How To Practice

Hi Bruce,

I have a question that I thought you must get asked several hundred times, but when I searched the site, I couldn’t find any applicable questions, so here goes:

I’m a shooter that has been shooting recreationally for the last several years, but is interested in progressing from an intermediate shooter to something better, what are your thoughts on how to improve?

I know that lessons and a good coach are very important, but if you can only see a coach every six months, you’ve got a lot of time to work by yourself. I’ve read articles indicating that some of the pros use tighter chokes, lighter loads, or both. Others have indicated you should practice exactly as you shoot in competition. What are your thoughts? If chokes and lighter loads are the answer, at what point is it too much? Full choke on every stand? One choke constriction above what you would normally shoot? Or should a person on a budget shoot less often to afford a coach every month or two instead?

Thanks in advance for the info!


Dear Dave,

Since your discipline is sporting clays, I would train a little differently than I would for fixed bird games like skeet and trap.

A coach is a great idea. As I tell my students, I won’t teach you anything you wouldn’t find out for yourself eventually, but I will save you a lot of time and money. The hard part of finding a coach is to pick one who jibes with your style. It is much easier for a coach if you are a “tabula rasa” (clean slate). Most of us aren’t and have already started on a shooting style, whether dictated by some physical limitation or years of shooting in a certain way. Since there are many, many ways to properly kill a clay bird, a good coach will work with you as far as possible, unless you are just plain doing horrible things. As I said, find a coach who is a good “fit” in both personality and style for the way you shoot.

When you are taking your lesson, run a small tape recorder and transcribe the session later. Lessons are too expensive to trust to memory. You are paying for that advice. Get your money’s worth. Ideally, I would think that a lesson every two to three months would be perfect. More often perhaps at first, and less later as you matured as a shooter. There isn’t any real point in taking a lesson every week. I know people who do that and nothing has time to settle in. Take a second lesson when you have faithfully practiced what you were taught in the first. I certainly wouldn’t take more than one a month at first. It really depends on how much opportunity you have to shoot.

The big thing about sporting clays is that “He who travels, wins.” You may scribe this not-so-original Technoid quote on the nearest piece of granite. The key to shooting well at sporting clays is to develop a good basic style and then build the biggest “target book” you can. I actually believe that familiarity with a broad range of target presentations is more important than some types of shooting skill in this game. A shooter of average skill who has traveled around to all the courses and seen all the presentations possible, can often beat a shooter of somewhat higher skill who has only practiced on a few presentations at his local club. This is not true in trap and skeet because the targets are more or less the same where ever you go, but it is true in sporting clays. I have seen it time and time again. I don’t mean to imply that a zero talent shooter can beat a miracle worker just by knowing all the birds, but if the two shooters are sort of close, the guy with the biggest mental target book wins. In sporting clays it is very often true that money talks and talent walks. It’s a nasty world out there.

Not everyone is able to constantly travel around to shoot different courses. No one, I repeat, no one, is able to shoot as much, as often or in as many different locations as they would like. Most sporting clays shooters with real lives find that they have to do most of their shooting within a day trip of home. That means fairly constant practice at one or two local clubs where the presentations don’t change all that often.

Shooting at familiar ranges won’t do much to add to your “target book”, but it is the right time to work on your shooting style. Since you will be familiar with the targets, it is a good time to try different techniques to see what works for you. Your coach will have shown you four different methods of lead and when he thinks that each one is useful. The home course familiarity will give you the chance to try some secondary methods and see how they work. If you have the opportunity to do it safely, see if you can take the birds from different shooting positions to get some variation.

Should you use lighter loads or tighter chokes? I don’t think so. Use exactly what you would use in a match. Using a tighter choke than necessary will cause you to shoot differently. It will subconsciously make you “aim” a bit more. There is no point in practicing one way and then shooting another in a match.

Ditto shells. I do NOT like to practice with light loads and then use heavy ones in a match. The whole point of practice is just that- practice. If you switch everything around when you get in a match, then you haven’t really practiced, have you? If your gun kicks too much with standard loads when you practice, either always shoot lighter loads in practice and matches, or get a gun that doesn’t kick so much.

