The increased cost of cartridges has prompted manufacturers to explore ways of keeping the cost of budget clay shooting loads in check.
Although we haven?t seen any price increases since November last year, we did suffer four such rises in the 12 months prior to that. This was entirely due to the world commodity price of lead and those of you with your fingers on the pulse will have noticed that the price of lead on the world markets has dropped away since last year.
So why haven?t cartridge prices fallen as well? Sadly we now have a whole different set of circumstances to cope with! The value of the £ against the Euro is horrific, as too is the cost of fuel.
The problem here is that most of the components used by British manufacturers have to be sourced and bought in Europe. Haulage costs have gone up and so too has the price of plastics used for cartridge cases and shot cups.
The bad news is that because of the trading situation some importers are looking at another increase in the order of 9%. I think it doubtful we will see another increase this side of Christmas, but I guess it may come in the early part of 2009.
In an attempt to keep prices down our makers brought in cartridges carrying 21gm lead loads to roughly match the money being paid by clay shooters for 24gm steel shot shells.
Both payloads have managed to steady the cost of shooting.
Performance is ballistically similar to your more usual 24 and 28gm loads and patterns are proven to be better, so with pricing significantly more competitive than the larger lead loads, what are the disadvantages?
You may choose not to use either of these for competition use, on the basis that you need every advantage you can get! The 24gm steel loads have a pellet count equating to 28gm lead loads, but striking energy is not as good, so those longer targets may prove more difficult to break even if you are ?on them.?
The problem with the lighter lead loads is that you will have a lower pellet count, so although patterns are better than the heavier loads, you may feel disadvantaged for this reason alone.
However, both of these new types of cartridge are ideal for practice and the cost of them makes them a sensible choice particularly in these times of global economic upheaval!
Let?s take a look at the steel loads first. Gamebore have been blazing a trail with these for some time now in the shape of their budget Super Steel and Pro Steel ranges.
The Super Steel is a standard 24gm offering in shot size 7½ only and costs around £109.50 per 1,000.
To give them their proper name, White Gold Pro Steel are higher performance and given the nature of steel are a better choice, in my opinion. The 24gm load with 7½ shot is £116.50 per 1,000 and Gamebore also do a very popular 9 shot at £122.50.
Unusually, this price difference for the same product in a different shot size is entirely due to the more difficult and time-consuming process of producing the smaller shot.
Express also has a comparable steel load in terms of performance. Again these are economical enough as you should be able to get them for about £110 per 1,000.
JOIN THE CLUB!
There is more choice available if you choose the light lead load route because all the big English manufacturers are now producing a 21gm offering as a practice or ?club? cartridge.
The fibre wad varieties were always going to be more popular and all are a similar price within a £ or two.
Hull started the trend with its Comp X in a 21gm plastic wad 7½ only, although they now also do a fibre version. The plastic wad cartridge will cost you a credit crunch defying £125 per 1,000 or thereabouts.
The fibre wad versions will always outsell them however and the most reasonable is the Gamebore XLR brand at £129.50 in size 8 only.
After this we?ve got the Lyalvale Express HV Standard in a larger variety of clay shot sizes for not a lot more wonga at £132.50.
Both types of cartridge discussed here are a classic example of market forces dictating manufacturing supply.
Whichever way you look at it we?ve had many happy years of buying essentially ?cheap? cartridges but mainstream products have now pretty much caught up with inflation.
Fortunately for us, the English manufacturers have been relatively quick to find some sort of solution in the shape of both these loads. Both are more than adequate for the purpose for which they are intended, so you should not feel compromised if you choose to use them.
In other words, take advantage of the chance to reduce the cost of your shooting!