I’m depressed – but not in a wrist-slashing way you understand, but in a proud sort of manner.
I went to a friendly clay shoot the other night and took my eldest son along for some good company and banter.
Guess what? He beat me – and with a 20 bore that’s far too small for him! At 14, he has a youngster’s quick reactions and an older person’s maturity to read the targets. It’s a devastating combination and the only comfort I take from it is that he’s had a good coach all these years!
So what’s it all about?
Argue the point if you must, but there’s no doubt the 12-bore is king of clays. You rarely see a smaller gauge being used except at specialist competitions, or by people who find a 12 too heavy to handle.
The reason for this is simply more shot spread, giving a greater margin for error.
We know smaller gauges throw better patterns, but we also know you have to be more accurate to make use of this.
However, the larger pattern of a 12-bore is not of such good quality and therefore you get holes in it. So it is worth remembering the slightly lighter load of 24gms – whilst giving less pellets in the payload – throws a better pattern than the ubiquitous 28gm load.
So a smaller bore will test you a bit more, but what is available in 20?
Sadly, choice is limited because cartridge manufacturers tend to pay only token lip service to this smaller market. This might be understandable from a commercial point of view but it does not give the consumer much to choose from. You are limited to a variety of 24 or 28gm loads in plastic or fibre wad, with Express, Hull and Eley offering a lighter 21gm load which is ideal for youngsters. A mid-range 25gm load is offered by Eley and RC, but in my view this is something and nothing and should be discounted from the argument. Eley CT is the only English make to produce a full range of 24 and 28gm loads in plastic or fibre wad with a full range of clay shot sizes encompassing 7.1/2, 8 and 9s with prices starting from a very reasonable £134 per 1,000.
Express load a similar range but with fewer shot sizes and prices starting from a not quite so reasonable £154 for the 24gm plastic wad cartridge.
Hull’s Pro Twenty range include a 24gm in plastic or fibre and a 28gm in fibre only in shot sizes 7.1/2 or 8 starting at £148 per 1,000.
Likewise Gamebore, who only offer a shot size 8 in the fibre alternatives starting at £144.50. Mind you, this is what my son was using the other night!
The continental offerings are also limited with Rio’s Top Target only available in a 24gm plastic 7.1/2 at around £134 per 1,000. Saga Olympic Trap or Skeet also only offer a 24gm load, but in fibre or plastic wad starting at about £128.
Nobel Sport has a full range of loads in 24 or 28gm, fibre or plastic in 7.1/2s and 8s from £135. These are all sensible money and good quality shells, but such a limited range! Mind you, at least they offer a ‘range’ as Roitweil don’t import anything at all for the clay shot who uses a 20-bore.
Winchester have finally chosen to produce a 20-bore clay load in X3 format, but only in a 28gm plastic wad shot size 7.1/2. This one clay product costs £158 for 1,000 – but at least it’s cheaper than the US imports from Winchester at thrice the price!
I gather Fiocchi will soon be on stream with a broad range of 24 and 28gm loads in plastic or fibre wads. Expect these to cost in the region of £135.50.
And finally? RC offer a 24 and 28 gm 20 bore cartridge in a full range of shot sizes, but sadly only in a plastic wad starting at £159. That’s the Italians for you, but it’s a cracking cartridge and my son’s choice when allowed to use it.
From this you will see clay shooters have a limited range for what is perceived as a limited market.
There’s no differentiation between club level and competition loads. The same can’t be said of the game market where 20-bore users really are spoilt for choice.
But more of this later in the year!