Legendary Rhode Earns Historic 4-Peat in Korea | USA Shooting

Source: Legendary Rhode Earns Historic 4-Peat in Korea | USA Shooting

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Twelve U.S. Shotgun Athletes Ready for ISSF World Cup; Rhode Targets History Once Again | USA Shooting

Source: Twelve U.S. Shotgun Athletes Ready for ISSF World Cup; Rhode Targets History Once Again | USA Shooting

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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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AL 390 Modifications

Dear Technoid,

I took your advice and bought the AL390 sporter. I like it. I want to spend more money on it. What tubes would you recommend… Briley, Seminole, Rhino, Ballistic Specialties etc.? Have you had experience with any (or all) of these. Do you suggest porting, back boring, lengthening the forcing cone etc.? I am also interested in changing the butt pad. I shoot trap with this gun and was wondering if a cheek pad would be of any benefit. In general I am looking for some common sense modifications.

Thanks for your sage advice.


Dear Fred,

Well- if you are just mad to spend more money on your 390, there are certainly enough ways to do it. Personally, if I were bound and determined to toss more money into a 390, I would buy a second one and leave them both pretty much stock once I got them to fit me. The 390s are extraordinarily reliable as gas guns go, but it never hurts to have a “complete” set of spare parts. That way, no matter what breaks, you have the part.

45,000 rounds ago, I bought two Beretta 303s. The backup is still in the box in the safe, but I have cannibalized the occasional part from time to time. When the new part comes in the mail from Rich Cole, it goes into the backup gun so that stays completely new and unfired.

If you just have to spend more money on your gun and don’t want to buy a second gun, then I would suggest that you invest the money on lessons with the best instructor you can find. To me, a series of good shooting lessons- say one every one or two two months with plenty of practice in between- is far more valuable than turning some Hoenig lathe loose on you barrels.

Are you getting the idea that I am not so enthusiastic about aftermarket machine shop modifications to the 390? Am I communicating the fact that I think that most of them are a complete and total waste of time and money?

OK, if you still insist on modifying your 390, here’s the list. Remember, one thing though. You are going to void any warranty you might have with Beretta (considering their service, it is of dubious value) and you are making the assumption that a machine shop with limited capital and computer resources can redesign a gun better than a multi million dollar International company with rooms full of professional gun designers and computer jocks.

So, if you must- here are the ankle-deep Technoidal opinions on the various modifications:

Trigger job: Allan Timney in Cerritos, CA (562-865-0181) is THE man for Beretta auto triggers. His trigger job is about $65 and is actually worth it. He replaces parts. He doesn’t just stone the sear. You end up with a decent pull in the 3.5# area and virtually no over travel and creep. Beretta triggers look simple, but they are trickier to work on than they seem. Anyone can make them light, but removing the creep is the hard part. Timney does it right and I highly recommend him.

After-market chokes: Save your money. You DID mike and pattern the chokes that came with your gun, didn’t you? If your chokes mike out pretty close to the standard numbers, they will perform pretty much in the standard way with the usual selection of shells. Beretta is much better about getting its choke IDs on or about the standard industry numbers than Browning is. Yes, a custom Ballistics or Seminole choke will be dead on the numbers (.010″ for IC, .020″ for Mod, etc. Those have become industry standard, though no number will absolutely guarantee you a certain pattern). Your factory Beretta chokes may be a bit off one way or the other. It is sort of the luck of the draw. Briley over the counter after market chokes are pretty good if you have a .722″ bore, but they vary a bit too. Frankly, a few thou either way isn’t going to change your pattern anyway that you can measure.

I did a test comparing a Beretta flush seated Mod choke of exactly .020″ constriction against a Briley 2X extended choke of exactly .020″ and a Briley flush seated over the counter choke of exactly .020″. They all patterned the same with Remington STS #8s. True, the Beretta factory chokes leak a little more gas at the skirt and carbon up faster than the Brileys, but the pattern difference was non existent IF the diameters were the same. The extended portion of the choke made no difference in the pattern. I did think that the Briley chokes were a bit better machined and more of them (but not all) were smoother on the inside.

Here is something that people tend to forget: A 60% pattern is a 60% pattern is a 60% pattern. It doesn’t matter if it came out of a Purdey or a Mossberg. If you read the works of Lowrey, Brindel, Thomas, Johnson, Giblin or any of the other respected professional ballisticians, you will know that patterns are Gaussian in nature and follow the rules of the bell shaped curve. Once you achieve a 60% (or whatever) by whatever combination of shell and constriction, your pattern is the same as any other 60% pattern. If a Ballistics choke is tuned to throw a 60% pattern with a certain shell, it is not better or worse than a 60% pattern thrown with your factory Beretta choke. Either choke requires doing the homework and patterning to find out how they perform with your specific shells. No matter what choke you get, you have to test it. Naturally, the custom houses will give you exactly what you want first time out, but a little experimentation with the factory chokes can produce patterns that are just as good. Bottom line: if your factory Beretta chokes give you the range of patterns you want, there is absolutely no point in getting other chokes. Save your money.

