Tired Eyes

I’d intended to go out patterning cartridges yesterday evening but a family member was taken ill and I had to stay in.

Being particularly tired today and short of time, I didn’t feel like doing the patterning I’d planned for yesterday today. Instead, I went out this evening with my 28 gauge and managed a long walk and a single wood pigeon from four attempts.

I’m rather irritated with myself that it wasn’t one bird for two attempts. The third and fourth shots I took were at a bird which appeared suddenly over a line of trees, about 10 yards out, with the wind behind it and afterburners on, so to speak. There was literally no chance of my being able to swing the gun fast enough to get ahead of it and shoot it – even if I had known how much lead to give it – and I should have left it well alone. It might perhaps have been worth having a go if my surname was “Garfitt” or “Digweed”, but it was well beyond my abilities. Somehow, though, I found I’d fired two shots at it before that realization had become fully apparent. Gnn.

It should really have been “more birds” for four cartridges. I’ve really struggled lately to focus on the birds fast enough to take snap shots when they emerge from the tree line. I probably failed to raise the gun to at least three “shootable” birds today, which was somewhat frustrating.

Some of the difficulty I have in seeing the birds fast enough is probably rooted in tiredness and far too many hours sat in front of computer screens. Some of it is no doubt because I don’t do enough any practice on clays, for reasons I’ve discussed previously. On the other hand, having come home today to discover a letter from my opticians telling me that I was five years overdue an eye test, I am starting to wonder whether my sight might have deteriorated a little. I’ll get something booked in for next week and see what they have to say.

Hull “High Pheasant”

Finally: one shot and no patterns is not enough data to comment on the qualities of the Hull “High Pheasant” 23g / #7 28-gauge load in any useful way. My instinct though, is that they were slow and probably patterned reasonably tightly; recoil was very mild indeed, even though they’d been sitting in a hot car for most of the day. If I ever get to the end of the already long list of patterns I need to shoot for this blog / website, I’ll do a few of those and see what they look like. Not much different to the Eleys, I suspect.

A Pleasant Afternoon

I was able to test fire the garden gun this afternoon, in the reasonably substantial grounds of the house belonging to one of my relatives. This was of course all done, not only with appropriate attention given to the safety aspects and to keeping all projectiles within the boundary, but also with consideration as to whether any of the (reasonably distant) neighbours would be disturbed.

After a single “test shot” to gauge the noise level, my relative was satisfied that we were far enough away not to irritate anyone – and then joined in the shooting herself! The garden gun is undoubtedly loud, but it is nowhere near as noisy as what you might call an “ordinary” shotgun. I received permission to take it there in future, provided I don’t “overdo” it and start letting off 50 cartridges every time I visit.

It wasn’t the right moment to do any pattern testing, as I was really there to help do some work on the garden, but the new Fiocchi cartridges performed flawlessly, which makes me much more confident that the original handful of misfires I experienced the first time I shot the gun were due to poor-quality or badly stored ammunition.

In researching quite widely for this website and my own interest, I am also now reasonably confident that the gun could be used to kill small pests – rabbits and squirrels – in that garden, should the need arise. Other measures are being taken to protect the crops grown there, but the several rabbits we’ve observed around the boundaries could quickly become fifty and it might be necessary to start shooting them in future. Between the garden gun and my air rifle, we’ll have that option.

Since returning home, I’ve cut open some of the Fiocchi #7½ shells to find that they contain approximately 90 pellets apiece. Depending on how tightly they pattern, this might give the gun 20-yard, “aimed” utility. It’s a big step from theorizing to attempting to take live game with it, however, so I’ll be setting up some penetration tests and adding the results to the relevant pages of this site before long.

Never Knowingly Mis-sold

It’s always entertaining visiting RFDs when the object is to find new and interesting cartridges for testing. Dusty boxes are pulled out from under counters; shelves neither noticed or touched by human hands in a decade are suddenly the center of attention. Even in spite of what must be a golden opportunity to offload old odds and ends that have been languishing awkwardly in stock rooms for what seems like forever, the staff can never quite conceal their surprise that someone has walked into the shop asking specifically for the things that they thought nobody in their right mind would ever use…

The other source of entertainment is that, since one is not buying necessarily untouched goods, there’s always a chance that one will discover something interesting and unexpected.

I ventured forth this morning, with the intention of making good on the telephone call I’d exchanged with the RFD yesterday. He’d informed me that, yes, they did have some 9mm Flobert ammunition in stock and that it was loaded with #10 shot. I went over to buy a box and to have a look at their range of .410 cartridges and managed to come home with three boxes of cartridges – containing four different brands!

For .410, I managed to get a box each of the Fiocchi “GFL36” 11g/#6 (Italian) and Lyalvale “Supreme Game” 14g/#6 cartridges. For the garden gun, a box of what I thought were Fiocchi “Flobert” 7g/#10 but which turned out to be, fairly obviously, a mix of RWS “Flobert” 7g/#10 and Fiocchi “Flobert” 7g/#7½ (Italian), given the stamps on the heads and cards. So, not what I expected, but nonetheless a new shot size to test in the garden gun. Here they are:

Three new, previously-untested loadings for pattern testing by the SmallBoreShotguns team: the .410 Fiocchi “GFL36” 11g/#6 (Italian) loading on the left; the 9mm Fiocchi “Flobert” 7g/#7½ (Italian) loading (with a handful of RWS “Flobert” 7g/#10 in the box for good measure!); the Lyalvale Express “Supreme Game” in 14g/#6 flavour on the right.

I may be able to get out this afternoon for a few minutes to test some of them, but failing that, Monday evening looks like a good moment for another pattern testing trip.

