How To Use A Duck Call

Posted in Stuff, Reblog | Tagged | Leave a comment

Snakes In Texas

Posted in Reblog, Stuff | Tagged | 1 Comment

Duck Calls For New Hunters

Posted in Reblog, Stuff | Tagged | Leave a comment

Eyeworm Threat in Bobwhite Quail

Posted in Reblog, Stuff | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mercury Recoil Reducers

Dear Technoid,

I have been hearing about the mercury filled reducers.

My questions are: How well do they work? Are mercury the best ones (vice other types)? How hard to put in a Beretta 686? Do you recommend a brand?

PS I realize I’ve left out a lot of detail–like gun fit, use of gun, loads I shoot, etc. I’m familiar with all those variables and am able to weigh them myself. The recoil reducer is not a variable I’m smart on.

Thanks in advance for your answer. You have a wonderful website!


Dear Steve,

I’ve never found that mercury reducers do anything much more than add weight. A lead slug does about the same. The theory of the reducers is that they can additionally attenuate recoil as the mercury is slightly time delayed in moving back through an internal orifice. The Griggs recoil reducer did the same thing with a lead plug on a spring. The idea is that you get the same amount of recoil (the laws of physics being as humorless as they seem to be), but you stretch recoil out over a longer period of time so that it becomes a push instead of a poke. That’s the way gas operated semi-autos reduce recoil

Like many things in shotgunning, the mercury reducers work, but I never found them to work much better than the equivalent amount of inert lead. Personally, I also found the sloshing of the mercury to be disconcerting when I moved the gun around. I’m sure many people wouldn’t notice it, but I did. I tried the mercury reducers on some guns and took them out. Then again, I shoot low gun games a lot, so balance and maneuverability are very important to me. I would be less critical if I only shot premounted trap or NSSA skeet.

I ought to mention that, aside from the sloshing, I didn’t find any downside to the mercury reducers. If you are thinking of adding weight to the butt, they are worth a try. You may be able to notice the difference even though I couldn’t. They really aren’t that expensive and might be worth the experiment. Mine are lost forever in a cigar box some where in my cellar gun area. It looks like that government warehouse in the last scene of “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

Most recoil reducers look about like a cigar tube. They are installed by drilling a large hole in the butt underneath the recoil pad. The hole is in line with the bore for maximum efficiency and reduction of face slap. The reducer is wedged into the hole to keep it from moving and then sealed in with the pad.

Adding weight works well enough for a trap gun where a butt heavy gun doesn’t really matter. When a gun is shot premounted, the balance is far less critical. What you are really doing is adding weight. The ratio of weight added to recoil reduction is roughly 1:1. That is, if you start with an 8# gun producing 17.5 ft/lb free recoil with a particular load, when you add 10% or .8# of weight to the gun you will reduce recoil down to 15.9 ft/lb or 9%. Close enough to 10% for gummint work.

You get a roughly sort of a 2:1 reduction in recoil when you lower shell velocity or payload. Making no change other than dropping down from 1-1/8 loads to 1 oz loads will lower recoil about 19%.

An interesting, though expensive, alternative to the recoil reducer is the “hydraulic” stock. “Soft Touch”, “G-Square” and a number of others make the conversions to your stock for around $600 or so. The stock is basically altered to work like a shock absorber. Most of the conversions add around 6 oz of weight to the butt, but some claim to come out almost neutral. If you can always mount the gun firmly to your shoulder these gizmos really, really do work. The recoil reduction is amazing. If you have a sloppy gun mount and don’t mount firmly to the shoulder, or if your stock is too short, they don’t work very well. You need decent shoulder contact.

By the way, thanks so much for taking the effort to search through the archives before asking your question. It saves us all a little bit of time. And thanks for the comments about the site. Roland and I put a lot of time into it.

Best regards,

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

Posted in Shotguns | 1 Comment

Shotstring And Patterns

Exalted Technoid,

I am a bird hunter and sporting clays shooter who has studied your advice religiously, especially on the subjects of chokes and patterns. I have followed your advice for the most part, including purchasing and using the Choke Chooser to help select chokes at sporting clays. As a result, most of my shooting companions consider me to be hopelessly overchoked.

While browsing through a bookstore recently I picked up a book on upland and waterfowl hunting edited by David Petzal. I believe the book was published in the 1970’s. It it is a chapter on dove hunting by Bob Brister, who I read and study even more religiously than I do the Technoid (Sorry).

