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You Gotta Do The Work


I recently bought an older Ljutic Monogun for trap shooting and so far it seems that the targets I do miss are not the gun’s fault. On the other hand, upon close examination I have discovered a very small nick on the muzzle which has caused a very small bit of metal to “rollover” to inside the barrel resulting in a very, very small bump in the bore just inside the muzzle. Now, this would be the kiss of death on a target rifle and a re-crown would be needed. However, with a shotgun does something like this negatively affect a pattern?

Thanks for your help.


Dear Art,

No one knows exactly how chokes affect patterns. You’d think that they would after fooling with chokes for a century and a half, but they really don’t. I’ve had conversations with several of the major choke makers and they told me that the theory only takes you so far. When a new idea comes up, they have to cut and try. Only by machining the test choke and then testing it can they determine pattern performance. It can’t be done by formula if it’s a new configuration.

That bodes bad for those of us who are more inclined to rely on club house chatter or desk jockey know it alls like myself. You can theorize until you are blue in the face, but the only way you will get hard answers is to go out and do the pattern work. That’s really the crux of it.

As to the ding in your Ljutic’s muzzle, it certainly sounds as though it would be easy enough to hone out. If it’s a big dent, it definitely could affect pattern. If it’s a little one, probably not. How big’s big? Dunno. You’ll never know if it makes the slightest difference unless you put the gun on paper, count the holes and then do it at an absolute minimum of five times with each shell you plan on using on a regular basis.

There are chokes, the Pattern Master comes to mind, that rely on very substantial nodes or bumps inside the choke to do the actual choking. The theory is that the nodes will retard the wad and thus separate the wad from the shot. This is supposed to do marvelous things. Frankly, I’ve tried these with target-sized shot and have been underwhelmed, but the makers claim better results with large hunting sized shot, which I haven’t tested.

Bottom line: You have to pattern test to find out what any barrel change (or damage) will do to the pattern. No way around it. You’ll probably feel better if you get a competent gunsmith to hone out the bump, but you’ll never know if it does the slightest bit of good/harm unless you do the pattern work.

Best regards,

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

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Browning BT-99


I am looking to purchase a Browning BT99 for trap and have a few questions. Does having a moveable comb have a advantage? what about barrel length? fixed chokes or multi chokes? I am not a fan of ported barrels, but does it really make a difference? Most of the guns I have looked at are 8#’s or better how much weight is enough?

Charles A. Huettner

Dear Charles,

The questions you ask are good ones, but many of the answers really depend on individual preferences.

First off, for 16 yard and Handicap American ATA trap, the Browning BT-99 is great choice. It is very, very popular and for good reason. They are great shooters, very reliable and fairly priced. No, they aren’t as soft shooting as a gas-operated semi-auto like a Remington 1100 or Beretta.

And adjustable comb is an advantage if the standard fixed comb stock doesn’t fit you. You can make it fit by adjusting height and cast. If the standard comb fits you, save the $250 extra Browning charges for it.

Barrel length is again a very personal decision. The standard BT-99s come with 32″ or 34″ barrels. That choice seems popular and efficient. It is just about equal to a semi-auto or pump with a 29″ or 31″ barrel (due to the extra length of the magazine guns’ receivers). Barrel length really isn’t as important as barrel weight. Length = weight within the same model line. Longer means heavier as long as the barrels are the same in other respect. It all depends on how much weight you want up front. 

Fixed or multi-chokes? Current BT-99s have the Invector Plus screw chokes. New guns come with only one screw choke, a Full or an Improved Modified, so you’ll have to spring for extras if you want them. The shell makes as much difference in the pattern as the choke does, so shoot whatever your BT-99 comes with for a while before deciding.

BT-99s were started to be made in 1969 and the early guns had fixed chokes, usually Full. Personally, I like fixed chokes because there is less fussing with them. You have what you have. If I had screw chokes, I’d probably just stick in the Full choke and let it rust in place. That way you are covered for 16 and Handicap. Others, who are fussier, would like a more open choke for 16 and short Handicap. Buyer’s choice.

