I think November is probably my least favourite month of the year. Almost everything about it is an inconvenience.

Take, for example, the sunshine: usually I very much like sunshine and I particularly like being outdoors in it, but November sunshine is the worst of all of the kinds of sunshine. The sun hangs so low in the sky that, even when it’s a nice day (especially when it’s a nice day), it’s oppressive. One cannot look into the sky because there is the blinding sunshine, creeping just under the brow and into the eyes. A peaked cap will make no difference – there is not enough distance between where one wants to look and where the sun sits to be comfortable. One is therefore obliged to be blinded by the impression of the sun, burned repeatedly into the retina, or to stare at the ground to avoid the very same – and no-one goes into the countryside, with or without a gun, to spend an afternoon looking at the floor, do they?

It is not just the light of the sun, however. Its very warmth is most inconvenient in November, above all other months. It is too cold to persist in wearing shorts and T-shirt for reasonable periods in exposed farmland, so out come the trousers and jacket, still unwashed from last year. Two hours in November sunshine however and the jacket cannot be discarded fast enough when one returns to one’s vehicle, sopping wet from perspiration and wishing that it were either much warmer, or much colder, but not this!

The list goes on. Driving is more dangerous when one cannot see properly through blinding sunshine. Shooting is near impossible when the spots – impressions of the sun – burned onto the retina cause every bird to disappear into a green-blue haze just as one focuses upon it.

As if to emphasize the arrival of my least favourite time of year (and don’t mistake me – December and January are two of my favourite months, provided they’re properly cold) the peewits and golden plover, those harbingers of doom – all 386,729,448 of them – have arrived on the farms and, as appears to be customary, scared all of the wood pigeons away. They milled around impressively whilst I walked the boundaries of the second farm I visited today and practically dive-bombed me at times, whereas, with one exception, I didn’t see a single pigeon within 100 yards.

The trouble is this: when, every time one sees a bird (i.e. a wood pigeon) and then pauses, stock still, to see if it will approach or fly anywhere in range, discovers it will not and ends by congratulating oneself on exercising a pleasing degree of restraint by not letting the shootbangstick get overexcited, it’s catching. Do it enough times and then, when a bird actually in long-but-shootable range pops out of the hedgerow in front, one simply ends up staring at it, wide-eyed and a bit “gah-gah”, wondering whether it really is close enough to have a go at and… oh – it’s gone

One miss at a distant bird followed – well I wasn’t going to make that mistake again, was I? – allowing me to add one of the Gamebore Regal Game cases to my 16-gauge collection, but I returned home with nothing to show for the trip, except a peculiar weariness.

I blame the sunshine myself. It makes everything look shiny and strange and gives a peculiar sense of “distance from the world”, which I find very unpleasant. Did I mention that November was my least favourite month?

No patterning today. We do occasionally get deliveries on Sunday now, about which I’m rather pleased (the shops have discovered that people actually like to have new things every day of the week and will pay for the privilege – if only the NHS could discover the same about people getting ill at weekends…) but the patterning paper didn’t turn up either way. There’s a huge number of cartridges stacked up on my shelf now and I need to get through testing them, but how much of that gets done before the weather closes in on us remains to be seen.

Trusting My Instincts

A final thought: I should have trusted my instincts. In writing up various pattern and performance tests for the 9mm gun recently, I entertained the idea that the #6 (Italian) cartridge might perhaps have some utility. Looking back at the patterns, I think my initial gut instinct was correct: if #6 and #5 are too large for the .410, then they are certainly too large for the 9mm. It may simply be that the gun is incapable killing any UK quarry humanely, but if it is, the shot size has to be smaller. Energetics aside, you still have to hit the target with one or more pellets and the number of “gaps” showing up in those 9mm patterns – even the good ones – is pretty shocking.


I was reminded of the image of the Ouroboros today – the snake which consumes its own tail, representing the cyclical nature of life.

I visited my parents today, taking with me, amongst other gardening tools and supplies, the garden gun. I took the opportunity to shoot a handful of patterns to re-test the Fiocchi #6 cartridge with their blessing and I’ve just finished typing up the results.

That finished, my boy was – happily – keen to have a(nother) go with the garden gun and fired two shots at an old plastic flower pot, shredding it and subsequently looking very pleased with himself. He won’t be shooting often, because he’s still very young, but I am starting to wonder how I might be able to help him do something shooting-related appropriate to his age.

