Well it always is, isn’t it? Christmas comes and goes and one spends weeks looking forward to it (or at least being vaguely aware of its impending arrival) and then it happens and one wonders after – or even during the event – “was that it?”.

Of course, the children enjoyed it, but with the multi-day festival of food and (alcoholic) drink of my younger days now very much left behind, it’s difficult to find much enthusiasm for it if I’m honest. By the evening of the 24th, a celebratory tot of whiskey and an early night seemed infinitely preferable to a noisy party. It was much the same for New Year’s Eve, I’m afraid.

Holding the Fort

It was my turn to work the three days between Christmas and the new year this year, so I didn’t really achieve “holiday mode” until the afternoon of the 29th December.

Although I did manage – briefly – to pick up a gun on the 26th, it wasn’t for any kind of glamorous Boxing Day event, but rather a (successful) pot shot at the pigeons that continue to plague my relatives’ winter crops. That day, it was the .410; when I returned last weekend to have another go, I ended up taking a lightly-choked 12 gauge which afforded similar success.

Apparently, neither my relatives, nor their neighbours could tell the difference between the subsonic cartridges I employed on both recent occasions and the previous use of the garden gun. I suspect that this response was more to do with their wish that I continue to deal with the local “flying boobies” (as one of them rather quaintly put it) than because there is no appreciable difference, but provided I’m within the conditions of the General Licence and not offending anybody, I’m happy to continue.

Either way, that and the efforts of an aquaintance to turn three single-barrel guns he owns into a battery of moderated shotguns inspires a new reloading project (a subsonic cartridge or two) and suggests a use for the 20-gauge I have sitting in the cupboard. We will have to see what 2018 brings.

Turning the Handle

I managed to have about four weeks off working on my various projects over Christmas. I didn’t finish the computer game I’d had planned for my “holiday”, but I did buy and complete another, so I feel I’ve had a rest.

This post, of course, is a means of gently getting things going for 2018. There will be cartridges to test and analysis to be written for this website, as well as plenty of software development, music making and chilli growing / gardening to pursue.

Quite where the balance between all of those things will end up, I’m not sure yet, but I’ll continue my search for .410 cartridges and – in the continuing absence of anyone else to test them – might make a start on some of the 28 gauge cartridges available in the UK too.

I’ll try to make some time for some actual shooting between that lot, but if I have a resolution for 2018, it’s to take it a bit easier and spend more time thinking about what I’d like to do in my limited spare time, rather than persuading myself always that I ought to be “working”.

“Sow Thinly”

One of the first things I learnt about gardening, having decided to take it up relatively seriously, is that the interpretation of garden “jargon” is something of an art form.

One of the most impenetrable areas of what must be the quintessential English sport (other than a) being miserable and b) discussing the prevailing conditions) is seed sowing.

I find that interpreting the directions on a packet of seeds is fraught with difficulty. For example, the differences between “sow”, “sow thinly”, “sow sparingly” and “place seeds…” are not only quite opaque in themselves, but seem to bear some kind of variable relationship to the number of seeds in a given packet.

The theory is quite clear to me: if the seeds only have a 50% germination rate, then the supplier should supply more of them than if, for example, they have a 95% germination rate. One then sows (“sow”) approximately twice as many of the former than the latter (which have been “sow[n] thinly”) and eventually ends up with roughly the same number of plants.

At least once per year however, this interpretive art eludes me. Last year, I followed instructions to “sow thinly” a quantity of very tiny, apparently unreliable Coleus seeds and ended up with 36 plants when I had expected about four.

This year’s failure – expected, but still irritating – has exceeded all previous failures. I’m currently typing this post, sitting next to a propagator containing approximately 200 Rudbeckia seedlings, having sown “sparingly” the contents of a packet apparently containing half that number of seeds! 

I suspect most of them will have to go. At a 12″-18″ spacing, I could fill my garden and most of the rest of the street too…


Year’s End

It’s taken me a while, but I finally got the remainder of the analysis from the pattern testing I did two Sundays ago written up. Perhaps the best result to report is that we finally found a version of the the Fiocchi “Magnum” cartridge which would pattern adequately at 30 yards, though this isn’t saying much. They are very much a “middle of the road” loading, though perhaps not quite as awful as earlier testing of the (Italian) #7½ and #6 shot sizes suggested.

After more than a year’s testing of over 20 cartridges, I suspect that the best choices for use in the Yildiz are the Eley Trap 19g/#7½ and the Eley Extralong 18g/#7 which have been well known and – surprisingly – Hull’s High Pheasant 19g/#6 which is the very unexpected addition to the “candidates” list. Admittedly, pattern density runs out more quickly with the latter cartridge, but as a 30-33 yard cartridge, it’s unassailable. I suspect that the overall winner of this now-long-running “competition” will only be determined by rigorously field testing whatever the best two or three cartridges turn out to be.

Year’s End

It’s only the end of November, but I’ve come to the point, as far as this website goes, where I’m ready to wrap things up for the year and start afresh in 2018. Of course, that’s not to say I won’t be thinking about life with a .410 or posting here when I think I’ve got something of interest to say, but, having exhausted the supply of cartridges for testing and – to some degree – myself with this and other projects, it’s time to take a break, take stock and think about what I want to achieve next year rather than ploughing on regardless.

This year’s 1st January patterning trip notwithstanding, winter is never the best time for (effectively) erecting a paper sail and shooting at it, given the wind and the rain which tend to obtain, so I’ll spend the time between now and starting up again in February or March shopping and find, if I can, some new brands and varieties of cartridges to test and think about some of the experiments it might be worth doing next year. I’ll also be spending some time actually going out shooting and catching up on some much-needed relaxation.

I’ll add more thoughts as and when they occur to me.

