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.

Codename: Multitube

It’s been a very busy day.

I started the morning early and went out to the farm where I usually do my patterning to find the landowner in his jeep and his workers in combines and tractors all over the place, which would have made shooting patterns there a potentially dangerous disturbance. I drove on.

The next farm was already cut and vacant, but there were enough children playing at the nearby recreation ground that I though it would be unfair to disturb them. I drove on a second time.

At the third farm, I found a car I thought I recognized and could just make out the shape of a hide on the opposite boundary. I believe one of the other members of my shooting association may have been attempting to decoy pigeons, but after a few minutes observation, nothing appeared to be moving and given that I was half a mile away, I set up the pattern plate and shot five patterns as quickly as I could.

Less Is More

As I said I would previously, I loaded some more of the 34g/#5 cartridge I intend to use with the Baikal 12 gauge I bought a few months ago, albeit, with the powder charge reduced by approximately 1.5 grains.

Three 40-yard patterns shot with the full choke barrel gave an average of 172 of 246 pellets (maximum: 179) in the standard circle which is an average pattern density of 70%. This is satisfactory and gives an on-paper maximum range of somewhere around 51-52 yards. In practice, I suspect it wouldn’t be hard to push that to around 60 yards with good shooting, as previous “field testing” has shown.

The two half-choke patterns shot today averaged 160 of 246 pellets in the standard circle at 40 yards, which is an average pattern density of approximately 65%. This is also adequate for a “near” barrel and should give a maximum usable range of around 47 yards on paper.

Overall, these figures represent a 5-10% improvement in pattern or around 7-8 yards of extra effective range, simply by lowering the muzzle velocity of the cartridge. If I sound like a stuck record on this subject at the moment, that’s only because it works – every time.

40-yard pattern shot through the full choke of the Baikal 12 gauge using a 34g / #5 reload.

I don’t shoot a 12 gauge much these days, so this loading will now “do”. I daresay it’s as good as any commercial manufacturer would want one of their cartridges to be.

I further suspect that the “ideal” constriction for this particular recipe is probably somewhere between the 0.017″ and 0.041″ of the half and full choke barrels respectively. I believe the closely matched performance from both tubes probably represents “going over the hill” in performance terms and that the full-choke patterns are borderline blown.

New Acquisitions

After finishing those patterns, I drove north to meet a friend and he and I went to visit the RFD from whom the aforementioned Baikal was bought. We went with various purposes in mind, but mine was mainly to look at a pair of 9mm rimfire guns which were available for very reasonable asking prices. In the end, I bought a “Modern Arms” bolt action gun, which will now become the SmallBoreShotguns test gun for 9mm Flobert ammunition.

A 9mm Flobert single-barrelled bolt action shotgun belonging to the Hedgewalker.

It’s a reasonably old shotgun – I’d guess 70-80 years old given the condition – and labelled “No. 3 Garden Gun” as one would expect for an old English 9mm. The proof marks date from no later than 1954. Unusually, however, it has rather a long barrel – 28½”, which is at least 4″ longer than most other examples. Ballistically, I’m sure that length of barrel doesn’t help, but at least there’s no question of it being Section 1.  Confusingly, what appears to be a marking of 0.41″ appears on one side of the chamber, but it’s definitely a 9mm!

I found the gun was covered in grease, oil and some quantity of rust when I brought it home and examined it. It has cleaned up pretty well, although I killed my .410 copper brush by using it to hammer – literally – the crap out of the bore. I’m going to try to get a more appropriate brush to give it a gentler but more even clean when I go to the shop to buy some ammunition for it. It’ll benefit from another good scrub when it’s had its first firing, but that will only take it so far.

In fact, I’m inclined to do the initial testing required for the relevant section of SBS and then to deconstruct it, thoroughly clean, de-grease and polish it, then re-blue the metalwork. There is some surface rust on the action and very little of the original blueing is left. On that basis, stripping it down and refinishing it would extend its life, give me some experience doing that particular job but – most importantly – be no great loss if it all goes tits up and I break it. I don’t expect to be doing any hunting with it, given the handful cartridges I have for it contain #10(!) shot.

We shall see.

Hedgewalker’s New Name

It wasn’t just the 9mm that came home with me, however. I also managed to acquire a single-barreled Accacio folding 20 gauge. This gun will have no particular purpose at all, except that it provides a safe chamber and tube in which I can fire and test 20 gauge cartridges and that it “completes the set”.

A 20 gauge folding Accacio shotgun belonging to the Hedgewalker.

Of course, I don’t have any guns in the really big bores – 10 gauge, 8 gauge, 4 gauge, etc. I do now have an example of every common gauge from 12 gauge to 9mm rimfire, however, which means that, with the exception of precisely two brands of 10-gauge cartridges, I can now potentially fire and test any cartridge commercially-available in the UK.

For reasons entirely related to an occasional need for silliness, I therefore henceforth adopt the pseudonym “Multitube”, in recognition of this (rather fatuous) achievement!

More important than the invention of new epithets, this should mean that, when the SmallBoreShotguns team conceive of experiments to conduct to investigate this or that feature of shotgun shooting, there is at least one option available for firing the cartridges.

Again, I have no particular intention of hunting with the gun, though the handful of cartridges kindly provided by my friend containing 24g/#6½ do fit neatly into the gap between 21g/#7 (28 gauge) and 28g/#6 (16 gauge) and make me curious as to the efficacy of such cartridges on – for example – wood pigeons.

Test Firing

I did return to the farm I usually use to do pattern testing on my way home, in the hope of test-firing the guns. Unfortunately the harvesting continued in earnest and it was still unsafe to shoot, but I’ll try to get out one evening this week to try the guns out and create some initial patterns.


For those of you who have followed this blog since its inception, I need to mention two words: Carolina Reaper. I’m not growing any of that variety of chilli this year, but I did manage to obtain some peppers to taste this week.

In short, they are similar to the Naga peppers I like very much and they do have the traditional Habañero flavour, but they’re a lot less refined. The heat is intense but the flavour does not persist along with it in the way that it does with the Nagas – particularly when they’re cooked. Adding raw pepper “sprinkes” to the first dish gave a much better result than throwing them in with the other vegetables in the wok for the second. The latter approach essentially removed the “perfume” and left only base pepper flavour and capsaicin.

In short, I’m pleased to have tried the Reapers – they are still the hottest pepper in the world, I believe – but after you get to this level of heat, there’s really nothing between them in terms of “hotness” so it has to be all about how they taste as they melt your soft tissues into goo. The Naga has the better flavour, in my opinion – and anyway – what’s a million Scoville units between friends?