In this chapter, Brister mentions that Ennio Mattarelli, designer of Perazzi shotguns, had a device that swung a shotgun in concert with clay targets and measured the effectiveness of different chokes on targets thrown at different angles. Mattarelli concluded (and Brister concurred, based on his target, field and flyer experience) that significantly less choke could be used on crossing targets than straightaways.

My left brain says “no way”, reasoning that a given target profile is the same whether it is still, moving sideways, or moving directly away. (I realize that real birds present different profiles depending on direction of flight, but that was not the point of the statements, at least as I understood them.) It is true that a clay target can run into a trailing pellet due to shot stringing when it had otherwise escaped the front of the shot string due to a “hole” in the pattern. However, it seems just as likely that it could move out of the way of a trailing pellet. At any rate, given the minuscule distance a clay target moves during the .01 second or thereabouts it takes the shot string to move past it, either occurrence seems to be a pretty minor factor.

But my right brain says “Who am I to dispute the likes of Bob Brister and the designer of Perazzi shotguns?” A lot of research on shotshell ballistics has been conducted since the chapter was written, and I have never read a similar statement by anyone else. What is your opinion? Or, if you know the truth, I’d be even more interested in that!

Asotin, Washington

Dear Larry,

Didn’t Mattarelli (sp?) win the ’68 Mexico Olympics with a Perazzi? I think so. The two of them certainly ought to know what they are talking about. Ought to anyway.

The bottom line question is “Do you need less choke for crossers because of the effect of shotstring?” If you like Brister and take look at the photos in his book “Shotgunning, The Art and Science”, you’ll see clear evidence that a shotstring can dilute the pattern on a crossing shot compared to a going away shot. When Brister talked his wife into driving that trailer with the pattern paper on it, he did some interesting tests. One was taking a shot at the pattern paper when the trailer was stationary (as we do when taking standard patterns). He then compared that with a shot from the same shell/gun combo taken at the paper when it was being towed at speed. One of his tests shows a duck load of #4s printing 50% at 50 yards stationary and 36% moving at 40 mph crossing. One grex buffered load printed 88% stationary and 76% moving at 40 mph. Brister considered that pretty good quality. In other pattern tests, with higher quality ammo, Brister found little evidence of pattern degradation due to stringing. It really depended on the quality of the shell.

So, in most cases shotstring degrades the pattern to some extent on a crossing target. In a few cases it degrades it very little or not at all. In NO CASES does shotstring improve the pattern UNLESS you start off with a surfeit of pellets. Example, a 12 gauge 1-1/8 oz skeet load has around 650 little lead soldiers on its side. At 20 yards, even from a cylinder bore gun, the pattern is so dense that it is highly unlikely that a target could sneak through. There are actually more pellets than statistically needed to assure a break. So why not “invest” those extra pellets in a shotstring? That’s exactly what many skeet chokes try to do. They try to artificially elongate the shotstring so as to bring those extra pellets into play. That was the whole point of the Russian Tula choke- lengthening the shotstring for skeet shooting.

It’s exactly the opposite on longer shots. There isn’t a surfeit of pellets in that case. The big problem when the bird is farther away is to get enough pellets into the pattern to assure a break. Some pellets that go into the shotstring are removed from the effective pattern, making the center weaker than it ought to be. You want no dilution due to shotstring because you don’t have extra pellets to waste. You aren’t using masses of #9s for long shots. You are using many less #7-1/2s. In this case shotstring is bad.

So, I don’t really understand from a pure pattern point of view how Mattarelli or Brister could use a more open choke on a crosser than you do to break a going away target. I would think that you would need an even tighter choke because your pattern on a crosser is being diluted by the shotstring.

There is one factor that wasn’t mentioned that may hold the key: A straightaway has the speed to the target (perhaps 60 fps) subtracted from the speed of the pellet at the target (say 675 fps for a #7-1/2 at 40 yards started out at 1200 fps). That means that the effective striking speed of the pellet on a straightaway is 675-60 or 615 fps. On a crosser, the effective striking speed of the same pellet is the full 675 fps. That’s a difference in energy in excess of 18%. That might be why you can get away with a more open pattern on crossers than on straightaways. More pellet energy is delivered on the crosser, so you need fewer pellets. If this were the reason for Brister and Matarelli’s opinions, we would both be right. Oh, frabjous joy!

