Fast Vs Slow, Big Vs Little


Your argument of more is better does make sense. I didn’t mention it in my initial note to you, but the recoil issue and fatigue over time was of importance to me as I do shoot an o/u.

However, my perception was that the 1oz B&P 1300fps load was softer than the Federal 11/8oz 3dr SC load @1200fps I was shooting. The other variable I thought I was getting with the faster load was energy. Are the faster loads not hitting harder at farther distances. Would this energy from speed not possibly mean a broken target at farther distances with 71/2’s? I have seen slower and smaller shot loads cause dust to come off the bird without a break, especially in colder months.

A buddy of mine and I were shooting on a skeet field after a fresh snow. We were using 1200fps 8’s and taking the birds at 35-40 yrds, LM choke. Many of our targets did not break but we did see dust. We went and looked at our missed targets and found alot of targets with hit marks, with single holes, and several with multiple holes in the bird. We were not missing, targets were not breaking. This is when we switched to 71/2 1oz loads around 1300fps. We didn’t eliminate the problem, but we did see a greater number of target breaks.

I do understand that if the gun is in the right place and center pattern hit is achieved that most birds will break. But what about those edge of pattern breaks or sparse patterns due to a far target.

Do you think the energy issue I raised above has merit?

Thanks for your thoughts.


Dear Nick,

You raise an excellent point about additional energy producing more breaks, but it only goes so far.

First of all, it is best to separate the issue of pellet size with pellet velocity. Yes, they both contribute to pellet energy, but the contributions vary so tremendously that I consider them different.

My pellet size rule of thumb for EDGE ON or QUARTER TURNED (trap view) targets (turned battues and fully “open” overheads are very different) is #9s to 20 yards, #8s to 35 yards and #7-1/2s thereafter. When in doubt, go larger. In the Connecticut winter, I shoot almost exclusively #7-1/2s at anything except skeet birds. I do this to get more energy at distance. I don’t bother to increase velocity to get more energy because it takes a huge amount of velocity increase to equal a pellet size increase.

Here are the numbers from Lyman’s “Shotshell Reloading handbook” book:

#8 at 1145 fps muzzle velocity is going 640 fps and 1.0 ft/lb at 40 yards
#8 at 1235 fps muzzle velocity is going 670 fps and 1.0 ft/lb at 40 yards
#7-1/2 at 1145 fps muzzle velocity is going 655 fps and 1.2 ft/lb at 40 yards
#7-1/2 at 1240 fps muzzle velocity is going 690 fps and 1.3 ft/lb at 40 yards

The tables obviously aren’t as complete as I would like, but you get the idea. Increasing the velocity of the #8 by 90 fps increases 40 yard energy LESS than .1 ft/lb. Raising the #7-1/2s by 95 fps does a bit better, but it changing pellet size without changing velocity is what gives the biggest boost of .2 or .3 ft/lb.

Clearly, a slow #7-1/2 packs a LOT more energy than a 100 ft per second faster #8. Although the tables don’t go that far, I am sure that you would have to push a #8 in the 1350 to 1400 fps area to equal the energy at 40 yards of a #7-1/2 started at 1145.

A one ounce load of #8s at 1350 fps has 18.36 ft/lb recoil in an 8# gun. A 1-1/8 oz load of #7-1/2s started at 1145 fps in the same gun has 15.96 ft/lb free recoil. That one ounce of #8s has 407 pellets (by the charts), while the 1-1/8 oz of #7-1/2s contains 389, almost the same amount.

Bottom line: a “hot” load of one ounce #8s can have roughly the same energy and same pellet count as a slow load of 1-1/8 oz #7-1/2s, but at the expense of 15% MORE recoil. It would also be well to notice that it is easier to get a good pattern from “slow” #7-1/2s than “fast” #8s because smaller shot distorts more easily than larger shot and faster loads put more stress and set-back on the pellets than slower ones. The longer shot column of the 1-1/8 oz load causes more set-back than the shorter column of the 1 oz load, but not enough to make up the difference in the set-back due to pellet size and load speed.

Lots of big slow guys beats fewer fast little guys at 40 yards.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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