Lastly, when you practice, be serious. Keep a log book and read it. Have a specific goal in mind every time you go out to practice. Write down what the goal is and how you attempted to reach it. It’s great fun shooting with your buddies and fooling around, but each and every shot you fire at a sporting clays practice target costs you around fifty cents. Joke it up with your buddies before and after you shoot, not during.

Also, always try to squad with the best shooters you can find. Never, ever squad with poorer shooters if you can help it. Yes, I know that this sounds like drowning puppies, but if you are determined to get better and yet maximize your time and money, you have to be focused. If you want to help a new shooter (and you should help and encourage every new shooter you can), go out with them without your gun and devote your full attention to helping them. This will maximize their benefit and will allow you to remain focused when you shoot at another time. You will also be surprised at how much you yourself learn when you are helping someone else to learn.

As an intermediate shooter, don’t pretend to be something you are not, but you can help as a novitiate coach by repeating the basics that your coach taught you. You can also help any shooter by watching him (not his targets) as he shoots. We shooters are great at knowing where we are shooting in relation to the bird, but we aren’t so good at judging how our bodies move during the delivery of the shot. Most shooters can’t tell when they have stopped their swing because they didn’t have an open enough stance. Even a casual bystander can see it though.

Bottom line: shooting well is a little like that old taxi joke of how to get to Carnegie hall, but only part of the answer is “practice, practice, practice”. You have to practice smart and get as much variety as possible.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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Boxlock Vs Sidelock

Dear Technoid,

I have enjoyed reading through all your past articles and have found them to be of tremendous value. Thanks

I am a relative newcomer to organized skeet shooting and currently using an 11-87. In the foreseeable future I will no doubt want to sell the family truckster and use the proceeds too get an o/u for use in all four gauges.

Being a sub-junior technoid I’d like to know the difference between box-lock and side-lock. Is there any meaningful difference between these to the functioning of a gun or is one merely a simpler manufacturing technique?

Also, I’ve seen some manufacturer’s ads touting “deep-drilled barrels”, the implication being that only the best guns are manufactured with this process. Again, does this add stability or longevity to a barrel or is it just advertising fluff? I’d hate to be duped by mere marketing hype.

Thanks for your help.

Dear Brian,

I don’t think that the difference between a boxlock and a sidelock is going to be of much concern to a clay target shooter. The only sidelock I know of that is ever used in clay shooting is the Beretta SO series. The stronger and simpler to make boxlock actions far, far outnumber the sidelocks used for clay guns.

The difference between the two is that the side lock has the two firing mechanism (hammers, sears, springs, etc.) installed on the side plates of the gun. This is a carry over from the days of the hammer gun. Basically, a sidelock is a hammer gun only with the hammers inside.

Boxlocks have the working parts of the gun firmly located between the tangs or on the trigger plate of the gun. This is cheaper to make and stronger also. The sidelocks actually “float”, surrounded by wood. The boxlock parts are strictly metal to metal. The stock of the boxlock also butts firmly to the rear of the receiver, while the stock of the sidelock butts to the receiver on four thin “horns” that surround the locks. Virtually all clay target guns are boxlocks because the setup is so much stronger. A bit cheaper to make too.

Actually, to be technically correct, most of the target “boxlocks” we see (Belgian Brownings and all their O/U progeny) are actually trigger plate actions, rather than true boxlocks of the Anson and Deeley style. The A&D boxlock was basically perfected by the English Birmingham SxS boxlocks like Webley & Scott. Still, to most clay target shooters, a boxlock is anything that isn’t a sidelock.

The reason that sidelocks are seen more on “fancy” guns is that the locks give the engraver more of a canvas to work with. Boxlocks aren’t really THAT much cheaper to make than sidelocks, but the tradition is that a “best” gun is a sidelock, so there it is. There are all other supposed advantages to the sidelock, but most of them are dreamed up by guys who want to sell sidelocks. The fact is that the broad market has almost universally adopted the boxlock.

