Patterning Officer’s Report: Part II

In spite of there being a reasonable quantity of data to analyze, the conclusions to be drawn from Monday’s pattern testing trip are quite straightforward. The 30-yard patterns which I had not counted when I posted on Monday night proved largely to be confirmatory of my working conclusions. The Fiocchi cartridges probably do not deserve the reputation they have for excellence, failing consistently to outperform all 3″ loadings thus far tested by the team at SmallBoreShotguns, with the exception of the Lyalvale Supreme Game 16g / #6 cartridge.

This is the mobile pattern plate used by The Hedgewalker for cartridge testing. A roll of plotter paper is contained inside a chipboard box with a stand and clips to support the paper. The box is extremely heavy so as to avoid toppling in high wind and the front panels and side-supports are easily-replaceable / disposable when they have suffered enough “punishment”.

The #6 (Italian) loading of the “Magnum” cartridge is easily dealt with. Patterns produced by the cartridge are sufficiently dense at 20 yards to deal with almost any winged or ground game, perhaps excluding fox, but the likelihood of getting that close to any quarry without first having trapped or surprised it is small – at least when walking the hedgerows. Beyond 22-23 yards, the bare minimum threshold of 120 pellets in the standard circle will not be achieved by any choking. It was clear both in theory and from the very first pattern shot at 30 yards that the 2.7mm shot size is simply too big to be effectively used in a .410. Whilst allowing for the remote possibility that future pattern tests with lighter chokes reveal unexpected and incredible performance, it is reasonably safe to say that this loading is too unbalanced, too limiting and likely to be of very little value in a .410 where any alternative containing smaller shot is available.

Contrary to the above, it was reasonable to hope that the #7½ (Italian) loading – equivalent to a UK size #7 – of the Fiocchi cartridge would produce 40-yard performance and turn out to be the optimum cartridge for the little Yildiz. Unfortunately, it too was a disappointment. Whilst I can’t complain about the consistency of the cartridge – the pellet counts for a given choke and range varied surprisingly little across all of the data – it simply does not deliver the number of pellets required, at the range required, to be a contender in the search for the best possible load for this gun.

Whilst the remaining #6 (Italian) cartridges are likely to be put away at the back of a cupboard in a bag labelled “random shells”, for eventual use at a clay ground, where I’ll have fun whether or not I hit anything with them, I will return to the #7½ (Italian) shells later, when my stock of patterning paper is replenished. As I wrote in the performance analysis section of the extended pattern test page, it will be worth attempting the use of lighter (and perhaps tighter) chokes with this cartridge to rule out the possibility of an “island of performance”.

In the end, although I don’t have a reliably supply of the Eley “Trap” cartridges yet, I can obtain the better-performing Eley “Extralong” cartridges – both standard and subsonic – reasonably straightforwardly. This relegates the Fiocchi cartridges to fourth- and fifth-choice at best: I’ll have to really struggle to obtain ammunition before I resort to using them in the field.

Supplementary Patterns

The supplementary patterns shot on Monday also provided some useful data.

Eley “Trap” 19g / #7½

Although I remain a sceptic rather than an optimist regarding the effective range of #7½ shot and am still wary about using it for 35+ yard shots, it is undeniably effective at 30 yards on small-to-medium game. The single, 30-yard Eley “Trap” pattern I shot through the ¾ choke of the Yildiz on Monday is therefore an extremely pleasing and confidence-boosting result, with the 213 pellets in the standard circle more than adequate for the taking of birds and – I suspect – rabbits at sub-30-yard ranges.

The extra 40-yard patterns shot for the “Trap” cartridge, when combined with previously obtained data, establish an average of 125 pellets in the standard circle for that cartridge through the Yildiz’s ¾ choke. This confirms my previous assertion of pattern sufficiency for that combination; whether the pellets remain energetic enough at that range to cleanly bring down the birds can only be shown by further experience. Unfortunately, I have exhausted my stock of those cartridges, but I am seeking to obtain more.

30-yard pattern shot through the ¾ choke of the Yildiz .410 using the Eley “Trap” 19g/#7½ shell.
Eley “Extralong” 18g / #7

Although it is not possible, on the basis of the combined data, to argue that the Eley “Extralong” cartridge is 40-yard-capable, we can make a more accurate judgement as to the maximum usable range of the cartridge in light of the patterns shot using the ¾ choke of the Yildiz on Monday. At 30-yards, the “Extralong” is more than adequate when shot through a 0.020″ constriction, printing 150-170 pellets in the standard circle at 30 yards. If we assume that this is the most performant choking (the “full” choke for the gun has been shown consistently to be over-tight and to blow patterns), then the maximum effective range of these cartridges is in the 32-33 yard range if one requires 140 pellets in the standard circle, or perhaps as far as 34-35 yards if one requires only 120. Energetically, they should be capable at this range.

30-yard pattern shot through the ¾ choke of the Yildiz .410 using the Eley “Extralong” 18g/#7 shell.

The 20-yard patterns shot on Monday require no further comment.