For a trap gun in which you will use 1-1/8 oz of shot, I’d like something at 8# or a little better. Then again, it depends on your size, strength and shooting technique. It’s personal. It’s easy to add weight (usually inside the butt stock), but hard to remove it.

The BT-99 will be a good trap gun for you. And you will have lots of company. It is very popular and for a reason.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Choke Advice To The New Sporting Clays Shooter


I’m a competitive skeet shooter who tried sporting clays for the second time today. To be honest, I didn’t score very well. Anyway, I’ve been watching some sporting clays tournaments on TV lately, and many of the top competitors say that they use only full chokes. What choke setup and ammo would you recommend for a novice at sporting clays?


Dear Robert,

As a VERY GENERAL rule of thumb, choose a choke and pellet size appropriate to the distance and target area exposure. That said, a new shooter is usually best off not changing chokes. If you picked an IC choke and #8s, you’d be in the ballpark for most shots on most courses. The one or two birds you might miss by not having exactly the correct choke would by compensated for by hitting far more birds because you were able to concentrate on watching the presentations rather than fuss with changing chokes.

Changing chokes and shells is what gets you the last one or two birds. Analyzing target flight is what gets you the first 70 or so targets. In sporting clays, unlike trap and skeet where targets are shot at known distances, misses are usually by a considerable margin due to failure to understand the target trajectory. There really ought to be a rule that says that shooters aren’t allowed to change chokes at all until they have a dozen shoots under their belts. It would really be doing them a favor.

There is a very natural tendency for sporting clays shooters to fixate on the selection of choke and shells (they always go together and you can’t discuss one without the other). It’s something you have control over. You can make a concrete decision and that makes you feel better. As a gun writer I certainly gleefully contribute to “gear mania” with my Technoid columns. People love swapping chokes and shells and gun modifications around because they think it is performance that you can buy, not earn with practice. But the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t make too much difference to the new shooter. To the pro shooter who will win or lose the shoot by one bird, it sure makes a difference though. Most of the pros pay attention to chokes and shells and the new shooters copy the pros.

As to some of the pros shooting a lot of choke all the time (George Digweed is a good example), he has simply made the observation that his skill level is such that the occasional hole in his pattern will cost him more birds than a consistently smaller pattern on the nearer shots. Very, very, very few other shooters are in his league and most would be better served with more forgiving patterns. When you learn to shoot like George, then you can choke like George. It isn’t the choke selection that makes him shoot the way he does, that’s for sure.

If you absolutely can’t resist swapping chokes, make sure to pair the chokes with the shells or you are only doing half the job. My general rule of thumb for edge-on or slightly turned birds is Skeet choke and #9s to 20 yards, Light Modified and #8s from 20~35 yards, Full and #7-1/2s from 35 yards out. The more the bird is thrown “open” the more you can open your chokes. If you have the slightest doubt as to what the bird is doing, use a bit more choke and pellet. Better safe than sorry.

You may hear all sorts of drivel about never needing #9s on a sporting course or never needing a Full choke. Baloney. As a skeet shooter, you know darn well that a jug-full of #9s through a Skeet choke is the way to run the birds. How many trap shooters use anything except Full and #7-1/2s from 24 yards and back? Clay shooters would be well served to learn from the other disciplines in these instances.

Sporting clays gives rise to a lot of choke/pellet myths compared to trap and skeet. In trap and skeet, millions of shooters have shot billions of shells at exactly the same targets. They can make direct comparisons as to what works and what doesn’t. Seeing the same target over and over again ensures that a little experimentation will produce the best results. Everyone does it and everyone comes up with more or less the same conclusions.

Not so in sporting clays. You can never spend enough time on one particular presentation to know absolutely for sure what the ideal choke/pellet combination is. I’ve seen guys break 40 yard crossers with skeet choke and #9s. They then declare that’s all you “need” for 40 yard crossers. Lunacy. If you absolutely perfectly center a bird it might work, but over the long run, with normal aiming error, a full choke with #7-1/2s gives a larger kill zone. Has to be. Got to be. But since that shooter may not see exactly the same target again for months and months, he is more inclined to rely on anecdotal evidence, rather than any in depth study.