As to your friends claiming that you are overchoked when following the Choke Chooser’s advice, perhaps you are (I don’t know exactly what you are using when), but consider the following. When you center a target you ought to get smoke, or at least a very heavy break. That’s the only way you know for sure that you have optimized your pattern. Huh? Yup. Here’s how it works.

ALL patterns are denser in the center than at the edges. Has to be. Got to be since all normal patterns are Gaussian in nature and follow the immutable laws of the bell curve. If your pattern is always denser in the center, then to get an adequately dense outside fringe ring it HAS to be too hot in the center. If it’s just right in the center, by definition you have no fringe. Pretty simple. Well, it’s simple when someone really smart explains it all to me.

So, that may not be the truth, but it’s my opinion.

Best regards,

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

Posted in Shotgun related | Leave a comment

Lowest Recoiling Shotgun

Hi, I am buying a new 12 gauge and want to know what shotgun kicks the least?


Dear RJ,

Good question and one that many people have asked. I’ve gone over a lot of this before, but perhaps it is time to touch on it again and put it all into one package.

Mathmatically, all shotguns kick the same if they weigh the same and shoot the same shell. The free recoil formula just takes into account the shell and the weight of the gun. Nothing else. The heavier the shotgun is, the less it kicks. The lighter the shot load of the shell, or the lower the velocity of the shell, the less it kicks.

That’s it for mathematical recoil. Unfortunately, being human, mathematics aren’t all that there is to it. Perceived recoil is very different from calculated free recoil. Example: If you shoot a shotgun from your shoulder in the normal way, you will feel a certain amount of recoil. Now take exactly the same shotgun and shell and hold the butt against your nose when you pull the trigger. It’s exactly the same calculated free recoil, but the perceived recoil sure is different!

There are two basic ways to lower perceived recoil.

1) Gun fit- a stock that fits you properly will seem to kick less. You want a stock that is as long as you can comfortably make it so that it seats firmly into the shoulder. Short stocks can build up a head of steam coming back and kick more. You also want a stock that doesn’t whack you in the chops or slap your face. That’s a question of more sophisticated gunfit and also of shooting style.

2) A second good way to lower perceived recoil is to select a gun with a kind of action that stretches out the recoil pulse. Gas operated semiautomatics do this. The gas guns seem to kick less because they deliver the recoil pulse over a longer period of time. The cycling of the gas action breaks the recoil down into pieces and delivers it bit by bit, not all at once the way a fixed breech (pump, SxS or O/U) does. It’s actually the same amount of recoil, but due to the longer period of time it feels more like a push than a punch. Beretta 391s, Browning Golds and Remington 11-87s are popular soft recoiling gas operated shotguns. Some semiautomatic shotguns, like the Benellis, are recoil operated, not gas operated. Many people feel that they kick just as much as a fixed breech gun.

While mathematical free recoil isn’t the same as perceived recoil, it is important. To lower mathematical free recoil you want to shoot the heaviest gun you can and the lightest load. Increasing the weight of the gun will reduce recoil on about a 1:1 basis (sort of). That is, if you increase the weight of a 7 pound gun by 10 % to 7.7 pounds, you will lower calculated free recoil by around 10%.

Shells are different and have more effect. If you change the amount of shot (payload) or velocity of the shell by 10%, you will affect free recoil by twice that, or 20%. Well, not exactly, but pretty close. Changing from a 1-1/4 ounce load down to a one ounce load, both at 1200 fps velocity, will reduce recoil in an 8 pound gun by 34%. OK, at 2:1 that should be 40%, but you get the idea. Changes in the shell offer the biggest chance to change recoil.

Perceived recoil (gun fit, gun mechanism) is more difficult to quantify than calculated free recoil, but they both play a part. In my experience, if you are using a properly fitted gas gun of target weight with a light load, you’ve done just about everything practical to reduce recoil.

There are many other way to change recoil, some more effective than others, but none of great effect. These would include the addition of a special recoil pad, barrel porting, lengthening of forcing cones, backboring and other little bits here and there. There is a great deal of controversy as to how much these small items matter as to recoil. None of them have anywhere near as much effect on recoil as a properly fit stock, suitable gas action and target weight, and light load.

Best regards,

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

Posted in Shotgun related, Shotguns | Tagged | Leave a comment