Discoveries & Results

I’ve discovered various interesting things about the garden gun and 20 gauge in the last 24 hours.

Garden Gun

To answer the oldest question first, the barrel of the garden gun is stamped with “Modern Arms Company Ltd. London & Bromley” which dates it to between 1928 and 1942, making it between 75 and 89 years old. I don’t believe it will be possible to age it more accurately than this, at least until I take the action out of the stock to look for more engravings (i.e. a date code).

Another helpful piece of information which has popped up today is the fact that the acorns embossed on the head stamps of the cartridges I was given with the gun are typical of ammunition manufactured by RWS, which means that I have been able to identify the #10 cartridges as their “double shot” loading. This will allow me to put a second “official” pattern testing page for the garden gun onto the site and formalizes the data we have for the gauge so far.

I’ve been able to count the patterns and the picture remains largely the same as yesterday. The RWS #10 cartridge produced good, dense patterns at 20 yards, averaging 162 in the standard circle, but adequate penetration for any use on live game at this distance remains doubtful.

20-yard pattern shot through the Modern Arms 9mm garden gun using the RWS “Flobert” 7½g/#10 shell.

The as-yet-unidentified nickel-cased cartridge patterned relatively poorly as expected, averaging 90 in the standard circle at 20 yards. The Fiocchi loading is perhaps borderline usable on small game, provided one aims the gun, placing and average of 51 pellets into a 20″ circle at 20 yards, though the patterns, such as they were, still seemed rather uneven. I remain curious to pattern that brand with a larger shot size – perhaps #9.

So far, I haven’t deconstructed any of the 9mm shells to discover their contents, but the full data (and an estimate of the shot size of the nickel cartridge) will be published when I have provided that “context”.

One point of confusion remains. The Fiocchi cartridge, patterned at 10 yards, placed only 46 pellets onto the paper, yet the 20-yard patterns contained at least that many pellets in the circle, with more in the spread outside it. At present, I cannot explain this anomaly and continue to ponder how, beyond that particular cartridge having been incompletely loaded, it could possibly have occurred.

20 Gauge

I counted the 40-yard pattern I shot with the 20 gauge before the 20- and 30-yard patterns. It quickly became clear that it wasn’t necessary to count the shorter range patterns as the pellet count of 184 (of 237) pellets in the circle at 40 yards is more than sufficient. In fact, that represents a percentage performance of approximately 78%, which is much, much better than the 57-60% one would expect for a nominal half choke.

Although that’s only a single pattern, the other two shot are clearly close to 100% patterns, given the spread, so the chance of the 40-yard pattern being a “one off” is low. (I will count the shorter distance patterns later, when there is less of interest than needs to be analyzed and written up!) Even if I lost 20% of the pellets in that circle, it would still be a good pattern, so there’s plenty of wiggle room, so to speak.

I suspect, having examined the shot and on the basis of my experiences trying to find a performant cartridge for my .410, that there really must be something worthwhile about the “diamond shot” that Gamebore advertise – it must be very, very hard indeed to give this kind of performance in an ordinary, lightly-choked gun. Unfortunately, their .410 “Hunting” cartridge appears not to feature that kind of lead.

I suppose if I were to buy a super-fast cartridge loaded with #7 shot, I might just make the Accacio into a short-range gun, using the greater pellet deformation and spread to my advantage, but really, it appears that, once again, the tight-shooting gun / cartridge combinations have searched me out and found me and that for deliberately-limited-to-20-yard performance, I’m going to have to resort to my .410 with 2″ #9 shells or the new 9mm…

40-yard pattern shot through the Accacio 20 gauge using the Gamebore “Regal Game” 24g/#6 shell.

A Bit Hairy

Rather stupidly, I forgot to check whether the abbreviation “Ltd.” appeared on the markings of the garden gun, but it’s late and I’m tired. For that reason, I’m not going to do a full write up of today’s trip, with pattern counts, etc. – that can wait until tomorrow when there’s more time and I’ve had a chance to cut open some cartridges.

A Disclaimer

I don’t want to give the impression in what follows, that I’m cavalier about the safety aspect of shooting. Rather, the opposite is true. What happened today was safe because I was very aware that I had with me two guns which a) I hadn’t ever fired before and b) whose condition I didn’t know. I acted accordingly and when the unexpected happened, nobody was endangered because I was cautious and had taken appropriate precautions.

The Garden Gun

When I got to my usual “firing range”, I tested the garden gun first. I’d never fired a rimfire (of any kind) and I had three sets of cartridges to try. These were an unknown brass-cased load of #10 shot, a nickel-cased load of entirely unknown provenance and some (brass-cased) Fiocchi #6 (2.7mm or English #5½) shells. The first two of those were provided with the gun and the latter were obtained from my local dealer on the way home from work today.

The first shot – one of the brass #10 loads – surprised me somewhat. The report on firing was, although quiet by shotgun standards, louder than I expected it to be and although this gave the impression of a substantial powder charge, it was still quite possible to hear the shot cloud tearing through the patterning paper. Not only was this the case, but sound of the pellet impacts was of noticeably long duration, which suggested a wide variation of low pellet velocities (i.e. a long, slow-moving shot cloud).

After this first “success”, I changed the paper and tried one of the nickel-cased cartridges. On the first attempt, this cartridge failed to fire and I observed the usual precaution of pointing the gun away from me, towards the floor and, after 30 seconds, opening the breech away from me. The firing pin had struck the edge of the case and deformed it, but the cartridge was intact.

