Low Velocity Shells

Dear Technoid:

My question involves the low velocity shot loads and your opinions and comments about them. I am a pansy when it comes to recoil and you have convinced me that I must throw 1 1/8 ozs. of shot while shooting clays to maximize the effectiveness of the 12 ga. That loading at 1150 or 1200 fps. is more than I can handle in my o/u (I know, I know, take gas!) and here in Buffalo I don’t like rooting through the snow for my empties.

While looking through the Lyman loading manual I noticed their velocity charts on shot pellets and saw that (according to the charts anyway) initial velocity was quickly lost in the first 20 yds and that terminal velocity at 40 and 60 yds was not all that different if a load started at 1150 or 1250 fps. The time of flight given seemed to only change leads a matter of inches also.

I then loaded some ammo to approx 1050 fps (7 1/2’s) and shot some this weekend at my long targets and seemed to get good results, recoil was no problem and my hits looked good (I’m only a 70% shooter so I may just have been having a good day). I have not had a chance to pattern the load yet due to weather so my experience to date is limited, I seek your guidance, Great One. Am I on a viable track here or should I stick with the 1 oz. @1150 fps that I can handle??

P.S. We are shooting FITASC at Cabin Range on a fairly regular basis (2 or 3 times a month) with 4 automatic machines and different setups each time. The range is located about 5 miles north of Lockport NY.

Thanks in advance.


Buffalo, NY

Dear Nick,

I myself am somewhat of a garden flower when it comes to recoil. If you don’t want to switch to a Beretta gas gun or get involved with heavy duty modifications to your O/U, such as pneumatic stocks, changing your shell is absolutely best way to lower recoil.

I really cannot make the decision “lower velocity or less shot” for you, but here are the free recoil numbers (in foot/pounds of energy) for a typical 8# 12 gauge gun:

1200 1150 1100 1050
1 1/8 oz 17.63 16.19 14.81 13.5
1 oz 14.33 13.16 12.04 10.97

Personally, I would rather stick with a standard velocity of 1200 fps or 1150 fps and go to the lower 1 oz shot load than go all the way down to 1050 fps with the heavier 1 1/8 oz load, especially in winter when the cold further lowers velocity and the frozen targets are harder to break. Also remember, you need a certain amount of shell pressure for reliable ignition, especially in cold weather. (For our Southern readers, Buffalo, New York doesn’t have winter. It has WINTER.)

I don’t have the time to distance figures for # 7 1/2s at anything lower than 1135 fps, but I do believe that going to 1050 fps shell velocity is enough to make a difference on a 40 yard crosser. The difference in lead on a 40 yard crosser at 30 MPH between # 7 1/2s at a muzzle velocity 1295 and the same pellet at 1200 is about 6.33″. While that does not sound like much, Warren Johnson’s most excellent “Choke Chooser” shows us that our effective pattern with 1 1/8 oz of shot on a 40 yard crosser (edge on) is only 12″ wide. With 1 oz of # 7 1/2s it is a puny 9″ wide. With #8s the numbers are 15″ and 13″ respectively, but I really don’t like #8s much beyond 35 yards.

You can fool around with numbers until you get crazy (which might be better than going out into neck deep snow and theoretical zero wind chill factors), but I think that the most practical approach is to pick something and stick with it. Practice with the same shell that you use in contests. Do not ever use an extra special “hot” load in contests because your leads will change from what you are used to.

I really don’t recommend velocities lower than the standard 2 3/4 dram equivalent of 1145 fps. It isn’t that the lower velocities will not work, but it soon becomes a “reloading only” proposition and you are stuck when you have to fly to a shoot and buy standard ammo. Also, loads that are too light may not give uniform ignition, pressures and velocities in cooler weather.

So, if I had to choose, I would probably go with the 1 oz loads at a standard 1145 – 1180 velocity rather than an ultra slow 1 1/8 load. You might find #8 shot a viable compromise to fill out the pattern. Most of the shots are inside 40 yards anyway. For sure, it is a Hobson’s Choice.

As an aside, you might also look into a Soft Touch or G-Square recoil absorbing stock. In my experience they lower the recoil of an O/U to that of a gas gun without any of the disadvantages of a gas gun.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

This entry was posted in Shotgun related and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.