Backboring, cones and porting: If you owned a machine shop, you would quickly realize that you make money by removing metal. The more metal you can remove, the more money you can make. Therefore you would stay awake at nights to think of new ways to remove metal from guns to “improve” them. Some of these guys have become very innovative in removing metal and should be applauded for their imagination.

Porting: Yes, it works. No, it doesn’t work enough to matter. At least that is my considered opinion (and worth exactly what you are paying for it). That’s it in a nutshell. It does NOT reduce recoil to a measurable amount. (Show me the patent performance studies, please) Yes, muzzle brakes definitely work on high powered rifles, pistols and tank cannon, but you are dealing with far higher gas pressures and thicker deflection surfaces. As to reducing muzzle jump, same thing. Using standard target loads, I just don’t feel that there is enough gas pressure at a shotgun muzzle to cause vectored gas to make a noticeable difference in a real shooting situation (as opposed to a free standing gun with no normal forend retention). Seminole’s “Sun Porting” makes the most sense as it is the only one that goes straight up through the rib, but I still don’t think that there is enough gas pressure to matter. Also, what do you do with the lower barrel? It is usually shot first and is the one that really needs the muzzle jump reduced. You can’t drill holes straight up for that one. Any gas vectoring to the side has its doubtful initial efficiency very much reduced.

Backboring: Japanese Brownings do it and claim that it does all sorts of wonderful things. Beretta doesn’t do it and their guns generally have bores in the .722″ area- quite a bit tighter than the .729″ nominal 12 gauge standard. Does Browning know something that Beretta doesn’t? Is it just marketing hype? Krieghoff has always had larger bores (.735″) but the equally prestigious Perazzi and Belgian Browning have stuck with standard bores. Show me the proof that backboring makes an improvement that you can measure. The SAAMI recoil formula doesn’t care about bore size. If backboring can actually “improve” a pattern, that means that one 60% pattern can be better than another, which flies in the face of proven mathematical Gaussian science.

One thing that we know for sure about backboring: If it is “factory” backboring (Japanese Brownings) it will make the barrels heavier if wall thickness is maintained. If it is aftermarket backboring, it will make the barrels lighter. If you want to take weight out of the barrels, backboring is a great way to do it as long as you leave enough wall thickness. I have balanced several guns to my liking by having them backbored and have been pleased with the results. I didn’t do it to improve the patterns. In fact, aftermarket backboring necessitates redoing the chokes- which can be a pain in the neck. Backboring a 30″ O/U .010″ will pull about 2.75 ounces out of the barrels. That is a very noticeable weight change, so be careful. It is easy to over do. Read on.

Many people have found that the 390 is fairly light up front to begin with. Backboring a 30″ 390 bbl from the usual .722″ to .740″ will pull 2.49 ounces from that single barrel. You may well find that this makes the barrel far too light. I can’t tell you how many people have sent their Beretta autos to the shop for backboring and gotten back barrels that felt too light. You can usually spot them. They are the guys who have had to screw on one of those Graco mercury recoil reducers onto the forend nut to add weight back to get the gun to swing right.

Also, backboring will remove the chrome lining on your Beretta bbl. I have always felt (as does Beretta) that the chrome plating of the bbl kept leading down and improved rust resistance. Backboring sacrifices that to some extent, though if the barrel is properly polished it should be OK. One thing’s for sure. A heavy backbore job will definitely necessitate new screw chokes and the expense that entails.

Forcing cones: Do you know how long your Beretta 390 cones are as they come from the factory? Did you know that Beretta offers some of the longest cones in the industry as standard? Well known gunsmith and writer, Stan Baker says that his tests with progressively lengthening forcing cones showed no additional improvement after about 1.5″ to 1.75″. Beretta is very close to that as they come. Does everyone think that long cones are a good idea? Not hardly. The Japanese Brownings (who espouse porting and “backboring”) have SHORT cones. Browning doesn’t think that they do anything worthwhile. Naturally, if you choose to lengthen the already long cones on your Beretta 390 even further, you will be cutting through the chrome plating in just the area where lead build up is most severe and where you want the chrome the most.

