also helps if you have a good guide with good dogs as all the birds were crossers or quartering and outgoing, but their heads were always showing enabling me to make the kill and not ruin the meat. And yes, a low pressure RST shotshell at 1150 7/8's #7 shot will kill a chucker at 78 yards. CVO has the info.

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from William W Simon wrote 34 weeks 1 hour ago

You were testing Turkey Loads why didn't you use Turkey chokes instead of modified

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from Clay Cooper wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

You said what about 410's? Ya, sure the above is 99.9% true but as usual in the sporting world, not all things are equal... I remember Dad shooting 410 inserts for Skeet and the 410 I had (age 7) shot like a rifle reaching out just as good if not better than a many 12 ga. It all depends on load, type of barrel & choke, so don't expect two firearms one digit apart in serial number to shoot the same.

Bill C. usta say, "The only reason they make magnums is so the Cajuns in south Louisiana can feel pain and hear noise when they pull the trigger!"
- FirstBubba

I often wonder if Uncle Phil is Col. Julian S. Hatchers Grandson who was switched at birth?

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from Michael Jobe wrote 33 weeks 3 days ago

You demonstrated the biggest problem with the .410 in test #1, a Full choke. If you're going to hunt with a .410 (or 28 ga for that matter), it should be choked Skeet, IC, or Mod, and a shot should never be further than 30 yards. If you need more choke, or need to shoot further, you need a bigger gun. Unfortunately, most affordable .410s have a fix full choke in them and this leads to the crippling you mentioned. A poorly made shot at a bird 20 yards away, and the majority of the shot charge goes rocketing by the bird like a slug, and a couple flyers at the edge of the pattern wound it. The .410 is useful in the hands of a veteran hunter who can judge distance, but not a child. IMO, the 28 ga is the perfect choice for the 12 year old getting into shotgunning, and they should bypass the 20 ga and go straight to the 12 when they're 16 or 17.

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from Dangle wrote 33 weeks 2 days ago

Michael...Sure can not agree with you. First off the .410 needs to be used with game appropriate for 7.5 shot, and smaller..just not enough shot in the pattern using bigger sized shot that needs to be used for bigger birds. Secondly, you don't seem to understand much about the modern 20 ga. They shoot the 3" shells, and my lt wt 20 ga autoloader can shoot the 12 ga. standard pheasant load of 1 1/4 oz. of shot. I come up faster, and get on the target faster as well....my 20 weighs 5.6 oz.

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from FSU70 wrote 32 weeks 6 days ago

I got to go with Dangle on the 20. The comparison of the 1 oz load in both the 12 & 20 may show the 12 having more impact but the 20 for me is lighter and i can be more responsive in my target aquisition. I primarily hunt doves all three season and quail. Being able to move my O/U 20 quickly to make up ground on a crossing dove or pickup on a quail before I lose him in the brush is a real advantage. Both birds kill with fairly low amount of 7.5 size shot . Your recommendation to up size to number 6 shot to get the same kill factor of the 12. Well I can't do that either. That is to heavy a shot when your only pulling the breast on a dove. Now in the second and third portion of the dove season I do go with my 12 as they are farther out and flying faster. I need the speed and greater number of shot the 12 gives.
Enjoyed the article.

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from JFHALL wrote 19 weeks 4 days ago

Thanks for such great reading on shotguns and patterns. I love this and I can't get enough of it - great read! :)

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from jcmesq wrote 6 weeks 1 day ago

Phil: Now I know where you got some of the/your ballistic knowledge for subsequent articles. An interesting read...

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from bulldurham48 wrote 2 weeks 3 days ago

For the first time I have actually seen what I consider useful and helpful information on a magazine web site.
This is my first trip here but you can bet it will not be my last. Really enjoyed the reports. Some really surprised me, some did not, and one actually saved me from buying a gun I thought would work out better than it really would.I am a 65 year old retired soldier, and have had the luck to hunt all over the world, including 8 years in Germany, so reading this taught me that no matter how long and how much you hunt, shoot, and read about the 2 , you can always learn something by just paying attentin. Thanks for the continuing education.

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from spiaailtli wrote 34 weeks 3 hours ago

Great job! Please give us more of this type of information/testing in the future.

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from Dangle wrote 34 weeks 3 hours ago

Don't know why it posted 3" shells. I meant 3.5" shells as performing well beyond 40 yds.

