Pigeon Loads


I have been pondering this til the wee hours of the night and need some advice,when I am reloading what velocity should I try to averaging? I do however know I have to spend time on the patterning board but I am shooting say 1225 average load and then switch to super pigeon or a WW AA handicap will I see any difference in my shooting or should I ignore the velocity and taylor the loads according to the pattern.

If speed has nothing to do with it and patterns are the focus should I just keep my loads avarage 1200, I would rather have a slow hit than a fast miss.What do you think?

Once again Thanks,


Dear Mark,

Order of importance:

First most important: “Shootability” of shell. If it kicks too much or moves the barrels too much, you can’t hit the target. It doesn’t matter how fast you miss it. Generally, the slower the shell, the easier it is to shoot accurately because you aren’t fighting as much recoil. The amount of recoil you can tolerate before your gun pointing skills deteriorate varies with the shooter, but less is always better.

Second most important: Pattern. The standard rule of shooting birds is that “pattern fails before energy”. Go for the best pattern.

(distant) Third in importance: Velocity. Velocity is highly over rated. People think it’s a big deal because if the shell kills them on recoil, it must really whack that birdie. Not necessarily so. The faster you start a pellet off, the faster it loses velocity. Using Lyman’s book for pellet energy in foot/pounds for a #7-1/2 pellet:

          3 yds 20 yds 40 yds 60 yds
1135 fps   3.6   1.9    1.2    0.8
1200 fps   4.0   2.1    1.3    0.9
1330 fps   4.9   2.4    1.4    0.9

Up close the difference is noticeable, but up close anything has enough energy to kill the bird. At distance the difference diminishes significantly and I don’t think that it amounts to enough to matter. But recoil certainly changes. The difference in recoil between 1-1/8 oz at 1135 fps and 1330 fps is an increase of 42%! That’s going from about 15.6 ft/lb free recoil to 22.13 ft/lb in an 8# gun. That’s a huge difference in kick for not much of a difference in kill.

If you want to increase your punch on the target, go up in pellet size. A #6 started at a humble 1135 has 1.5 ft/lb at 60 yards. Obviously, you will have to look at your pattern count to make sure that you have enough density with the lower pellet count. Equally obviously #6s aren’t legal for clays, but based on our previous discussions I know that you are mostly interested in feral pigeons (not box birds where the rules limit you to #7-1/2 just like clay targets). Past 40 yards #6s work marvelously on feral pigeons if you have enough choke.

Personally, I don’t fuss with velocities too much. I try to do most of my shooting with 1200 fps loads for everything. 25 fps one way or the other doesn’t matter as different shell from the same box or when shot on a colder or warmer day can vary that much. Shooting all my shells the same speed helps me get used to the leads over time and eliminates another variables. Shooting faster loads doesn’t meaningfully reduce your lead any more than it meaningfully increases the pellet energy. Besides, leads are all a function of what you get used to. There is nothing magical about a shorter or longer lead in itself.

Bottom line: velocity is highly over rated. Get a shell that is comfortable to shoot and has a good pattern. Those are the things that really count.

Best regards,

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

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