By “appropriate”, I mean that, although everything he’s tried so far has been heavily supervised, with huge emphasis on his and everyone else’s safety, it would be nice to let him shoot at a target or two in the garden under his own steam. Clearly, he won’t be using a garden gun in any circumstances where an adult isn’t pointing / operating it for him for some years yet, but I do wonder if, next summer, we might get hold of one of those bright orange air soft rifles and let him shoot a target or two in controlled, but perhaps slightly freer circumstances (e.g. sitting with him, rather than actually moving his hands for him).

Of course, that reminded me of my own learning to shoot and the reluctance of my parents – particularly my mother – to allow me to learn (or even plink in the garden) for most of my childhood, in spite of my having a reasonably obvious talent for it. It was particularly ironic then that they should approach me to ask today whether I could do anything about the flock of 18-20 pigeons that have destroyed [what would have been] our winter veg’.

Sure enough, when I looked out of the window, there they were, eating the garlic! I never knew pigeons liked the taste of alliums, but presumably green shoots of any sort will do when there’s nothing better to eat. I took a pot shot at one of them with the garden gun soon afterwards and missed it entirely, but said that I’d consider what else we could do.

Apart from the apparent ineffectiveness of the 9mm, I’m concerned that a .410 would be significantly noisier and therefore more likely to upset the neighbours, but it might be possible to use an air rifle or something low-powered, keep the projectiles within the boundary and fulfil the requirements of the law and the general licence – whilst bagging myself a number of tasty dinners. We shall see.

In the meantime, I’ll be out again tomorrow afternoon, with some Gamebore Regal Game in 16 gauge to field test and another box of Hull’s “High Pheasant” .410 load which needs patterning with the lighter chokes. Which one goes out tomorrow, we’ll have to see, but after a mix-up with the paper and the delivery company, I’m not expecting to be doing any patterning unless I receive an unexpected inheritance in the form of corrugated cardboard…

A Grand Day Out

Looking back on recent posts on this blog, it’s clear that, only a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t having the best time of it. Happily, regression to the mean is one of the few “rules” in life that one can rely on and I’m pleased to report another good outing today, to go with the positive trip I had last weekend.

I traveled today to see an old friend and was pleased to find him looking well (particularly given a recent illness). We instigated another meeting of the Cardboard Perforation Society (CPS) on some of his ground and pattern tested the Fiocchi #7½ 9mm Flobert cartridge which has been sitting on the shelf for some time. This was a rather amusing exercise which saw us shooting patterns at 5, 10, 15 and 20 yards and in the foremost case prompted many amusing jibes on the subject of accuracy: the muzzle of the gun was practically touching the pattern plate.

To give a conclusion in a sentence: whilst concerns about the penetrative ability of small shot at low velocity remain, the Fiocchi shells do appear to offer some utility in short-range vermin control. In fact, the #7½ cartridge may be the best of the 9mm shells we’ve tested – proper results will follow later.

We performed these tests using some packing boxes I found at work, left over from a recent office move. These were stacked, awaiting disposal, so my employer was only too happy to let me cut them up and take them away. They produced fifteen or so plates of various sizes which will keep me going whilst I await the delivery – tomorrow apparently – of the next roll of patterning paper, with which I’ll do the pattern testing for the increasingly large pile of .410 cartridges sitting on my “man shelf”.

In fact managed to return home with another box to add to the .410 mountain, in the form of the Gamebore “Traditional Game” 9g / #7 (2″)  cartridge (the link displays the re-branded version) of which I have until now – in spite of having visited the Gamebore website reasonably regularly for some years – been entirely unaware.

A Wander

It was probably selfish of me to observe to my friend after we’d finished patterning, that taking leave from work and not going shooting (as opposed to patterning) always feels a bit of a waste of a day off. Selfish, in the sense that one shouldn’t invite oneself to others’ domains and simply expect to be allowed to shoot – one must be invited to do so, of course.

Nonetheless, I think my friend understood the point I was trying to make (i.e. that free time should be used for the things that give most enjoyment) and kindly agreed that we should go for a wander around the woods not far from where we’d done the patterning. The sun blazed and the sky was clear in a manner entirely uncharacteristic of any 27th October I can remember and we both enjoyed the walk very much.

In the end, one juvenile wood pigeon fell to a 15-20 yard shot from my Baikal 12-gauge, with another easy attempt prevented by the safety catch earlier on. (I forget, every time I take that gun out, that it has an automatic safety – I may have to “fix” that at some point.) The stock extension appeared to improve the fit of the gun and if anything, I felt as if I’d shot marginally over the top of the bird, rather than underneath, which suggests a slight over-correction. I’ll take it out again a few more times in the next few weeks to be sure.

