A Shopping Spree

Today I visited several of my local RFDs in the hope of acquiring some new brands of .410 cartridge to test. Happily, I was successful and came home with four new cartridges to pattern. Although a planned brief trip out tomorrow morning will give some time for patterning work, it’s unlikely to be long enough to finish testing the Bornaghi and Eley cartridges and complete reasonable tests on all four of the new cartridges as well, so what I’ve brought home today should keep me busy for the next few weekends, if not longer.

As it happens, I’m currently in the process of designing a portable, collapsible pattern plate which will take 40″ square pieces of cardboard or paper and hold them securely for the purposes of shooting patterns. The idea behind it is to speed up the patterning process with the use of pre-cut squares of cardboard that can be slotted into a frame and to overcome the issues we had last weekend with wind and – to some extent – the driving rain. I’ll post again on this subject at some future point when a little more progress has been made.

The Cartridges

I could post a picture of four boxes of cartridges and leave it at that until I come back with the test results, but those of you who know me will look at it and think “hang on – this chap has been banging on about not using over-sized shot in a .410 for as long as I’ve know him and now he’s gone out and bought cartridges loaded with exactly that!?” With that in mind, I thought it might be worth briefly explaining the rationale behind my decision to buy these particular brands and leave the other kinds in the shop.

But first, here’s the picture:

Clockwise from top left: Lyalvale Express “Supreme Game” 3” cartridge loaded with 16g of #6 shot; Fiocchi “Magnum” 3″ loaded with 19g of #7½ (Italian) shot; Eley “Extra Long” Subsonic 3″ loaded with 18g of #6 shot; Fiocchi “Magnum” 3″ loaded with 18g of #6 (Italian) shot.
Lyalvale Express Supreme Game 16g / #6

My purchase of the Lyalvale cartridge is probably the most irrational of the four cartridges I’ve acquired today. On paper, it is unlikely to produce the usable 40-yard pattern I seek (presumably containing only around 150, over-large pellets to start with) and I would be extremely surprised if the reality is any different. A fibre wad is also likely to prove detrimental.

The cartridge therefore holds only one point of interest for me: it is the one of the two lightest 3″ loadings commercially available (along with the still-elusive Gamebore 16g load) and I will pattern it purely to see whether a reduction in shot charge produces any noticeable improvement in performance (obviously remembering that there are many other factors that will also influence the pattern test results).

Fiocchi Magnum 19g / #7½ (Italian) & 18g / #6 (Italian)

My research into the extraction of best possible performance from my new .410 is not, of course, done in isolation. Opinion on the major UK shooting forums, both past and present, has always been that the Fiocchi “Magnum” loading is the “go-to” loading for people serious about hunting with a .410.

Although I had never attempted wingshooting with a .410 until the arrival of the Yildiz, I found the 19g/#7½ load to be an excellent clay-buster with my previous .410 – back in the days where I still could afford to spend £50 on a morning’s entertainment! I always recall, however, that it was a little sharper on the shoulder than I’d generally prefer in a small gauge gun.

It’s not so much that I mind recoil – my 12 gauge doesn’t come out of the cabinet for less than a 39g cartridge, which I find surprisingly manageable – but more that if one is going to use a lighter load, one expects consummately less recoil with it. In defense of the cartridge, however, the sharpness of the kick may have something to do with the facts that the gun fitted poorly and – if memory serves – weighed less than 5lbs.

I digress. The #7½ (an English #7) version of the Fiocchi cartridge should give in the region of 225 pellets to play with and, whilst I haven’t had the chance to open one to look at the contents yet, I’m told has a full-length plastic wad, which should be a boon to performance as it’ll protect the shot from deformation against the barrel wall to some extent. I am greatly hopeful that this will be “the one”.

The #6 version of the Fiocchi cartridge is also labelled “2.7mm”, which is an English #5½ – a somewhat unusual shot size by anyone’s standard – which should give in the region of 155-160 pellets in the cartridge. It is just as unlikely as the Lyalvale cartridge, I would expect, to produce the 40-yard pattern I am looking for. However, it is widely employed for bird hunting by of serious .410 hunters and comes highly recommended by several persons whose experience I trust enough to make it worth testing.

