Wrapping Up

This will probably be the last post I make on the subject of the new garden gun for a while. As always, time and money are limited, as is my current supply of patterning paper and I still have a box of Eley .410 cartridges awaiting patterning – quite apart from those which are required for other the other articles I’m currently working on. Thus, although I’m already rather fond of the 9mm, it’s unlikely that further investigation will occur until various other higher-priority items are finished.

It’s worth recording a few, final points before putting this particular subject aside. The first is that the “unknown nickel” cartridges turned out to contain #10 shot – or something very close. Both they and the RWS cartridges contained around 190 pellets, which is approximately 7g of #10 shot. Size-wise, there was some variation in both cartridges, but it broadly averaged #10 in both cases.

I deconstructed some cartridges to discover this yesterday, but – unlike the more modern centre-fire rounds we regularly analyze on this site – I was somewhat cautious about how far to go. With no previous experience of rimfires, I can’t feel any degree of certainty about how much pressure / force on the primer would be required to ignite them.

Having removed the shot from a couple of cartridges yesterday, I found the wads to be very well seated, to the point that I wasn’t able to lever them out with any available tool. I certainly didn’t want to risk hammering something down the side of the case – one thwack too hard and my eyebrows would have been vaporized.

I judged that it would be possible to extract the wads by turning a small screw through them, then pulling them out using the screw head as a handle, but I wasn’t sure how much “slow” force the priming compound in the cartridges would take before detonating. The point of a screw can exert a great deal of pressure with even relatively small forces behind it, because of it’s size, which made me unwilling to do more than pull the shot and card until I’ve taken advice.

Nonetheless, here’s the unidentified “nickel” cartridge opened up:

The contents of an unidentified “Flobert” 7½g/#10 cartridge.

Although I found the performance of that particular cartridge to be relatively poor, all three cartridges tested delivered approximately 80% of their shot charge onto the pattern paper at 20 yards. This isn’t by any means spectacular – one would expect a higher percentage performance than that in a nominally cylinder-choked gun of almost any other kind at that distance, but it is enough that the use of #9 shot is likely to be the most effective in this particular shotgun.

7½g of #9 shot should give about 153 pellets in the cartridge on average. 80% of these hitting the pattern plate should give 120 in the circle at 20 yards. Muzzle energy is still very low, however, so how much bigger one would have to go to get even 0.5ftlbs of striking energy at 20 yards, I’m not sure. It might be as large as #7½ (Italian #8) and if so, we’re down to around 105 pellets in the cartridge an 83 in the pattern, which isn’t really sufficient for game. If such a cartridge performed well, aimed shots with a working pattern area of 20″ diameter (as opposed to 30″) might make the gun usable on game.

Really, however, I think that Pietro Fiocchi was right when he judged the .410 to be the smallest sensible bore / gauge for live game shooting.

Coming Up

This is probably less a “sneak preview” than a reminder list for myself of things that need doing to keep the SmallBoreShotguns site (or my responsibilities to it) ticking over.

At some point next week, I hope to get out to pattern test the new Eley 3″ cartridge I’ve acquired. I also hope – after pay day – to be able to afford a box of the Hull “High Pheasant” 3″ loading which I know the local shop now have in stock. Further abroad, I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for stockists of 9mm shot cartridges, but given that I’ve been quoted eye-wateringly high prices of more than £20 / box of 50 shells, it might be some time before I decide I’m rich enough to buy any more of those.

On the article front, the case study into what, if anything, the effect of changing from paper to plastic cases might have been remains on the back burner. I’ve also got another two, if not three parts of my article on Shotgun Patterning from First Principles to complete – they’re all in various states of draft as I write.

Regarding the site more broadly, there will hopefully be some important developments to report in the next month or so, but we’ll have to see what happens and I don’t want to preempt any of the positive things which I hope will occur by talking about them before they do. Watch this space!

Discoveries & Results

I’ve discovered various interesting things about the garden gun and 20 gauge in the last 24 hours.

Garden Gun

To answer the oldest question first, the barrel of the garden gun is stamped with “Modern Arms Company Ltd. London & Bromley” which dates it to between 1928 and 1942, making it between 75 and 89 years old. I don’t believe it will be possible to age it more accurately than this, at least until I take the action out of the stock to look for more engravings (i.e. a date code).

Another helpful piece of information which has popped up today is the fact that the acorns embossed on the head stamps of the cartridges I was given with the gun are typical of ammunition manufactured by RWS, which means that I have been able to identify the #10 cartridges as their “double shot” loading. This will allow me to put a second “official” pattern testing page for the garden gun onto the site and formalizes the data we have for the gauge so far.

