More On Plated Shot

Dear Technoid,

There have been a couple of recent questions that involved nickel shot. Which is what prompts this question. I know that some of the manufacturers use copper and nickel plated shot, primarily for long range shells. My question is; has the technoid done any long range patterning with copper and or nickel plated shot? Is it worth the extra money? Is nickel, as I’ve read elsewhere, really better than copper?

Thanks in advance, and keep up the good work. Your site is by FAR the best source of information to shotgunners.


Dear Mark,

Is plated shot better than unplated shot? If so, how much better (it costs over twice as much)?

I do not know from extensive personal experience. I have patterned 3 1/4 dram 1 1/4oz nickel plated #7 1/2 factory pigeon loads, one brand against another, but I have not patterned ordinary trap loads with and without nickel shot. That would be the real test.

I have recently obtained some nickel shot for just this purpose as I want to develop some FITASC long distance loads for later in the spring. When I do test, I will be sure to put it in as a FAQ in Shotgun Report.

The reason that plated shot is supposed to work better than unplated shot has nothing to do with hardness of the coating. It has to do with the plated shot’s superior ability to slither around in the shot column as it goes down the barrel and through the choke. The ability to slide around in the shot column helps it to avoid crushing to a greater extent than non-plated shot. This means more round pellets out of the barrel and thus better patterns.

Another reason that plated shot works better (by reputation) is that because the plating process is so expensive, the manufacturers only bother to plate the hardest possible shot to begin with. You are starting with a high antimony shot.

Pigeon and International Trap shooters just about always shoot nickel plated shot when they can afford it. In these games, the cost is considered secondary. I do not know if ATA (American rules) trap permits plated shot. I doubt it as I am sure that everyone would use it from the 27 yard line if they could.

Copper or nickel? Most of the target loads are nickel plated, most of the hunting loads are copper plated. Under a high powered magnifying glass, the nickel coated pellets are clearly smoother than the copper ones. I think that hunting loads use copper because it is more traditional (copper coating was made famous by the original Winchester “Lubaloy” shot- long before nickel coated pellets were used) and also because it is cheaper to make.

I have used a good bit of copper #4s on long range pheasant and do not really like them. The pellets “grease” right through the bird and do not seem to deliver as much impact as standard lead #4s. More of the standard lead #4s stop inside the bird and are surrounded by a little ball of grey feathers. The fewer copper pellets that I find inside the bird are clean. I cannot really tell whether the copper pellets give me better patterns or not. The normal lead pellets appear to give a better knock down in real life situations.

Once again, the Technoid has gone on at length after he admitted knowing very little about the question. Don’t you just love it. Well, OK, but is was free.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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1 Response to More On Plated Shot

  1. Jim Pettengill says:

    Hi Bruce,
    Just finished the column on plated shot and thought I would relate an old experience I had with nickel plated shot at an Internatioal trap shoot at Fort Benning some years ago. The Army team had just received a shipment of nickel plated trap loads for use and sale to competitors and a lot of it was used that weekend and by Sunday afternoon almost all of the trap field grounds an some of the shooters glittered in the sunlight. I can guess that amount of nickel that would be left in bird bodies would be minimal, but probably there.
    Jim Pettengill


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