The End of An Eley

I wandered further afield yesterday, to a shop I’ve known existed for some time but hadn’t yet visited. Unfortunately, their range of .410 ammunition was very small, comprising only two brands: the 3″ Fiocchi #6 cartridge which the SmallBoreShotguns team have already tested, and the Eley 2½” “Fourlong” loading containing #5 shot.

Whilst my feeling is and always has been that #6 shot is too big to be employed in a .410 and that #5 borders on the ridiculous, we will nonetheless do our willingly-adopted duty and pattern test the new acquisition, along with the other two cartridges awaiting testing, on Tuesday evening next week, weather permitting.

I believe that, once that testing is complete, we will have covered the whole of Eley’s .410 range. We will then seek to find suppliers for the Lyalvale and Gamebore ranges, which remain largely untested.

Edit: In fact, we’ve since remembered that the supersonic version of the #6 “Extralong” and its #5 counterpart remain untested, so almost the end of an Eley. (How embarrassing – Ed.)

I’m also pleased to announce the arrival of a new – and hopefully interesting – article on the subject of The English Disease.

The contents of the Eley “Fourlong” 12½g / #5 cartridge.

Rain or Shine

The weather was somewhat changeable this afternoon and as I arrived at a deserted farm, I pondered the difficulties the farming community must face in deciding when to cut crops. Too early and the crop isn’t dry and may spoil in storage before it can be sold; too late and inclement weather can soak the ground, delaying harvest and reducing the yield, either through the plants naturally depositing seed into the ground as they are apt to do, or by causing the crop to rot on the plant, infected with fungus or suchlike. I was grateful then, that my livelihood does not depend on whether the gods bring rain or sunshine for a handful of weeks in July and August.

Having sat in the car with the rain clattering down on the roof for about 25 minutes after I arrived, my patience was rewarded with a break in the clouds which lasted for nearly an hour. I set up the pattern board, with a new “foot” by which the tendency of the wind to blow the plate over was successfully resisted, and began testing the “odd” 12-gauge patterns which I’ve been meaning to shoot for some time, but haven’t yet done so due to focussing on the .410. With that testing and another 30 mins or so after a break for more rain to pass, I exhausted my supply of paper and shot enough patterns to give myself a day or two of counting, analyzing and pondering.

The early results are in, however, and they are either interesting, or as expected.

Speed Kills

Various members of the team here at SmallBoreShotguns are working on articles on various sujects more or less related to the pursuit of small bore shotgunning at any given time. The article I’m currently writing, entitled “The English Disease: Fact or Fiction” is currently 75% finished, awaiting pattern data and that is what I have been able to collect today.

I’ll save the full conclusions for the article itself, but, in short, the hypothesis that speed kills patterns appears to be broadly correct. I shot this afternoon, using my Baikal 12 gauge, 40-yard patterns for two identical loadings (28g/#7½), one subsonic and one very, very fast.

The faster loading – Hull Sovereign – contains much harder shot and – one assumes, better components all round, but even with those advantages, it’s still performing 10% worse than the identical loading shot at subsonic velocity (Hull Subsonic). In fact, one of the subsonic patterns only ended up three-quarters on the plate and still had almost as many pellets in the “circle” as the least good Sovereign pattern. The 30-yard patterns are still to be counted, but there I expect to see noticeable differences in pattern size, which again, will feature in the article.

I’ll say one thing though – Hull Sovereign recoil hard. To be fair, the subsonic rounds kicked pretty hard too – much more than I was expecting – particularly given Hull’s reputation for producing smooth, comfortable cartridges. Undoubtedly, in the case of the former, it’s the high muzzle velocity and the unavoidable laws of physics, but I found myself thinking (yet again) that it was quite unnecessary to get beaten up by one’s gun like that. I’ve been patterning and using the last of the Gamebore Black Gold 36g/#4 cartridges I kept in my car, and they are noticeably more comfortable to shoot than the Sovereigns. I’m just saying.

Oh and whatever the powder in the Sovereigns is, it stinks. Ugh.

Feeding the Russians

I’ve had an excellent, long-range load for my 16-gauge Baikal for almost as long as I’ve had that gun, having stumbled upon an apparently perfect recipe first time out. Whenever I have cases and components available for loading them, that cartridge is the one I’ll use, without exception.

I’ve been hoping to achieve the same for my 12-gauge Baikal, which is the same model of gun with slightly bigger tubes and marginally-different chokes and started with a 34g/#5 loading using Vectan A0 which was – I’m told – a duplication of the Gamebore Pigeon Extreme cartridge of the same specification.

Although I’m not yet at the point of changing the load, today’s pattern testing did show that I haven’t been as lucky with the 12 gauge load as I was with the 16 gauge cartridge. The 40-yard performance of the cartridge was adequate, but mediocre and recoil was slightly more than I would have liked, although it was a warm, muggy day which may have kept powders hot and pressures high.

The patterns shot today revealed little difference in performance between the full and ½ choke barrels of the side-by-side and both gave approximately 60% 40-yard performance. Experience suggests that whilst guns of this configuration will often shoot simillarly performant patterns from both barrels, the overall performance can be improved.