It’s amazing how many people will agonize over whether to use a Skeet choke or an IC choke for a particular shot. Or an IC vs a Light Mod. A full degree of choke only buys you another 5 yards! Half a degree of choke (as in Skeet to IC or IC to Light Mod) only gets you 2-1/2 yards! Come on. That can’t really matter to a new shooter.

Here are some very rough numbers to support the above. I won’t argue that they are exact, but they are pretty close:

Cylinder bore .000″ produces about a 75% pattern at 20 yards

Improved Cylinder .010″ is 75% at 25 yards

Modified .020″ is 75% at 30 yards

Improved Modified is 75% at 35 yards

Full is 75% at 40 yards

This means that when you are fussing around whether to use an IC or a Mod, you have to be able to discern whether that bird is 25 or 30 yards away. Can you judge distance that accurately? On a bird against the sky? Maybe so, maybe not.

Bottom line; save the fussing around with chokes and shells for the time in the future when you have learned most of the presentations and know what they take. As a new shooter, spend your valuable time before you shoot in watching the targets and how the other shooters in front of you address them. That will do you more good than sweating the small details. There will be time enough for that later when one bird more or less will be very important to you. For now, look at the forest, not at the trees.

Best regards,

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

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28 Gauge Sporting Clays Loads


I have read in many of your articles on your choke selections for the 12 Ga. Your approach is very effective( I tried it) as well as common sense (not the typical gunwriter stuff). Your fondness of the 28 Ga. has inspired me to also try this wonderful gauge. So taking your advice to the next step do you also have choke recommendations for using a 28 Ga. for sporting clays using the typical 3/4 oz load.

Yours in subgauge mania

Dear Michael,

You are absolutely right that I share your subgauge mania, particularly for the 28. It is a magic gauge. There is just enough recoil and performance to feel like a real gun, but not enough abuse to keep you from shooting a flat of ammo a day (the minimum recommended daily dosage). For what it’s worth, the 28 was also Bing Crosby’s favorite, so you can croon while you shoot and not feel out of place.

Chokes for sporting? Always a tough question because sporting clays courses differ so much. In parts of New England, the subgauge sporting guns are used on the same courses as the 12s. There’s no shortening of the course for the little guns. The Connecticut Travelers, just give the small guns a handicap that I cooked up some years ago: 28 = 10, 410 = 20, SxS or pump gets an extra 5 on top of that. On the difficult courses the Travelers seem to shoot (the HOA 12 ga score averages about 85), these handicaps are in the ball park as much as anything can be. They definitely don’t give the small guns an edge though.

One of the big problems with any subgauge shooting is that it is normally done with a gun and/or tube set that differs markedly from the 12 ga gun the sporting clays competitor normally uses. So you have gun familiarity to deal with as well as a lesser shot charge. I normally shoot a Beretta 303 30″ gun for 12 ga sporting clays, but my 28 gauge gun is a 32″ Perazzi and my 410 is a 28″ Winchester Model 42 pump. You couldn’t get three more different guns.

So, with that out of the way, to your question. What are the best sporting clays chokes for the 28? Dunno. How’s that for honesty from a gun writer. For skeet distance shots, I’d recommend .005″ and #9s. That works for most of the skeet shooters and in so far as a particular sporting clays shot resembles a skeet shot, that’s how I’d go. For the middle distance stuff, most of the 28s I’ve shot respond very well to .010″ and #8 shot. For the long stuff, .015″ and #7-1/2s. If you have to pick one, go with .010″ and #8s for everything.

Obviously, the above varies with the gun. I used to think that .015″ was about modified in the 28. That’s what Winchester used on their Japanese reproduction model 12 28s. When I had my Perazzi built, I got .016″ fixed chokes in each barrel. They are tight! Real tight. Definitely full choke performance. With #7-1/2s I can hit a 40 yard crosser hard. Station 8 at skeet is a real chore. I love being able to take long birds with the 28 in such a convincing manner, but a more practical general choke for sporting for the gun might have been in the .010″ to .012″ area, especially when used with #8s.