I’ve been able to count the patterns and the picture remains largely the same as yesterday. The RWS #10 cartridge produced good, dense patterns at 20 yards, averaging 162 in the standard circle, but adequate penetration for any use on live game at this distance remains doubtful.

20-yard pattern shot through the Modern Arms 9mm garden gun using the RWS “Flobert” 7½g/#10 shell.

The as-yet-unidentified nickel-cased cartridge patterned relatively poorly as expected, averaging 90 in the standard circle at 20 yards. The Fiocchi loading is perhaps borderline usable on small game, provided one aims the gun, placing and average of 51 pellets into a 20″ circle at 20 yards, though the patterns, such as they were, still seemed rather uneven. I remain curious to pattern that brand with a larger shot size – perhaps #9.

So far, I haven’t deconstructed any of the 9mm shells to discover their contents, but the full data (and an estimate of the shot size of the nickel cartridge) will be published when I have provided that “context”.

One point of confusion remains. The Fiocchi cartridge, patterned at 10 yards, placed only 46 pellets onto the paper, yet the 20-yard patterns contained at least that many pellets in the circle, with more in the spread outside it. At present, I cannot explain this anomaly and continue to ponder how, beyond that particular cartridge having been incompletely loaded, it could possibly have occurred.

20 Gauge

I counted the 40-yard pattern I shot with the 20 gauge before the 20- and 30-yard patterns. It quickly became clear that it wasn’t necessary to count the shorter range patterns as the pellet count of 184 (of 237) pellets in the circle at 40 yards is more than sufficient. In fact, that represents a percentage performance of approximately 78%, which is much, much better than the 57-60% one would expect for a nominal half choke.

Although that’s only a single pattern, the other two shot are clearly close to 100% patterns, given the spread, so the chance of the 40-yard pattern being a “one off” is low. (I will count the shorter distance patterns later, when there is less of interest than needs to be analyzed and written up!) Even if I lost 20% of the pellets in that circle, it would still be a good pattern, so there’s plenty of wiggle room, so to speak.

I suspect, having examined the shot and on the basis of my experiences trying to find a performant cartridge for my .410, that there really must be something worthwhile about the “diamond shot” that Gamebore advertise – it must be very, very hard indeed to give this kind of performance in an ordinary, lightly-choked gun. Unfortunately, their .410 “Hunting” cartridge appears not to feature that kind of lead.

I suppose if I were to buy a super-fast cartridge loaded with #7 shot, I might just make the Accacio into a short-range gun, using the greater pellet deformation and spread to my advantage, but really, it appears that, once again, the tight-shooting gun / cartridge combinations have searched me out and found me and that for deliberately-limited-to-20-yard performance, I’m going to have to resort to my .410 with 2″ #9 shells or the new 9mm…

40-yard pattern shot through the Accacio 20 gauge using the Gamebore “Regal Game” 24g/#6 shell.

A Bit Hairy

Rather stupidly, I forgot to check whether the abbreviation “Ltd.” appeared on the markings of the garden gun, but it’s late and I’m tired. For that reason, I’m not going to do a full write up of today’s trip, with pattern counts, etc. – that can wait until tomorrow when there’s more time and I’ve had a chance to cut open some cartridges.

A Disclaimer

I don’t want to give the impression in what follows, that I’m cavalier about the safety aspect of shooting. Rather, the opposite is true. What happened today was safe because I was very aware that I had with me two guns which a) I hadn’t ever fired before and b) whose condition I didn’t know. I acted accordingly and when the unexpected happened, nobody was endangered because I was cautious and had taken appropriate precautions.

The Garden Gun

When I got to my usual “firing range”, I tested the garden gun first. I’d never fired a rimfire (of any kind) and I had three sets of cartridges to try. These were an unknown brass-cased load of #10 shot, a nickel-cased load of entirely unknown provenance and some (brass-cased) Fiocchi #6 (2.7mm or English #5½) shells. The first two of those were provided with the gun and the latter were obtained from my local dealer on the way home from work today.

The first shot – one of the brass #10 loads – surprised me somewhat. The report on firing was, although quiet by shotgun standards, louder than I expected it to be and although this gave the impression of a substantial powder charge, it was still quite possible to hear the shot cloud tearing through the patterning paper. Not only was this the case, but sound of the pellet impacts was of noticeably long duration, which suggested a wide variation of low pellet velocities (i.e. a long, slow-moving shot cloud).

After this first “success”, I changed the paper and tried one of the nickel-cased cartridges. On the first attempt, this cartridge failed to fire and I observed the usual precaution of pointing the gun away from me, towards the floor and, after 30 seconds, opening the breech away from me. The firing pin had struck the edge of the case and deformed it, but the cartridge was intact.