I would expect it to be possible to achieve a 70% pattern, if not a 75-80% pattern with the kinds of powder and components used, so given the sharp recoil and report of the cartridge, I believe the appropriate next step will be to reduce the powder charge a little to see if that tightens the groups and makes the cartridge a little more pleasant to shoot. This has worked in the past and may do so again: examination of the barrels after firing suggests that the pressure is high enough to guarantee complete combustion of the (rather slow) powder and reducing the charge a little may not change that.

Feeding Myself

After I’d finished patterning run out of paper I packed up the car and went to another farm for a wander. This was my opportunity to test, in the field, the stock extension I’d borrowed from my friend and the early results are positive.

#4 shot is not the best shot size for pigeon, but whether or not the first bird I hit was winged by inadequate pattern or poor shooting, it is to my regret that I wasn’t able to persuade it out of the hawthorn bush into which it fled to finish it off. I poked around on hand and knee in the driving rain for 10-15 minutes to try and see where it was hiding (and made a simillar effort on my way back to the car) to none effect. No doubt it either recovered or will have been eaten by the foxes by now.

After suffering a brief but embarrassing relapse of my long-standing shoot-at-anything-within-100-yards condition with a couple of silly shots at distant birds (putting #4’s down the tubes will do that to a man), I consoled myself with a straightforward 40-yard crossing bird that came down cleanly and felt “right”.

This was clearly the difference made by the stock pad – no longer was I having to aim 6′ underneath the bird to hit it, but rather, I was looking where I was shooting and the result was as expected. Obviously, this a thorough test does not constitute, but it certainly feels a lot more like I’m shooting where I think I am.

I quite often think that I’m really not very good at shooting – and compared to many, I’m not – but anything 40 yards out is a good bird, even they always seem rather close to me. The fact that it felt straightforward (or even easy) gave me a dose of much-needed confidence.

And the .410…

Well, what I can I day. This post was about shooting, but not about the Yildiz. I guess sometimes one just has to address the questions that have been waiting unanswered the longest. I’ll order some more paper tomorrow and the new Hull & Eley cartridges will get patterned soon enough. Next week, with a bit of luck.

At Last!

It is is some satisfaction that I am able to report that my new shotgun certificate arrived in the post today. Hunting will resume shortly – perhaps as soon as this weekend, time allowing.

New Cartridges

I’ve put the new certificate to good use already. Other than collecting my shotguns from the local RFD – who very generously waived fees in view of the short duration and my being a loyal customer – I also acquired four new boxes of cartridges. Two them, although unlikely to produce world-beating patterns, given the loadings of 11g/#6 and 12½g/#6 respectively, will be pattern tested in the SmallBoreShotguns .410 test gun in the next few weeks:

Two new, previously-untested loadings for pattern testing by the SmallBoreShotguns team: the Hull “Game & Clay” 11g/#6 loading on the left and the Eley “Fourlong” in 12½g/#6 flavour on the right.

I was also able to acquire the “other” box of cartridges for another of our forthcoming experiments. We intend to compare, as directly as we can, the effect upon patterns of a change in muzzle velocity of 500fps in the hope of demonstrating with evidence the value of what one might call “more moderate” velocities than English shotgunning seems to prefer.

On the left in the picture below is the subsonic Hull load I mentioned in a previous post and on the right is the loading most similar to it that I was able to acquire at my local shop, their top-of-the-range “Sovereign” brand.

Two boxes of Hull cartridges: a subsonic loading of 28g/#7½ on the left and a supersonic version of the same load on the right.

Admittedly, there are at least two important differences between the cartridges other than the muzzle velocity: firstly, the “fast” load has a fibre wad, not plastic and second, the shot contained within the cartridges is likely to be somewhat harder being a premium brand. Hull list 5% antimony for Sovereign, as opposed to 2% for most of their “budget” lines – we assume the subsonics fall into the latter category.

We’ll mention these factors again when we do the write-up. Of the two, I’d expect the hardness of the shot to make more of a difference, but neither to significantly affect the result. Nonetheless, we’ll try to account for these differences in analyzing the pattern data. Unfortunately, the shop had no plastic-wadded Sovereign cartridges in stock, so it was a question of buying what they had rather than what would have been ideal.

All of this came after requesting some of the plastic-cased Eley “Grand Prix” 30g/#6 and discovering that the shop hadn’t got a single box in stock to perform the “plastic versus paper” comparison I’d originally planned to do first. “I’m sorry – we only have the paper version,” was the reply. I found myself thinking that that seemed a rather pleasing response!

Snatched Opportunities

The final box of cartridges was the Hull 23g/#7 “High Pheasant” load for 28 gauge. I’m not really sure why I bought these, except that I remember using some in the past and – looking back on it – unfairly writing them off, when – like most things in shooting – the problem was undoubtedly operator error.

I like to keep a box of cartridges in the glove box of my car in case I’m ever in the position of needing to grab a gun and snatch an opportunity for a wander around the hedgerows under time-limited circumstances. This is quite often the way I end up going hunting, given that there are small people living in the house.

