Slow Loads


I was very interested in your piece on velocity. Two anecdotal remarks:

I shot 1 1/8 oz at a leisurely 1075 fps (the old Eley standard velocity your W&S was probably made for) for two years in Travelers, and finally concluded that the clays weren’t breaking the same way as other people’s hits. Did this velocity move the shot below the magic 1 foot pound/pellet mark? Felt like it did. Even on easy shots with similar levels of choke, guys with 2 3/4 dram loads creamed up and I broke ’em into 2-3 pieces.

I also had the interesting experience of policing up the shotgun field at Blue Trails Range in Wallingford last year at the end of a busy day (kids loved it), and I would estimate that of the 3-4 boxes of unbroken birds recovered from the long grass, about one clay in ten unbroken on the ground had a pellet-sized distinct hole that had not broken the clay. If we draw the reasonable conclusion that half of the once-hit clays break when they hit the ground, that means (to me) at least a 20% chance that a single pellet moving at even factory standard 1150/1250 fps velocities won’t break a clay.

This also raises the interesting issue of whether two pellet strikes at 0.7 fps will break a clay more reliably than one strike at 1 fps. I think not– my gun patterned unbelievably well (my patterning sheets were the talk of the Bristol F&G barroom one day), but those even patterns just did not seem to hit hard enough.

One man’s opinion: there is such a thing as too little velocity, and 1075 was too little. Whether there is a similar difference in breaking power between 1150 and 1250 I don’t know.


Dear Gary,

That’s what makes shotgunning so much fun. There is plenty of room for different opinions. In a game like sporting clays, where you can’t really get a handle on what works on a given target as you can with trap and skeet, there is even more room for experimentation.

The difference in ft/lb energy of a #7-1/2 at 40 yards when it is started at 1075 fps or 1150 fps is .92 ft/lb vs 1.00 ft/lb according to Lowry’s program. Started at 1200 fps it’s 1.05 ft/lb and started at 1250 fps it’s 1.10 ft/lb.

I don’t pretend to know at what point it starts to make a difference. That would certainly depend on the angle of the target also. I’ve seen great 40 yard breaks with #8s launched at a subsonic 900 fps from those low noise Winchester Feathers. That doesn’t mean they are ideal, of course.

By the way, there are lots of people who use #8s for everything, including the long ones. A #8 started at 1250 fps only has .88 ft/lb at 40 yards.

If you use the 1 ft/lb as your criteria and 1150 fps as your mv, cut-off distances are #9s 20 yds, #8s 33 yards and #7-1/2s at 40.

Go to 1250 fps and your distances are #9 at 23, #8s at 36 and #7-1/2s at 43.

Bottom line, raising MV from 1150 to 1250 gets you another 3 yards. Dropping back to 1050 fps deducts 3 yards.

By the way, the difference in free recoil between a 1050 fps and 1250 fps 1-1/8 oz load in a standard 8# O/U is an increase of 46%. Ain’t nuthin free in life.

Best regards,

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

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