There is a crossbreed gun called a sideplate. A side “plate” gun is not a sidelock. It is a boxlock with a false side plate added so that it looks like a sidelock. The mechanism is pure boxlock. The Beretta 686EEL is one such gun as are a number of the SKBs. While a serious collector might feel that a sideplate gun is an imitation or forgery, it really isn’t bad way to have your cake and eat it too.

As to “deep drilled barrels”, that is all marketing hype. It simply describes one of many methods of making a barrel. No one method has proven really superior to another. It all depends on the care with which the particular method is executed.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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Gunstock Dimensions

Dear Bruce:

Like all hackers I’m always interested in the equipment (and specifications for same) used by the pro’s, including the technoid, for sporting clays.

While stock fit is constantly emphasized as perhaps the single most important criterion to effective shot placement, gunstock dimensions used by the pro’s are never mentioned. I recognize that individual physique, shooting style, equipment (high rib vs. low rib etc.) and other factors make such measurements irrelevant for specific individual application, there might be some general trends that would be interesting.

In addition to the standard dimensions (drop at nose and heel, cast, pitch) information on grip shape and dimension as well as any special treatment given fore end wood might be beneficial.

Perhaps this is carrying the whole thing too far, but it does beat pondering anything too serious. I don’t want to discourage anyone from a fitting by a competent stock fitter and if you feel my inquiry would do so trash it immediately.


Dear Jim,

I am not so sure that you can generalize about stock fit trends. In sporting clays, stocks seem to get higher and longer as the shooter gets better. In skeet and trap I find that the stocks seem to get shorter. Honest. Just from looking around, I could swear that was the case. No, it doesn’t make any sense at all to me, but I do keep seeing good skeet and trap shooters with their glasses touching the backs of their thumbs when they mount. I remember Kay Ohye telling me that he liked his stock on the short side.

For some reason, the low gun game people (IntSk and sporting) seem to like longer stocks. I guess that a longer stock gives you a better chance of a firm placement on the shoulder, though it is harder to raise. Hunters have traditionally used shorter stocks, but that is because they often do a lot of twisting when they mount. Except, of course, for English driven shooters who use longer stocks than normal.

Do I spot a trend? Nope.

For example, I shot a fair amount with Andy Duffy. When he started winning, he shot a relatively high stocked Browning 325. He did well. Then he changed to a lower stocked Browning Gold auto. When I last saw him he was shooting this gun off the corner of his jaw, not his cheek notch. He did even better. While he was shooting the Gold, he bought a Browning Pigeon grade B-25 from me for pigeons. It was a trap gun and he shaved the stock a bit, but not much. He also shot what well. The fact is that he is just a good shot and can prosper with just about anything.

As for myself, I have always shot trap stocks on my skeet and sporting clays guns. I have high cheek bones, so a trap stock may not be as high for me as it is for someone with a different maxillofacial physiognomy (oops- the coffee just kicked in). Back in the ’70s, I noticed that Dan Carlisle also used a trap stock on his 1100 when we shot IntSk at the US Army Marksmanship Unit. Dan was in the unit. I competed against them as a civilian.

I set my sporting, skeet and wobble trap guns up all the same. They have flat ribs (I just hate, loathe and despise arched or elevated ribs) and trap stocks with parallel or near parallel combs. I set the combs up so that when I cheek down to the bone I can look right down the rib. I don’t shoot cheeked to the bone, only about 80% of that pressure. At 80% pressure, I see a squashed figure 8 (on the guns that have mid-beads). This sight picture prints about 60/40 or 55/45 for me so I can float most of the birds. I prefer to float the bird a bit, rather than cover it when I can.

The reason that I don’t like elevated ribs is that they force you to look flat down the rib, rather than over it. When you look flat down the rib, it only takes a tiny bit of extra pressure to drop your head down a bit more and lose the rib entirely. I never want to lose the rib like that as it makes you blind for a moment and forces you to pick your head up slightly in the midst of a shot.