Since I’ve found that the fit of my 28 gauge is vastly improved with the addition of the leather stock extension I’ve borrowed from my friend, I’ll just have to remember to take that gun on these occasions and give the Hull cartridges a proper field test before I revert back to my long-term favorites, the Eleys. I’m sure they won’t disappoint.

I’ll curtail this here as there are a couple of Baikals locked in the cabinet that need also need trying for size with the stock extension attached. I suspect the results with those will be just as good as with the 28 gauge. I’ll let you know the outcome next time.

Thin Patience

I continue to await the arrival of my new certificate.

At this point I am considering whether it would be reasonable or simply a waste of effort to send the invoice for the ever-rising costs for the storage of my shotguns to the office of the local police and crime commissioner (aside: do they actually commission crime?). No doubt it would be ignored and binned at the earliest possible opportunity, but if it ever actually made it to the the PCC’s desk, perhaps I’d have made a point?

In the meantime, I have been offered and accepted the gift of an unwanted 9mm rimfire shotgun from a generous member of the PigeonWatch forum. This will require a reasonably-long drive to collect at a time to be determined. I’ve said to the member in question that, if he’s able to fulfill his original wish of giving the gun to a young shooter, just starting out, that he should do that in preference to giving it to me, but assuming that continues not to happen, the next SmallBoreShotguns test gun should be available for use at some point over the summer.

I continue to work on the Rheinberger organ sonata (Op. 132) and a couple of his Ten Trios (Op. 49). I should do some reloading, having finished most of the other urgent jobs on my list, but until I have a gun to shoot and the possibility of patterning it, it’s just too frustrating to contemplate.

On a positive note, the Trinidad Scorpion chilli plant I bought earlier this year has just started to flower. Super-hot curry beckons in a month or so!

I sincerely hope that my next post will be on the subject of shooting. Gnn.

Distraction Therapy

I was somewhat dismayed to learn yesterday, from the person who answers the telephone at the local constabulary’s firearms department, that, whilst my certificate has been printed – guaranteeing at least another five years of my readers’ sufferings in the form of my musings on the subject of small bore shotgunning – it has not been signed, which leaves me in the unenviable position of having no gun – excepting an air rifle – with which to go hunting for a second weekend in a row.

Apart from the fact that storing five shotguns at the local shop is becoming increasingly expensive, this further delay (after I had been led to believe that the certificate would be posted last Monday and be with me on Tuesday this week) appears to have been caused by the disappearance on holiday of the licensing manager, leaving no-one qualified to sign the certificate, apparently.

I confess that, once again, I find myself somewhat confused as to the local constabulary’s approach to the licensing process. Whilst one can’t necessarily be annoyed at hard-working public servants taking a much-needed holiday, the firearms department at first expressed disappointment that I had stored my shotguns – for which I emphasize, currently have no valid licence – at the local RFD, apparently having expected me to hold onto them, illegally, for the duration of their faffing around!

Unless I’m very much mistaken, possession of firearms / shotguns without an appropriate certificate is a summary offence, meaning that there is no defense in law if the CPS can prove you are guilty in fact, meaning that, had I still had shotguns in my cabinet on Sunday last week, a mandatory jail term would have been unavoidable.

I further note that, whilst the system of common law allows for certain practices and interpretations of the law as it stands to be interpreted as legal by a finding in court of innocence, I have never entirely been entirely sure whether the delegation of responsibility for the signing of firearm / shotgun certificates by an “officer of the Chief Constable” is actually provided for by the (1988?) Firearms (Amendment) Act or whether it is simply the accepted practice, as yet untested. Either way, in the interests of not inconveniencing members of the public by inattention in spite of their best efforts to remain “legal”, would it not have been possible to get the Chief Constable to actually sign a piece of paper this week saying that, in short, I was allowed to carry on as before? Even a Section 7 permit would have been sufficient.

Obviously the bods with the overloaded shoulders don’t have enough time to fulfill the obligations placed upon them in law, at least where the little people are concerned.

I confess I’m getting increasingly irritated with this situation. One positive that’s come out of all of this is that my my wife has agreed to apply for a certificate in a few months’ time, to avoid this happening again in 5 years, by giving us some overlap. It might mean I can actually get her to come shooting with me too. That’ll be a good thing, if it happens. It’ll also help with the practicalities of shooting, on the odd occasion where it would be more helpful to send her home with the guns rather than have to go back myself. I’ve been thinking of buying a 20 gauge Hatsan / Armsan to play about with, which might suit her too. We shall see. She doesn’t like recoil, but a soft load of #7 should do for clays and birds, if I can find a good recipe…

In the meantime, I continue to direct my efforts towards the mastery of Rheinberger’s Organ Sonata No. 8, which turns out to be a rather good piece in spite of my expectations and gives my newly refurbished pedal board a long-awaited workout. Between that and the garden, I’m distracted enough to be a little less grumpy about the lack of hunting this weekend, though my earlier good opinion is now somewhat diminished.