Universal 12 Gauge Load

Dear Technoid,

I am a new shooter and have been using a variety of loads (all 12 bore) over the last year. Basically, whatever ammo is available, I will use. Although I cannot notice the difference between a 2 3/4 dram and a 3 1/8 dram load when I fire, I am sure the shot has a different speed. I cannot hit long birds consistantly worth a damn- some days its on and other days its off. I am a very competitive shooter (although my scores are so low that I only compete with myself) and realize that I need to work on all aspects of the sport. I believe that the more I can standardize, the better I can determine and isolate my true weaknesses.

Assume #8 shot:
1. What are the most common sporting clay loads, their specs and cost for a Conn Traveler. 2. How much will my scores be effected by not shooting consistantly with the same load?
3. What shell do you recommend for sporting clays vs the field?


Dear Kip:

What! You cannot hit every long shot? Join the club. No shame in missing some of the Connecticut Travelers targets. They are the toughest.

I think that shell and choke standardization help. Some people spend more time worrying about which choke/shell combination to use than they do carefully watching to see what the target is doing.

You did not say whether you were shooting a low recoil gas gun or an O/U, so I will assume that you shoot the latter. Most people do. If you can handle the recoil, I would shoot a 2 3/4 dram (1150 fps) 1 1/8 oz load of #8s at everything in sight. That’s it. Nothing more. If recoil is a problem, buy a gas gun. If you want to stay with your O/U but cannot comfortably take the recoil, then go to a 1 oz load of #8s at about 1150 fps. One thing about recoil- it seems to build up over the years. No one is immune to it. Getting smacked around never, ever helps your score.

SAAMI (the standards body for the American ammunition manufacturers) states that a 2 3/4 dram equivalent 1 1/8 oz load goes 1150 f(eet) p(er) s(econd). A 3 dram equivalent 1 1/8 oz load goes 1200 fps. Industry accepted shell to shell velocity variation is a whopping 75 fps, but the better shells vary only about 25 fps shell to shell in constant temperature. Since you are worried about the longer shots, for all practical purposes there is absolutely no difference between a muzzle velocity of 1150 and a MV of 1200 once the pellets get to 40 yards. The pellet speed difference at 40 yards is not 50 fps, but more like 20 fps (depends on pellet size). The difference really is insignificant and so is the difference in the lead.

If you want to cut down your lead on the long shots, use 7 1/2 shot. It will get there a bit faster than the lighter 8s. Personally, because I use a gas gun, I shoot 1 1/8 loads all the time. I prefer Federal, but also like the Winchester Silver bullets. I have not shot too many of the new gold Remingtons yet. Handicap trap loads from major manufacturers generally have the highest quality shot, so I try to stick with those when I am buying new shells.

You cannot separate the shell from the choke. If I were going to try to standardize my sporting selection and keep it as simple as possible I would glue in a pair of .015″ chokes (light modified) and shoot only 1 1/8 2 3/4 dram #8 loads from any major manufacturer.

If you insist on changing chokes and shells I would follow this formula: under 20 yards- #9s and .000″ (cylinder bore) to .005″ (skeet) 20 to 35 yards- #8s and .015″ (light modified) over 35 yards – #7 1/2s and .030″ (improved modified)

but if you are really going to follow the KISS principle stick to light mod and #8s. This will work just fine for you until you become a national caliber shooter and will allow you to concentrate on the much more important aspect of target presentation.

I really have not taken a poll as to what the most popular brand and shell type is at the Connecticut Travelers matches. The new one ounce in #8 is very popular, as is the 1 1/8 oz #8. We see some 7/8 oz loads used in practice, but few in matches. I am sure that shell popularity is a regional and economic thing. If there is a good deal on one brand of shell, everyone will shoot it. If there is a popular local producer or importer, people will go out of their way to shoot those shells first.

The best shell deal was the recent Wal-Mart sale of Federal 1 1/8 oz “all purpose” shells in #8 and #7 1/2. The smaller Federal dealers were really screaming about that one because the shell was fully the equal of the much more expensive Federal target loads- super hard shot and all. The guys with the O/Us complained about the recoil, but the gas gun types just sucked them up. A great deal on a great shell.

I have no way of knowing how your scores will be affected by switching your shells frequently. If you stick with the same shot size and fps rating, switching brands really should not matter. All the big makers have good quality shot and consistent shells. Off brands are riskier, but there are some good ones.

Find something that you like in #8s, buy a bunch of them and then forget about it. Concentrate on the target. Smoker Smith and Gary Phillips shoot almost exclusively #8s and spend their time staring at the birds. They do OK and so will you.

There you go, more than you ever wanted to know from

SHOTGUN REPORT’s guru of gear- The Technoid.—

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