Pattern Plates – The Afterlife

I came home this afternoon to discover a large number of my discarded pattern plates spread out across the floor of our lounge, with my boy on top of them, painting his latest creation – a car, apparently. My wife seemed very pleased with herself and mentioned something along the lines of “if you’re going to pay £13 for expensive paper only to shoot at it, we might as well get some more use out of it before you throw it away”.

The Hedgewalker’s son puts discarded shotgun patterns to good use: as a floor covering for large-scale painting jobs, which keeps the carpet clean and mummy very happy…

Kudos to her.

Before they all got covered in paint, I took a few more photographs of some of the old .410 patterns, which I’ve added to the relevant pattern test pages for reference. I’ve also got a picture of probably the worst pattern (I use the word advisedly) I’ve shot so far, which doesn’t justify inclusion on those pages but which I post here for comparison for anyone who’s interested. This is the (hopefully anomalous) Fiocchi “Magnum” at 40 yards, through a ½ choke:

40-yard pattern shot through the ½ choke of the Yildiz .410 using the Fiocchi “Magnum” 19g/#7½ (Italian) shell.

Performance Packed into a 2½” Case

I visited three farms today and mooched around for several hours over lunchtime, shooting a mediocre two-for-six with the 28 gauge I was carrying.

I encountered one of my acquaintance at the last farm, who was having a particularly poor day and tried to encourage him to make the best of it and the glorious weather. He showed me a handful of the new(-ish) Gamebore “Pigeon Extreme” cartridges containing 34g / #5 and complained that he couldn’t use them because they had plastic wads in them – our landowner specifies “fibre only”. I held my tongue when he further complained that the alternative – Hull “High Pheasant”, of which loading I’m not sure – were “useless” and that he couldn’t hit anything with them, but he did demonstrate five or six times as I passed the time of day with him in his hide, that that was indeed the case.

Given the symptoms he described – new gun (to him), old-school semi-automatic, pattern under the bead – I suggested, with quite a degree of vagueness (because I wasn’t sure myself), that the gun might have a comb that was too low for him and to consider a cheek pad, which he said he’d investigate. I decided to leave him to it, when, having missed another decoying bird with all three shots, I then downed it cleanly with a single round of ¾oz / #7 at longer range and made myself somewhat unpopular.

Anecdotes aside, I did manage to locate and prepare a cardboard box for pattern testing last night, so along with the 28 gauge, I put the .410 in the car this morning with the new box of Eley “Fourlong” that I picked up this week.

I only had enough cardboard for two, indicative patterns, but as a result of those, I am extremely impressed with the Eley 2½” cartridge.

20-yard patterns, as I’ve said previously, tell one relatively little, although this was as expected, putting 144 (97%) of the 148 pellets in the cartridge into the standard circle.

The 30-yard pattern however, was significantly better than I expected, placing 106 pellets into the standard circle. I’ve also said in the First Impressions page for the cartridge, this matches the best performance demonstrated by the (3″) Lyalvale 16g cartridge (though admittedly that cartridge is loaded with #6) and is in the same ballpark as the performance demonstrated by the 19g Fiocchi cartridge loaded with the same shot size (#7½ Italian = #7 English). The latter contains 50% more shot, but produces essentially no better performance at 30 yards – would you believe it!?

Perhaps there is something in this idea that 2½” .410 cartridges can match the performance of the 3″ shells with their long, long shot columns and various other ballistic disadvantages… We shall see.

Put it this way: I’m even more keen now than I was, in light of today’s results, to obtain some of the 2½” version of the Eley “Trap” cartridge, containing 14g / #7½.

Everything in time.

Some Thoughts

I’ve talked about the general business of life before. I’m sure any of my readers who have a full-time job, a spouse, children, other hobbies than shooting – or all of the above – will quite understand when I say that there is often no time to focus on shooting and that even when one does have the time for it, there is always the choice of what should be done. Do I go hunting this week? Should I pattern more cartridges? Should I focus my efforts on writing this blog, or another of the projects-related-to-shooting in my “portfolio”?

If the answer to the questions above doesn’t involve the .410, pattern testing or hunting with it, or blogging about having done those things, I find there isn’t much to say here. The blog progresses, but in fits and starts, where a few days of rapid updates are followed by weeks of very little new content being produced. This is a shame as, although I can’t speak for whether my writing is well received, I have enjoyed doing the investigative work and indeed, the writing itself.