Apart from anything else, larger pellets (i.e. #5½) should fly truer, all other things being equal, since they are proportionately less deformed by impacts with barrel, other pellets and choke. Although I believe my understanding of the behaviour of shotguns to be deep and broadly correct, I am concerned that my belief that the use of larger shot (i.e. size #6 and larger) in the smaller bores damages performance does not become a prejudice and in so doing, arbitrarily exclude a range of potentially useful cartridges. I must therefore take measurements and prove that an obvious dearth of pellets in the cartridge will lead to insufficient pattern density at range – hence, buying the #5½s on the basis of others’ recommendations.

Eley Extra Long (Subsonic) 18g / #6

Why, oh why, I hear you ask, would I apparently ignore the experience I have already gained with the Eley Extra Long cartridge in its supersonic #7 flavour and buy another box of cartridges of the same construction which contain fewer pellets and expect them to produce better patterns?

Well, dear reader, I’ll admit it: I don’t really expect this version of the Eley cartridge to offer better performance than the previously tested loading, but there is a method in my apparent madness – or at least a handful of things that make me think that this is a cartridge worth testing.

You’ll note from the subtitle that this is the subsonic version of the “Extra Long” cartridge. Yes, it’ll have a rolled turnover rather than a crimp. Yes, it will contain a thin fibre wad that offers barely any cushioning of the pellets under acceleration. Yes, most of the pellets will get scraped up the barrel as the cartridge is fired.

What’s also true, however, is that those pellets will be accelerated more slowly, to a velocity 400fps lower than the supersonic version of the cartridge. Yes, fewer of them will be cold-welded and damaged under that acceleration. Yes, they’ll scrub the barrel walls 25% less quickly. Yes, they’ll hit the choke 25% less hard. Yes, they won’t experience the turbulence of acceleration through the trans-sonic region and back again.

It is for these reasons that, by all accounts, subsonic cartridges tend to produce far superior pattern performance to an identical load accelerated to supersonic velocity. There is little concrete information to go on, but the best source I have suggests that in most cases, improvements of 10-20% pattern density can be achieved simply by lowering the muzzle velocity of a cartridge to below the speed of sound. Twice that degree of improvement is apparently not unheard of.

Now it may be the case that even a 20% improvement in performance will not get these Eley cartridges to produce a usable 40-yard pattern. Given that the shot size is #6, I’d need them to produce a genuine full-choke performance of 68-70% to achieve what I’d consider to be the minimum acceptable pattern density (120 pellets in the standard circle) at 40 yards. No cartridge I’ve tested thus far has even approached that kind of performance.

Furthermore, on the basis of my own experience, I’d prefer at least 140 pellets in the standard circle, which represents an 80% performance for this cartridge: I’m not convinced that kind of performance is achievable on a consistent basis in a .410, even with a subsonic loading. However, I am interested enough in the possibility that I will test these cartridges, if only to have some real-world data to fall back on when I next need to argue for or against (as the case may be) the use of subsonics.

Pattern Testing Trip

I took a trip to North Cambridgeshire yesterday to see a friend who had agreed to assist me with patterning the .410. The weather was foul for the duration – driving rain made it too difficult and uncomfortable to shoot all of the patterns I had hoped to “bag” and by the time we’d finished, the (cardboard) plates were coming back to the car soaked, in spite of the fact that they’d been out less than a minute each. Nonetheless, with some degree of exercise running the 30 or 40 yards from firing point to target, we were able to get some useful information about how the gun was performing, although the exercise may have raised more questions than it answered.

In the event, we had two new cartridges to test, the Bornaghi “Extreme” containing 14g of what was labelled as #7½ shot – in English currency, a #7 – and the 3″ version of the Eley “Trap” cartridge which has been released to market relatively recently and continues to receive generally good reviews from those who are able to get hold of them.

Bornaghi Extreme 14g / #7½ (Italian)

I crossed my fingers in the hope of seeing good things from the Bornaghi cartridge. The Italian makers, and Bornaghi in particular, have a reputation amongst the folk whose opinions I respect as being the best designers / manufacturers of small bore shotgun ammunition and this raises expectations. Furthermore, as the first 2½” cartridge I’ve tested in the gun, it represents what I might call my romantic ideal of what the perfect .410 cartridge should be.

Bornaghi Extreme
Contents of the .410 Bornaghi Extreme 2½” cartridge loaded with 14g of #7½ (Italian) shot.