Having opened the breech, I turned the cartridge in the chamber and fired again. This time, the gun produced a barely perceptible report and recoil and again the noise of pellets tearing through the paper 20 yards away was very noticeable. Inspection of that pattern suggested that the nickel-cased cartridges probably contained #9 or #8 shot, but I’ll deconstruct one tomorrow and get a definitive answer.

I fired several more cartridges of all three types. None of them produced any real recoil or muzzle blast and all were comfortable to fire without hearing protection (though I only tried this with one of each to check). Another brass #10 round failed to fire on the first attempt, but I didn’t check the cartridge that time – I simply waited 30 seconds with the gun in a safe direction, cycled the bolt and fired again. I have to say though, that without any noticeable recoil, I have a nagging voice in my head which is wondering whether it fired the first time and I simply didn’t notice!

I began to suspect, after the second nickel-cased round failed to fire, that the spring in the bolt had weakened because of the gun’s age. A second attempt caused that cartridge to fire and split the case mouth, though without any obvious variation in recoil / power. Others of both of the types which came with the gun also suffered case splits.

Whilst I would usually expect ammunition to last forever, the fact that the two kinds that had come with the gun both suffered misfires, but the brand new Fiocchi shells didn’t makes me think (and hope) that the cause is perhaps age-related degradation of the ammunition or perhaps the hardness of the case metal used for those particular brands. It may be the case that the ammunition had been poorly stored.

More testing will show whether it’s the ammunition or mechanism at fault.


I shot several patterns at 20 yards with all three cartridges and one at 10 yards with the Fiocchi cartridge. The patterns of the #10 cartridge were really rather good – I expect them to show 120+ pellets in the standard circle when I count them tomorrow. I wouldn’t like to guess what the individual pellet energy would have been, but I suspect it would be too low to point them at anything alive at that distance. I seem to remember calculating that 8-10 yards was the range at which #10 fired at 600fps became borderline for pigeons, rabbits, grey squirrels, etc.

On the other end of the scale, the Fiocchi cartridges do appear to produce a usable pattern at 10 yards if one uses a 20″ circle rather than the standard 30″. I doubt they would be humane at any greater distance, but the question of pellet energy doesn’t really exist: even with a slow, 600fps muzzle velocity, they’ll still retain enough energy to kill small game whilst what little pattern there is survives.

An Italian acquaintance of mine has described the use of the 9mm shot cartridge on really quite large quarry, but I remain unconvinced. Since I’ve no plans to this gun’s effectiveness on live game, performing the “wet telephone directory” penetration test may provide a useful approximation.

The counts and percentages will follow tomorrow, but these initial conclusions do support the use of #8 or #9 shot if one wants to get the maximum possible range out of the diminutive 9mm cartridge – although, the third, nickel-cased brand of cartridges which probably contain shot of one of those sizes did not produce very good patterns, unfortunately.


Before I started testing the garden gun, I wandered around the boundaries of the farm with the 20 gauge. In hindsight, this would have made no difference at all even had there been birds to shoot at, since, in trying to deactivate the safety catch of the gun, I had inadvertently engaged it instead. I discovered this mistake later, as I attempted to test fire the gun and shoot a 20-yard pattern with the Gamebore “Regal Game” cartridges which I’d bought, thinking that they might turn out to be rather good. It appears that I was right.

Generally, I don’t like safety catches and don’t use them. Rather, I make a point of not pointing the gun in the direction of anything I’m not intending to kill. That approach saved a lot of ball ache today.

Having attempted and failed, with the characteristic “click”, to fire the gun and produce my first pattern, I followed the usual procedure (again!) and pointed the gun safely at the floor for 30 seconds before doing anything else. I didn’t expect the cartridge to be at fault and thought rather that, having paid a mere £30 for each gun, there was a good chance of them both being mechanically unsound.

After half a minute or so, I planned to open the gun, breech pointing away from me, barrel pointing at the floor, in case the action of breaking the gun were to release the firing pin and cause the gun to fire before I could extract the cartridge. It occurred to me before I attempted this, that some guns have mechanical safety catches which actually block the movement of the hammer / pin and that it might be worth engaging the safety for that reason. I pushed the safety slide through: the gun fired.

Happily, safe handling prevented anything more than a few stems of barley stubble from being destroyed, but it was a little surprising nonetheless. I quickly regained my composure and realized that a previous owner must have repainted the red part of the safety slide – on the wrong side! Furthermore, there was enough strength in the hammer spring to fire the cartridge, even after the sears had been disengaged and the hammer and pin were held on the safety!

