Choke Chooser™

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Hard Pellet Count

Dear Technoid:

Here’s a question that has long puzzled me: Exactly what is it that we are attempting to break birds with? Shot weight? Shot volume? Pellet count?

The question arose last night when I went to load some 12 ga “practice” loads and, being out of “hard” shot, ended up using “soft” 8s. I frequently check the weight of both shot and powder. And true to form, found that the 7/8 oz. loads of “soft” shot scaled at 395-400 grains — not the 383 (plus or minus a few) grains that I get with Magnum shot.

Because the MEC 9000g I use is volumetric, the volume should be the same, even if the weight isn’t. Also it would seem that the diameter of 8s should be the same regardless of antimony content, making the number of pellets the same.

So, what am I shooting? A 7/8 oz load? A 15/16 oz load? A given number of pellets and/or volume of shot in either case? Does it even matter?


Dear 75352.127 (may I just call you “7”?),

Usually you break the birds with about three feet of lead. Well, OK, but I couldn’t resist.

The hardening agent antimony weighs a good bit less than lead. “Hard” shot contains more antimony than “soft” shot. Hard shot often contains 6% antimony, while soft shot can be around 2%. Therefore hard shot weighs less than soft shot. Gotta be.

Your MEC 9000 only measures by volume, not weight, so the pellet counts should remain the same between hard and soft shot of the same size. The weights will be different due to the lighter weight of the harder pellet. Said another way, if both charges were the same weight, you would have more of the hard pellets.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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Cole Gunsmithing:Behind The Scenes At Naples, FL

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Hartmann’s Hint #76: Cell Phones on the Field

Source: Hartmann’s Hint #76: Cell Phones on the Field

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Ask the Instructor: Inconsistency

Source: Ask the Instructor: Inconsistency

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Caesar Guerini Invictus III M-Spec

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Beretta 390 Kicker

Dear Technoid,

I have a Beretta AL390 Silver Mallard. I am very pleased with the gun. It came with a thin solid recoil pad.

My friends and I have all perceived stronger recoil when comparing it to our heavier Remington 11-87s and Winchester 1400s. We are all wearing tee-shirts this time of year as temperatures in Maryland are in the 80s and 90s. All guns are 12 Ga. and we typically shoot 75 to 100 rounds per session.

We usually shoot Remington Sport(dove)Loads as they are frequently on sale. We are gluttons for punishment, but we do love to make noise and dust clays.

Since I am a freshman Technoid can you please advise me on the pros and cons of the following types of recoil pads: shoulder harness pad, slip on leather, and thick ventilated pad or a thicker pad from Beretta. If I go with a thicker pad,I will most likely change back to the thinner pad for winter shooting and hunting, due to heavier clothing. Will this changing of pads every six months eventually strip the threads in the gun’s stock?

I am presently inclined to purchase the leather slip on pad to use over the pad that came with the gun. I believe the leather pad will slip onto my shoulder easily and others can use the gun without having to put on the shoulder harness. Also, I won’t risk stripping the threads in my stock from changing the pad every six months.

Your column is a pleasure to read and I have learned more from you in the past six months than in years of reading magazine articles. Many thanks.


Dear John,

As to what to put on the back end of the 390, you have an entire ton of options, one or two of which are actually sensible.

I shot my 390 Silver Mallard as it was, out of the box, but with spacers moved around to remove the cast off and increase the height. I normally shoot a 15 1/4″ stock, so the standard 390 stock was a bit short for me. Not good for targets, but just great for dove and tower releases.

When I used to go dove shooting in Colombia where you get to shoot a LOT (straight up in the air, so that you get pounded into the ground like a fence post) I brought along one of the PAST “half bra” recoil pads and wore it over my shirt, but under my bush jacket. It worked great and really paid for itself when you got into those 1500 to 2000 round days (yeah, you think that YOU are a glutton for punishment). Half way through the trip, I could have traded that PAST pad even up for a Browning Midas.

Other than sustained bodily abuse, I really prefer to use a standard recoil pad screwed on to the end of the gun. I also used to worry about a pad that fit in the summer being too long in the winter, but it just never ended up being a problem in real life. Pads that fit me in the summer worked just fine in our Connecticut winters. My winter clothing is bulky, but not horribly so.

The pads that I like best are the Kickeez and the Terminator. I would give the edge to the Terminator at the moment as I am now using both. I believe that Beretta also sells pads in three lengths for the 390. They just drop on. You might give them a call.

A lot of the recoil that you are taking might be due to less than perfect gun fit and/or shooting technique. Longer guns kick less than shorter guns and that’s a fact. Long stocks force you to mount the gun more firmly into the shoulder. If you are above average height and have long arms the stock might be a bit short for you. That would increase recoil due to poor gun fit.

You will also pick up extra recoil if your shooting method is not fully developed. I am not saying that this is the case with you, but it has to be mentioned. Newer shooters seldom get into the gun quite as firmly or use as much left hand as seasoned shooters do. They also don’t lean into the gun quite as much. All of this gives the gun more opportunity to move on recoil and that adds up to additional pain. The less that the gun can move against your body and face, the less misery you will suffer.

Don’t worry about changing the recoil pads around so much that you will strip the threads. You will, but it doesn’t matter. For a few dollars you can buy “The Gun Nut System”. This is simply a steel insert that you thread into the stock. The inserts accepts hex head stock screws. It can’t wear out. I think that you can also get the pieces at your local Tru-Value hardware store.

I have had a few of the velcro or lace-on leather pads and never liked them much. They are OK if you need something temporary, but once you decide on the length you need, do it right with a screwed on pad.

One final thought. The AL-390 Silver Mallard is a hunting gun first and foremost. Therefore weight was a concern. It has to be a compromise between shootability and comfort. I think that they did a pretty good job, but lighter guns do kick more than heavier guns. Nothing is free in Sir Isaac’s world.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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Reading Target Breaks

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Shot Penetration

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Message From Vista Outdoors Ammo President, Jason Vanderbrink

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Point Of Aim

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