28 Gauge Sporting Clays Loads


I have read in many of your articles on your choke selections for the 12 Ga. Your approach is very effective( I tried it) as well as common sense (not the typical gunwriter stuff). Your fondness of the 28 Ga. has inspired me to also try this wonderful gauge. So taking your advice to the next step do you also have choke recommendations for using a 28 Ga. for sporting clays using the typical 3/4 oz load.

Yours in subgauge mania

Dear Michael,

You are absolutely right that I share your subgauge mania, particularly for the 28. It is a magic gauge. There is just enough recoil and performance to feel like a real gun, but not enough abuse to keep you from shooting a flat of ammo a day (the minimum recommended daily dosage). For what it’s worth, the 28 was also Bing Crosby’s favorite, so you can croon while you shoot and not feel out of place.

Chokes for sporting? Always a tough question because sporting clays courses differ so much. In parts of New England, the subgauge sporting guns are used on the same courses as the 12s. There’s no shortening of the course for the little guns. The Connecticut Travelers, just give the small guns a handicap that I cooked up some years ago: 28 = 10, 410 = 20, SxS or pump gets an extra 5 on top of that. On the difficult courses the Travelers seem to shoot (the HOA 12 ga score averages about 85), these handicaps are in the ball park as much as anything can be. They definitely don’t give the small guns an edge though.

One of the big problems with any subgauge shooting is that it is normally done with a gun and/or tube set that differs markedly from the 12 ga gun the sporting clays competitor normally uses. So you have gun familiarity to deal with as well as a lesser shot charge. I normally shoot a Beretta 303 30″ gun for 12 ga sporting clays, but my 28 gauge gun is a 32″ Perazzi and my 410 is a 28″ Winchester Model 42 pump. You couldn’t get three more different guns.

So, with that out of the way, to your question. What are the best sporting clays chokes for the 28? Dunno. How’s that for honesty from a gun writer. For skeet distance shots, I’d recommend .005″ and #9s. That works for most of the skeet shooters and in so far as a particular sporting clays shot resembles a skeet shot, that’s how I’d go. For the middle distance stuff, most of the 28s I’ve shot respond very well to .010″ and #8 shot. For the long stuff, .015″ and #7-1/2s. If you have to pick one, go with .010″ and #8s for everything.

Obviously, the above varies with the gun. I used to think that .015″ was about modified in the 28. That’s what Winchester used on their Japanese reproduction model 12 28s. When I had my Perazzi built, I got .016″ fixed chokes in each barrel. They are tight! Real tight. Definitely full choke performance. With #7-1/2s I can hit a 40 yard crosser hard. Station 8 at skeet is a real chore. I love being able to take long birds with the 28 in such a convincing manner, but a more practical general choke for sporting for the gun might have been in the .010″ to .012″ area, especially when used with #8s.

Frankly, I built my 28 for Argentina dove. I wanted a very low recoil gun that could really reach out there and whack dem birdies before they got close enough to jink and jive their way around my shot pattern. I built the gun for shots around the 35 yard range and think that things came out just right for that criteria.

For some reason, I’ve always found that the 28 can kill birds with great vigor almost regardless of the choke. I have pals who shoot 28 gauge sporting with nothing but skeet chokes and #8s. It’s almost as though the patterns from the 28 spread out a bit as they exit the barrel and then magically all go dead straight ahead so that the pattern doesn’t get any larger. Of course, that’s myth, but sometimes it seems that way to me. It’s the opposite with most of the 20s I’ve fooled with. I really have to work to get them to pattern right.

One thing to remember though is that you need a certain pattern density to deal with a target. As you use smaller and smaller amounts of shot, you have to increase your pattern percentage to keep the pattern density the same, or if you use the same pattern percentage, you have to accept a smaller effective pattern. If a “full choke” is defined as throwing a 75% pattern, it’s pretty obvious that 75% of a 1-1/8 oz 12 gauge load is going to be a whole lot different than 75% of a 3/4 oz 28 gauge load. When you go down in pellet count, you still must maintain a certain pattern density for reliable breaks, so you end up giving up pattern diameter. Has to be. Got to be.

For example, using Ed Lowry’s “Ballistics for Windows”, a 75% Full choke pattern with a 1-1/8 oz load of #8s (pellet count: 462) gives an effective pattern width of 20″ on a 6 square inch target at 40 yards. A 75% Full coke 28 gauge pattern with a 3/4 oz load of #8s (pellet count: 308) gives an effective pattern width of only 10″ using exactly the came criteria for pellet distribution. Same pattern percentage, 1-1/8 vs 3/4 oz its 20″ vs 10″. That’s 314 square inches of kill area vs 79 square inches !!!!! It’s half the diameter, but 1/4 of the area. Aarrggh! Less is less.

Looked at another way, a 1-1/8 oz load of #8s can use a Light Mod 57% pattern to achieve exactly the same effective 10″ 40 yard pattern on a 6″ target as the 3/4 oz 28 gets when using a 75% Full choke. Lt. Mod 1-1/8 oz = Full 3/4 oz if you leave out consideration of the fringe of the pattern which falls below your definition criteria.

Bottom line: If you are dealing with a 28 with screw chokes, by all means get .005″, .010″ and .015″ and experiment. Screw chokes are generally (but not always) as effective as good quality fixed chokes. Start working with #8s, but don’t forget the others. If you are going to go with a fixed choke gun and don’t intend it to specialize in long birds, I think I’d go with .010″ and just get ready for thinner patterns at distance and the occasional unexplained miss. Make sure to try both #7-1/2s and #8s. Your gun may like one more than the other.

Best regards,

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

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1 Response to 28 Gauge Sporting Clays Loads

  1. Dave Alexander says:

    I also prefer 28 gauge!


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