Light Loads (Again)

Dear Bruce,

I have been contemplating shotgun shell loads as of late. I’m wondering about how much effect is lost by using only 1 oz of 8 shot…

I have heard from some of the best shooters that “if your on, your on”! I use a browning 425 o/u and I’m thinking that 1 oz of 8’s is probably o.k. in most circumstances as far as sporting clays is concerned, of course one my want to carry some 1 1/8oz of 7 1/2 shot for those pesky rabbits and maybe for some of those LONG crossing shots, but in general probably the 1 oz of 8’s would surfice in most situations.

how do you feel about my reasoning???


Dear George,

Any man who tells you that “If you’re on, you’re on” has never lost a shoot by one bird. That means he is either REALLY good, or the opposite. In the 1976 Olympic International Skeet trials I was on John Satterwaite’s squad and after the round we chatted about chokes. I asked him why he spent so much time fussing with his chokes and shells to get everything just right. He said “When I miss, I don’t miss by much, so I want the best pattern I can get.” John made the Olympic team that year and I didn’t.

I came up through the International Skeet ranks when 1-1/8 oz (32 gram) shells were permitted by the ISU. The US and the Russians experimented with at lot of 4 dram (yup) #9 and #10 shells. Federal made a T-123 load for the US Army Marksmanship Unity that was right around 4 dram. Winchester made an IntSk load that was close to it. About 1/3 of the Winchester AA hulls would split on first firing. Recoil in our Belgian Brownings, Perazzis and Remington 3200s was heavy. Carlisle was the only smart one and he shot an 1100 at IntSk, though a Perazzi at bunker.

When I went to Montreal to watch our team compete, no single Olympic team competitor from any country that I could see was using less than all the law allowed. They may not all have used very high velocity shells (the Germans, Dutch, Czechs, US and Russians did though), but EVERYONE used the entire 32 grams of shot allowed. When the money is on the line, you don’t want to give anything away if you are at all serious about winning. And believe me, IntSk at the Olympic level is as serious as a heart attack.

That said, if you are a recreational shooter, it makes perfect sense to give away some pellets if that will make you more comfortable and your hobby more enjoyable. There is nothing wrong with saving the heavier loads for the tougher, longer shots. Just remember that when you give up 11% of your pellets, you give up 11% of your pattern. If you want to compete with a pattern that is 11% less effective than the next guy, go right ahead.

Yes, I have heard the argument that one ounce loads are somehow more “efficient” than 1-1/8 oz loads, but my patterning tests over the past 25 years have not shown this. Fewer pellets in the shell always result in fewer pellets in the pattern. There may be a tiny bit more setback, but it doesn’t amount to 1% of the difference. Remember: every 1-1/8 oz load as a 1 oz load riding on the front end.

Recoil: Although this may sound like cruelty in the same league as drowning kittens, if the gun that you are shooting kicks you so much with 1-1/8 oz shells that you are considering going to one ounce, consider changing to a gas gun first. You will find it more comfortable to shoot than the O/U and you can use all the lead the law allows. Note that gas gun usage came in from the top at sporting clays, not from the beginners where gas guns are usually associated. There is a reason for that.

Personally, I would prefer not to practice with a shell that is different from the one that I use in matches. The whole idea of practice is to do EXACTLY what you will do in a match. Using a different shell sort of defeats it. And no, I don’t think that using a lighter load with a smaller pattern (or a tighter choke) sharpens you up in some way. Knowing that you have a smaller patten makes many people shoot differently subconsciously. Just think what your .410 skeet scores could be if you resisted aiming that little sucker and just plain shot it like the 12.

Bottom line: if you just shoot for pleasant recreation, just love your O/U and don’t like the recoil of 32 gram loads in that gun, then by all means shoot a shell that doesn’t pound you. Life is too short to suffer. The shells are supposed to kill the clay target, not you. On the other hand, well… I’ve made my point.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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1 Response to Light Loads (Again)

  1. Gerald Elwood says:

    Remember 1 oz. of no. 8’s has more pellets than 1-1/8 oz. of 7-1/2’s.


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