Benelli Super Black Eagle 3-Reverse Safety

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Thompson Wins Men’s Skeet Silver at World Cup Acapulco | USA Shooting

Source: Thompson Wins Men’s Skeet Silver at World Cup Acapulco | USA Shooting

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Stoeger P3000 Pump-Action Shotgun

Get a closer look at the Stoeger P3000 pump-action shotgun, the latest addition to our #SundayGunday series.

Source: #SundayGunday: Stoeger P3000 Pump-Action Shotgun

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Light Loads


Why is so little written about the other option…staying with 1-1/8 oz. shot and reducing the powder charge,a la Big Green STS light target and undoubtedly others?

If lead versus velocity is academic..and the shot have sufficient energy to break any claybird ( other than assinine Annie Oakley pot shoots from 60-70 yards), isn’t this a better option than reducing shot charge weight? I’m assuming that with proper modification of the gas ports, you can get your beloved gas guns to function with a 2 1/2 dram load.


Dear F.,

The following applies to lead shot, not steel. I have often said that I load everything that I shoot to 1200 fps. It is partly a fib. I often load to 1150 fps. Unless you are shooting marginal loads at long distances, like the ISU shooters, the tiny bit of extra energy from high velocity does nothing. You would be far, far better served by increasing pellet size. High velocity loads just degrade pattern due to setback. They contribute very little to energy. At 40 yards the difference between a lead #7-1/2 starting at 1135 fps and one at 1330 is 1.2 ft/lb vs 1.4 ft/lb. At 60 yards the difference falls to .8 vs .9. A #7-1/2 at 1135fps has the same energy as a #8 at 1330.

Recoil from a 1-1/8 oz load starting at 1150 fps equals slightly over 16 ft/lb, the same as the recoil from a 1 oz load starting at 1275 fps or a 7/8 oz load at 1430 fps. Pick your poison. To me the choice is clear. When shooting lead, I would, and do, pick the slower load with more shot every time. I simply don’t understand otherwise intelligent people who lower their payloads to cut recoil, but then speed things up to “get even”.

I don’t go much lower than 1150 fps because I often travel and have to buy shells. Factory target loads under 1150 are not always available and I want to always practice with what I will shoot in the matches. I don’t think that there is anything ballistically wrong with loads at 1100 fps, but I don’t use them for that reason. My Beretta and Remington gas guns will all shoot 1100 fps 1-1/8 oz loads just fine if I slobber them up with BreakFree CLP in the winter. My guns will not shoot the 950 fps 26 gram Winchester low noise featherweight loads.

If I had to pick one load for every clay target game, it would be hard to beat a 2-3/4 dram 1150 fps 1-1/8 oz load of #7-1/2s.

Best regards,

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

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Browning Choke Dimensions


I just finished reading Bill’s, letter on Browning Invector chokes. I too am a Browning shooter, and a recovering para-technoid. I own 3 Invector Plus guns totaling five barrels, each of which has a slightly different barrel diameter, only one of them at the advertised .741. The chokes are also just about as inconsistent as the barrels.

At first, I was extremely ticked at Browning for this situation. I even wrote them a letter asking for relief. To my dismay, Browning told me that all my barrels were within factory specifications (+/-.003 of nominal .741), and that I should not worry about such a small difference.

My fear was that every barrel would;

1. Require a different choke Dia. to shoot a desired pattern. And,

2, would not perform as well as advertised.

What I have found out through actual use, examination and extensive patterning is this:

1. There is virtually no discernible difference between my guns using a .735 choke in barrels of .738 and .741. Both 30 and 40 yard patterns produce nearly indiscernible results. If I’m concerned about a particular target while using the 738/735 combination I simply drop to 7 1/2 shot without sacrificing anything. It’s always an edge-on target that needs larger shot anyway.

2. The net effect of the Browning Backbore actually reduces the amount of constriction required to obtain typical pattern results. Usually about one constriction less, which is one of Bill’s major concerns. I get consistent IC results from what is normally considered skeet constriction.

