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Shotgun Shells: The Ins and Outs of Selection (Part 3)

 
By Brad Wilson - Guest Contributor

We now have a basis of how factory loads perform vs hand loads and a good understanding of how to figure out what load works best in your gun.  Now we will take a look at a few factors that we can manipulate in order to fine tune what we are working with.  Choke tubes and recoil pads, we'll take a look at them after the jump.

One of the first things that people like to change when they buy a shotgun is the choke tube.  There are a few manufacturers in the game that produce some excellent products.  I have personally shot some of the best choke tubes on the market and swore by a couple of them and it could have potentially been a huge mistake on my part.  My initial fault the first time I shot an aftermarket choke tube was due to me shooting it in the field on a hunt out of a buddies gun.  My shot to kill ratio on a couple of vollies actually went up and it really made me think it was because of the tube.  What I didn't take into consideration is the fact that I was shooting a different gun with a different setup.  Shotgun fitment is the number one reason people miss.  I have heard it too many times, "Do you think this gun will be good for me?" My reply is first and foremost GO FIT THE GUN!

Now don't get me wrong, aftermarket choke tubes can really improve your shot to kill ratio especially when your standard tubes that come in the gun do not have much research put into them.  This is the main reason I shoot a Beretta A400 Xtreme. There was so much engineering and field testing put into the OptimaChoke HP tubes that I don't have to go out and spend another $50-100 for an aftermarket tube.  It comes in the package!  The patterns through this gun are outstanding and produce a very high percentage of pellets on target while patterning the gun.  It is just one more reason this gun has my reliability stamp of approval.

The other thing we will talk about is recoil pads.  A lot of guys feel that follow up shots are more accurate when there is less recoil.  I will agree with this to a certain extent.  Recovery time between shots is vital in certain situations in the blind.  One thing the shooter should remember is a rushed shot is a missed shot.  IF you can concentrate, remember to breathe, and place your shots correctly then less recoil is a great deal.  Until you can get that down then your second and third shots are pointless.  My dad taught me this at an early age by letting me shoot a single shot 20 gauge.  His theory was my shot selection would be better if I only had 1 chance.

Now I can utilize this and become a better shot. The recoil reduction in my A400 Xtreme  is above and beyond anything else on the market and was the final piece to the puzzle for me.  Add to that the ability to change the length of pull with the extra butt pads, and you have a gun that can be tailored to just about anyone straight out of the box.

This wraps up my 3 part "class" on shotgun shells, how to select them, and how to manipulate their performance.  Hopefully your next trip out to the duck blind will be more productive with these extra tools in your blind bag.


Brad Wilson is an avid outdoorsman targeting waterfowl and saltwater fish and is a guest contributor for the Beretta Blog.  He can be reached on Twitter or YouTube.

Make sure you follow Beretta on FacebookTwitterYouTube.

This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not represent those of Beretta.

Make sure you follow Beretta on FacebookTwitter or YouTube

 

This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

Shotgun Shells: The Ins and Outs of Selection (Part 2)

 
By Brad Wilson - Guest Contributor

In the last segment we talked briefly about a few different factory loads and hand loading.  We saw a few examples of how different characteristics work in different loads and how those characteristics determine how the load performs when it comes to ballistics. Now let’s tie all this together and find what works best in our guns….






...after the jump.

The very first thing I do when I load a new recipe is load up about 3-5 shells with the recipe and take them out to pattern them.  I take a large piece of paper or cardboard and draw a 30” diameter circle in the middle of it.  I want the highest percentage of pellets I can possibly get in that circle at the range I will be using the shell at.  Now draw a horizontal and vertical line in the circle dividing it into 4 sections and label them 1, 2, 3, and 4 in no certain order.  This will help us understand how well the shot is evenly distributed.  Where the 2 lines cross will be your Point Of Aim (POA).  I then take the setup out to the field, walk off the distance I will be shooting at in real world situations, take aim, and shoot.

It is now time to check your results.  Start counting the holes in each quadrant of the circle and write the number down on a piece of paper for each quadrant.  I will also write down the number of holes OUTSIDE of the circle.  The first thing we are looking for is how well the pattern is spread out within the circle.  If I have 54 pellets in quadrant 1, 60 in 2, 58 in 3 and 40 in 4 then I know my pattern is fairly lopped sided.