Naturally, there are as many different opinions on rib types and stock heights as there are shooters, but I did notice that when Beretta came out with the ultra successful 390 model, they put stepped ribs on all the trap, skeet and sporting guns. There was such a hue and cry from the sporting people that a black market developed in converting the flat rib 303 barrels to use on the 390. Beretta actually wised up and redid the 390 with flat target ribs on the skeet and sporting models, but they kept the step rib on the trap version. American-style trap’s constantly rising target lends itself to a high shooting gun and the step rib has its rightful place there.

As to length, I am personally happiest with the longest stock I can shoot comfortably. The specific dimension actually depends on the shape of the pistol grip as much as anything else, because meaningful stock length measurement is dependent on where you put your hand on the grip, not the distance between trigger and butt. That measurement is for the convenience of the gunsmiths. Generally I shoot a 15″ to 15-1/4″ in an O/U or gas gun. I add at least 1/2″ for a SxS. To put it in context, I wear a 17-35 shirt and am 6′-1″ with a normal length neck. I also crawl my stocks a bit.

When I set up a stock, I set the length first, then the height. I keep adding spacers under the recoil pad until I know that I have gone too far. Then I remove one. As to height, I usually raise the stock with tape or shims until I can look right down the flat rib when cheeked to the bone. I will shoot the gun festooned with tape and uncut spacers for a while, making small adjustments as required, until it is right. Then I take it to the gunsmith and he finalizes everything.

Like many stock crawlers, I shoot zero cast. Any cast at all gives me grievous face slap. Life is tough enough without putting up with that. I usually leave pitch alone (at 0″ to 2″ depending on what the stock came with) unless I notice the gun sliding down my shoulder or up into my face. Then I keep shimming the pad and testing until it stops whacking me. I shoot the Terminator pads on many of my guns. They remain quite sticky for their life and this makes pitch somewhat less critical- and gun mount more so.

As to the forends, I really don’t notice people doing much to alter what comes from the factory. If I am converting a trap gun to sporting and the gun came with a big beavertail forend, I will have it slimmed down, but that is about it. I am also not a big fan of Schnabel forends and tend to have the lip cut off and rounded out. Sometimes I like to run my left hand out pretty far and the Schnabel lip disturbs me. It makes it harder for me to point with my left index finger. Plenty of people leave the Schnabels just the way they come. Maybe it is all aesthetics. The Schnabel on some Krieghoffs is really clutzy looking. Of course, that fits just right with the rest of the gun.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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Beretta Trick

Dear Bruce,

I have a question that I haven’t seen asked so here goes. A good friend who shoots the Beretta 390 in sporting clays pushes the action button on the receiver after he loads a shell into the chamber. This releases the shell from the magazine tube and lets it ride directly below the action.

He claims that this does several things. It changes the balance point slightly rearward and helps compensate for the nose heavy feeling of his earlier model 390. It makes the gun even more reliable than it was, he claims to get almost 250 rounds more through his gun between cleanings. He also states that there is less recoil and quicker cycling of the action. That you can’t feel the shell coming back towards the rear of the gun?

I also shoot Beretta automatics and wanted to try his method of preloading the shell. The action did seem smoother and once when my gun was real dirty, and started hanging up I used his technique to get through the day with out anymore problems. I didn’t really notice the drop in recoil or change in balance, but it does seem possible?

What I would like to know is have you ever tried this or heard of it, and is it in anyway harmful to the gun? Two of my shooting partners are now doing this, and I would like your input on the matter.

Thanks in advance for your help,

Dear Fezunt,

Your most excellent question just goes to show me that no matter what I have gotten used to doing for umpteen million years, someone else will figure out a different way. When I read your question, I just assumed that when you said “pushes the action button on the receiver” you really meant to say “pushes the little stud at the lower back part of the shell lifter”. I have never seen, nor did I know that you could, release a shell from the magazine by pushing the action button on the receiver (“breech bolt release button” in Beretta-speak). So, I just went down to the cellar and pulled out a 303 and a 390 and tried it.

Sure enough. You are absolutely right. If you push hard enough, you can indeed release a shell from the magazine by pushing on the “breech bolt release button/action button”. On my two guns, it goes back about 1/2″ and the brass stops against the front of the shell lifter. Although I didn’t fire the gun this way, it sure looks to me as though it would jam fairly frequently in this mode. Perhaps not. I’ll shoot it at the range and find out.