Frankly, I built my 28 for Argentina dove. I wanted a very low recoil gun that could really reach out there and whack dem birdies before they got close enough to jink and jive their way around my shot pattern. I built the gun for shots around the 35 yard range and think that things came out just right for that criteria.

For some reason, I’ve always found that the 28 can kill birds with great vigor almost regardless of the choke. I have pals who shoot 28 gauge sporting with nothing but skeet chokes and #8s. It’s almost as though the patterns from the 28 spread out a bit as they exit the barrel and then magically all go dead straight ahead so that the pattern doesn’t get any larger. Of course, that’s myth, but sometimes it seems that way to me. It’s the opposite with most of the 20s I’ve fooled with. I really have to work to get them to pattern right.

One thing to remember though is that you need a certain pattern density to deal with a target. As you use smaller and smaller amounts of shot, you have to increase your pattern percentage to keep the pattern density the same, or if you use the same pattern percentage, you have to accept a smaller effective pattern. If a “full choke” is defined as throwing a 75% pattern, it’s pretty obvious that 75% of a 1-1/8 oz 12 gauge load is going to be a whole lot different than 75% of a 3/4 oz 28 gauge load. When you go down in pellet count, you still must maintain a certain pattern density for reliable breaks, so you end up giving up pattern diameter. Has to be. Got to be.

For example, using Ed Lowry’s “Ballistics for Windows”, a 75% Full choke pattern with a 1-1/8 oz load of #8s (pellet count: 462) gives an effective pattern width of 20″ on a 6 square inch target at 40 yards. A 75% Full coke 28 gauge pattern with a 3/4 oz load of #8s (pellet count: 308) gives an effective pattern width of only 10″ using exactly the came criteria for pellet distribution. Same pattern percentage, 1-1/8 vs 3/4 oz its 20″ vs 10″. That’s 314 square inches of kill area vs 79 square inches !!!!! It’s half the diameter, but 1/4 of the area. Aarrggh! Less is less.

Looked at another way, a 1-1/8 oz load of #8s can use a Light Mod 57% pattern to achieve exactly the same effective 10″ 40 yard pattern on a 6″ target as the 3/4 oz 28 gets when using a 75% Full choke. Lt. Mod 1-1/8 oz = Full 3/4 oz if you leave out consideration of the fringe of the pattern which falls below your definition criteria.

Bottom line: If you are dealing with a 28 with screw chokes, by all means get .005″, .010″ and .015″ and experiment. Screw chokes are generally (but not always) as effective as good quality fixed chokes. Start working with #8s, but don’t forget the others. If you are going to go with a fixed choke gun and don’t intend it to specialize in long birds, I think I’d go with .010″ and just get ready for thinner patterns at distance and the occasional unexplained miss. Make sure to try both #7-1/2s and #8s. Your gun may like one more than the other.

Best regards,

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

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Stock Altering

Hello Bruce,

Here is the question :

I am ordering a new Beretta 682 E for a friend who is beginning to learn international skeet down here in Brazil. He has little experience and he is using my ASE gold by now and my stock has 35 mm X 50 mm drops plus a 37cm LOP. He is doing good and he says that he sees about 1 cm of rib when he presses 90 % on the stock. He is taller than me and I feel he needs a longer stock ( 38 cm + LOP )) .

I will order his new gun from Beretta Italy but if keep the same drop ( 35 mm X 50 mm ) BUT increase the LOP to 38+ ,will he see the same amount of rib that he sees on my gun which have 37 cm LOP ?

Thanks & Regards

Sao Paulo- Brazil

Dear Fabio,

The 35mm x 50mm drop you describe is fairly “straight” but it does slope rearward somewhat. If all things are equal, lengthening a stock that is not parallel will move the shooter’s head to the rear and thus down. He will see less rib.

