Which Shotgun Should I Buy and What Is Gun Fit?

Oldie but goodie…

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Fixed Chokes For Sporting

Hey Bruce,

I know you like the Browning O/Us, and I whole-heartedly agree. I have had several Brownings over the years and have very good experience with them. As you know, Browning offers a different line of guns for the European market than they do in the States. I am thinking about getting a European 425 or Ultra. I do not want ports, and I would like to get fixed chokes. What chokes (fixed) would you recommend? I shoot mostly sporting clays and I usually shoot with fairly tight chokes.



Dear Randy,

Which fixed chokes would I pick for a sporting O/U? I’d pick a PAIR of Modifieds (.020″) and never look back.

Obviously, any single choke selection is a compromise when shooting the variety of presentations on an entire sporting course. Still, if I had to pick one, that’s what I’d choose.

The disadvantages to a solid choke gun are obvious: you don’t get to change chokes with the presentations. That should mean that you are overchoked for some, underchoked for others and spot on for a few. But, on the positive side, you can actually concentrate on studying the target presentation when you get to the stand. You don’t have to spend valuable time fussing and desperately trying to get the exact right choke screwed in by the time it is your turn to shoot. Newer shooters underestimate the value of studying the target. More experienced shooters don’t.

I also prefer “twin” solid chokes to “staggered” solid chokes, IE a pair of identical chokes compared to one more open and one tighter. It takes one more decision out of the picture and lets me get on with the shooting. I don’t have to fuss with barrel selectors. I don’t have to worry which barrel to shoot first. I can just jam in the shells and go. The less time I can spend worrying about the gun means the more time I can spend concentrating on the target.

That said, the one variable I do endorse is a selection of shells. If I were shooting a pair of Mods, I would carry some #9 Polywad spreaders (factory or reloaded) for the close stuff out to 20 yards, a “working” load of #8s out to 35 yards, and some very tight patterning plated #7-1/2s for those looong ones.

Depending on which Polywad insert you use, you can open a load of #9s by either one choke or two. I’ve experimented with these and it’s true. You can definitely open a Mod to Skeet with the solid Polywad inserts, and to IC with the insert with the three holes in it. They do work and the patterns are quite reliable.

Equally, a super premium plated load of #7-1/2s can tighten a Mod choke to almost Full performance.

Most of the courses I shoot on seem to have 80% of their birds in the 20~35 yard area, so the great majority of the shots will be with your working load of #8s.

How can I defend blatant shell swapping while I deny choke swapping? Aren’t they equally complicated? Not quite. When I shoot sporting I ALWAYS carry “near”, “normal” and “far” shells, no matter whether I have a solid choke gun or a screw choke gun. Changing chokes is always in addition to shell selection, not in place of it. If you want to really simplify your life, I suppose you could settle on just one kind of shell and have at it. My shooting vest has four shell pockets, so I feel that it is my duty to fill them up. It’s a Technoid kind of thing.

Why would I pick Modified and not some other choke? First off, I define Modified as whatever constriction it takes to average 60% into a 30″ circle at 40 yards with that #8 working load. With that shell .020″ is the conventional measurement for Modified, but you may get that performance with less or more choke depending on your other barrel dimensions and interior work.

Modified just seems to work well for me in general purpose clay shooting. It’s not ideal for skeet shots, but it’s not too bad either. I feel very confident with it out to 35 yards as do most 16 yard trap shooters who break their birds in the 32~35 yard range. When I shoot FITASC with my Beretta 303 gas gun, I used to tinker around with chokes between parcours. Now I just stick in the Mod and change shells when necessary. I’m well aware that some great shots believe in a bit more solid choke to “make sure”. I hear that a lot of them use Improved Modified (about a 65% pattern and often .025″ constriction). If I shot one ounce loads in the gun, I might consider the I Mod to try to regain some of the pattern density lost to the lower pellet count. But since I don’t shoot one ounce in competition (why on earth would you willingly give up 10% of your pattern if you didn’t have to?), I’d stay with the Mod.

