“El Cheapo”/Big Box Store Bargain Shells


Re stuff in your “Reloading Preferences” post; I shoot 12 & 20 so I quit reloading years ago, about the time shot ballooned from around <$20 to around $40. The price of el-cheapo shells is still more or less equals my reloading costs due to low volume and no 28’s or 410’s.

Back in the Upper Wiscontsinian out in Beringia I once patteren tested el-cheapos and came to the general conclusion that they were likely to be about one choke looser than premium, name brand trap loads in shot size 7.5.

I did not shoot enough patterms for a rigorous statistical analysis of pattern uniformity. El-cheapo patterns seemed about as uniform as Fed GM Paper and AA trap loads, just more open.

So, I concluded el-cheapos were fine for me until I need F or XF performance which I never do: wild Texas dove & quail, game farm quail, chukar, and pheasant. 20 yd line at handicap trap.

So, does your experience parrallel mine; that el-cheapos are just fine until you need Full or X-Full performance?

Jay Bute
Austin, Texas

Note: I shoot moslty 20 ga. El-cheapos are fine for 20’s because the standard seems to be 7/8 oz at 1150-1200 fps. 12 ga. is a bit of a nuisance since the el-cheapo standard seems to be 1 oz. at 1290 fps. I believe it was you that observed this was done in order that ammo makers not be deluged with complaints that the ammo did not work in rusty, 50 year old, Browing Auto-5 shot guns.


Yes, my experience equals yours. Years ago I tested some Remington Gun Club (el cheapo) ammo against Remington STS high end shells. The patterns were about 10% more open with the Gun Clubs. That’s probably due to cheaper shot using less of the expensive antimony hardener used in the Gun Clubs. The difference is often 6% antimony used in target grade #8s and #7-1/2s and 2% antimony used in cheaper shot in those sizes. The larger the shot pellet, the less antimony it needs to maintain it’s shape during setback.

That said, ammo makers occasionally change the ingredients of their loads and I haven’t tested anything recently. So who knows what it is today.

Still, I’d go with the 10% or one choke more open with target-sized ammo until one proves otherwise.

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid


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