In comparison to the modern “magnum” 3″ loads commonly employed, most of which contain 18g, 19g or even 21g of shot, the Bornaghi cartridge has a charge of only 14g, which seems a rather more sensible quantity, given that the traditional 28 gauge load is 21g and – let’s face it – there’s little point in stuffing a 28-gauge load into a .410 case if one already has a 28-gauge available for use. This is one of the major reasons I continue to hope to be able to get hold of the 3″/16g load that Gamebore produce: technical considerations notwithstanding, the lighter payload just seems to be slightly more suited to the bore size.

The Bornaghi cartridges contained an average of 171 pellets. They contained a short plastic wad with long skirt, but a short cup. The wad was essentially the same shape as a child’s diabolo toy and the skirt / cup apparently equal in length. This suggests that the vast majority of the pellets are in contact with the bore as the shot column proceeds up the barrel. They are crimped with a 6-point star closure.

The results of the pattern tests, though they were few, seem to suggest that a full choke does not give the best performance with this cartridge. In fact no single test produced a pattern which would even meet the standard of an idealized cylinder choke – the best pattern in absolute terms, of 51% (91 pellets in the circle) at 30 yards with the ¾ choke is probably not effective at 25 yards (and may not be so at 20 yd.). Arguably, what was theoretically the best pattern of 35% (60 pellets in the circle) at 40 yards, (which implies a performance of perhaps 55% at 30 yards) is still both insufficient, and – coming from the half choke rather than the full – suggests that excessive constriction may be an issue here.

Although some of the patterns shot here looked promising at the time they were shot, subsequent analysis gives little to hope for – the cartridges are, in short, a disappointment.

Eley Trap 19g / #7½

I begin by observing that it is not my usual practice to employ shot as small as #7½ (2.3mm) on live quarry. However, in the .410, where ranges are ordinarily constrained by the gun and cartridge rather than the shooter, it appears from anecdotal evidence to be possible to successfully hunt small to medium game with this shot size. As yet, I have never attempted it myself, but if the Eley cartridge under test (or any other loaded with #7½) shows significant promise, pattern-wise, I may attempt it.

Eley Trap
Contents of the .410 Eley Trap 3″ cartridge loaded with 19g of #7½ shot.

The Eley cartridges contain an average of 274 pellets. They are loaded with a plastic wad with a long skirt, the fins of which reach approximately half way up the shot column, which suggests that although obturation should be excellent, many of the pellets will be in contact with the barrel wall during their journey down the bore. They are crimped with a 6-point star closure.

Since it had become quickly apparent during the testing of the Bornaghi cartridge that the ½ (3 notches) and looser (4 & 5 notches) chokes were unlikely to give the performance desired and the rainfall was becoming heavier and more insistent, we the gun was left with the ¾ and Full chokes in it to test the Eley cartridge. In the event, we employed the full-choke barrel exclusively, before the weather forced us to abandon the experiment.

The results of the pattern tests are somewhat curious. At 30 yards, the Eleys put 175 and 179 pellets into the 30″ circle, which represent percentage performances of 64% and 65%, respectively. This is roughly equivalent to an idealized skeet choke performance – not the behavior one might expect from a full-choked gun – although it still represents a very usable pattern with plenty of pellets to spare above the 120-140 pellet minimum requirement. So far, so reasonable.

At 40 yards, however, the pellet counts dropped to 72 and 88 respectively, representing 26% and 32% performance respectively or, in simple terms, worse than you’d expect from a cylinder choking. I am tempted to test the cylinder choke, to see if the performance is any better, or still worse! Either way, these patterns are obviously insufficiently dense for hunting purposes.

Clearly, the gun is producing a lot of “fliers”, which suggests either that the pellets are suffering significant deformation from being in contact with the barrel wall or possibly that the choke is too tight. At this point, there is not enough breadth of evidence available to make a determination either way, although the relationship of the ¾-choke result to the others shown during testing of the Bornaghi cartridge does hint that this may be a blown pattern.

If we interpolate linearly those figures for a distance of 35 yards (an approximation not quite appropriate, but given other uncontrollable factors, near enough for our purposes), we end up with an estimated average pellet count of 137 in the 30″ circle, which would again be usable. This appears to be an improvement on the Eley “Extralong” cartridge, which became unusable before the shot had reached 30 yards.


Although I have not quoted every pattern test result obtained, the above represents a faithful summary of the significant results and, I believe, paints a picture of the overall behavior of the gun with the cartridges under test.

Pattern Plates
The result of the pattern tests: cardboard mountain.

