|Date||Range||20" Circle Impacts|
|Performance||Effective Pattern Width|
The first analysis written for the Fiocchi cartridge was on the basis of a small number of patterns and offered something of a conundrum, with the performance of 10- and 20-yard patterns appearing to be somewhat contradictory.
We asked (and did not satisfactorily answer) how it was that a 10-yard pattern showed a lower percentage of the original shot charge impacting the pattern plate than a 20-yard pattern from the same cartridge and barrel, offering theories including simple mislabeling of the plates or the hiding of pellet impacts by the tearing caused by the passage of the wad through the paper. Neither of these theories were particularly convincing.
Further testing in November 2017 threw some light on the issue.
It is the suspicion of the SmallBoreShotguns team that the #6 (Italian) version of the Fiocchi cartridge is actually extremely difficult to load consistently and that it is huge variability in the number of pellets originally loaded into the cartridge that accounts for most of the variation in performance. We joked in our original analysis that losing a quarter of the average load seemed unlikely – one would not expect to buy a 28g clay cartridge that was missing 100 pellets! – but this may in fact be what’s going on.
The November 2017 testing included pattern tests at 5-20 yards. We can be reasonably certain from past experience that in a 5-yard pattern test, every pellet which leaves the barrel will hit the paper. Even with the most violent deviation, “fliers” do not have time to leave the shot cloud and fail to hit a large pattern plate – they would have to go sideways! Because of this, it is reasonable to assume that the four cartridges fired contained precisely the number of pellets recorded for their number of impacts: 47, 50, 54 and 58. This is a colossal variation of nearly 20% of the average shot charge.
When one considers the size of the shot compared to the size of the case and the shape of the case mouth, it becomes reasonably straightforward to imagine that a shot drop from a machine, done at speed, might cause the shot column to fall awkwardly and leave air gaps where there should be pellets. On a larger scale, this is why one tends to hand-load buckshot-type sizes in the bigger bores: to ensure that the pellets are packed evenly.
If this “efficient” packing isn’t happening at the Fiocchi factory every time – and we suspect it isn’t – then it’s quite likely that shot is overflowing the case mouth, being lost and cases are being closed with less than the expected quantity of shot inside them. Failing that, the machine itself, measuring volumetrically, is probably not dropping all of the pellets it should – which may explain why some loaded cartridges rattle and others do not.
In fact, when this occurred to us, we cut open a large number of cartridges and counted the shot, which had the effect of a) confirming that there are significant variations in the number of pellets per cartridge (from 46-63 – a range equal to 29% of the eventual average) and b) lowering the average pellet count for the cartridge to 58. We have updated our data accordingly and added values for estimated effective pattern width, which becomes a much more important measurement of performance in this case, where most of the shot lands within the 20″ circle and initial pellet counts are so variable.
Pellet counts aside, performance of the cartridge is remarkable when viewed in isolation. 20-yard patterns averaging around 85% of the shot into a 20″ circle at 20 yards is actually enormously impressive performance, given that, from such a small bore size, we might expect that level of performance with a 30″ spread at the same distance. The flip side is that the patterns are so small that using the gun at 10 yards or nearer – the range for which it is undoubtedly most suited – is extremely difficult, even when resorting to aimed shooting.
Beyond that, the performance of this cartridge requires little analysis. For the “aimed” use we associate with the use of the 20″ pattern circle, the cartridge may be borderline-usable at 15 yards, in spite of the excessively large shot. Retained pellet energy should be sufficient for small game, in spite of the low initial muzzle velocity; pattern is more a question of luck.
On the single occasion a member of the team took an aimed at a wood pigeon with the test gun, at between 10-15 yards, the bird escaped entirely uninjured. Whether this was because the pattern “covered” the bird but no pellet struck, or because the pattern was simply too small to allow for any error in aiming, is not clear, but there was no rush to line up the shot and no clear indication of a hit afterwards. This should be a strong caution against the employment of this cartridge (and bore size) against UK game. That said, we suspect the use of a smaller shot size might have produced a more satisfactory result.
It is unlikely that anyone in possession of a garden gun will not also have access to another, more suitable tool, for the occasional dispatch of squirrels, rats, pigeons, etc. and we suggest that relying on that alternative will, in almost every situation, be preferable to using a garden gun loaded with this cartridge.