Did anybody realize that the Gamebore “Clear Pigeon” cartridge has been redesigned (again) and comes in a 30g/#6 flavour? I certainly didn’t.
For years and years now, my local shop has stocked the 32g/#6 version of the old cartridge. I’ve used them in the past, though not recently. On the odd occasions I’ve wanted a “pigeon” cartridge the routine has been the same. They offer the Hull “Superfast” 29g/#6 cartridge (for which I suspect their margin is better) and I, always refusing on principle to fanny around with under-loaded cartridges, buy the Clear Pigeon loading instead. Of course, there’s no practical difference between the two (except perhaps that the Hull cartridge has always seemed to produce heavier recoil), but I have other guns better suited to lighter charges.
I felt somewhat short-changed on Monday then, when I left the shop with a box of the Gamebore cartridge and discovered that the contents were 2 grams lighter on lead than I’d expected. Needless to say, they weren’t any cheaper than usual.
For one reason and another, mostly related to the huge amounts of time, money and energy required to rectify the damage caused by a flood which occurred in the upstairs of my house just before Christmas, I haven’t had a lot of time or motivation for reloading lately.
I don’t usually keep a lot of 12 gauge cartridges in stock as I haven’t much used either of the two 12-gauge guns I own recently and when I do want a cartridge or twenty, I load them to order.
Since I’ve determined at the start of this year to work on my shooting confidence and to make things as easy for myself as I can, there is now a greater requirement for 12 gauge cartridges than there has been in the past. I had always planned too, to find a suitable reload for my Baikal, but last year’s experiments with a 34g/#5 loading proved unsatisfactory as I documented on this website.
The aforementioned Gamebore cartridges were bought as a stopgap, but it appears that my disappointment in finding I’d bought something other than what I intended has prompted some movement on one of last year’s outstanding projects: the classic pigeon cartridge.
A Classic Cartridge
Gough Thomas, in his book Shotguns and Cartridges states that the traditional pigeon cartridge was always heavier than the traditional game load, comprising 1¼ ounces of #6 or #7 lead shot, compared with 1 ounce (give or take 1/16 of an ounce either way) of #6 for pheasant or partridge. Considered for a moment or two, this makes perfect sense.
Of course, muzzle velocities were much lower and cartridges more expensive way back when, so firing hundreds of 36g cartridges in a morning either didn’t happen, or was a lot less uncomfortable than it sounds.
Last year, I decided I wanted to try making some of these low-velocity, high-pattern-density shells, but never got round to it. Yesterday, I finally did and there are now 6 test cartridges sitting on the shelf containing 36g/#6 and enough A1 to push it along at around 1175-1200fps – a slight under-charge compared to the published 1243fps loading and an identical reload for which I have proof house data.
In theory, the shells should produce the same pattern density as a 24g/#7½ clay load (340 pellets), with the energy to kill birds at 45-50 yards. Of course – they may not perform that well.
I’d have liked to try loading some #7 shot (giving c. 430 pellets in the cartridge) but I don’t have enough in stock to make a decent number of shells. I suspect also that – like the #6 version, to a degree – the extra pellets would be redundant. Effective range would be curtailed by the smaller shot size which would make increasing effective pattern area with lots of pellets and loose chokes the only justifiable motivation for this approach. Of course, in the past, when cylinder-choked guns were ubiquitous, this would have been perfectly sensible.
Of course, I did ask at the shop whether they had any similar loading, but it was hardly surprising to be told that they didn’t stock anything containing 1¼oz. with a shot size smaller than #4.
Patterns to follow.
The Lee Load-All II: A Tip
I encountered as usual last night the issue of replacing the excess powder and shot into their respective containers from the hoppers in the Lee press. I had never come up with a good strategy for avoiding the inadvertent release of shot into the powder and vice versa – until yesterday.
It happens that I actually have a few spare parts for my press, acquired from a generous soul who no longer needed them and donated them to my experiments. One of the spare parts is a lid for the hoppers.
Why it had never previously occurred to me to drill a small hole in the corner of the spare lid, I don’t know, but last night, I did. By removing the hoppers and attaching the perforated lid, I was able to pour out the powder, directly into the container, through the hole in the corner. Turning the lid round allowed me to do the same with the shot.
The whole process took 2 minutes without incident, rather than 20 minutes of discharging powder and shot into different containers, one bushing-volume at a time.