3. Most importantly, while test firing my guns I found that the .738 barrel will actually “Grow” under use. I have measured it at .741 after five timed shots during a summer chronographing session. The biggest barrel, .741 has measured .743 under similar conditions. The chokes will generally only move .001 under this heat and pressure. I have no doubt that my barrels grow even more on a 10 shot sporting station. Though I would not ruin a day on the range with a bore gauge.

4. There is just no substitute for testing. I shoot Sporting Clays every week somewhere in the country and have never found a real need for more that .015 of choke in any of my Browning’s. Something that I can firmly demonstrate, and also gives me better, more consistent and more dense patterns than any of the other brands or model of sporting guns that I have owned. And, I’ve wasted a lot of shooting money on some top brand shotguns.

Your advise to Bill was right-on, test them. My advise to Bill is be happy that you chose to purchase the right gun for the game.

Head still, eyes open, front hand moving first


Dear Jeff,

You know, I never even thought about testing hot vs cold barrels for changes in diameter. That’s a new one to me. One of these days when I am shooting so poorly that I need an excuse to stop, I am going to test that myself.

I couldn’t agree with you more that .003″ doesn’t make any difference at the top end, though there might be the slightest difference between patterns from .000″ and .003″ chokes. The same dimensional change affects the open chokes more than the tight ones. You can certainly get more pattern change out of fooling with your shells than you can changing a choke .003″.

Browning’s history of labeling chokes tighter than they measure goes back to pre-Invector Plus days when they used standard bores. I had some guns with the original short Browning Invector chokes. They had conventional diameter barrels (around .722″ in the B-80s, a bit more in the early Browning B325s) and the chokes shot exactly as you would expect them to based on the measured choke constriction, not on the optimistic choke marking. Once you got that sorted out, they were perfectly good chokes.

Enlarged bore diameters do funny things to patterns. One the one hand, backboring from .725″ to .741″ does increase the area of the bore by about 4.5%. This should decrease the shot column by a similar amount and will lower pressure and friction slightly. Apparently it lowers friction more than pressure as many backborers claim increased velocity. Stan Baker claims 50 fps more in his .800″ Big Bore barrels.

On the other hand, theoretically, the larger the bore, the MORE choke constriction you need to equal the percentage constriction in a tighter bore. Example: .020″ constriction in a .741″ bore is a 5.3253% bore constriction. The same .020″ constriction in a smaller .725″ bore is a 5.4410% diameter reduction. So, ( in theory! ) if percentage of barrel constriction is the only consideration, the bigger the bore, the more constriction you will need to produce the same barrel constriction. This is certainly the case in subgauge. You may need .040″ to produce a Full choke performance from a .725″ 12 bore, but you will get the same pattern percentage from the 28 (.550″ bore) with just .030″ constriction. The percentage constrictions from both happen to be about 10.7% and the patterns are roughly similar in percentage, though I might be happier with .025″ at the top end in the 28 than .030″. It isn’t really linear.

I certainly don’t argue with the patterns you say you get from your guns. Barrels are surprisingly individualistic and the shell has a lot to do with it. If Browning’s .015″ gets you what you need for the longest birds you encounter, then that’s the right choke. For the longest targets I look for something that prints a minimum of 80%. When I use .040″ in my .722 Beretta 303, I still have to pick the shell very carefully to achieve this. Of course, I am consistently beaten by better shooters using more open chokes, but that’s my fault, not the gun’s. Warren Johnson’s “Choke Chooser” (tel: 800-332-0642, $12.50) can be a real eye opener if you are into the mathematics of choke selection.

Brownings are certainly popular guns (THE most popular sporting clays O/Us in the US), so they must be doing something right. It is interesting to notice that Beretta offers tight bores and longish forcing cones. Browning Japan promotes big bores and short cones. Browning’s premium Belgian guns offer tight bores and short cones. Krieghoff offers big bores and long cones in the K-80, but go to tight bores and short cones in the super premium Ulm pigeon model. Fabarms new Gold Lion sporting clays auto has a taper bore. Go figure. Someone’s probably right, but who?