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from William W Simon wrote 34 weeks 1 hour ago

You were testing Turkey Loads why didn't you use Turkey chokes instead of modified

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from fishtronics wrote 34 weeks 49 min ago

Oops my math is almost oK good enuff for a sanity check, but I can't type. I meant the last pellet is going 1184fps.

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from oldandcreaky wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Phil: This article justified the price of my subscription for the year, Well done!

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from Dangle wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Fishtronics...Your math is way off because round shot is ballistically a terrible performer. It slows down greatly as it leaves the barrel, and isn't travelling at half the muzzle velocity at 40 yds. And lead eliminated because it is a pollutant? Only in extreme heavily shot areas. In marshes it quickly buries. And steel has been proven to kill literally millions of waterfowl in Canada, and then in our flyways...birds that fly off with steel shot that don't have the KO power of lead. And a pollutant for upland game birds? Please!

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from fishtronics wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Dangle my point was the shot arriving 48" later has practically the same energy as those just 48" ahead, and hit just as hard, whatever the speed is. All Hail Bob Brister.

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from elmer f. wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

VERY interesting. i would LOVE to do a slew of tests in a ballistics lab. i think that there is a good number of people who would. maybe that would be a good "give away" for a future contest.

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from Tigerbeetle wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

I think the new cameras and all are technically quite good. But Bob Brister put the shot string to the real test on an actual moving target at 40 mph, or there abouts. The proof was in the pudding. I agree with Fishtronics. I read every column Brister every wrote, or tried to. He was great. There were some great writers years, all are sorely missed by yours truly.

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from lorne.prince@ut... wrote 33 weeks 6 days ago

Good comparison of lead versus steel shot, but what about some of the other compounds being used today. Personally I use Kent Tungsten Matrix for water fowling and Tungsten Matrix Upland for, well upland bird hunting. Use the Waterfowl for rabbits as well.

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from PanzerIV wrote 33 weeks 5 days ago

Great article Phil, thanks; and no offense to Bob Brister, one of the greats.
As for "blowfly basher", do you really think anyone cares about your ranting? Get a life dude.

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from Dangle wrote 33 weeks 5 days ago

.Fishtronics..gotcha, and agree. And tungsten?...more dense than lead, and best of all, just expensive for most anyway, but depends on how you look at it.

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from philbourjaily wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

Brister's work and his ability with a shotgun and a typewriter are an inspiration and I meant no disrespect whatsoever. My point only is we have higher tech ways to pattern shotguns now, and that ammunition has changed a lot since 1976. Many of the worst-performing loads Brister tested were heavy waterfowl loads full of low-grade shot that performed very badly in pattern tests. Steel shot suffers from very little stringing and lead loads have improved a great deal.

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from hutter wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

OK, Mr. Phil or is it Phill or Fill, shot string, shot column, shot spread, shot pattern, and now the new one shot train. We've been through this before Phil, explain each term. To me and my 1970s brain, "shot string" is the left to right "string" of pellet holes a "shot spread" or "shot pattern" leaves on a left to right moving object. The string is made because the "shot pattern" arrives on target at different times on a moving object. You CAN NOT make a shot string by shooting at a stationary target and swinging your gun through the target. "Shot column" is the mass of pellets confined by the barrel inside the wad and when fired it exits the barrel in a cylindrical group caused by the choke to spread and make a pattern on a fixed target. Is it true that a "shot string" as I described it would be longer or shorter depending on the choke, full vs. cylinder bore or would it just be wider as the two loads are the same. To, too, two, 2 confusing in terminology.

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from Dangle wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

And I do think length of shot string does relate to muzzle diameter....the smaller bores have longer shot strings, but as demo'd in the testing, not all that much diff between the 12 and the 20. I remember a guy telling me who was shot walking the side hill, and other gunners on the flat bottom.....guy swings, and shoots this guy at some distance, say 50 yds. and he remembers the significant delay as the shot hit him from above the belt on down his leg.

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from philbourjaily wrote 33 weeks 4 days ago

Hutter --
the left-to-right pattern you mention is a representation of shot string. Shot string is the length of the shot column as it flies downrange. It can stretch out to eight feet long or more.