It just so happens that I am currently testing a 34″ Perazzi MX2000 sporter with .020″ and .020″ fixed chokes. That’s the way the owner had it set up when he ordered it and I have to admit that the gun shows remarkable flexibility. For clays, I prefer the identical chokes to the IC/Mod and Mod/Full in two of my FN Superposeds. With my FNs, I am always clicking that selector around to get the barrel that I think I want for a certain presentation. It’s something extra to think about when I should be studying the target. With the Perazzi, I just fill ‘er up and have at it. KISS.

I don’t mean to give the impression that my sporting guns are all solid chokes with paired Mods. They aren’t . My 303 has screw chokes and some of my FNs have had the excellent Briley thinwalls installed. But I don’t think that solid chokes are a bad idea at all and if I went that way it would be Mod/Mod for sporting.

As to a European solid choke Ultra or 425, also consider the Miroku. Same gun and might be easier to get in a certain configuration. The setup you probably want is a 32″ Trap gun with the standard straight trap stock and solid chokes. Naturally, it will be lighter up front than the US-spec Brownings with the flounder weight Invector Plus chokes. That’s the whole point of getting a Euro gun.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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One Gun, Trap Version


I am looking to purchase my first shotgun. I am interested in shooting trap mainly, but want a gun that would also be applicable for skeet. I have been shooting a friends Premier 1187 12 gauge w/ Monte Carlo stock but recently moved away and need to purchase my own. In hopes of getting some sound advice, I visited several gun shops in town. To my disappointment, I am more confused now then ever.

What type of shotgun would you recommend to someone just starting out in the sport? I am looking for something that I can learn with, but also something that I can grow into as my skill improves. I live in Las Vegas, so we have mild winters. I don’t need something that is applicable for shooting in cold weather. I intend on shooting three times a week, so I need something durable enough to handle 100 to 200 rounds per week. I do have a problem with fit on guns with long stocks, as I am only 5′ 7″. I can afford to spend around 1,500 dollars for a shotgun.

I hope that I provided enough information for you to suggest a gun for my needs. Unfortunately, I know very little regarding guns. I hope to learn from the members of the gun club I plan on joining. I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you and have a great day.


Dear G,

Here’s the deal. Trap is the ONE clay game that really doesn’t have too much in common with any of the other shotgun games (sporting clays, skeet or hunting). A gun that is optimally set up for trap is often only suitable for trap. To that extent, trap is like a dead-end alley. Also, the talents you learn at trap don’t really translate to the other shotgun sports very well.

That’s not necessarily a knock on trap. I’m just telling you how it is. The movements at trap are small and subtle unlike the broader movements and greater lateral leads of every other clays game. The trap target is always a going-away bird on the rise. It is never falling. Most trap guns are built to shoot high to build in that little amount of vertical lead. The trap gun is shot pre-mounted, so it can be grossly out of balance and still work well (as can the skeet gun, but not the sporting clays or field gun).

Because trap is a unique sport, it requires a unique gun. That’s the problem. You want to shoot “mostly trap, but some skeet”. That’s like saying that you want a hammer to drive brads and yet also the occasional railroad spike. Well, it’s not that bad, but you get the idea.

If I were you, and since Las Vegas is mostly a trap town, I’d start out by getting a decent trap gun pure and simple. Some people shoot trap guns quite well at skeet, others don’t. But everyone shoots trap guns well at trap. I shoot trap guns for ALL my clay sports, but I am happy shooting ATA with a slightly lower stocked gun that requires that I cover the target. I don’t think that this is exactly ideal for ATA-style trap, but it is a good compromise for what I do which includes a much higher percentage of wobble trap and sporting.

Of the current crop of guns around $1500, I think that the best deal for a beginning trap shooter would be a new Beretta A400 gas operated semi-auto trap gun with a 30″ barrel for a man your size. A used Remington 1100 or 11-87 trap model (used $900~$1000) would also be perfectly serviceable, though the Beretta will have a shim adjustable stock and will be slightly more reliable from the parts breakage point of view. In the old days, the standard solution to the trap/skeet gun was to get a Remington Trap gun with the conventional trap stock and 30″ bbl plus an extra 26″ skeet barrel. That’s still not a bad way to go (even with the ribs being different), though I think that the one 30″ A400 will do you for both.

And then there is the obvious- since you are joining a gun club, you will have a built-in source of “expertise”. Most guys will happily let you shoot their gun for a round or two. At least they will show the gun to you and tell you how wonderful it is. You are going to be inundated with free advice. Some of it might actually be good. Take a good look at the guns in your price range that are the most popular among the members.

