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.


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.