You are totally correct that you can't make shot string out by swinging the gun fast. It's surprising though how many people, including some very good shooters, believe that to be true.

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from Longbeard wrote 33 weeks 3 days ago

Excellent research and analysis, Phil. Give us more!

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from Anhinga wrote 33 weeks 3 days ago

I certainly appreciate your testing and the conclusions you have made regarding the data you were able to generate. My problem is that when I have specifically patterned various "turkey loads" from the same manufacturer, in the same shotgun, with the same choke, I've gotten very different results in the patterns at 40 yards. My shotgun and choke combination patterns certain loads (same shot size but different weight and or shell length) much better than others. I realize you couldn't shoot dozens of rounds through a variety of shotguns with a variety of chokes for comparison, but I find your test somewhat lacking in data for a comparison of what you did shoot for pattern comparison (NO 2.75 vs. 3 vs. vs. 3.5"; or 1 vs. 1 1/8 vs. 1 1/4 vs. 1 1/2 vs. 1 3/4 vs. 2.0 vs. 2 1/4 oz. shot charges) and certainly inconclusive compared to what I have seen with same size shot in different loads and shell lengths fired through the same shotgun and choke combo. One needs (should/must) pattern his/her shotgun to determine how well it patterns with various loads and shot sizes (and types of shot; lead, steel, bismuth, tungsten-iron, etc.), especially when considering turkey hunting and shooting large shot (B, BB, T's) at passing geese or sandhill cranes.

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from Dangle wrote 32 weeks 4 days ago

The reality in my SE Idaho area is most everyone is a big game hunter. I drove 6 miles of all pavement, pulled over on the edge of tree lined barley stubble field near water, and shot over a box of shells to get my 10 bird dove limit. Doves everywhere, a public access area with a state sign indicating such along the freeway before the turn into the area, and I was the only one there on the opener...pretty incredible.

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from William W Simon wrote 32 weeks 3 days ago

I thought that someone would see the problem with the test of the 20ga verse the 12ga . Neather the 12ga or the 20ga was getting a modified pattern with the 1oz shells . The 20ga looked like a Cylinder and the 12ga was Improved Cylinder. To get a good test you needed at least a modified pattern out of both guns or the same pattern out of both guns. That was just a test of those particular shells. If you used some other shells in the 20 ga that gave a modified pattern with 1oz the test should be the same both 1oz mod patterns with the same count on paper the only thing different would be the shot string and the velocity because 1oz has the same count of shot in 12ga and 20ga shells to start.

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from PreserveTheWild wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

let me make this easier to erase the confusion.

You see, your shot density will not be proper if the shot string does not ride the shot train properly to the target at 40 yds. Your shot string can be calculated by dividing your shot pattern by the shot density and multiplying that by the age of the driver, in the station wagon. Now, if your using a modified choke instead of an improved cylinder you'll have to add an extra 24" to your shot string in order to ensure your shot pattern reaches the target at 40yds., with proper density to not miss. This should really help with the confusion.

P.S. if the station wagon is a Ford, you'll need to extend your shot string, Fords are slow ;)

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from PreserveTheWild wrote 32 weeks 1 day ago

let me make this easier to erase the confusion.

You see, your shot density will not be proper if the shot string does not ride the shot train properly to the target at 40 yds. Your shot string can be calculated by dividing your shot pattern by the shot density and multiplying that by the age of the driver, in the station wagon. Now, if your using a modified choke instead of an improved cylinder you'll have to add an extra 24" to your shot string in order to ensure your shot pattern reaches the target at 40yds., with proper density to not miss. This should really help with the confusion.

P.S. if the station wagon is a Ford, you'll need to extend your shot string, Fords are slow ;)

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from Sandhu Bhupinder wrote 31 weeks 3 days ago

pick your load intelligently and most importantly the gun that suits u.chokes or already choked guns have given me better results. only to comment you should shoot straight enough

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from truiz003 wrote 29 weeks 4 days ago

Great research !!!! thank you Phil !!!!!!!!

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from New Age Bubba wrote 26 weeks 2 days ago

Great article--what separates F&S from the "also-rans."

One thing, I have never understood the emphasis (by Michael McIntosh for example) on shot string length with today's ammo. If you use the figures in the article (55" shot string, e.g.) and assume a bird is flying at 30 mph you get a distance moved by the bird of 2" in the time it takes the shot string to pass thru the flight path.