This was not the technique that I was thinking of. The one that I have experimented with, and that I have seen used by many, many shooters, is to push the little stud at the lower back part of the shell lifter to pop the shell out of the magazine. The shell comes to rest all the way back between the bottom of the closed bolt and the top of the lifter. This is the technique which I refer to in the rest of my answer.

I have been shooting Beretta gas guns on and off for about 15 years. They all use the same trigger mechanism. I have been aware of the technique of popping the second shell out of the magazine to rest under the bolt, but I don’t do it.

At one shoot, my 303 started to hang up on the second shell, so I used the technique to get through the day. At lunch I was chatting with Scott Robertson, also then shooting a 303, and asked him what he did. He said he always popped the second shell out of the magazine and rested it under the bolt. His reasoning was that it was just one less thing for the gun to do and would make it that much more reliable. I certainly can’t argue with that.

The problem with my gun was a metal burr on the magazine retaining spring. I filed it clean with my Swiss Army knife and haven’t had the trouble recur since. As soon as I cleared it up, I went back to the standard way of loading, without popping the second shell back. Other than this one incident, my 303s and 390 have proven very reliable with the standard loading procedure. The trigger group and magazine entrance are very easy to keep clean, so I don’t really think that a problem in that area will occur that popping the shell back can solve. The dirt and carbon usually collect on the piston, piston guide and inside gas chamber. I don’t think that popping the shell back helps that.

However, if I am totally honest (a rarity for the smoke and mirrors Mahatma of Machinery), I will admit that when my gun is hiccuping and I can’t immediately figure out what is going wrong and can’t strip and clean the gun or spray it with BreakFree CLP at that particular moment, I will pop the shell back to see if that helps. Any port in a storm.

If it were a “what the heck, it can’t hurt” situation, I would happily do it every time. But- I think that there is a draw back when you pop the shell back. To me, popping the shell back increases, rather than decreases recoil. For me, it is a noticeable amount too.

This may be subjective, but here is why I feel the way I do. To me, a gas gun kicks more then it fires one shell, with nothing in the magazine, than it does when it fires a shell and then loads the second. I think that it has something to do with the bolt going back forward. Yes, the timing comes way after the recoil pulse, but I think that the gun is still bouncing around on my shoulder a tiny bit and the push forward of the bolt sort of takes the top off the recoil peak just a touch. Anyway, I can notice it.

To the same extent I can also notice the difference between a shell springing out of the magazine and one that is simply being lifted up. The shell coming back seems perfectly timed to be a mini 1-3/4 oz moving weight recoil reducer. For me it flattens out the timing of the recoil pulse just a little, but noticeable bit. I lose this effect when I manually pop the shell back.

I am sure that not everyone senses recoil the same way that I do. We all perceive it differently. But for me, the reason that I don’t pop the shell back is that I feel that I am giving up some recoil reduction. If I felt that I had a reliability problem with the magazine feeding, then I would surely do it and give up the little bit of recoil reduction I feel. However, my gas guns have proven extremely reliable, averaging slightly better than 3 malfunctions per 1000 rounds over the years. Most of those malfunction had nothing to do with feeding so popping the shell back wouldn’t have helped. Besides, I have shot gas guns so long that the occasional malfunction really doesn’t disturb me in the slightest. I consider it a free look at the target.

None of this is to say that you should stop popping the shell back. If you don’t notice the reduction of recoil when you leave the shell in the magazine, then it costs you nothing to do it and may actually help once or twice.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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No Magic Chokes

All gnawing one,

Question is: Over the past several years, I have had two different guns, equipped with Briley chokes; a Super X and a 390. With both of these guns, the IC, X2 choke would break targets convincingly and reliably at unbelievable distances, ie 50 yds.

At first I thought the choke was simply throwing a tighter pattern than marked, so did some measuring and patterning. The result of which was that they do indeed throw IC pattern.