On a couple of previous occasions, I’ve mentioned things which are not directly related to the Yildiz, though that has remained (and will remain) the primary focus of my writing. Since those deviations have attracted no complaint from my readers, nor from the site’s owner, I’ve decided to expand the scope of the blog slightly and use it to note down – not least for my own reference – occasional shooting-related thoughts as they occur to me, in the hope that they might be of interest to others and perhaps provoke comment. This should allow me to make smaller, more regular updates and to keep things a little more “fresh”.

To wit…

New Cartridge

My local RFD had almost sold out of .410 cartridges before Easter. I returned yesterday on the way home from work and found that they’d had a delivery of Eley shells. Unfortunately, this didn’t include any of the “Trap” cartridges, but I was able to get hold of a box of the “Fourlong” brand containing 12½g of #7 shot in a 2½” case. I’ll be doing a “first impressions” post on these shortly and will take them out for testing when I’ve replenished my stock of patterning paper.

Plastic vs Paper?

I mentioned in a previous blog post that I’d acquired a cheap Baikal 12 gauge side-by-side recently and that I’d been feeding it paper-cased Eley Grand Prix, purely for novelty value. I was having a conversation on Tuesday with the friend who’s helped me do some of the pattern testing for this website and indeed, helped me to obtain some of the cartridges to test from his local dealers. We were trying to predict whether or not a paper case could or would have any effect on performance compared with a plastic one, but although some interesting questions were raised and he had more definite ideas on the subject than I did, neither of use could come to a firm theoretical conclusion.

Of course, as dead-end (thought) experiments go, this one is an absolute classic – the data will be of no use to anyone not buying one or two very specific, very expensive brands of cartridges. That said, I remain curious and I’m going to shoot a few patterns when I have some more paper to put into the mobile pattern plate. Initially, I thought comparing the Grand Prix with any old 30g/#6 cartridge would do, but I’ve just had a look on the Eley website and it is possible to get that loading, under the same brand, in both paper and plastic cases, which will make for as good a controlled experiment as I think it’s possible to achieve. As soon as I can arrange another mortgage so as to be able to afford to buy a box, I’ll get out to the fields and publish the results here when I’m done.

Direction of Travel

The aforementioned friend has kindly offered to keep his eye peeled for more cartridges that might be worthy of testing and asked me to send him a list of what sort of things would be of interest. It occurred to me that it might be worth publishing that list here, to give an indication of what might be “next” as far as the little Yildiz goes. It is reasonable to ask why one would spend time patterning and analyzing more cartridges when the primary requirement of “a 40-yard cartridge” has been so quickly satisfied?

The answer is a combination of factors. My own interest in the behaviour of shotguns – and particularly the .410 – remains and I have no objection to doing further testing and through it, contributing to this site. If we do not manage to test every commercially available cartridge in the country, it will most likely be because we cannot find them to buy them, but it is certainly the SmallBoreShotguns teams’ objective to document them all here.

Furthermore, there are legitimate avenues of research which investigations to date have not adequately explained. Why, for example, do many users of 3″-chambered .410s report that their best patterns are obtained with 2½” cartridges? Will the Gamebore “Hunting” cartridge, already identified as being theoretically as near to “ideal” in .410, turn out to be so? These and other questions can usefully be answered by further testing.

The list I gave to my friend, with associated commentary, was as follows:

  • Gamebore “.410 Hunting” 16g / #7 [3″] (or any / all shot sizes available)
  • Eley “Trap” 14g / #7½ [2½″]
  • Gamebore “.410 Target” (a.k.a. “Skeet”) 14g / #9 [2½″] (useless for hunting, but I have a point to prove / refute)
  • Eley “Fourlong” 12½g / #7 [2½”] (or #6 if nothing else available).
  • Any 3″ cartridge not mentioned above containing #7 or #7½ shot.
  • Any other 3″ cartridge.
  • Any 2″ cartridge (for novelty value – again – there’s a point to prove here and we’ll start by measuring the ranges in centimeters!)
  • Any of the Lyalvale 14g [2½″] loads (including the #9).
  • Any other 2½″ cartridge.
  • Anything else.