Initially, the Bornaghi cartridge appears to show particularly poor performance and offer no hope as a hunting cartridge. Whilst this may be the case, I believe that testing it may have demonstrated that my initial suspicion that the best pattern performance would not be achieved with the tightest choke in the .410. Of course – the absence of ¾ choke pattern test result with the Eley cartridge prevents me from stating this as a firm conclusion, but there is a clear improvement in performance with the Bornaghi as constriction increases to the ¾ choke, followed by a degradation with the full choke. For this reason, I believe the next test I should attempt is to pattern the Eley cartridge with the ¾ choke and see if the patterns are superior to the performance demonstrated with the full choke during these tests.

Apart from its poor performance and possible demonstration of a blown pattern effect, the Bornaghi cartridge appears to indicate that there may be a genuine utility in the use of a 2½” cartridge loaded with English #7½ shot and – unlike the English manufacturers – offers the possibility of testing that performance. It appears to be possible to obtain the cartridge in an Italian #8 shot – equivalent to an English #7½ – and this would, if the figures above are repeated, give a usable range of around 30 yards. This obviously does not satisfy the aim of finding a 40-yard cartridge, but with notably light recoil and acceptable performance it may be a way of carving out a niche for the .410 (as opposed to the 28 gauge) and constraining my shooting sufficiently to stop me taking the silly 60+ yard shots to which I’ve been prone.

The Eley cartridge shows more promise. I am keen to experiment further to see if the ½ and ¾ chokes give inferior performance as the constrictions / labeling would suggest or whether maybe – just maybe – the full choke was “blowing” the patterns of this cartridge too and the looser chokes will actually provide the 35-40 yard performance I seek. If this turned out to be the case, I suspect I could live with the smaller-than-desirable shot size and heavier-than-desirable payload, at least until the cartridge proved itself on live game a poorer balance of shot size and pattern density than anecdotal evidence suggests.

The general conclusions to be drawn from the pattern testing appear to be twofold. First, the pattern of a cartridge is significantly improved by keeping the pellets out of contact with the barrel wall. To date, the only cartridge with “wings” in the wad to protect the shot from contact with the barrel has provided significantly better performance (at 30 yards) than any other cartridge tested. It seems desirable therefore to find a cartridge which has a full-length wad, which can protect the whole column from scraping against the barrel wall. Perhaps such a cartridge may yet make itself apparent.

Whilst my intention is still to obtain a box of the Gamebore 16g cartridge and pattern them, I recall the Fiocchi F410 cartridge I used with my last .410 and remember that this is a 19g cartridge loaded with Italian #7½ shot (an English #7) with a wad that covered most of the length of the shot column. This may be a cartridge worth testing if I can obtain a box.

The second conclusion which can be drawn appears to be that the .410 is much more sensitive to what I’ve described as “secondary effects” elsewhere than I had remembered. It is looking increasingly likely that I will be unable to find any cartridge loaded with #7 shot that will put enough pellets in the circle to make it usable at 40 yards, and that #7½ shot may be the only reasonable option. It seems that the standard performances of Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Modified, etc. equating to 40%, 50%, 60% performance simply do not apply in this gun and possibly do not apply in the .410 bore size at all.

Further patterns will be shot at a date to be determined and you, dear reader, will be the first to hear about them when it happens.

Pointable? Yes. Swingable? To Be Determined…

I was able to get out to the fields for a couple of hours this afternoon. I took the Yildiz with me and a pocket full of cartridges and went to see what was about. In short, not much. I shot a wood pigeon just before the end of the afternoon and found it’s crop full of what looked like peas – but I thought that probably they were probably some kind of seed or berry from a hedgerow, given the time of year. I couldn’t identify where it would have been feeding, at any rate.

The Yildiz performed well enough, although the chap behind wasn’t necessarily up to standard. I had four attempts on other birds earlier in the afternoon but found that the lightness of the gun was making my swing through difficult to control. I missed three of them in front! I sometimes have the same problem with my (equally light) 28 gauge – so this is a familiar problem on which I need to keep working.

The bird that I downed needed a little help on its way as I didn’t place the pattern on it properly and winged it, but it went in the bag pretty quickly after it came down, so I’m not too ashamed of that. It was well within 30 yards, so it was a bad shot rather than an out-of-range shot; some of the others I took may have been a little optimistic, but as I’ve said, I’ll keep working on that too.

I didn’t have a chance to do any patterning work today, but helpfully a friend has offered to pick up a box of everything he can get when he visits a major cartridge dealer next week, so once Christmas is out of the way, he and I will be doing some pattern tests and finding out what this .410 likes best to eat!

