Bunker Loads

Dear Technoid,

My club has a brand new bunker. I’ve been told we don’t need to shoot 24gm loads in competition unless we are trying to qualify for the USA team. What load should I shoot? I’ve been having good luck with the 24gm high speed load because the recoil is low. I’m worried about high speed 1 1/8oz loads because of high recoil. What would the best load be?


Dear Wolf,

If you like the high speed 24 gram loads, why on earth not shoot them? If you do go to the US Team trials, you will be used to the shell. If you are trials-bound, it makes sense to practice with what you will shoot in the big matches.

I’ve always been a “too much is not enough” kind of guy when it comes to shells. More is always better until you come up against a recoil barrier. Recoil differs as a factor for shooters depending on their ability to absorb it and the gun they are using. Since bunker is virtually an O/U only game you can’t really use a gas gun.

When I was shooting bunker we used 32 gram loads because that’s what the rules permitted. No one ever even thought of using lighter shells. Later the 28 gram load was introduced to lower scores due to it’s smaller effective pattern. Ditto the 24 gram load. There is no argument that 24 grams has a smaller effective pattern than 32 grams, but you are the best judge of what the recoil trade off is. The fact that bunker scores are almost back up to what they were with 32 grams doesn’t necessarily mean that the 24 gram load is as good. It really means that shooters have been getting better at their sport over the past 20 years just as every other group of athletes have.

As a general rule of thumb, for every 1 you change the cartridge’s payload or speed, you will change recoil 2%. It’s not a linear relation, but it’s close enough for quick estimation. So, if you keep velocity the same and lower shot from 32 to 28 grams, you are reducing shot by 12.5% and recoil by sort of 25%. Actually, using 1350 fps loads, the recoil reduction would be a calculated exact 22%. Going from 28 grams to 24 grams at 1350 fps using an 8# gun, recoil would be reduced another 24%. This would be a total recoil reduction of 41% when going from 32 grams to 24 grams while maintaining 1350 fps using an 8# gun. So maybe that 2:1 isn’t totally accurate. It should be more like 41:25 . Now you see why I use 2:1.

If your goal is eventual US Team trials participation, I don’t see how you can get away from using 1350 fps loads. The 1350 fps 24 gram load is about standard for bunker now. You really don’t want to mess with the speed of your shells and have to relearn different leads. So, if you keep the speed the same, you are going to have to use 1350 fps 24 gram, 1350 28 grams or 1350 fps 32 grams. The latter will be real rockers.

So, you are going to have to balance the pellet count advantage of shooting the largest shell whose recoil you can handle, vs the practice for the US trials advantage of getting used to the 24 gram loads. I don’t know how this shakes out for you.

Personally, it seems to me that the if the ISSF rules for bunker require a 24 gram shell, then that’s what I’d shoot, even at non-qualifying events. You like the shell, it’s great practice for the real matches and 24 gram bunker loads are no harder to reload or buy now than any other load. They are more expensive though, but bunker was always a cost-no-object sport. Many people think that bunker is the king of the clay sports and royalty is never cheap.

Best regards,

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

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1 Response to Bunker Loads

  1. “When I was shooting bunker we used 32 gram loads because that’s what the rules permitted. No one ever even thought of using lighter shells. Later the 28 gram load was introduced to lower scores due to it’s smaller effective pattern. Ditto the 24 gram load.”
    SCORES NOT THE ISSUE: I think you will find if you go back through the reasons that the International shooting bodies (UIT then ISSF) first worked towards reducing the shot loads to be used in International and Olympic disciplines it was not to do with “REDUCING SCORES”. I was editing a target shooting magazine (Target Gun) at that time and recall that considerable concerns were being raised by the team coaches / medics and trainers etc regarding the high and increasing incidence of shoulder injuries occurring in Elite grade shooting athletes. This included input in particular from USA and, at that time, Soviet bloc team representatives. These athletes were effectively ‘paid to shoot’ all year round (usually via a ‘Military’ or Police connection) and hence fired vast quantities of the heavier loads in training. Increasingly some were unfit to compete!
    There were even concerns raised that the continual pounding to the upper chest muscles of some ladies (especially those who were , shall we say, of more ample proportions) could lead to a potential increased risk of breast cancer over time.
    From my now slightly foggy recollections of this process to reduce shot loads, I’m still sure it was the MEDICAL / INJURY aspects that brought about shot load reductions. Although the potential to reduce scores was recognised it was not the principal reason and all major shooting bodies, both international and domestic, realised it was in the sport’s best interests to avoid damaging competitors unnecessarily.


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