The bird would be moving 44 fps and the shot at 1200 fps. You do the math!

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from Tyler Tidswell wrote 25 weeks 4 days ago

I really did learn some stuff from this

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from deedeemorgan1 wrote 24 weeks 3 days ago

Im glad I joined Field and Stream. Im learning many things about hunting and ammo. Being that I have missed 4 elk out of 5 yrs.......i need educated. thanks DD

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from SCBuilder66 wrote 22 weeks 3 days ago

As I do not bird hunt as much as I would like, this article is very enlightening. I recently moved to Kansas and am just now getting into bird hunting. Thanks for the great article.

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from tcmeyer wrote 19 weeks 1 day ago

I've shot quite a bit of trap and skeet and am convinced that shot string length helps you on crossing targets. Check the score sheets at a trap tournament (especially local shoots) and I'll bet you'll find the majority of misses were from the center two stations. The outside stations have fewer going-away birds, which are the most common loss.
There are holes in many shot patterns at 35-40 yds. Hardly any in the cloud when it's penetrated from the side.

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from ChaseDillon wrote 16 weeks 3 days ago

Great read. I actually learned quite a bit.

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from JFHALL wrote 10 weeks 5 days ago

Great read on this Saturday night, informative and entertaining. Field and Stream rocks! :)

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from bilalarabaci wrote 6 weeks 4 days ago

Hello everyone,
Thank you very much for this spectacular article. But I have some questions:
12-gauge, 3-inch, 1-1⁄4-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1450 fps (Modified choke)
12-gauge, 3-1⁄2-inch, 1-1⁄2-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1500 fps (Modified choke)
I'm confused by this comparison.
First of all, I’d like to mention that I’m writing from Turkey. Our hunting and shooting habits are different from the United States. For example the popular hunts are partridges, woodcock, quail, dove, woodpigeon, hare and wildboar. Duck and goose hunts aren’t so popular because of the natural conditions. We go duck and goose hunts on some paddy fields. And we use only lead shots.
I’d like to translate this article (The Truth About Shotgun Ammo) into Turkish language and share with the Turkish hunters and shooters but the tests become meaningless in many ways.
For example, the 3-1/2 inch’s “brutal recoil”?!
My understanding about a 3-1/2 inch load is the cartridge that heavier than a 3 inch load.
The heaviest 3 inch (76 mm Magnum) shotgun (lead) load is 1-3/4 ounces (50 grams) in Turkish shooting market.
3-1/2 inch (89 mm) loads are generally called “Super Magnum” in Europe.
The most popular 3-1/2 inch (89 mm Super Magnum)lead load is 2-3/8 oz. (66 grams) in Turkey. And it is marketed as a cartridge that “prolonging range by 25 meters/yards” by Italian cartridge manufacturer Clever Mirage.
I’ve been looking at this comparison over and over again but I can’t figure it out.
12-gauge, 3-inch, 1-1⁄4-ounce loads (36 grams) of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1450 fps (Modified choke)
12-gauge, 3-1⁄2-inch, 1-1⁄2-ounce loads (42 grams) of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1500 fps (Modified choke)
Federal’s 3-1/2 inch loads are available on Cabelas.com:
1-5/8 oz. (46 grams)
1-1/2 oz. (42 grams)
1-3/8 oz. (38 grams)
Winchester’s 3-1/2 inch loads are:
1-5/8 oz (46 grams)
1-3/8 oz. (38 grams)
1-1/4 oz. (36 grams)
Remington’s 3-1/2 inch HyperSonic Steel Load is:
1-3/8 oz. (38 grams)

None of these 3-1/2 inch “89 mm Super Magnum” shells are heavier than the heaviest 3 inch (76 mm Magnum) 1-3/4 oz. (50 grams) lead load.
I understand that a 1-3/8 oz. (38 grams) lead load have higher recoil than a 1-1/8 oz. (32 grams) lead load (the most common field load for partridges, woodcocks and quails). Basically, heavier load needs more gun powder than a lighter load does. And it causes a more recoil. Interestingly these 1-3/8 oz. (38 grams) and 1-1/8 oz. (32 grams) loads both have the 2-3/4 inch (70 mm) cartridge case.
So why do we need extra longer cartridge case although the weight of shots are the same?!
Where is the secret of increased recoil on 3-1/2 inch load even though they are lighter than the heaviest 3 inch magnum load?
So, where does this “brutal recoil” come from?
Because of the Lead shot versus Steel shot differences?
The type of gun powder differences?
The amount of gun powder differences?
The increased pressure of the cartridge that needed to open the longer case (crimp) when gun is fired or something?
If we shot a 1-3/8 oz. (38 grams) shell why do we need extra longer cartridge case?
Why the same amount of load can cause more recoil in longer 3-1/2 inch cartridge case?

