Cold Weather Reloads

Dear Technoid:

I have just started shooting trap on a regular basis (nearly every Thursday night since March) and have also started to reload (1000 rounds every 3 months since April). Must be some sort of connection here) Well, I am due to purchase another batch of components and was wondering about the effects of cold weather on my reloads. Are there any wads or other components to avoid in cold weather? Should I be making “hotter” loads for the winter?

I have started my reloading by making 2-3/4 dram equivalent loads. I have tried Winchester WST, Hodgdon Clays, International Clays and Universal Clays powder and am planning on trying Alliant Red and Green Dot on this next 1000. The wads I have used so far are the Winchester WAA12 copies by Claybusters and Western. I have only used Winchester 209 primers. Shot has been 7-1/2 chilled lead by various manufacturers.

BTW, I shoot a Remington 1100 in the trap setup and have noticed no real difference in felt recoil between the various reloads I have made thus far. I also have not noticed any difference in cleaning. This “clean burning powder” rap seems to be a lot of hooey.

Thanks in advance for your input.


Dear tj,

In my clay target loads I prefer the faster burning powders, like Hodgdon Clays, Alliant Red Dot and IMR 700X. Many people feel that a slightly slower powder like Alliant Green Dot gives patterns of a bit more density. LIke you, I cannot really tell any definite difference in recoil between one brand of powder and another when all are loaded to the same muzzle velocity. Winchester Super Lite may seem slightly smoother to me, but it does not to some others.

I notice that you are still experimenting with various brands of powder. That probably means that you are buying them by the pound. Once you settle on one powder, buy it in the largest container you can afford. You will save a ton of money.

I do notice a big difference in cleanliness when using the single base powders like Hodgdon Clays. Normally, I also think that the barrel residue issue is a bunch of hooey. Sure, some powders leave more residue than others, but so what? In an O/U it really doesn’t matter and is just marketing hype, BUT in your 1100 gas gun less residue will mean a longer time between cleanings and a bit more reliability. All other things being equal, pick the cleaner burning powder for gas guns. Hooey is as hooey does.

Shells do lose a bit of velocity when they are cold, but there is cold and then there is COLD. If you leave your shells in the trunk of your car over night in sub-zero weather and then shoot them, you will notice that they have lost a bit of zip. If you keep your shells in the club house or passenger compartment of the car where it is much warmer, you will notice little change. Personally, in warm weather I shoot 2 3/4 dram shells (1150 fps) and in winter I up it to 3 dram equivalent (1200 fps).

The biggest difference that I have found in winter shooting has been in wad obturation. When cold, some of the “off brand” wads just do not seal correctly because they are made out of recycled polyethylene of an uncertain mix. During the winter, stick to major manufacturers’ brands. I have also had good luck with Clay Buster brand replacement wads in the winter. They may be replacement wads, but they are high volume producers and use virgin polyethylene.

One thing that I recommend is that I always use the highest antimony shot that I can obtain- especially for trap. I agree with you in going to #7 1/2s for winter trap (cold targets are harder to break than warm ones), but I very much disagree with the use of “chilled” shot for long trap shots, especially handicap. “Chilled” shot is the industry code word for low antimony. “Magnum” shot is the code word for higher antimony. Antimony is the main hardening agent used in making lead shot. It costs about five times as much per pound as lead, so the makers charge you more. The difference in antimony content of trap size shot is usually 2% vs 6%, though there is nothing to guarantee that since they are careful not to list the percentage content of that expensive hardening agent. I strongly recommend that you pay extra and get the “magnum” shot. Your patterns can improve as much as 10% and it only costs about 1/2 cent extra per shell.

Enjoy your cold weather shooting. Bundle up and smoke dem birdies!

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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