Cartridge Anorak

One of the downsides of being a “cartridge anorak” (and there are many, I can assure you) is that one spends so much time patterning, testing, analyzing and understanding that, when it comes down to it, it’s very easy to forget how to actually shoot. There are of course those of my acquaintance who would say that I’ve never given any impression of knowing how to do that anyway and I’ll be the first to agree – I never have been and never will be a great shot.

I do make the occasional great shot of course. The crow I knocked down at around 9am this morning on my walk around was a very, very long way out – far enough that I shouldn’t have attempted it – and would have been a nice start to the day, if only I hadn’t missed a handful of “sitters” within the ten minutes following. It’s quite a struggle to get underneath wood pigeons at the moment (they’re not short of places to feed), so most of those were crows – and really should have been dead crows.

A lot of the time I’m too tired to see the birds before they’re out of easy range and much of the rest of the time I seem to be hesitant. Out of a motivation to stop shooting distant birds, I now appear to have the worst of both worlds: I still shoot at distant birds, albeit less than I used to (and so take home fewer birds), but the time I now spend thinking about whether any given bird is too far out is often the moment I ought to be swinging the gun and firing at it before it becomes so.

Perhaps I’m going soft in my old age.

I ignored a another pair of inquisitive hares today, as I have done the last three times I’ve been out. They seem – the leverets particularly – to be quite unafraid of humans and will approach almost to within touching distance if one remains still. I suspect it’s poor eyesight – they bolt as soon as I make any noise – but it wouldn’t have been difficult to come home with a bagful on any of the last few visits to that farm.

I have heard it suggested that our landowner wants their numbers reduced a little – unfortunately, to deter the coursers who bring their dogs to chase them – but until I’m given word “officially” I’ll be leaving them alone. I still have a couple in the freezer and it’s game pie for dinner on Monday – perhaps I’ll go and dig one out.

All that aside, I felt very rusty this morning.

Pattern Testing

I did manage to do a series of patterns for the Eley “Extralong” #6 cartridge as planned. I also shot a handful for an experimental 16 gauge load (see below).

The Eley cartridge was – as the Eley cartridges have tended to be – better than most of the other makes, but only middling-to-good in comparitive performance. Hard #7 or #7½ shot still seems to be the better option in a .410, though perhaps my vehemence on the subject of larger shot has reduced a little by now – I can imagine why someone might choose to use either of the 3″ #6 Eley cartridges, though I personally wouldn’t choose them over some of the others I’ve tested.

The 16 gauge patterning was an experiment to determine whether 28g / #5 would perform well enough to replace the usual 28g / #6 cartridge I load for that gun. The motivation was simple: I would only have to buy #5 shot for reloading if it worked, which halves the minimum outlay on shot and allows me to buy less, more often. The trouble is, although the cartridge performed broadly adequately, I’m not convinced.

My 16 gauge gun is a Baikal with tight ½ and Full chokes and has always shot the #6 version of the recipe I use very well. I expect 80%+ patterns from the full choke barrel if I’ve loaded them correctly.

The 40-yard patterns shot with the #5 version were adequate, if a little below what I’d usually expect giving 119, 137 and 142 of (avg.) 203 pellets in the standard circle for 59%, 67% and 70% performance respectively. These patterns will all kill birds but they are much less performant than the original loading. This is perhaps due to the use of new, 67mm cases, rather than the 70mm cases I employed originally, which necessitated an adjustment to the shot column and reduced the crimp depth. Re-patterning the #6 load would perhaps be a sensible precaution in light of this performance reduction.

40-yard pattern shot through the full choke of the Baikal 16 gauge using a 28g / #5 reload.

Whilst the original #6 loading produced a usable 50-yard pattern of between 130 and 150 pellets, the #5 loading doesn’t begin to approach this, putting an average of 85 pellets in the circle at that distance. This suggests that it would be wise to continue to purchase and use #6 shot.

50-yard pattern shot through the full choke of the Baikal 16 gauge using a 28g / #5 reload.


I had intended to spend this week testing and writing up the report for the Eley “Extralong” #6 cartridge (the supersonic version) but unfortunately, I was taken ill on Tuesday evening and am only now starting to recover, hence the title of this post.

I plan to go out to the fields early tomorrow morning – hopefully before the wind picks up – in the hope of getting the required testing completed.

The other task I had hoped to complete this week, but for which the time requires continues to elude me, is writing up the many notes, anecdotes and other information I’ve been able to collect regarding the garden gun and 9mm bore shotguns in general. I’ll aim to get that done in the next week or so, but other projects are stacking up and even if I hadn’t been under the weather, I think I’d be struggling to keep on top of everything.

One Year On

As we approach September, we head towards this website’s first birthday. I’m not sure if we’re even officially “open for business” yet, but we have made a lot of progress and we have done a lot of – what will hopefully prove to be useful to others – pattern testing.

Having, in the past, worked hard to reduce my stocks of cartridges to a single brand per gun, I’m afraid that things are going the other way again. Even if I don’t intend to actually use most of the odds and ends left over from the patterning I’ve already done with the Yildiz .410 in the field, I’m holding onto them in case anyone ever asks us to do further testing (for instance, with chokes or ranges we haven’t yet attempted).

So, this morning, when I finally admitted to myself that my cartridge shelf was operating well over capacity, I found a box and packed them all away, but not without taking this photograph, representing our first year’s efforts:

A “cartridge mountain”, including most of the .410 (and 9mm) cartridges tested by the SmallBoreShotguns team in our first year of existence.

I think that’s a pretty respectable mountain of shells!