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from Cazador119 wrote 3 days 5 hours ago

Layne Simpson said it best, IMO. The Light and Lively .410 PRIMO PHEASANT SLAYER!!! The littlest shotshell is better than ever.

Shotguns chambered for the .410, such as the Remington Sporting 1100, are deadly on birds from quail on up to pheasants.
Like the old gray mare, the .410-bore shotshell ain't what it used to be. Unlike the old gray mare, though, our littlest shotshell is far better than it has ever been. So are the guns.

My .410 is a Rizzini Aurum, I love it for doves.

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from Blowfly basher wrote 34 weeks 42 min ago

A valuable investigation, thanks, but one with deeper considerations than numbers.
I will always extrapolate and criticise as well as praise as I think we are in a world
more isolating of events than even 20 years ago.I feel entitled to do that.

Hopefully lead will be banned completely simply on the basis of pollution
however the alternatives must be engineered towards less "collateral damage"
on a flock of birds. "Hunters" block out the cruelty of their 'bagging" which
for me typecasts them. A bird for them is not a living entity with individuality
but a "thing" considered low on the scale of value....an inversion of reality
quite often. Birds are highly skilled at their craft...I venture to say the majority
of shooters are not.

I completely reject the 'hunter gatherer' excuse. It's a choice for most of us
today not a driver-hangover from primitivity, still it sounds macho and some people
admire it.Nothing I have seen was more pitiful than (when in Australia of course)
a koala sitting docilely on an ants nest looking very aged and dull with what I thought
was mange. As I came closer I realised that at this clay site pellets readily entered the
trees and this fellow was a survivor..riddled with pellets and perhaps dying from lead
poisoning as well as suffering in silence...until his skin healed. Perhaps ants biting was
the lesser evil

Was there a sign warning of Koala's there? Would some shooters get turned on by the
thought they might bag one?...unfortunately yes and that's the paradox...rying to
protect a species might lead to its demise owing to the planet's worst destructor, man,
with his endless excuses as to why he kills even including 'protection of the species'
which was quite ok thanks, until man with firearms started on it. I own plenty but
my interest has long been the pursuit of history through them more than killing.I kill
only to protect my sheep and I also know that killing the educator, the oldest adult
is what interrupts the learning of the young which even with foxes makes attacks more likely
and that is commonplace in the animal kingdom.

Irevolt when the lust to kill erupts when someone says something as simple as “I saw a deer
down the road not 5 minutes ago”...a mad scrample to gra ba rifle or gun to go kill it.

I really do hope that for the comparatively few shooters with intelligence and integrity
and awareness that this valuable test draws them to condition (as not all rise as individuals
as in the quaint British scenario but fly past in groups) ...and to discuss the results
and the issues with others so to encourage their greater knowledge and awareness be translated
into a more humane approach towards shooting animals.

I can hear my co shooters saying "'get over it”! as they regard me witheringly however
as I said "few shooters".......

For them science and panoramic awareness might not only be retrograde but 'rubbish"
and yes, dead IS dead as Phil says ....but along the way to being dead?...Look at
what we tolerate even enjoy.....Abu ghraib,A man sitting down for dinner with family
and friends in Afghanistan not realising in a few seconds some will be viscera and gore
and some will be pbits and pieces still sufferig, protesting in front of a bulldozer in
Palestine or being a child who picks up a metal thing in Vietnam,Cambodia Palestine or Iraq
or prisoners being packed into containers in a desert and left there, being a Kurd in the
wrong place wrong time as American cannisters of chemical agents targeted by Israeli
satellite co-ordinates are dropped around you or on you. If we don't care about animals
suffering and use the information put together in this article to change our behaviour
we will not care about humans either as there is an anaesthetising process, however long
it takes. Voila

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