I have had the cones on some of my Belgian FNs lengthened and it does seem to me that recoil might possibly be slightly reduced as I perceive it. I couldn’t swear to it, but there might be a slight, almost imperceptible, reduction. Since the Beretta 390 already comes with pretty long cones, I don’t think that it would matter the slightest on that gun.

Having said all this- that I don’t really like backboring, porting or long cones, I do have to be fair. We did a blind test swapping my stock 30″ 303 bbl back and forth with a fully modified 30″ Ballistics 303 bbl which had been backbored, ported, ported chokes and coned. We swapped the two barrels back and forth on my gun to keep everything else constant. Four experienced Beretta gas gun shooters tried the gun with both bbls. The Ballistics bbl was definitely, positively slightly lower in recoil. It wasn’t dramatic, but it was noticeable to each of the shooters. The reduction could be due to the barrel modifications or it might be all or partly attributed to the alteration of the gas port diameters which gas gun barrel modification requires. This changes bolt speed and may affect recoil sensation. It can also change the parts breakage rate and most of the shops found out early on. At any rate, the Ballistics barrel was slightly softer to shoot.

Still, the owner of the Ballistics barrel sold it and went back to a standard 303 bbl. So much weight had been taken out of the barrel by the modifications that the gun was too light up front for him to shoot well. Go figure.

Remember, all of the above is strictly my opinion based on the shooting and testing I have done. I would be more than happy to change my opinion in an instant if someone would just give me proof. Until then, I remain an unreconstructed Luddite.

That’s it. Boots off. Beer open.

Best regards,

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

Posted in Shotguns | 1 Comment

Beretta 390 Parts

Most Wise One,

Are you aware of a good source for Beretta parts other than the factory? The connecting rod on my 390 broke after only about 3000 rounds. Also, is this a weak link, so to speak, in the 390? If you were going to lay in a supply of likely to be needed parts for the 390, what would your list include?

Thanks as always for your sage advice.


Dear N,

By far the best source of Beretta 390 parts is Rich Cole. Tell him Shotgun Report sent you. His site is <www.colegun.com>, or telephone at 207-833-5027. He usually has what you need. He is MUCH more reliable than Beretta factory parts in Accokeek.

I think that Beretta had a bad run of links one time. Generally they last a lot longer than 3K. In 45K with my 303, 35K with my B-80 and 5K with my 390, I have broken exactly one. All three guns use the same link. The only other parts that I have ever broken on my three guns are the hammer struts. I have broken three of them. The trigger groups on the guns are all identical inside too. So, get Rich to send you a link and a pair of hammer struts (left and right). I also replaced one firing pin return spring once. Rich may have other suggestions for additional parts, but those are mine based on my experience.

I also replace my main spring every 10K. It never breaks, but the new one is usually about 3″ to 4″ longer than the old one I take out so you know that there is a limited life The main spring is the only thing that keeps the gun from beating itself to death on recoil, so it pays to keep a fresh one in there on any semi-auto. On the 390, remember that you have to put some heat on the brass plug at the end of the spring tube before you can loosen it due to the Loc-Tite they use.

Best regards,

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

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Ear Protection

Hello technoid,

I haven’t visited in awhile and look forward to reviewing you opinions today. However, I did think of a question I would like to pose. I don’t think you have previously addressed it.

My question is this: what would you recommend in terms of ear protection when either shooting sporting clays or hunting. I have found the large exterior headset to be cumbersome whereas the inexpensive foam plugs tend to block noise so well I tend to pull them in and out a lot in order to have a conversation when not shooting. When I looked in the sports store, I found a more expensive set of plugs that go in the ear and are said to permit normal conversation yet protect your ears from the gun blast. However, the decibel protection between that model and the less expensive foam inserts was significant. I don’t remember the specs exactly but if the foam gave you protection of up to 29 db, the expensive inserts may have been something like 9 db. No wonder they allow for normal conversation, they don’t seem to offer nearly the protection.

Also, as far as hunting goes, I like to hunt waterfowl and one of the most enjoyable aspects of that sport is being able to hear the birds. Since my ears are so sensitive, I have to wear plugs whereas my friends do not. I hate to have them in b/c you miss so much of the experience. Any suggestions or recommendation would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much.


Dear R,

The maximum hearing protection you can get are the cheap foam plugs AND the largest ear muffs you can find BOTH USED TOGETHER. Anything else is less than optimal.

Next best are the ear muffs alone. Generally, bigger is better and thinner is less effective. Also, the tighter they fit, the better they work. You can lose a lot of sound protection by an ineffective seal at the glasses frame. The electronic ear muffs are quite good, but not as good as the large standard ones. The problem is that most of the electronic ones are built on the smaller ear muff frames and are a bit less efficient due to this. Still, the electronic models allow you to protect your ears and hear normal conversation too. The problem with ear muffs is that many people, especially those with short necks, find that they bang into the gunstock when it is raised. Some people can get around this by improved gun mount. Others are just plain the wrong size.