Trust the Technoid on one thing: the first gun you buy won’t be your last. If you get a gun that is 100% perfect for trap and make whatever compromises you have to for skeet, you will always have a good trap gun. And you may surprise yourself at skeet. All trap shooters can shoot 100×100 at skeet- blind folded. But you’ll learn about that. Just ask someone at the trap club.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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Shifting Primer Strength

Greetings Sir:

I am a “Hard Core”, “Card Carrying” TRAP SHOOTER, With a heavy/bad powder Jones. my Question is this: I need to know the relationship, in descending or ascending order between the Shotgun primers 209 & 209-A. That is the Federal 209 & 209-A, Winchester 209, Remington 209, CCI 209, Cheddite 209. etc. I have a real interest in the CHEDDITE 209. The reason for this interest is to “FINE TUNE” My loads for all the Trap games. Can you help??



Dear Art,

I’m not so sure that this primer brisance stuff is so clear cut that you can just draw up a list of primer strengths and then apply it to everything. Rooting through my Technoidal library of mostly useless, nearly useless and totally useless factoids, I came up with an interesting primer bit from the hardcover Hodgdon Powder Shotshell Manual (1996) page 19. It shows quite clearly that primer brisance (strength) can change with the load. Here are some Hodgdon numbers. The only thing changed in the two shot weight loads is the primer.

1-1/8 oz Test

Primer Velocity Pressure
Win.AATP 1176 fps 11,200 PSI
Fed.209A 1172 fps 11,100 PSI
Win.209 1173 fps 10,900 PSI
Fio.616 1171 fps 10,800 PSI
CCI209M 1171 fps 10,400 PSI
Rem.209P 1157 fps 8,500 PSI
CCI209 1162 fps 8,400 PSI

Now look at a
7/8 oz Test

Primer Velocity Pressure
Win.209 1214 fps 10,300 PSI
CCI209M 1217 fps 10,200 PSI
Fed.209A 1195 fps 9,100 PSI
Fio.616 1196 fps 9,000 PSI
Win.AATP 1191 fps 8,400 PSI
Rem.209P 1187 fps 8,200 PSI
CCI209 1180 fps 7,700 PSI

Note that as the payload weight changes, the effect of different primers changes. It is not consistent. WinAATP is the “hottest” primer with a 1-1/8 oz load, but only ranks 5th when the load is reduced to 7/8 oz.

Like so much else in shotgunning, it’s hard to be precise about some things. It’s particularly hard to isolate changes to the shell and barrel. So often one change depends on another. If you really want to know about Cheddite, I would contact the Cheddite people and ask them directly. Cheddite may tell you that their primers load interchangeably with “X” brand primers. The problems is, as you can see from the Hodgdon data, NO primer is really consistent once you start fooling around with the other components of the load. When you talk to Cheddite, get a list of their recommended reloading data and stick with that. They’ve done the work. You get the benefit of it. Don’t ask me. As with so much else in life, I don’t have a clue.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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Slow Loads


I was very interested in your piece on velocity. Two anecdotal remarks:

I shot 1 1/8 oz at a leisurely 1075 fps (the old Eley standard velocity your W&S was probably made for) for two years in Travelers, and finally concluded that the clays weren’t breaking the same way as other people’s hits. Did this velocity move the shot below the magic 1 foot pound/pellet mark? Felt like it did. Even on easy shots with similar levels of choke, guys with 2 3/4 dram loads creamed up and I broke ’em into 2-3 pieces.

I also had the interesting experience of policing up the shotgun field at Blue Trails Range in Wallingford last year at the end of a busy day (kids loved it), and I would estimate that of the 3-4 boxes of unbroken birds recovered from the long grass, about one clay in ten unbroken on the ground had a pellet-sized distinct hole that had not broken the clay. If we draw the reasonable conclusion that half of the once-hit clays break when they hit the ground, that means (to me) at least a 20% chance that a single pellet moving at even factory standard 1150/1250 fps velocities won’t break a clay.

This also raises the interesting issue of whether two pellet strikes at 0.7 fps will break a clay more reliably than one strike at 1 fps. I think not– my gun patterned unbelievably well (my patterning sheets were the talk of the Bristol F&G barroom one day), but those even patterns just did not seem to hit hard enough.

