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.