First Outing, First Impressions

I had a very enjoyable walk along some fine hedgerows under the big Cambridgeshire skies this afternoon and was treated to a very attractive sunset at the end of it. As planned, I had with me the new Yildiz .410 and I can report that, overall, I’m very pleased with it, after its first proper outing.

There is some work to do to get it to where I want it to be, however.

First Impressions

The positives first. The gun is lightweight and very comfortable to carry. I probably covered 3-4 miles today and at no point did I feel that I was lugging around a heavy piece of steel. That said, I’m not sure there would be anywhere to go, so to speak, if a .410 gave that experience. It points very nicely and has a noticeable upward bias – I’d guess somewhere around 65/35 or perhaps even 70/30. That’s more than I’m used to with my other guns, but it didn’t prove too much of a handicap as the two wood pigeons I bagged proved.

After time in the field, I found I was slightly disappointed with the bluing in the chamber area. I found when I was cleaning the gun that it seemed thin and dull where it had been rubbing against my jacket and there were some “trails” on one side where it had rubbed against one of the buttons of my coat. I think this was a deposit from the button onto the blue, rather than a scratch in the bluing, as a good rub with some gun oil removed it, but I have not noticed this with my 28 gauge – also a Yildiz – which after 2-3 years of reasonably regular use still retains a glossy, dark finish. Perhaps they are not spending as long on the bluing process as they have in the past?

The area where I feel there is most work to be done is in the cartridge department. When I owned a .410 previously, I remember being somewhat less than impressed with the performance of the Eley “Extralong” cartridges and the same was true today.

Performance in the Field

One of my motivations for buying another small gauge gun was to tackle, head on, a bad habit I’d got into of taking, regularly, 60-yard shots at passing birds. The usual result of such shooting is about four wasted cartridges followed by one “spectacular” (and repeat), which isn’t why I got into shooting. It’s shooting by what I’d call “informed luck” rather than by skill and I need to stop doing it.

The habit developed partly out of a long “drought” last spring where there were basically no birds on any of my permissions and partly out of owning and shooting a 16-gauge gun so tightly choked that minimum usable range is about 30 yards and maximum is somewhere beyond 70. I pride myself on being an ethical hunter and although I’m sure many readers will be familiar with the desire to take the occasional “pot shot” when it’s been five outings since you’ve seen a bird that was closer than 100 yards, it isn’t really sporting. To be fair, when I use that gun, it’s normally clean miss or clean kill, depending on whether I’m pointing it in the right direction, but still.

A .410 is not a gun you can push to the limits of shotgun shooting. It will not let you take outrageous shots – one will never successfully down a 60-yard bird when there are so few pellets of such a small size in the cartridge to start with. The gun limits the shooter, rather than, in the case of the 16-gauge described above, the skill of the shooter limiting the capability of the gun. It is this discipline that I want to force upon myself using the Yildiz and I have probably had my first hard lesson in that respect today.

It was very noticeable today that the gun “ran out of steam” after about 30 yards. Several issues contribute to that situation, I think. For example, the first bird I shot was probably only 20-25 yards away, but it survived the shot long enough that about half of its descent was vaguely controlled, before it “flopped” and fell the rest of the way. We all get a wounded bird every now and again and that bird was dead before it hit the floor, but I do like to see them fold properly in the air – the sort of “and that’s that” effect that game shooters will recognize.

I wondered several times on my walk whether the slightly disappointing performance I was seeing might be that I was using #7 shot where I’ve used #6 and #5 in the past. I like #5 shot – even for pigeons – but recently, I’ve switched down from #6 to #7 in my 28 gauge to achieve a better pattern-energy balance and I’ve started with #7 in the .410 since it’s long been my belief that anything larger leads to an unbalanced cartridge in that bore size. All of a sudden, #7 seems to be the new “normal”!

Whilst enjoying the scenery, I found myself saying to myself things like “I’m used to big shot and ‘definitive’ results and now I’m using #7 I have to get used to things being slightly less immediate, occasionally.” I’ve had a few “slow kills” with the 28 gauge too recently, which plays on the mind, but I don’t believe #7 is insufficient for normal-range shooting – we’ve been using it for exactly that for hundreds of years, for goodness sake!

