By Charles Bull
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Partridge shooting cartridges: With the Game Fair over, the sap’s now rising as we hurtle towards the start of another glorious partridge season.
But what should we be using to down a few Frenchmen or, if we’re super lucky, a handful of Englishmen?
Partridge are not by nature natural high flyers so unless a shoot has a few hills to flick them off, we need to concentrate on shooting them well out in front of the line - only then can we hope to get a full dose of sporting satisfaction from these wonderful little birds.
Taking ‘em in front raises the excitement and exhilaration of the game, and to do this consistently it’s best to maintain pattern density by picking smaller shot.
A lightish load 6½s or 7s is ideal but if you really are on the high stuff (and by this I mean 40 yards plus) you may want to consider dropping to an English 6.
My first choice 12-bore cartridge has got to be RC’s Professional Game; it’s a pretty hot performer, smooth on the shoulder and loaded in a genuine 65mm case - entirely suitable then for older English guns with 2½ in chambers.
This RC comes in a red case with 12mm head designed for the British market and generates a high performance muzzle velocity of 1,450fps.
It’s available in a 28 or 30gm fibre wad only. My favourite is the lighter of the two in size 7, which equates to an English 6½. Ideal, and good value at £242 per 1,000.
Next on the list has to be Supreme Game from Lyalvale Express.
Supreme Game comes in a huge variety of loads in plastic or fibre wad and offers us shooters something for virtually every type of quarry encountered in the UK.
Loaded in a distinctive (and much copied) black case with 16mm head it provides smooth shooting performance with a muzzle velocity of 1,400fps.
It’s one of the most comfortable high performance game cartridges I have ever come across, and is loaded in a genuine 65mm case whatever the shot charge.
For partridge, use the 28gm (1oz) in 6½ or 7 shot, or perhaps 30gm 7s for those higher birds.
The 28gm load starts at about £248 per 1,000.
What have we got when it comes to 16-bore guns? Not a lot to be brutally frank!
The 16-bore has always been very popular on the Continent, but has never really taken off this side of the Channel.
Consequently cartridge choice has always been limited with particular reference to available shot sizes.
That said, excellent loads are made here in the UK by all the big names including Eley, Express, Gamebore and Caledonian.
Hull Cartridge Company however, probably has the largest selection out there. Its Three Crowns range in 26gm offers a nice “square” load for a 16-bore and therefore patterns better.
Available in shot sizes 5 through to 7, the latter is the one to go for. It is also available in paper case, but in 6 shot only.
The new 28gm High Pheasant reviewed last month is sadly only available in shot sizes 5 or 6 but you can also choose the 26gm version with Eco friendly fibre wad delivering a muzzle velocity of 1,410fps.
Expect to pay £238 per 1,000. Eley Hawk also load great cartridges in this bore size, in particular its new VIP range.
I used to like the distinction between the 26.5gm Grand Prix and the VIP which denoted the heavier 28gm load. In any case, they are now called the same thing, which some may find confusing.
Both are available in 7 shot and this is the one to go for where partridges are concerned.
They’re loaded in a 67mm blue case with a 16mm head and generate a very respectable muzzle velocity of 1,425fps. Cost is £236 per 1,000 for the 26.5gm load.
When it comes to 20-bore cartridges the choice out there is almost as bewildering as it is for the 12!
The biggest seller by far are 28 gm (1oz) loads but the perfect payload for this gun is actually 25 or 26gm.
If you’re shooting partridge then go for the lighter of these two loads – believe me, you get better patterns and can shoot more comfortably.
For my money, first choice here has to go to yet another RC load in the shape of the SIPE 25gm plastic wad or 26gm in fibre in that ideal continental shot size 7 (UK 6½ remember!), it is also available in a 6.
Its larger sister in 28gm format is also great for those higher pheasants later in the season in 5 or 6 shot.
Both are loaded in a yellow 70mm case with sexy 16mm head and a top speed of 1,450 fps.
The plastic wad version starts at £238 representing very good value for such a high achiever.
Another Italian manufacturer, Fiocchi, also make a great 25gm load in 6 or 7 shot.
Pukka performance in a yellow 67mm case with 8mm head at a recession busting £219 per 1,000.
The best cartridge I have found is from yet another Italian manufacturer, Bornaghi. It’s available in 24 and 28gm, but unfortunately in plastic wad only and is surely the best 28-bore offering out there.
I am convinced it’s even better than the Winchester costing more than twice as much and I have no worries shooting partridge with the 24gm version loaded with Continental shot size 7.
It costs a not inconsiderable £289 per thousand but it does turn in a hard hitting performance – and it’s half the price of the Winchester
On the home front Gamebore’s new Pure Gold in 70mm (2.3/4in) 25gm is among the ones to go for if you need to shoot fibre wads even though, sadly, it’s only available in shot sizes 5 or 6.
In my view one loaded with 7s would make the ideal cartridge for partridge or grouse.
Great performance with prices starting at £277.
Hull also do a great fibre 28-bore in a more manageable 23gm 7 shot at £257 and for the purist after the ideal 28-bore load, Eley’s 21gm VIP with fibre wad and 7s is just the ticket! And it costs just £246 per thou.
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