One man’s opinion: there is such a thing as too little velocity, and 1075 was too little. Whether there is a similar difference in breaking power between 1150 and 1250 I don’t know.


Dear Gary,

That’s what makes shotgunning so much fun. There is plenty of room for different opinions. In a game like sporting clays, where you can’t really get a handle on what works on a given target as you can with trap and skeet, there is even more room for experimentation.

The difference in ft/lb energy of a #7-1/2 at 40 yards when it is started at 1075 fps or 1150 fps is .92 ft/lb vs 1.00 ft/lb according to Lowry’s program. Started at 1200 fps it’s 1.05 ft/lb and started at 1250 fps it’s 1.10 ft/lb.

I don’t pretend to know at what point it starts to make a difference. That would certainly depend on the angle of the target also. I’ve seen great 40 yard breaks with #8s launched at a subsonic 900 fps from those low noise Winchester Feathers. That doesn’t mean they are ideal, of course.

By the way, there are lots of people who use #8s for everything, including the long ones. A #8 started at 1250 fps only has .88 ft/lb at 40 yards.

If you use the 1 ft/lb as your criteria and 1150 fps as your mv, cut-off distances are #9s 20 yds, #8s 33 yards and #7-1/2s at 40.

Go to 1250 fps and your distances are #9 at 23, #8s at 36 and #7-1/2s at 43.

Bottom line, raising MV from 1150 to 1250 gets you another 3 yards. Dropping back to 1050 fps deducts 3 yards.

By the way, the difference in free recoil between a 1050 fps and 1250 fps 1-1/8 oz load in a standard 8# O/U is an increase of 46%. Ain’t nuthin free in life.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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On Teaching Women To Shoot Shotguns

On Teaching Women To Shoot Shotguns

Phil Bourjaily and Holly Heyser

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Pellet Count Vs Pellet Weight

Hey Bruce,

I have a friend who bought about 10 cases of this english ammo, Gamebore White Gold Diamond shot, I am sure you know the stuff. Anyway, its 1 1/8 oz loads, but it does not have a dram listing, but thats not my question. I decided to open a shell up to take a look at the components as I do with all shells. The shot was almost chrome looking, looked about as round as anything else I have seen, and felt pretty round as I rolled em through my fingers.My friend suggested that the load looked kinda light to the eye, so me, like an idiot started counting pellets one by one.

Now, I know that the average number of pellets in a 1 1/8 oz load of #8`s is about 460 pellets if memory serves me correctly. We weighed the charge and came up with just about what it is supposed to be, I think it was about 492 grains. But heres the thing, my pellet count only resulted in about 410 pellets, do you think I counted wrong, or does this have something to do with high antimony shot?

Any help will be appreciated.


Dear Rich,

Antimony weighs less than lead, so lead mixtures with high antimony (hard shot) will weigh LESS than low antimony lead mixtures (soft shot). Generally, if two lead pellets measure exactly the same size, the lighter one will be harder because it has more of the lighter weight antimony in it.

If you have only 410 pellets in a 1-1/8 oz load of #8s, something’s wrong. The book says that you ought to have 462 #8s in 1-1/8 oz and that 410 #8s come in a 1 oz load. Since even the cheapest target shot has 2% antimony and the good stuff has as much as 6%, the difference we are talking about is 4% antimony. I don’t know what the weight of antimony is related to lead (yes, I could look it up, but I won’t), but even if antimony only weighs 1/2 as much as lead, the weight difference would then be 1/2 of 4% or 2%. 2% of 462 is 9 pellets. That’s a long way from 462-410=52 pellets.

So if the numbers you gave me are right, you aren’t dealing with #8 sized pellets. They are larger and sound as though they are approaching #7-1/2 in size. Two minutes with a micrometer would save us all a lot of time. Remember the Rule of 17. Pellet size in hundredths of an inch is 17 minus the pellet number. 17-8=9. A #8 sized pellet ought to be .09″ in diameter.

I’ve been shooting Gamebores for a while and also marveled at the shiny shot. I think they are a great shell, especially the paper ones. Now I suppose I’ll have to go and mike some. See all the trouble you’ve caused.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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