July 17, 2012
A Shotshell Velocity Experiment: Just Shoot the Target
By Phil Bourjaily
One of the advantages touted for high velocity shotshells is how they reduce the need for lead. That is true when you talk about long 90 degree crossing targets. Then the difference can be up to eight inches or so at 40 yards. And I do believe that added velocity does help some people center birds with the core of their pattern that they might otherwise wound with the fringe. It is also true that some skeet shooters who shoot precise maintained lead styles become very sensitive to changes in velocity.
That said, much of shotgun shooting involves shorter distances and gentler angles. At that point, velocity doesn’t matter very much except in your own mind.
Last night at trap practice I tried an experiment. One of our shooters had gone 74x75 in practice the previous week and blamed his one miss on “getting used to the Nitros again” because he had changed ammunition. Now, confidence is a huge ingredient in good shooting, and if you believe a certain shell, gun or pair of socks makes you shoot better, it does. But objectively, when you are shooting staightaway and gently angled 35-yard targets as you do in 16-yard trap, velocity makes very little real difference.
To prove it, I took him to the 16 yard line with a mixture of shells in my pocket ranging from his own shells to super fast 1300 fps sporting clays loads down to 980 fps subsonic loads and a few others mixed in.
I loaded his gun for every shot so he didn’t know what shell he was shooting. It didn’t matter whether he shot a target with a subsonic or high velocity load. He smashed them all.
“What did you learn?” I asked him.
“Don’t worry about ammunition, just shoot the target,” he said.