Tip Off

I received a tip off from an acquaintance yesterday: that the Fiocchi #8 (or #7½, depending on who you ask) cartridge I was to test this morning would perform well with the “full” choke of the Yildiz, on the basis of his own experience with that gun, cartridge and choke.

Naturally, I was curious about this suggestion, so before I set off this morning, I put the 0.025″ choke for the Yildiz and the choke key into my bag with the plan that, if the paper hadn’t run out when I’d finished working through the list of patterns required, I’d shoot a few patterns using that choke to see how it behaved.

Not entirely surprisingly, given my previous experience with the Fiocchi cartridges, the experiment proved a disappointment, with what my gut instinct would call “acceptable” patterns at 30 yards and rather poor patterns at 40. On the positive side, I did discover that the Lyalvale 14g/#6 cartridge responds well to the extra choke and gave what appeared to be good, solid patterns at 30 yards (before disintegrating completely over the next 10).

The actual counts and analysis will bear all this out, of course, but it was a couple of hours, pleasantly spent, albeit without a single opportunity to shoot a wood pigeon.

I did, however, manage to take some photographs with my decrepit camera phone (after more than a year of pattern testing) just to erm… prove that I’m not making all this shit up.

Working from the back shelf of the vehicle is often the most convenient way of patterning. The “range” is set out behind the car making packing and unpacking a very straightforward proposition.


People always say to me that “40 yards is a long way” implying that folk most often talk about shooting birds which are far closer than they’d like to think. The patterning paper in this picture is a little larger than one meter square and is standing at a measured 40 yards (observe the line on the ground). Perhaps it’s just the perspective, but 40 yards doesn’t look very far to me – which possibly explains the bad habit that started all of this .410 rigmarole off: shooting at 60-yard birds…

Trinidad Scorpion

As I was clearing out the greenhouse about 10 days ago, I discovered, to my surprise, that the Trinidad Scorpion chilli plant – which I had assumed had not been “happy” enough to produce anything but leaves – had actually produced a single, solitary fruit. I transferred the plant to a large pot and brought it indoors, where it has spent the intervening period staying warm and allowing the single fruit to ripen to a bright red colour.

I decided, on a whim, that yesterday was the occasion for the grand tasting. Fajhitas are always improved with a bit of spice and although I can’t ever seem to persuade my wife – a “super taster” – that the rest of us might benefit from a little more flavour in our food, she never seems too offended when I make additions to her cooking between kitchen and table, so I chopped up the little pepper and threw it in to my portion of the mix.

I should give my wife some credit however: having chopped the pepper into the smallest possible pieces – there wasn’t a lot to spread around – she came over, inquisitively, stuck her nose close to it and exclaimed “that does smell nice, actually…”. Indeed it did. For a woman who avoids chilli peppers more aggressively than the average person would the plague, I thought that was rather a good result.

I’ve appreciated Dorset Naga peppers for as long as I’ve eaten them and it was that variety that shifted my appreciation of chillis from outright hotness to the perfume-like aroma flavour that blooms when one chops into most of the habañero varieties. The Trinidad Scorpion has this armoa in spades and really is a very tasty pepper. (It’s why I was so keen to grow its heatless sister variety, the Trinidad Perfume this year.)

The Scoprion is also ferociously hot. Two or three Nagas in a wokful of spicy pork or beef would seem a reasonable proposition; I would think one (or possibly one and a half) of these would provide the same contribution to flavour and the same degree of heat. I would imagine that, like the Nagas, they are better cooked. Sprinkled fresh flakes gave a much less even flavour than peppers cooked in a mix where the flavour can diffuse into the rest of the ingredients.

I’ll be over-wintering the plant in the hope of another crop next year. Whether or not that happens will depend entirely on how well I’m able to keep it free of sucking insects, but with a bit of luck, I might be enjoying the occasional Scorpion pepper this time next year. I get the impression that it’s not a particularly productive variety, which may be for the best! It might be a bit much to flavour everything with a pepper this hot…

All of which constitutes a very long introduction to the one point of relevance: all being well, I’ll be out patterning at the weekend, with the Lyalvale “Supreme Game” and Fiocchi “Magnum” in #8 flavour in my bag. Results will follow on Monday.

30 Patterns

I managed to get out to the fields with three cartridges today and shot thirty patterns which represented all of the testing I hoped to do with each of them. I’m still in the process of counting the patterns and analysing the data, but the Hull “High Pheasant” 19g/#6 loading and the Gamebore “Traditional Game” 9g/#7 loadings both gave somewhat disappointing performance.

I had high hopes for the Hull cartridge, but the patterns I produced today, although still impressive enough, did not match the performance of the initial testing done on the 24th September. It is undoubtedly an excellent 30-yard cartridge, but lighter chokings did not reveal the hoped-for 40-yard performance. In fact, it appears that the cartridge’s theoretical maximum range is somewhere in the region of 32 yards, which is 5 yards shorter than the initial testing suggested might be the case.

The Gamebore cartridge was never going to be a go-to hunting cartridge, but I was curious to discover whether it would be a slightly more effective alternative to the garden gun with a view to dealing with my relatives’ wood pigeon problem. Evaluated in these terms the cartridge is a disappointment. In spite of the larger shot charge, patterns are only marginally better than those produced by the Fiocchi #6 & #7½ (Italian) loadings for the 9mm. Furthermore, although, given the higher muzzle velocity, the individual pellet energy is undoubtedly higher, the muzzle blast is substantial compared to the garden gun, which is likely to prove irritating to the neighbours. I’ll need to compare the relative merits of the 9mm #7½ cartridge and an old air rifle in the back of the cabinet for that particular pest control job.

In the end, a pleasant, productive afternoon. I’ll get the counts for the other Gamebore cartridge – their “.410 Target” loading – done and the analysis for all three written up over the next few days.