So that’s where we’re headed. If anyone has any information about where to obtain the aforementioned cartridges in East Anglia, we’d be pleased to hear from you.

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.

Patterning Officer’s Report: Part I

It’s just past 10pm as I start to write and, thus far, I’ve completed the pellet counts for the 40-yard and 20-yard patterns. Without the 30-yard data available for comparison, it would be premature to draw any firm conclusions, but thus far, everything seems to have turned out pretty much as expected.

Eley “Trap” 19g / #7½

The Eley “Trap” cartridge continues to perform consistently well. Pellet counts in the standard circle of 116 and 128 confirm once again that this is the cartridge to beat and that effective ranges of 37-40 yards are not out of the question. Here’s a sample pattern:

40-yard pattern shot through the ¾ choke of the Yildiz .410 using the Eley “Trap” 19g/#7½ shell.
Fiocchi “Magnum”

Both of the Fiocchi cartridges proved themselves again to be mediocre. Whilst I don’t have the 30-yard figures to estimate a usable range, these are not 40-yard cartridges by any stretch of the imagination. Pellet counts were – at best – an unusable 75 in the standard circle, with a range of numbers dropping as low as 37 in the circle with the half choke.

At this point, it appears that even the nearest equivalent and – in the author’s opinion – poorly constructed Eley “Extralong” cartridge loaded with 18g of #7 shot outperforms the Fiocchis by a small margin. This might come as something of a surprise to the “anything but Eley” crowd who are somewhat vocal in .410-world!

The one point of interest which seems to be emerging as I compare the Fiocchi cartridges’ patterns is that there is essentially no difference in end-performance between the #7½ (Italian) and the #6 (Italian) loadings. The smaller shot size seems to allow so much “extra” pellet deformation over the larger that any increase in absolute shot count is wiped out by pellets lost as fliers due to scrubbing: both cartridges are printing roughly the same patterns at 40 yards, irrespective.

20-Yard Patterns

In themselves, 20-yard patterns don’t tell anyone much, even in the .410. A quick calculation on the basis of today’s results shows that the minimum percentage pattern of any of the Eley “Extralong” Subsonic and Fiocchi “Magnum” cartridges was 95% when shot out of the “half-choke” (0.015″ constriction) barrel of the Yildiz. Effectively, the number of pellets one fires at the pattern plate at this distance is the number of pellets one gets in the pattern – with the tighter chokes, at least.

At 20 yards therefore, it’s probably more useful to talk about pattern size than pattern density. Here, poorer cartridge performance can be an advantage, particularly if the target is on the ground, moving quickly. Since any pattern at this range, from a cartridge with 130 or more pellets, ought to be sufficiently dense, the pattern with the largest area ought to be the easiest to shoot and therefore the most effective.

As might be expected, the Eley subsonic cartridge patterned most tightly, followed by the Fiocchi cartridge loaded with #6 (Italian, 2.7mm) shot. The “loosest” pattern was printed by the Fiocchi #7½ (Italian) cartridge, which covered the whole of the standard circle, suggesting an effective pattern area of about 30″ diameter. In contrast, the Eley cartridge had perhaps only a 20-22″ usable area – the rest of the circle was uncovered by pellet strikes. For short-range rabbits, therefore, the Fiocchi cartridge might be a better bet.

Here are the patterns:

20-yard pattern shot through the ½ choke of the Yildiz .410 using the Eley “Extralong” Subsonic 18g/#6 shell.
20-yard pattern shot through the ½ choke of the Yildiz .410 using the Fiocchi “Magnum” 18g/#6 shell.
20-yard pattern shot through the ½ choke of the Yildiz .410 using the Fiocchi “Magnum” 19g/#7½ (Italian) shell.
The 28 Gauge…

My 28 gauge produced a number of very usable 40-yard patterns in the end. Here is the most pleasing of them – a very evenly-spaced 168 in the standard circle from the Eley VIP 21g/#7 cartridge. If I can’t get what I want out of the little .410, this will certainly do as a backup gun – and what a confidence boost it is seeing an effective (with some margin) pattern from only ¾oz. of shot to start with…!

40-yard pattern shot through the ½ choke of a Yildiz 28 gauge using the Eley VIP 21g/#7 shell.

More will follow tomorrow when I have all of today’s data available for analysis.