The impression they left me with is that they open up just as they are supposed to but that the pattern stays together much longer than one would expect. My latest experience of this nature was just this past Sun. when I broke 16/20 quartering away teal that were launched from 26 yds away and screaming. They were thrown as pairs, so the second shot was attempted at at least 45-55 yds. The ones I hit broke convincingly. The load was 1-1/8th oz. of 7-1/2 shot.

Your analysis or musings would be interesting and appreciated.


Dear Con,

Well, I dunno about this magic choke stuff. Magic tends to evaporate when put on paper. Andy Duffy and I once spent part of an afternoon shooting 50 yard (measured) crossers with skeet chokes. Once you got dialed in, you could break them pretty reliably. Does that mean that a .005″ skeet choke is ideal for 50 yard crossers? Not hardly.

A pattern has two parts. If you were to take an aerial view of a moving pattern, the pattern flight and spread would look sort of like a trumpet, not a cone. In the words of Bob Brister, patterns sort of stay together until they suddenly go to hell in a hurry. Thus the flare outward at the end. Trust the Technoid on this one- there is no kind of magical choke that will permit the pattern to stay together, then open to the usual outward vector and then some how get back on the straight and narrow again. A pattern continues to open from the time it leaves the gun until it hits the ground. It doesn’t open at the same rate at all places in its flight, but it does continue to open.

There is a second part of the pattern too. This is the part that is actually dense enough to break the bird. You might call it the killing pattern. This part of the pattern looks like a candle flame and is positioned inside the trumpet. As the bell of the trumpet expands, the tip of the killing pattern candle flame contracts. Obviously, this is because pattern density is eroding to make the trumpet bell so wide.

Now comes the good part. Just because the tip of the candle flame (the part of the pattern that is dense enough to break the bird) is getting narrower, that doesn’t mean that it disappears. If you are absolutely dead perfect on target, you may be dealing with the sharp point of the flame, not the broad part as you would at more reasonable distances, but the sharp point will break the bird just fine. You just have no room for error. Obviously, at a certain distance the flame goes “out”, but that may be further than you think.

So, when you get a good break on a distant target with an open choke, don’t give the choke the credit for doing something magical. Give yourself credit for being absolutely, perfectly dead on center.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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Choke Loosening

Dear Technoid,

One other observation/question. My chokes, including the Beretta factory chokes, shoot loose. Where does the torque come from? I’m not enough of a Machinist to know if this is a function of thread pitch,shape, depth, etc. Obviously it contributes to the dirt, because as it backs off it breaks whatever gas seal there is.


Dear G,

Your Beretta chokes shoot loose? You keep them clean and lubed. My chokes are generally slightly dirty and I don’t usually lube them. They don’t shoot loose. I believe that this is a small victory for Demon Sloth.

If you absolutely insist on properly cleaning your chokes and the barrel threads (as my mother used to insist that I clean my room), try degreasing the threads on the tubes and putting on a little bit of clear nail polish. Let it dry before you reinstall the choke in the gun, of course. The nail polish will give you just enough “grab” so that the choke tube probably won’t loosen up – even if it is cleaned and greased. I have done this with a Briley choke that has a sloppy fit in my Model 42 and it has worked perfectly. This technique has also worked very well for the bearing surface of skeet tubes which have loosened up. The nail polish lasts a surprisingly long time.

I don’t have the vaguest idea where the torque comes from that loosens the tube up. It may be just general banging around. When the tubes are screwed in, there is residual stress on the threads. The vibration of the shot passing through may enable them to ease that stress by unscrewing slightly. At least that theory sounds good.

On the other hand, loose screw chokes could give credence to the “wad spin” theory that the people selling straight rifled skeet tubes adhere to. For the life of me, I never could figure out why straight rifling was needed to stop wad spin because I couldn’t understand what got the wad to spin in the first place. The Bernoulli effect? The earth’s precession? Bad moon rising? I remain unconvinced that wads generate any noticeable spin in the bore- but I am always willing and anxious to be proven wrong. Maybe choke loosening is connected to wad spin in some way? Until someone makes the connection in a way that even I can understand, I put wad spin in the “hooey” file, along with perfectly even pattern distributions and 3-1/2″ autos that can reliably shoot ultra light loads.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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All The Speed You Need


Based on my qualitative analysis backed up by rudimentary quantitative analysis I am coming to believe that muzzle velocity higher than the speed of sound for small spheres is counterproductive. There is an increase in recoil for an undetectable increase in on-target power.