In all, I fired ten cartridges for two birds, which I thought wasn’t too bad for a first outing with an unfamiliar gun and a .410 at that. Some of the shots were out to about 40 yards; most were in the 20-30 yard range. Six of those cartridges were three sets of two shots at the same bird. Usually I hesitate to use the second barrel unless I’m sure I can correct my error and hit the bird (and then miss because I’ve hesitated), but today, I was just trying to get a feel for where it was pointing and how it swung, so I didn’t worry too much about missing a second time. If I’d have done the patterning before my walk, I probably would have left at least two of those “double” birds well alone and reported a vaguely respectable “two for six”, but stupidly, I didn’t…

Pattern Tests

When I got back to the car after my walk, I retrieved the four sheets of cardboard that I’d brought along – none of them quite big enough to be a pattern plate(!). I plan to do a full series of pattern tests in the near future – today I just wanted to get an indication of performance. The results of these informal tests seemed to entirely make sense with the shots I’d taken earlier in the afternoon.

The “plates” were 30″ x 23″, making them 7″ under-sized in one direction, or approximately 13% smaller than they should have been, once the appropriate circle had been drawn onto them. I set them up at 30 and 40 yards and shot four patterns with the Eleys. The cartridges contain, on average, 208 pellets. The 4-notch choke (0.010″ constriction) put 68 pellets onto the cardboard at 30 yards and a mere 29 pellets onto it at 40 yards. Neither of the patterns were even vaguely usable. The 3-notch choke performed better, putting 104 pellets into the circle at 30 yards and 62 into the circle at 40 yards.

This is very much not “Light Modified” / “Light Full” performance as I’d hoped for. If I adjust those numbers to account for the missing pattern area and convert to percentages, I obtain the following results: 4 notches @ 30 yards: 38%; 4 notches @ 40 yards: 16%; 3 notches @ 30 yards: 56.5%; 3 notches @ 40 yards: 37%.

Clearly, there are a number of reasons why these patterns might be so poor, the first of which is simply that shooting only one pattern through each barrel at each distance could have produced a statistical anomaly that makes performance look a lot less good than would be shown over a 10-shot average.

However, I have found with other .410s in the past, that the Eley 3″ cartridges just don’t seem to pattern particularly well at range. I can’t say exactly what the reason for this trend is, but I found the recoil to be rather sharp (much more noticeable than the equivalent load in a 28 gauge of the same weight) and the “wad” to be basically a nitro card by itself. When taken together with the melted case mouths, my gut feeling says this is an over-loaded cartridge with a tiny quantity of powder producing very high temperatures and pressures very fast to get the shot column moving. It suggests that a lot of that shot is getting squashed together or possibly welded, deforming and never reaching the pattern plate because it’s curling off out of the pattern as fliers.

Next Steps

The first thing is to adjust the basic configuration of the gun, not focus on secondary ballistic effects. I’ve tightened the chokes on the gun by one “notch” and I’ll repeat the pattern tests with the new “tight” barrel sometime soon – hopefully next week. The 3-notch choke is usable as an “open” barrel: 56.5% of 208 pellets at 30 yards is enough pattern to kill birds out to 25-30 yards and – interestingly – is pretty close in performance terms to what Yildiz themselves call the 3-notch choke: Modified. Provided I can get better performance out of the other barrel, I may yet end up with a 40-yard gun (i.e. ” for all reasonable ranges” but no further), which I’d consider a great success.

I’m still going to look for some of those Gamebore cartridges, as I suspect that a plastic wad and slightly lighter load will make a noticeable improvement in performance in a .410. I may also buy some of the other brand the local shop had, relatively useless as they no doubt are (11g/#6), just to get some percentages for “another cartridge” to see if the (already rather tight) chokes give broadly similar performance irrespective of cartridge, or whether, as I suspect, the Eleys with their fibre “non-wad” and roll turnover are a particular handicap.

What happens after that will depend largely on the results of those tests, but one thing’s for sure. The proverbial itch is being scratched and it’s very satisfying indeed – and just as interesting as I’d hoped.

A New Arrival

As expected, I was able to visit my local firearms dealer earlier today to pick up the new Yildiz .410 I’d ordered. After a few minutes to check the condition of the gun, pay and complete the requisite paperwork, I walked out with gun, a bag of bits and the same silly smile on my face that I’d worn last Thursday.

When I got home, it was tea time, which meant, unfortunately, that a proper examination of the gun would have to wait. I took it from its box, fumbled it together – the manner in which barrels and action joined together wasn’t immediately obvious – and locked it away for later, telling myself how grown up and responsible I was being by not insisting that dinner should wait for me to look at my new acquisition.

