Light Loads For Kids

Dear ‘Noid, hope all is well in Techland…..

My son is 14, small for his age, and no athlete, but a terrific kid I’m very proud of. He’s been accompanying me to the range while I shoot trap and has expressed an interest in shooting a shotgun. His previous efforts were disastrous, the 20 ga 870 Youth Express I bought for his sister and him is too heavy for him to hold up and kicked too hard with ounce loads.

So, since I reload for 12 ga and nothing else, I got one of those generic NEF single bbls in 12 ga and worked up a 7/8 oz load that’s a creampuff to me but still rocks him a bit with the little NEF. BTW, it has a nice trigger(-5lbs) and he can hold it up.Weight,with a little lead in the stock to get it balanced a bit behind the hinge pin is 5 lbs,11 oz. The stock now has a 12″ pull with an Uncle Mike’s slipon pad.

I’m gonna pick up some components tomorrow and work up(down?) a 3/4 oz reload that he can use to learn with, maybe shoot a bit of trap with and in general have fun until the hormones kick in big time and he can go to heavier gun and load.

BTW, that’s a Full choke and I’d like to leave it alone, let the tight pattern teach him to hold a bit closer.

We’re onestepatatimeing this,old and painful memories of my first shotgun, a 16 ga H&R with “Express” loads nigh made me forsake shotguns forever and gave me a flinch before my 16th B-day keep me wanting to make it easy and painless for him.

And now the question, Do you think I’m doing this right? Any comments or suggestions are certainly welcome.

Also, I tried a couple of boxes of these 7/8 oz/1200 FPS/ 8 1/2s at 16 yard trap, my drug of choice these days. They worked fine. I’m not in competition, just like to bust clays. Any drawbacks you can think of for these less expensive and less kicking loads? Gun here’s an 870TB with fixed Full choke, a claycrunching machine when I do my part.

Thanks, Dave
Dear Dave,

I think you are doing everything right so far. You have a gun that he can lift and that fits him as well as can be expected. You are doing everything in your power to make the lightest possible load. One thing that I might think about a bit is that Full choke to “teach him to hold a bit closer”. The most important thing when teaching a youngster to shoot is to ensure success any way you can. To me that means giving him the easiest targets and the most open chokes you can. Success, success, praise, praise. Do anything you can to make sure that he hits those very important first targets. Once he hits some, he’ll be hooked. If he can’t hit anything, he won’t want to come back. It’s harder to hit with a Full choke.

If you can get consistent ballistics out of a 12 gauge 3/4 oz load, then you are on your way. Check into “Cowboy Action” loads. They are listed on Hodgdon’s or Alliant’s reloading recipe site. These are ultra light 3/4 oz loads that have been tested by the pros.

You might also consider “Little Skeeters”. These are chamber inserts. They will permit you to use a factory 28 gauge shell in your 12 gauge gun. I think that their website is or something like that. Use’s search engine and they’ll pop up. Orvis, Gander and Cabela’s all carry them. They are under $50 for a set of two 12>28 inserts. They are easy to use and they really do work surprisingly well for a modest amount of shooting. The 12>410s don’t work as well. Stick with the 12>28s.

You might also consider the factory load of Winchester 26 gram “Feather” shells. They are low noise and very, very low recoil.

Still, if you like to reload, try the 3/4 oz 12 ga loads. I think that it would be great fun to bring you son in to watch you reload his special shells. It will get him more involved.

Also, consider a PAST strap on pad. Put it under his shooting vest. A PAST pad does an amazing job of reducing recoil. Make sure that he holds the gun tight against his shoulder too. All too often beginners try to get away from the recoil by holding the gun away from shoulder. This just increases the recoil as the gun can now build up a head of steam before it hits them.

How lucky you are to share shooting with your son.

As to your 870, nothing at all wrong with 7/8 oz loads. The Olympic load for Olympic bunker trap is set at 24 grams. That’s slightly less than 7/8. They run them a bit faster at 1350, but their birds are a LOT harder than ATA 16 yard stuff. Some of those second barrel bunker shots are well in excess of 40 yards and the 24 gram loads powder them. I use 7/8 a lot and think that it’s great for fun shooting.

Just remember that the reason that Olympic clay shooting went to 7/8 from 1-1/8 was to make the game harder. Every year athletes get better and shooters are no exception. International shooting is an elite game and the moment too many people start to get high scores, they change the rules to raise the difficulty. You will hear it said that when the ISSF went to 7/8 that the scores went up, ergo 7/8 is better than 1-1/8 oz. Don’t believe that for a minute. Scores plummeted when the 7/8 oz load was introduced and have only slowly crept back up as shooting athletes have gotten better each year. Less is less.

Best regards,

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

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1 Response to Light Loads For Kids

  1. G. Barraclough says:

    I have 12 and 20 ga. Mec progressive loaders. I buy claybuster 12 and 20 ga. 3/4 oz. specific wads by the case. With Hodgn powder I follow the recipes closely. All of my 16 yard trapshooting is done with a AA or Rem. Hulls with 3/4 oz. load in 12 ga. I have shot this load from the 24 yard line and that is the limit with #8 shot and little wind. I use the 20 ga. AA Hulls and the Claybuster 20 ga. 3/4 oz. specific wad. At 16 yard and skeet distances this is all you need. Recoil is minimal and I am an old guy (in my mind I am still in college).
    Just look up 12 and 20 ga. Recipes with AA and Rem. Hulls and Win. 209 primers on Hodgon website. These loads smoke birds.
    My handicap load is a 1oz. of 7 1/2 at 1200-1250. No reason for more. You beat yourself up for nothing.


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