For, say, shot sizes BB and smaller the ballistic coefficients are very low indeed. And everything that can be said bad about the aerodynamics of a sphere at subsonic velocities goes double or triple once you break the sound barrier. For very small shot, #7.5 – #9, hitting the atmosphere at supersonic velocity is like hitting a brick wall.

What this means is that supersonic shot looses velocity down to the speed of sound almost immediately, within a few feet of the muzzle. I imagine the effects of out-of-roundness are magnified in these first few feet, too. Irregular surfaces produce secondary shock waves and it is the shock waves that soak up so much energy.

The speed of sound under “standard conditions” is 1093 ft/sec. Therefor 2.75 DE loads of 1.125 oz shot at 1150 ft/sec seem to be all that is needed under any conditions.

Do you have any comments?


Dear Jay,

Do I have comments? Does Vesuvius erupt?

I think that you are pretty much right about extra velocity being mostly wasted. I don’t think that the average hunter afflicted with “magumitis” agrees with us though. Bigger and badder is the generally preference for the once-a-year hunter.

One of the problems with true sub-sonic shotshells is that there isn’t much choice of product. The Winchester Featherlight Low Noise 26 gram load chronographs about 950 fps at 3 feet on my Pro Chrono. The Federal Top Gun Low Recoil Subsonic Ammunition 12 Gauge 2-3/4″ 1-1/8 oz #7-1/2 Shot specs at 900 fps. Every other shotshell that I have ever tested is super-sonic at the muzzle. Every one. I have not seen any sub-sonic reloading data, so I haven’t tried that route.

The sub-sonic ammo is nice for training for skeet, but they will cause some lead readjustment for longer ranges. Also, as a by-product of being sub-sonic, they may not have enough pressure to work the gas guns many of us use. Hence they may be limited only to O/Us. One thing’s for sure- those light sub-sonics are absolutely the softest shooting 12 gauge shotshell I have ever tried, short of a few of my reloads that failed to go off.

You are absolutely right that the faster a pellet starts out, the faster is slows down. I don’ t know if all loads drop to sub-sonic as soon as they leave the muzzle, but most of them sure do. Using Lyman’s figures, a #7-1/2 pellet with a 3 foot super-sonic velocity of 1330 drops to a sub-sonic 930 fps at 20 yards. Start the same pellet 200 feet per second slower at a super-sonic 1135 and at 20 yards it is going 830, only 100 feet per second slower. The slow load has made up 50% of the difference! At 40 yards it is 715 fps to 660 (55 fps difference). At 60 yards it is 580 fps vs 540, only 40 fps difference.

On a pure percentage basis though, it is not nearly so dramatic. The 1330 fps load loses 30% of its velocity at 20 yards, 46% at 40 yards and 56% at 60 yards. The 15% slower 1135 fps loads loses 27%, 42% and 52% respectively. The faster loads scrubs off only 3-4% more if you look at it that way (which I really don’t).

The above example is the main reason why I don’t believe in ultra fast loads of fine shot. I load everything I shoot to 1200 fps and that is it. This permits me to fine tune my leads a bit better (though size of shot does vary the time to target). These relatively light loads also insure that my pellets don’t get deformed by set-back any more than necessary. If you prefer 2-3/4 1-1/8 oz loads at 1150, I have absolutely no argument. I just like to keep things around 1200 fps because when I travel I can always get both 12 bore and sub-gauge ammo in that velocity. I also like the 1200 fps loads as they generate just a touch more gas pressure for reliable operation of the gas gun on cold and wet days. Of course they also generate more recoil and pellet deformation too. If I were limited to 1150 fps, I wouldn’t complain in the slightest, but I don’ t think that there is much difference between 1150 and 1200 in the real world. You would be surprised at what you start to find when you chronograph factory shells.

The eruption is over. You can come out of the shelter now.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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