However, things are not always equal. If your friend has a longer/shorter neck or shoots with his head further/less far forward, he may not place his cheek in the same position that you would. Additionally, he may cheek with more or less pressure than you use. He may not even cheek in the same place on his face as you do. It’s a fact that a given stock of certain dimension can shoot very differently for one man than another.

Still, if he likes your stock height the way it is now and will only adjust the length, the 15 mm slope on your stock is shallow enough that there won’t be a great deal of difference. Remember, your stock drops 15 mm over a 37 cm length. That’s less than 1mm every 2.5 cm. For many shooters that won’t be noticeable. For some it will.

I don’t know how much rib you like to see when you shoot, but for me 1 cm would be too much. I like much closer to 3~4 mm as I don’t float my birds. With 1 cm I’d have to float the bird.

An additional problem is that if your friend is new to shooting, his style may not have fully developed. The way he mounts and cheeks the gun today may change in the future as he learns the game a bit more. Still, it’s always easier to lower a stock than to raise it because you have the option of cutting and refinishing in addition to the option of bending.

What I’d do is to take your gun and temporarily add length by inserting cardboard or plastic spacers between the pad and the stock. You may have to use longer screws, but you can also hold things together well enough with masking tape. Get the length the way he likes it and then see if he has the sight picture he wants. If so, then you can duplicate your stock, but with additional length. If not, then you will know how much lower to order the stock.

You can do all the calculating you want, but nothing beats temporarily altering a test gun and then shooting it to arrive at the right stock numbers.

Best regards,

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

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Low Pressure Loads

Hi Bruce.

Once again I have been pondering great thoughts and need to go to the mountain (you) for answers.

Considering reloading data indicating chamber pressure in PSI, (not LUP for now…) what are your thoughts on the following:

1. Pressure in relation to felt recoil. Given that physics must be satisfied, the amount of recoil is the same, but… with lower pressures, do you deliver it over a longer period of time and does this give the push recoil versus the sharp recoil?

2. Shot deformation… With less pressure, is the amount of shot deformation less (this is good, yes)? And would it be significant? Sounds like a job for the patterning board. At what yardage would the “flyers” or deformed shot start to really show up at either missing from the patterning board or outside of the effective pattern?

3. Shooting low pressure rounds through a gas gun, my faithful Beretta. If we have a slow burning powder producing less pressure, will the bleed off gases have a greater effect on the velocity at the magic distance in front of the barrel? I guess I am thinking that the powder is burning most of the way down the barrel and that the bleed off could change that burn by lowering the pressure due to the bleed off. I would guess if I ran some samples of the same reloads through an O/U with the same length barrels as my auto, I could see in relative terms what kind of loss it suffers.

For example shoot 5 fast powder shells through the O/U and then the auto through the chronograph. Look at speeds in ratios then for a relative measurement (auto speed/over under speed). Then repeat the test with 5 slow powder/low pressure rounds through each, and then look at the ratios. Will they fall closely together or make a big change. Assume same FPS out of the reloading data, and hand measure powder and shot to keep it really close. Same hull, wad and primer combination if possible.

What do you think? Any experience with this kind of information?



Dear Jim,

This has to be sort of short because the sun is out, the sky is blue and my wife and I are going shooting as soon as I hit the “send” key.

Bottom line first: Yes, I think that you are technically correct in all three of your assumptions. No, I don’t think that the difference is enough to matter or be noticed in most cases. Not fudge words “most cases”.

1) This is a common question- “Do low pressure loads kick less than high pressure loads, all else being equal?” In theory, the low pressure load gets its velocity by maintaining pressure for a longer period of time, while the high pressure load gets it all at once. If you graphed the curve on a time line/pressure basis, the areas under the curves would be about the same, but the low pressure load curve would look sort of wide and flat, while the high pressure curve would look more like a traffic cone or witches hat. Please note my apt scientific phraseology.