The best ear plugs that I have found are the cheap foam plugs. Unlike molded plugs, the foam plugs always fit perfectly because they expand to fit every time. Your ear canal changes over time and the molded plugs can’t change with it, resulting in a less then perfect seal as time goes on.

The problem with any kind of plug is that it only protects against sound entering the ear canal. It does not protect against sound entering behind the ear through the thin bones back there. Muffs protect against this.

The molded electronic plugs (around $1500-$1600) work quite well for what they are, but they are still 1) ear plugs not ear muffs and 2) molded not foam.

The Sonic type “valve” plugs work fairly well, but I do not recommend them for constant target shooting. I believe that proper ear muffs are more effective.

I always wear earmuffs when I shoot from a duck blind or goose pit. It is absolutely the worse place possible for ear damage. Think about it. Everyone is shooting 3″ magnums. There may be several shooters only shoulder width apart. If a bird comes to your right and you are on the right, everyone’s muzzle ends up being right in front of your left ear when they turn it loose. If you insist on being able to hear the birds, then his situation calls for the electronic muffs, but muffs it definitely is. Your friends don’t “need” muffs because they are already partly deaf, but they are going to get deafer unless they start using them.

I am a New England grouse hunter. In spite of good dogs, birds often flush to the side, behind or over us. Good hearing is absolutely essential to try to save that split second which means the difference between grouse or cereal for dinner. Ear muffs aren’t practical as they get pulled off by the branches. The Sonic valve-style plug is a pretty good low cost compromise in this type of situation, but the electronic ear plugs would be better. If you hunt a lot, $1600 really isn’t that much to pay to preserve your hearing. They are good for deer hunting too as you can turn up the volume and actually increase your hearing acuity, yet still clip off the damaging noise of the shot.

The db ratings of muffs and plugs can be misleading due to the methods of measuring. That said, more is generally better. Certainly that is so in solid muffs. Measuring db gets trickier when you get to the valve-type plugs.

Best regards,

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

Posted in Shotgun related | 2 Comments

Shooting Threads

Dear Bruce

A friend and I are having a disagreement over the wisdom of shooting without a Briley Slimline choke installed in the barrel.

I think it is unwise, and my friend went out and shot 150 rounds though his chokeless barrel.

Who is right?

Dear BK,

As always, you are right. I am not familiar with the Briley “Slimline” choke, but if it is anything like their “Thinwall” custom choke for solid choke barrels, Briley cuts the threads with a wide, flat topped thread. Width gives it strength, while the flat top makes it thinner and thus suitable for using on solid choke guns. Factory choked guns use the standard sharp edged machine threads as they have more room.

Every time you “shoot threads” you whack those threads with the wad and often some shot. This is never good. At best it clogs the threads. At worst it can damage them. Clogged threads can cause some very subtle problems. As the threads fill up, when a choke is reinserted at a later time, the build-up in the threads might prevent it from being fully seated when it is screwed in. This will cause an increased gap between the choke skirt and barrel. This will build up with carbon and plastic as gas forces underneath the choke skirt. Under certain conditions this can force the skirt above the line of the bore. When this happens, you are going to add about an ounce or so of tubular stainless steel to your next load of shot as it exits the barrel. This happened regularly on an early screw choke version of one popular brand of Italian gun. It has since been corrected, but caused some very unpleasant surprises for a while.

Shooting threads is also not very productive as to time. Sure, you save time by not screwing in new chokes, but you will absolutely, positively have to clean those threads carefully at a later date. This takes more time than screwing in the proper chokes in the first place.

Also, without the thinline chokes in the gun to give the muzzles strength, the tips of the muzzles are VERY susceptible to dings and dents. The muzzles on my FNs threaded for the Briley Thinwalls are absolutely paper thin. I wouldn’t dream of using the gun without the added strength of the chokes. Factory screw choke guns have much more meat in the muzzle (hence the nose heavy balance that most of them suffer from) and so it might be safer to shoot threads, but why take the risk?

Screwing in a set of cylinder bore chokes really doesn’t take too long, especially using the most excellent Royal Wrench. If your pal is too cheap to buy a couple of cylinder bore chokes, then he is playing the wrong game. I use cylinder bore a great deal, but I do it with the proper chokes in place. I never do it with threads.

One final argument against shooting threads: No manufacturer that I am familiar with recommends the practice. I know that most people don’t bother to read the manuals that come with their guns, but it might be worth a moment or two of their time.

Best regards,

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

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