Having opened the breech, I turned the cartridge in the chamber and fired again. This time, the gun produced a barely perceptible report and recoil and again the noise of pellets tearing through the paper 20 yards away was very noticeable. Inspection of that pattern suggested that the nickel-cased cartridges probably contained #9 or #8 shot, but I’ll deconstruct one tomorrow and get a definitive answer.

I fired several more cartridges of all three types. None of them produced any real recoil or muzzle blast and all were comfortable to fire without hearing protection (though I only tried this with one of each to check). Another brass #10 round failed to fire on the first attempt, but I didn’t check the cartridge that time – I simply waited 30 seconds with the gun in a safe direction, cycled the bolt and fired again. I have to say though, that without any noticeable recoil, I have a nagging voice in my head which is wondering whether it fired the first time and I simply didn’t notice!

I began to suspect, after the second nickel-cased round failed to fire, that the spring in the bolt had weakened because of the gun’s age. A second attempt caused that cartridge to fire and split the case mouth, though without any obvious variation in recoil / power. Others of both of the types which came with the gun also suffered case splits.

Whilst I would usually expect ammunition to last forever, the fact that the two kinds that had come with the gun both suffered misfires, but the brand new Fiocchi shells didn’t makes me think (and hope) that the cause is perhaps age-related degradation of the ammunition or perhaps the hardness of the case metal used for those particular brands. It may be the case that the ammunition had been poorly stored.

More testing will show whether it’s the ammunition or mechanism at fault.


I shot several patterns at 20 yards with all three cartridges and one at 10 yards with the Fiocchi cartridge. The patterns of the #10 cartridge were really rather good – I expect them to show 120+ pellets in the standard circle when I count them tomorrow. I wouldn’t like to guess what the individual pellet energy would have been, but I suspect it would be too low to point them at anything alive at that distance. I seem to remember calculating that 8-10 yards was the range at which #10 fired at 600fps became borderline for pigeons, rabbits, grey squirrels, etc.

On the other end of the scale, the Fiocchi cartridges do appear to produce a usable pattern at 10 yards if one uses a 20″ circle rather than the standard 30″. I doubt they would be humane at any greater distance, but the question of pellet energy doesn’t really exist: even with a slow, 600fps muzzle velocity, they’ll still retain enough energy to kill small game whilst what little pattern there is survives.

An Italian acquaintance of mine has described the use of the 9mm shot cartridge on really quite large quarry, but I remain unconvinced. Since I’ve no plans to this gun’s effectiveness on live game, performing the “wet telephone directory” penetration test may provide a useful approximation.

The counts and percentages will follow tomorrow, but these initial conclusions do support the use of #8 or #9 shot if one wants to get the maximum possible range out of the diminutive 9mm cartridge – although, the third, nickel-cased brand of cartridges which probably contain shot of one of those sizes did not produce very good patterns, unfortunately.


Before I started testing the garden gun, I wandered around the boundaries of the farm with the 20 gauge. In hindsight, this would have made no difference at all even had there been birds to shoot at, since, in trying to deactivate the safety catch of the gun, I had inadvertently engaged it instead. I discovered this mistake later, as I attempted to test fire the gun and shoot a 20-yard pattern with the Gamebore “Regal Game” cartridges which I’d bought, thinking that they might turn out to be rather good. It appears that I was right.

Generally, I don’t like safety catches and don’t use them. Rather, I make a point of not pointing the gun in the direction of anything I’m not intending to kill. That approach saved a lot of ball ache today.

Having attempted and failed, with the characteristic “click”, to fire the gun and produce my first pattern, I followed the usual procedure (again!) and pointed the gun safely at the floor for 30 seconds before doing anything else. I didn’t expect the cartridge to be at fault and thought rather that, having paid a mere £30 for each gun, there was a good chance of them both being mechanically unsound.

After half a minute or so, I planned to open the gun, breech pointing away from me, barrel pointing at the floor, in case the action of breaking the gun were to release the firing pin and cause the gun to fire before I could extract the cartridge. It occurred to me before I attempted this, that some guns have mechanical safety catches which actually block the movement of the hammer / pin and that it might be worth engaging the safety for that reason. I pushed the safety slide through: the gun fired.

Happily, safe handling prevented anything more than a few stems of barley stubble from being destroyed, but it was a little surprising nonetheless. I quickly regained my composure and realized that a previous owner must have repainted the red part of the safety slide – on the wrong side! Furthermore, there was enough strength in the hammer spring to fire the cartridge, even after the sears had been disengaged and the hammer and pin were held on the safety!

On my Browning  – and indeed, every other gun I can remember handling with a trigger-mounted slide-type safety – one pushes the safety button to reveal the red colouring when one is ready to fire. On Accacio single-barrelled folding shotguns, perhaps modified by careless owners, one apparently presses the red side of the safety slide to hide the colouring when one is ready to fire. I trust that readers can understand why that might be confusing!

Regardless, I quickly realized my mistake and shot patterns at 20, 30 and 40 yards. What the results of those might be, remain to be seen, but my instinctive reaction on seeing them was that the Gamebore cartridges are producing rather more than the 57%-60% performance one might expect from the gun’s nominal half choke (0.017″ constriction).

I had hoped to use the 20 gauge occasionally (if at all) as a short-range gun, perhaps with #7 shot, as I don’t really have any others set up for close work (the 9mm notwithstanding). However, it would appear that I’ve found a good long-range cartridge from the off, so to speak, and it’s hard to ignore that. I’ll know more tomorrow, but it looks promising.

That’ll do for now. And please remember dear readers – “muzzle awareness” is rule #1. Today might have ended very differently if I hadn’t been both very cautious about handling my new guns and very careful about the directions in which they were pointing.

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?