The next thing I will do is add up the 4 quadrants and divide that by the known number of pellets in the shell and multiply by 100 to get my percentage.  Shot in a shell is measured by weight and the number of pellets should be fairly consistent as long as the weight and shot size remain the same.  I personally will not settle for anything less than 80% in the circle.

Lastly I look for any “holes” in the pattern.  If I have 90% of the pellets in the circle, but there is an area of 5-10” in diameter that has nothing or 1-2 pellets then that isn’t such a great pattern.

I always run 2 or 3 patterns with the same loads on new sheets of paper for each shot to get a good representation of how that load will perform in the field.  You always need to back up your data with results that are fairly close to each other.

What we are ultimately trying to achieve is the maximum number of pellets in the circle spaced out uniformly throughout the circle.  As I said before in the last segment, this pattern is your key to success!

Now that you have a better understanding of how to figure out what shell works best for you next time we will talk about how we can change the outcome and what effects how the pellets act.

Brad Wilson is an avid outdoorsman targeting waterfowl and saltwater fish and is a guest contributor for the Beretta Blog.  He can be reached on Twitter or YouTube.

Make sure you follow Beretta on FacebookTwitterYouTube.

This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not represent those of Beretta.

Make sure you follow Beretta on FacebookTwitter or YouTube

 

This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

Shotgun Shells: The Ins and Outs of Selection (Part 1)

 

By Brad Wilson - Guest Contributor

How I love my hand loads!
In a previous entry by fellow blogger Adam Brassfield titled “Shell Selection for Waterfowl”, Adam talks about what size shot he would typically use for different types of waterfowl.  What he based everything off of was the size of  bird he would be chasing that certain day.  Adam laid down some great groundwork for new and old hunters that sometimes get mislead on what size shot they should be using.  This is the first thing everyone should take into consideration when choosing shot.  I would recommend reading that post as he has some great information in it.

For the next few segments we will take it a step further now that you understand that using 3.5” BB during early teal season is akin to bringing a SCUD missile to a boxing match.

I could honestly go on for hours and probably lose your attention with everything I am about to throw at you so for the sake of time and attention I will break this up into 3 different segments.  Factory VS hand loads, patterning, and what you can do to manipulate variables to achieve the outcome you are looking for.

After the jump I will talk briefly about factory ammo as well as hand loads….
So the first thing that you need to understand is that sometimes factory ammo can be more of a gimmick than a tried and true performer.  I personally jumped on the Black Cloud bandwagon when it first came out like many others and for good reason.  The ammo was marketed based on the wad design that would not allow the shot to leave the cup (wad) until about 10 yards from the end of the barrel.  This improved long range shots due to the tight patterning and left people in amazement at the shots they were able to take.  What people didn’t understand is that the shot loaded into the shell was no different than any other conventional steel shot.  The misconception lead to folks using the BC on decoying birds, and a lot of misses came as a result.

Then came Hevi Steel by Environmetal.  This stuff is what I like to run if for some reason I run out of my home loads and don’t have time to crank out a few boxes before the next hunt.  When you really look at the physics of this load you begin to understand that this type of load makes more sense because of its actual knock down power or terminal momentum.  This load uses a mix of hevi shot and conventional steel to achieve its effectiveness.

The ultimate way to get the best ballistics out of your gun is hand loading.  I started hand loading last year and haven’t looked back.  I can load heavy, light, fast, slow, or any combination of these to achieve my desired results.  My most recent load is running at 1750 fps with #4 conventional steel in a 1oz 2.75” load.  This has enough terminal momentum to drop ducks out to 45+ yards.  With this kind of performance, all my buddies are asking me to start loading boxes up for them!  I am now a firm believer in hand loading all of my ammunition.

In the next segment of this topic we will be talking about how to find out what works best out of your gun.  Patterning different shells is the key to success!  That Black Cloud just might be the best option for you out of your current configuration.

Brad Wilson is an avid outdoorsman targeting waterfowl and saltwater fish and is a guest contributor for the Beretta Blog.  He can be reached on Twitter or YouTube.

Make sure you follow Beretta on FacebookTwitterYouTube.

This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not represent those of Beretta.

Make sure you follow Beretta on FacebookTwitter or YouTube

 

This post and its contents are the views and opinions of the author only, and do not necessarily represent Beretta.

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