Best regards,

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

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Balancing Act


I have a Beretta 390 that has been backbored (.735), ported and had the forcing cone lengthened. Also added a kick-eez recoil pad.

Given that the above procedures can reduce the wt (except adding the kick-eez), and shift the balance point slightly rearward, I’m considering adding a mercury recoil suppressor (C&H magazine cap model wt. 8oz).

What is you opinion on these recoil suppressors? Also, where is the ideal balance point on a shotgun?

Thanks and Regards,


Dear Jay,

The ideal balance point on the gun is what you want it to be. One of the nice things about the gas guns is that it is easy to add weight to the front as well as the back, something you have a harder time doing with an O/U.

One of the reasons that I am not a big fan of backboring the 390 is that it often makes an already light barrel too light. Backboring from .722″ to .735″ pulls 1.7 oz. That’s a lot. Then the shooter has to add a forend weight to attempt to rebalance the gun. Adding weight in one place at the forend nut never quite feels the same as adding weight all along the length of the barrel. It is a question of moment of inertia.

Still, backboring the 390 seems to be one of the favorite hobbies out there, so who am I to push my opinions in the face of the machine shops who make a ton of money selling backboring and then selling forend weights.

I personally don’t like the mercury weights on the front of the gun. The mercury “sloshes” slightly and I find it disconcerting, especially up front where there is a lot of gun movement. I have never really noticed that the mercury recoil reducers did a better job of reducing recoil than the same amount of inert lead in the same place. If you just want to add a couple of ounces back, the old solid steel forend nuts from the original Beretta A-390 will substitute for the current alloy one of the AL-390. Rich Cole should have them. Call him at 207-833-5027. If you want more solid weight to screw on the front, I believe that Briley (tel: 800-331-5718) makes one. When you call, please tell them that you were referred by http://www.ShotgunReport.

As an aside, adding weight to a gun will reduce recoil more or less, sort of, in a 1:1 ratio. If you add 5% of a gun’s weight, you will reduce free recoil by 5%. It isn’t linear, but it is in the ball park. Reducing shell load or velocity is more or less 2:1. If you lower the payload from 1-1/8 oz to 1 oz (11%), you will reduce recoil of the typical 8# gun by 19%, about 2:1.

One final thought, adding weight to the front and back of a gun is a LOT different than distributing the weight all through out the gun. It all has to do with moment of inertia. Consider a broom stick with a brick at each end. It will balance in the middle, but it will be difficult to start and stop it when swinging it. Now grind up those bricks and glue the brick dust all along the broom stick evenly. The stick will still weigh the same and balance in the same middle spot, but it will swing much, much differently and be easier to start and stop when swinging. Just a thought to remind everyone that balance point doesn’t tell the whole story.

Best regards,

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

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20 Gauge Solid Chokes

Dear Bruce,

I am looking at buying a new side-by-side, two trigger, 20 gauge shotgun which is not available with choke tubes. I am trying figure what is the optimum choke selection. Since the gun will be used to hunt pheasants I want it optimized for that. All the shooting I do is over a flushing dog and with generally 7/8 oz, 7-1/2 loads.

I have two questions. First, what would you recommend for choke on each barrel for this gun? Second, can you tell me all the available chokes (i.e cylinder, improved, light modified, skeet 1, etc.) and provide the “general” constriction for each?

Thanks, you have a great web site!


Dear David,

I am in just about the same boat trying to pick chokes for a solid choke Fabrique Nationale B-25 20 gauge O/U. It currently has .012″ and .026″ (about Light Mod and Full in the 20) and that it too tight for what I want.

Obviously, what is “ideal” depends on how you will use the gun. I am not a big fan of #7-1/2s on pheasants at any distance, but I am sure that you have your reasons. I often hunt preserve pheasants behind labs and have had good luck with #5s.

