High Velocity Worth It?

Senor Technoid, Sir

I just read something you wrote called bits and pieces, in which you gave some technical (what else?) information concerning the degree to which increasing pellet velocity cuts down on the necessary lead for x target at x range at x speed. Actually, at first blush, the small difference in lead reduction would not appear to be worth the added recoil etc. This surface, and somewhat superficial conclusion, leads me to a couple of questions:

1. Why, then, do the British, whom I’m sure you will admit are very experienced sporting clays shooters, prefer the faster loads? Granted, they are limited to 7/8 oz of shot, but all things being equal, they must see some real advantage to the highest velocities possible.

2. While I grant the accuracy of your calculations, I guess that you arrived at them arithmetically. Since none of the variables in the problem is of constant speed, would you not need to use calculus to arrive at a correct answer?? Believe me I’m not being facetious or trying to catch you up. Math of any kind is not my forte.

If I’m correct here, isn’t it possible that there is some significant advantage to high velocities that you calculations don’t reveal??? Hope so. If there is no actual advantage, I may stop shooting them!!!


Dear N.,

What! Do I detect just the slightest hint of derision? A faint whiff of lack of faith? “Superficial conclusion”? It’s superficial reading more likely. My conclusions are always cogent, well reasoned and ineffably correct. That’s because I crib them from sources that are a lot smarter than I am.

I get most of my time to distance and retained energy stuff from the most excellent Lyman’s Shotshell Reloading Handbook, 5th edition. They do the work. I get the credit. An aeronautical engineer friend of mine in Canada got the ballistic coefficients for lead pellets and ran some parallels on Lyman’s numbers and everything checks out. And yes, use of The Calculus may be required, but why should you consider that beyond someone who knows the difference between a back action and a snap haunce? Actually, we both know that the Calculus was the three headed dog that guarded the gates of Hades in Greek mythology.

Why do the Brits prefer the faster loads, even though they are limited to 7/8 oz of shot? Come on. Do some homework before you write. On second though, don’t. That requirement would eliminate most of my mail and make the questions too hard for me to answer. I am right on the edge of competency as it is.

The fact is that British sporting rules require no more than one ounce of shot, not 7/8 oz. That 7/8 oz stuff (really 24 gram) is the ISU maximum for the Olympic shotgun disciplines. Sporting Clays is not an Olympic status game. The US Olympic load used at the Atlanta games was a Federal paper load of 24 grams at about 1325-1350 fps, US measurement. At least those were the shells that I got from Kim Rhode. The higher velocity was used in an effort to increase pellet energy to try to make up for the minuscule pellet count. Additional recoil was not considered a problem because of the light payload. The high velocity had nothing to do with shortening leads. The 32 gram loads used by many teams in the ’76 Montreal games were often of today’s standard velocity, though the US Army Marksmanship Unit did experiment with an Olympic skeet load of #10s driven at very high velocity. These loads wouldn’t reliably break the harder International birds, so they gave up on them and went back to standard velocity 32 gram #9s.

Secondly, the British measure muzzle velocity differently than we do. The American SAAMI standard measurement for muzzle velocity is taken three feet from the muzzle. The Brits use a different system of measurement closer to the muzzle which consistently brings in a higher number. Measured by our standards, our one oz shells and the Brit’s one ounce shells are about the same and run the gamut from slow to fast. The Brits just print a higher number on the box. The Victory shells from Cyprus use the British system of measurement and report very high numbers, but they chronograph right in the range of the comparative US shells.

The bottom line is that I am not a believer in the advantages of high velocity shells. Yes, they give you a little more pellet energy and a slight change in lead (not always good unless you always practice with that speed of shell), but in return they are more difficult to get to pattern properly due to added set back and they kick more.

I have always said, and continue to maintain, that I would NEVER trade pellet count for velocity if I was trying to keep recoil equal. I shoot a gas gun for sporting clays competition, so recoil really doesn’t matter as much, but I set up all my loads to a standard velocity of about 1200 fps. Even my 1-1/4 oz FITASC loads are about this speed (the 3-1/4 dram, 1-1/4 oz pigeon loads I use for FITASC are about 1220 fps). This way I get used to dealing with one velocity and set of leads for all my shooting. I think that velocity much above that is a waste of time and energy (pun) unless you are trying to milk everything possible out of an artificially tiny load- like the ISU 24 gram shells. With the standard 1-1/8 oz loads permitted in American clay target shooting, high velocity causes more trouble than it is worth. And that’s my superficial conclusion.

Best regards,

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

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