Spreader Loads

Dear Technoid,

We tested Polywad spreader cartridges and found, like you, that they opened the pattern by at least two degrees of choke.  We also tested Fiocchi spreaders. We used Shotgun Insight, a program written by Dr A. C. Jones, to compare the 20-yard performance of conventional Remington STS Light Target cartridges with Fiocchi and Polywad spreaders when used in a Remington Competition Synthetic shotgun with a modified Briley extended choke.  We shot 60 targets at 20 yards. Standard tables show the percentage of shot inside a 30 inch circle at 20 yards to be 100% for improved cylinder, 92% for skeet and 80% for cylinder chokes. We found that the Remington conventional cartridge to give a pattern efficiency (97%) that is slightly wider than that expected from an improved cylinder choke.  This result, however, needs to be interpreted with caution as pattern efficiencies near 100% are less accurate in distinguishing functional choke performance. The pattern efficiency of the Fiocchi spreader (92%) is identical to that of a skeet choke.  Surprisingly, the Polywad spreader (71%) is wider then that of a cylinder choke! Do you have any information on how they work?


John and Sandra
Columbus, Ohio

Dear John,

Thanks so much for doing all that pattern work and sharing your results with us. Isn’t Andrew’s Shotgun Insight http://www.shotgun-insight.com/ program great! It is certainly a time saver. Shoot the pattern, take a photo and let your computer analyse it.

You don’t mention which size shot you tested. I wonder if that would make much difference. Shot hardness also comes into it. I once pattern tested #8 Remington STS vs Remington Gun Club and found out that the cheaper shell, with cheaper low antimony shot, patterned about 10% more open than the STS with high antimony shot.

As to the spreaders, I’ve never worked with the Fiocchi spreader or with Polywad’s factory spreader loads. But I sure did load a bunch of spreaders using Polywad’s spreader disk insert. As you noticed, they open the pattern about two choke degrees.

Polywad’s spreader is a plastic disk with a little tail right in the center. Sort of like a round table with one thin central support. You place it over the top of the shot with the tail going down into the shot just before crimping. In my reloads, I used a conventional plastic shot cup and just left out enough pellets to make room for the Polywad spreader disk. Of all the spreaders I’ve tried, this one worked the best.

I’m often spoken to Jay Menafee, owner and inventor of the Polywad, but I never asked him how the spreader works much beyond the obvious fact that it disrupts the pattern and spreads it out. Next time I chat with him, I’ll ask for the gory details.

I’ve tried the old plastic spreader wads with the post in the middle. They opened the choke a little, but not much. Probably meant for a trap shooter with a full choke gun shooting from the 16 yard line.

I also made some spreaders with a cardboard “X” insert. They were a pain in the neck compared to the Polywad and didn’t work as consistently.

I’ve even tried spreaders using a Lifesaver and an inch of McDonalds plastic soda straw. Cut the fingers off the wad, insert Lifesaver into the shell on top of wad, insert soda straw into the hole in Lifesaver, surround with shot (not inside straw) and crimp. My theory was that the soda straw would compress on firing and then spring out, dispersing the shot. It wasn’t a great success. It was a lot of work, used up a lot of pellet space, and it didn’t seem to perform miracles of dispersion. But I must confess that I didn’t experiment too much with it because I ate the rest of the Lifesavers before I could load them.

Shot hardness and form will also contribute to a broader pattern. Viz the STS vs Gun Club test. I’ve also tested reclaimed shot (“twice eaten shot”) and found that it also patterned about 10% more open than hard new shot. Of course, reclaimed shot is less consistent as it is usually a mixture of shot sizes.

So, to finally answer your question, no I don’t know exactly how the Polywad spreader works technically, but I do know that it does work. Maybe it’s best not to look too far into some dark mysteries.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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