I didn’t have to wait very long. By 7pm, the kids were bundled into bed, the wife sent off to her church meeting and I had the house to myself. I retrieved the gun from the cabinet, put it down on the kitchen table and inspected it carefully.

Since I bought my 28 gauge – also a Yildiz – I’ve been in a perpetual state of indecision as to whether a chrome-coloured aluminium receiver is an attractive feature of modern firearms which brings out nicely the engraving, or really constitutes a Class 1 Bird-Scaring Device which ought to be blued or painted or taped over as soon as possible.

The .410 also has this “feature” and, for a moment,  I did wonder whether it might be more sensible not to clean the thick black packing grease off the metalwork! I am, however, a proverbial magpie and very much like shiny, pretty things, so out came the oil, rags, patches, toothbrush and cocktail sticks to give the gun a thorough cleaning.

After 30-40 minutes careful attention, the gun was spotless. It’s quite a pretty little thing, with blued barrels, silver action and ordinary (but not unattractive) dark Turkish walnut for the stock, capped with a think plastic butt pad.

It is certainly a full-size gun, unlike the many .410’s shortened and adjusted for use by younger persons. It seems to be a pretty good fit, too. Obviously that judgement is made only on the basis of lifting and pointing it a bit around the house. I’ll have to test where it throws the shot and how it patterns when I can get out into the fields next weekend – but my concerns that the fit could and would be substantially wrong, like the Baikal I’d owned in the past, were unfounded.

As I implied in my first blog post, I bought the gun partly because it was an itch that needed to be scratched (so to speak) but I don’t think I’m exaggerating if I say it looks like I should be able to hit something with it too. I don’t expect to shoot it well, or manage big bags with it (give me 50 years more to practice, then maybe!), but I don’t think it’s a lost cause either.

The gun isn’t feather-light, but it’s not exactly a Baikal either. I suspect it’s lighter than the 28 gauge, but isn’t obviously so because the balance point is further forward. That may prove helpful.

The gun’s measurements are slightly curious. Using calipers, I found the bore to be a dead-on .410″ as I’d expect with a CNC-machined gun. The chokes are slightly unusual, however: the “cylinder” choke actually has a .005″ constriction, which makes it more a skeet choke according to Briley’s chart. The remainder of the five chokes get tighter in .005″ increments down to .025″ for the choke marked “full”.

Obviously, I don’t know how any of them pattern yet but I’ve started off with the .010″ and .015″ chokes, which is a nod in two directions: first, that .410’s are often said to be over-choked (true, in my limited experience) and second, that it’s as near as I can get to the ¼ and ¾ combination that I’d instinctively want in a gun like this. A .410 is intended to be a short-range gun and that’s how I plan to use it; if I ever need to shoot crossing birds at 60 yards, I’ll choose a more appropriate tool.

Briley, with their near-infinite gradations of choke call the .010″/.015″ combination “light modified” and “light full” in a .410, which seems preferable to the “skeet” and “light modified” I’d achieve by opening both chokes one step. The .025″ choke is actually off the end of the Briley chart, where “extra full” is given as .020″ constriction, so I suspect that it might be best avoided as a pattern-blowing machine.

All of this theory can be put to the test and refined when I find a free morning to shoot some patterns and test all the chokes and cartridges I can get hold of. I’ll probably get out for a walk on Sunday but I’m unlikely to have time to shoot more than a pattern or two with each barrel to check that they’re reasonable. I suspect that a friend and I may head out in two weekends’ time for a proper patterning session.

Cartridges: because of a limited selection at my local RFD, I ended up with the Eley 3″ 18g/#7 “Extra Long” shells. Not the cartridge I’d have instinctively chosen, but the alternative was Hull Game & Clay 11g/#6 which I thought would be about as effective as lobbing handfuls of gravel at the birds. Nonetheless, kudos to my dealer for stocking a cartridge containing something other than #6 shot in a .410 – it’s remarkably uncommon in my experience!

In time, I hope to acquire a few boxes of the Gamebore 3″ 16g/#7 load to test, which is the lightest commercially available load in a 3″ case and the one which arguably should, in theory, give the best performance. However, I haven’t found a supplier for these yet. I’ll discuss my reasons for wanting to test that particular cartridge in another blog post, but for now, I’ll look forward to my walk on Sunday afternoon and promise to report back with my findings.