Picking Hulls


In your observation, what percentage of Sporting Clays clubs, if any, have rules that forbid shooters from picking up their own hulls? I’ve heard folks talk about rules to the effect: “Once a shell casing touches the ground, it belongs to the club.”

Now that I’ve been bitten by the Sporting Clays bug, I’d like to get a gas gun and travel to different courses. A friend bought an O/U, precisely to avoid any problems. We’re all long time reloaders, and would like to keep our own hulls.

I’m told those gas-gun shell-catching clips are a one-shot deal (no doubles), and the old bags used for 2 shots were “awkward as hell,” and are no longer sold.

Another friend who travels with his gas gun, told me he’s only been “spoken to” once about picking up his hulls, and that was years ago. He says that same course has now reversed its rule, and requires shooters to pick up their own hulls. Apparently, the guy who mows the lawn there got sick of doing it.

Many thanks in advance for your thoughts and observations on this.


Dear Randy,

I shoot a gas gun quite a bit and have never gotten in trouble for picking up my own hulls. Very often it makes sense to mention to the range owner that you would like to pick up your own hulls when you sign in. Just about all of them will tell you to go right ahead. Most of the hull picking prohibitions I have seen have been on trap and skeet ranges. I have never seen such a sign on a sporting course. The big problem with picking hulls and sporting clays is that the cages are often somewhere in the woods, near cliffs, streams, poison ivy and other natural and man-made hazards. Even with permission, you won’t always be able to recapture your hulls.

It is interesting to note that sporting clays shooters seem less inclined to save their hulls than do trap and skeet shooters. Trap shooters shoot a whole bunch of shells and skeet shooters use those expensive sub-gauge loads, so perhaps there is more financial incentive there than in sporting where you shoot relatively fewer shots.

Be careful of one thing: no one likes to have an entire squad held up while one person is down on his hands and knees rooting around for that last hull. It’s like slow play in golf- a no-no. If you are going to pick up your hulls, even with range owner permission, make sure to do it in a way that does not inconvenience other shooters. I am sure that you would, but I have to mention it. I was once competing in a match with a 28 gauge pump and literally had the guy behind me diving down on his hands and knees for that AA28 hull before I fired on the second bird of a pair. It was unseemly.

Here’s a tip: Range owners, especially trap and skeet ranges, are quick to have the trap boys pick up the once fired hulls because they can resell them for around $.03/each. BUT they can’t resell hulls that have been used once or twice or the odd brand stuff. Those they give away or dump in the garbage. If you get the range owner’s permission and cooperation, a few dollars tip to the trap boy will yield you a box or two of twice fired hulls or off brands. Do the sorting out at home and wait until you have enough of one kind to merit changing the reloading recipe. You will find that many of the hulls that aren’t made by Fed/Win/Rem reload just fine, especially if they are only going to visit your gun once.

As to shell catchers, in today’s market the most popular shell catcher is the T&S clip-on model. It really only saves singles though, so it won’t help you at sporting. There used to be a shell catcher arrangement by Morton, I think, that used a secondary bleed in the magazine tube of an 1100 and a blocking piston inside the magazine. When used with single loading, it saved the shell. When loading for doubles, it ejected the first shell and saved the second. It was all fully automatic, but required careful setup and scrupulous cleaning and oiling. Twenty years ago I put one in an 1100 but it never proved reliable enough for prime time.

One last thought- I’m really not sure how wise it is to select the type of gun you use based on whether or not it saves the shells. Wal-mart sells and excellent Federal “All Purpose” shell for under $5.50/box, in my area of the country. If you buy components in bulk, your cost will be around $4.50/box using your own hulls. It almost doesn’t pay to reload 12 unless you do it to make up special shells of some sort. If you want to reload, even if you buy once-fired hulls for $.75/box of 25 it won’t add much to your day’s shooting cost.

If it were up to me, I’d pick the gun I shot best and not worry too much about hulls. You will be able to pick them up most of the time (besides, it’s good exercise.)

Best regards,

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

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