The only other shot I took was at a bird further out, which I think I hit, albeit perhaps only with a single stray pellet. It continued on for at least another 200-300 yards before dropping to the ground, but whether it was landing normally or falling because it had expired, I couldn’t tell. The foxes will have had it by now if it was the latter.

Nonetheless: one in the bag – in spite of my confidence in the 34g/#5 reload being somewhat dented by some rather poor patterns shot only minutes earlier. I’m going to have to rethink that cartridge – it’s not consistent, or obviously performant enough for me to be happy with it, or have confidence in it, whether or not it’s printing 140 at 40 yards. (Again, results to follow.)

After we’d packed the guns away, we drove out towards one of the local RFD’s and stopped at the pub, where I was grateful to be treated to a very nice lunch.

What do you mean, #7?

I promise readers that I’m not going to be any less cynical on the subject of shot sizes in the small bores and when we visited the local firearms dealer just after lunch, it was certainly the case that, for .410, all the cartridges on the shelf, except for the aforementioned Gamebore loading, contained #6 shot or larger.

I was tempted to buy more of the Hull “High Pheasant” 19g/#6 loading and a box of the RWS 9mm shells containing 7g/#10, but I can obtain the former locally and the latter were phenomenally expensive for a cartridge for which I have no use and which I’ve previously tested – no matter how appropriate the tiny shot size might be to the tiny Flobert case. I was also tempted to buy a box of the Gamebore buckshot load (which I’ve known about for as long as I can remember, but never seen for sale), simply for interest, but decided against it, not only because I’d have no use for them, but also because they would probably blow to bits the pattern plate and render rolls of expensive paper useless should stray pellet travel through the box.

In the end, however, I was pleased to come away with something new to test and, although the Gamebore shell is probably a 20-yard cartridge at best, it might yet turn out to be a good 20-yard cartridge, with all of the usual accommodations one has to make for a 2″ cartridge assumed. I suspect that my inherent curiosity regarding such extreme loadings may see it jump a few places up the queue and feature in my next set of testing.

The Gamebore “Traditional Hunting” 9g / #7 cartridge.

After that and another pleasant drive through the country, I dropped my friend back at his house and we parted ways. A slow journey back and the responsibilities of fatherhood kept me busy for a few hours after I got back, but I’m now “in the zone” and will get on with counting some patterns as soon as I’ve hit the button to publish this post.

More to follow.

New Starter

Things have been a bit quiet around here for the last couple of weeks. I’ve twice planned to go out to test the Fiocchi / Lyalvale cartridges I acquired last month and have had twice to cancel those trips due to other unavoidable commitments turning up.

I had planned to go out this afternoon and return with patterns and reports, but once again, life got in the way. This afternoon however, the distraction was more pleasant and in fact did involve shooting: I took my children to see my parents at their new house (with substantial garden) and there my boy – unprompted – asked whether he could have a go with the garden gun (which I’d put in the car to show to my brother who was also visiting).

Under supervision of three adults and with appropriate precautions taken, he was able to fire two shots safely into a cardboard box from short range. Afterwards, he showed great curiosity about the passage of the pellets through the cardboard, instinctively looking to the other side to see where they had passed through. This bodes well for his career as a hunter! He’s been given the empty cartridge cases for his “special box of things” as a souvenir of his first proper shooting.

We only fired a handful of shots between us, but we realized afterwards that we’d performed an inadvertent penetration test. When my boy was investigating the box we were using both as a target and to hold some balloons, we realized that some of the pellets (#7½ shot from the Fiocchi cartridges) had ended up inside the box and were rolling around.

The box was a strong packing box taken from the house move and made of corrugated cardboard. We’d folded it to make it stand up which had caused the face that we were shooting at to have a double layer of card. The pellets appeared to be penetrating those front two layers reliably but not the back of the box (i.e. the third layer). Rather, they impacted it and either bounced off it, falling into the box, or became embedded in the surface. I can’t make any scientific statement about that, but it does appear to be the case that a few layers of strong card will stop a good proportion of the contents of a 9mm shot cartridge, which tells us something about just how short the gun’s effective range with #7½ shot would be.

We didn’t do any standardized pattern testing of the Fiocchi cartridges, but they did appear to be pretty good – saucer-sized and evenly-distributed at around 10 yards distance.

The other new starter to which the title of this post could refer is the new SmallBoreShotguns contributor, known as “Point729”, who has submitted a trio of articles to us for publication. These are currently being edited and will appear on the site shortly.

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.