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Gerry rang to invite me for an early wild goose chase north of the Border, so I got the 8-bore out, checked there weren?t any mice lurking in the 40in barrels, and began the hunt for cartridges. My 8-bore is highly unusual in having 4.5in chambers. Many years ago, the redoubtable Alan Myers made me 20 4.5in brass cases, and I used to load these with blackpowder and 3.25oz of shot. Truly, the old cannon used to put on a real thunder and lightning show. It was a mighty slayer of geese.

Unfortunately, I let my blackpowder permit lapse some years ago. In fact, I have to confess that I haven?t fired the old beast for a few years. Where could I get some pre-loaded 8-bore cartridges? Why, from Alan Myers, of course. I gave him a ring, and then popped down to his place near Winmarleigh, Lancashire. Now, I hadn?t seen Alan for perhaps a dozen years, but finding him in his Aladdin?s cave of a workshop brought back a lot of happy memories.

There he was, surrounded by huge fowling pieces, punt guns, cartridge cases the size of tonic bottles, cleaning brushes that wouldn?t look out of place in a chimney sweep?s bag? Truly, a big-bore fanatic?s idea of heaven. In his time, Alan has made some seriously massive shoulder guns, including several double 4-bores and colossal single 2-bores ? not to mention a series of punt guns. His workshop was stuffed with heavy artillery. The few 10-bores and Magnum 12s I could see among the big stuff looked like minnows among salmon.

In the company of giants

Seeing racks of gargantuan goose-busters reminded me of how being in the company of giants causes you to re-calibrate. Many years ago, Alan, Gerry and I were in Perthshire, getting ready for a moonflight.

?Are you taking a big gun tonight?? I asked Gerry, in all innocence. ?Nah, just the eight,? was his slightly disconcerting response. Gerry and I have used this as a catchphrase ever since.

Anyway, I bought a box of 2.5oz 8-bore fodder from Alan (mere snack-food formy cannon, with its super-length chambers), and then he showed me his latest product ? plastic-cased 8-bore ammo in any length up to and including 4.25in. These beauties should be able to hurl more than 3oz gooseward. Alan intends to load them with good ol? church roof, and also with his latest find in non-toxic shot, a product called Ecotungsten Nice Shot, which has been getting rave reviews across the pond.

Alan says this new stuff is very nearly as heavy as lead and, crucially, almost as malleable. The latter feature means that it should be suitable forold fowling pieces with tightly choked barrels. It seems that Nice Shotdoesn?t require protective shotcups or any other special measures, just ordinary felt or fibre wadding.

The only drawback, inevitably, is the price. Alan hasn?t worked out what he will be charging for his new cartridges yet, but he did indicate that the cost of the shot itself is eye-watering. But then, most wildfowlers don?t fire all that many cartridges in a season. Besides, how can you put a price on being able to bring a grand old marsh cannon back into use, at full range, without causing it any damage?

In addition to a full range of plastic-cased 8-bore loads (or even paper, if you are a purist), Alan is also planning to offer any length required in both 10-bore and 4-bore. At the time I ran him to ground, he told me several batches of the new ammunition are currently out being tested for pressure and velocity. He expects the results soon. Subject to any final tweaking, he hopes to have boxes of the new cartridges available within the next few weeks. It?s good to know that dinosaurs still stalk the earth, isn?t it?

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