When you look at the curves, it would seem that low pressure gives more of a shove than a jab and would feel like less kick. If you’ve shot any black powder guns, you will certainly notice the difference when that very sloooow black powder recoils. It’s much more of a push than a poke compared to smokeless. But in the real world of smokeless powders suitable for target loads, the difference in burn rate times is measured in such small portions of a second that most people can’t feel the difference. Years ago I did a blind test on some shooters using two loads with identical muzzle veolcities. One was a standard “fast” target powder and the other was two grades slower from the same maker. Half the shooters thought the fast powder kicked less, half picked the slow one.

Another thing to remember that it takes more grain weight of slow powder to equal a fast powder. The weight of the powder charge is included in the formula for free recoil. More powder causes more mathmatical recoil. Not much, but some.

2) Shot deformation and powder burning rate is definitely a situation for the pattern board. In theory again, a slower burn rate would seem to mean less abuse for the shot, less distortion and fewer flyers. One of Don Zutz’s favorite “hot core” trap loads used Green Dot, one grade slower than Red Dot (but not as slow as Unique). But if Green Dot was good, why wasn’t Unique better? Many of the major shell companies use fast powder in their handicap loads and the patterns are very good. The jury seems to be out on this one. It’s for sure that powder is only one of the components in the shell that determine pattern. One thing that’s indisputable is that fast powders are cheaper to use than slow powders because you use less fast powder. The shell makers are very aware of that.

I’ve been satisfied with the patterns from my fast powder loads so I’ve never bothered to do the pattern board work. It wouldn’t take long. Get a pound of Red Dot and Unique or Clays and Universal, make up equivalent loads and have at it. After five shots of each, you’ll find out which one your gun likes. Then start changing wads and shot if you want some real differences. Crimp depth can matter too. And hull brand. And your chokes- they can really make differences when you switch around.

3) This one I’m pretty sure of. Fast or slow powder won’t make a significant difference in your muzzle velocity. Either powder gets the vast majority of its burning done well before the gas ports of an auto.

There it is. Now you know more than I do. I’m going shooting.

Best regards,

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

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Dear Technoid,

I just got back from a very successful dove hunt, but I continue to have trouble with one particular shot. When a bird is comming straight in at about 20 to 30 yards high, and I take the shot at a 45 degrees or higher, I have a low % of hits. If it helps I shoot trap so I set my field guns up with a 70/30 pattern. What do you think is wrong?



Here’s the simple technique I use when I can’t figure out why I am missing. Since you are dealing with straight in birds, you don’t have to worry about left and right stuff. Just ahead and behind.

If the lead looks good to you, but you miss, try giving a bit more lead. Maybe even double it. Leave the follow-through the same speed. If that doesn’t work, try giving it half the original lead. One of the two ought to work. If not, double the addition or subtraction.

Most shooters miss a large percentage of their shots behind. The is especially true with birds like dove. They can be going pretty fast even when not flapping their wings. That’s why the first change is to increase the lead. But if increasing the lead doesn’t work, then decreasing has to. Has to. Got to. Because that’s all that’s left. Unless you are shooting left or right, which you say you are not.

One of the problems with incoming birds is that often when you have the correct lead, the barrel completely obscures the target. This makes many people stop the gun because they instinctively don’t want to “shoot blind”. The key to getting a hit when you have covered the bird with your barrel is often a good follow-through. You shoot on timing of the swing rather than on the visual picture of lead, because there is no visual picture of the lead with the barrel in the way.

You might also find that shooting the bird further out is easier. Because the angle isn’t changing as rapidly when they are incoming at 40 yards as opposed to 30 yards, getting the right lead can be easier.

Unfortunately, an incoming dove shot that continues over the shooter’s head is hard to duplicate in sporting clays unless the shooter is in a cage with a top bar to stop him from unsafely shooting behind. But some courses do offer this, so if you have one near you, it’s worth some practice.

As to whether the gun being set up 70/30 matters, I don’t think so. Many driven grouse and pheasant shooters in the UK set their guns up to shoot “high” like that because then they don’t have to cover up the incoming bird quite as much with the built in lead. It’s really all what you get used to.

So that’s my advice. And believe me, I’m an expert. And expert as missing dove that is.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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