On my Browning  – and indeed, every other gun I can remember handling with a trigger-mounted slide-type safety – one pushes the safety button to reveal the red colouring when one is ready to fire. On Accacio single-barrelled folding shotguns, perhaps modified by careless owners, one apparently presses the red side of the safety slide to hide the colouring when one is ready to fire. I trust that readers can understand why that might be confusing!

Regardless, I quickly realized my mistake and shot patterns at 20, 30 and 40 yards. What the results of those might be, remain to be seen, but my instinctive reaction on seeing them was that the Gamebore cartridges are producing rather more than the 57%-60% performance one might expect from the gun’s nominal half choke (0.017″ constriction).

I had hoped to use the 20 gauge occasionally (if at all) as a short-range gun, perhaps with #7 shot, as I don’t really have any others set up for close work (the 9mm notwithstanding). However, it would appear that I’ve found a good long-range cartridge from the off, so to speak, and it’s hard to ignore that. I’ll know more tomorrow, but it looks promising.

That’ll do for now. And please remember dear readers – “muzzle awareness” is rule #1. Today might have ended very differently if I hadn’t been both very cautious about handling my new guns and very careful about the directions in which they were pointing.

The Modern Arms Company (Ltd.)

I’ve made some progress this morning on establishing the provenance of the garden gun.

I know already that the gun dates from before 1954 when the London Proof House changed their marks. It now appears however, that the gun may be older even than my higher estimate of 80 years. The only “Modern Arms Company” for which I can find records traded in London between 1923 and the outbreak of the second world war, with some distribution of others’ products continuing until 1942 or possibly as late as 1947. I understand that the company incorporated in 1928, and on the basis that I believe the stamp on the barrel says “Modern Arms Co.” rather than “Modern Arms Co. Ltd.”, the gun dates from their pre-incorporation period and is therefore at least 89 years old. I will confirm this assertion tonight.

I’m going out this evening, after dinner, to perform the first test firing – weather permitting. I don’t expect any issues, but if you don’t hear from me again, you can assume I died doing what made me happy – learning more about how unusual, small and antiquated shotguns behave and perform. I can’t wait! A write-up and any patterns I can shoot will doubtless follow shortly.

Shot Size 4¾

Since I started patterning my new 34g/#5 reload, I’ve been slightly curious as to why the average pellet count for the cartridge is so low. Historically, #5 shot has tended to number 220 to the ounce, or approximately 7.76 pellets per gram of shot, which should put around 264 in the cartridge. Certainly that (or rather, 270) was what I was aiming at, which makes the 246 pellet average somewhat lower than expectations. Even allowing for some variation on the basis of size, antimony content, the quantity dropped by the bushings on the loader, etc., it was still difficult to explain the aforementioned discrepancy.

I was browsing the website of the Clay & Game company, from whom I bought my last supply of #5 shot, this afternoon. I was really looking at prices for a 20 gauge conversion kit for my Lee press (why buy cartridges when one can load one’s own!?), but I noticed whilst I was there that they advertise their #5 shot as being 2.85mm in diameter. The comments of an acquaintance elsewhere (coincidentally) prompted me to calculate that this represents a size – contrary to Clay & Game’s own shot size table – equivalent to 208 pellets per ounce – very slightly larger than a traditional English #5, or approximately equivalent to #4¾.

The difference between myself and my acquaintance is that he thinks that the kind of difference I’ve just described is significant. Nonetheless, it does answer the question: a 34g load of “number 4¾” should contain approximately 249 pellets – not far from the 246 average in shot drops I’ve counted.

Feeding The Garden Gun

I’ve been calling various local(-ish) RFDs in the last couple of days to try and find a source of sensible cartridges to feed the new garden gun.

The wisdom of the learnéd – as far as I can glean it from the internet – is that the RWS ammunition loaded in #9 and #10 shot sizes is a good place to start and that the #9 “double shot” cartridge – in spite of the arguments against the practice made by myself and others on this website – is suitable for small game out to 15-20 yards. I am yet to find a supplier.

Nonetheless, I have been offered boxes of Fiocchi cartridges containing (Italian) #6 shot. Of course, this doesn’t surprise me, since all small bore cartridges are loaded with #6 shot! The fact that this practice extends even to the tiny 9mm, into which you can fit a meagre four drams of lead, amused me somewhat. I’ll buy some at some point, in spite of the fact that this loading would comprise approximately 60 pellets and have an effective pattern area of around 8″ at a maximum of 10 yards, irrespective of choke. Well – I can always prove or disprove that theory, can’t I?

The best candidate shop is closed on Wednesdays, so I left a message. Hopefully I’ll hear back from them tomorrow.