In picking your solid choke constrictions, it really isn’t much more complicated that deciding at what distance you will take your average first shot and at what distance you will usually take your second. Then just choke for that.

A 20 with 7/8 oz of shot is essentially a short range upland gun. There is just so much that you can expect from a shotload that size. Knocking down a pheasant larger than most ducks is a lot different than shooting quail over pointers or grouse in thick cover. While I generally prefer 12 gauge and #4s and #5s for pheasant, when I use the 20 for them I really think that #6s are useful in striking a nicer balance between bore size, shot load and pattern. To me, #6s in the first barrel and #5s in the second is a good choice for pheasant in the 20. Then again, your dogs may work closer than mine.

Since you are dealing with a two barreled gun, I am a big believer in having a good bit of difference in the chokes. I would look for about a ten yard difference between the two chokes. Since each degree of choke normally gets you another five yards, I would want two degrees of choke difference at the very least. I don’t see any point in choking an upland double barrel gun with chokes that are two close together unless you really know how your birds think or are far more disciplined than I am.

For example, let’s say that you decide that your first shot is often at around 20 yards. That is typical skeet distance and a typical skeet choke in a 20 would be about .005″. Large shot tends to pattern a touch tighter than fine shot, so .005″ ought to give you a nice pheasant killing pattern with #6s in a 7/8 oz load at 20 yards. If someone wanted a bit more choke at that distance for pheasant, I wouldn’t argue, but not too much. I wouldn’t go with anything more open with 7/8 oz.

In a 20 gauge gun with 7/8 oz, I would look for a the second barrel to give me about a 30 yard optimum pattern. I think that something around a typical 20 gauge modified choke of about .015″ should be right. .015″ should pattern #6 very well and might also handle #5s. I really wouldn’t use #7-1/2s on pheasant at 30 yards if I could help it. I would feel more comfortable with a larger pellet unless your really want to exercise your dog. I wouldn’t argue at all if you preferred .020″ in the second barrel as sort of an improved modified, but I don’t know how well that choke would handle the large shot. You would have to do some pattern work.

So, bottom line is that I would set my gun up for a first barrel shot at about 20 yards with a .005″ to a .007″ choke and the second barrel for a 30 to 33 yard shot with .015″ to .020″. I really wouldn’t want to stretch 7/8 oz to much beyond 30-35 yards on a tough bird like a pheasant. A lot of people who are better shots than I am can probably take birds cleanly at greater distance with 7/8 oz, but you asked my opinion and there it is.

As an aside, don’t get too excited about a few thou one way or another. It really doesn’t start to be noticeable on the pattern plate until you are changing things .005″ at a time. You can do a great deal with the shell too. I often use Polywad (tel:912-477-0669) spreader inserts in my 20 with #6s with excellent results. You can open a pattern at least two full degrees with those things. I used them in my .026″ 20 gauge top barrel to give me a skeet performance and then shoot the .012″ lower barrel second with a standard shell to give me almost modified. Worked great.

As to the choke dimensions which give the standard pattern designations in the 20, I’m afraid that I just don’t have those numbers at hand. .005″ in the 20 is a pretty traditional skeet choke, and full in a 20 should be around .030″. I wouldn’t be surprised if .015″ would give you that 60% modified pattern, but I am really just winging it here. Nothing new about that.

Watch out for one thing if you are ordering a custom gun from Spain. Some of the Spanish makers I have seen have been somewhat cavalier about giving you the exact chokes you request. A friend’s Arrieta was ordered 1/4- 3/4 and came through skeet and IC. I have seen this with other guns too. Some people order their Spanish guns full and full. They get them reamed out over here. Also remember that Briley (tel: 800-331-5718) can screw choke just about any SxS and give you your choice of five chokes in the bargain. It’s a thought. That would mean that you have to choose the “ideal 20 gauge chokes” each time you go hunting. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

Best regards,

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

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