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Eley Olympic Blues: why this cartridge has long been a firm favourite with clayshooters

Richard Atkins takes an in-depth look at a cartridge that is a classic

Eley Olympic blues

So distinct in their packaging, these cartridges are known by man y simply as 'Blues'

I have fond memories of Eley Olympic Blues. The name has a long history since they originally launched as Eley’s premium Olympic Trap cartridge. I recall meeting Jackie Stewart (now Sir Jackie) in the early 1980s when he was an ambassador for Eley clay cartridges and used them in serious competition. I met him at the Sealand Shooting Ground during the Rolex Grand Prix, which he was instrumental in promoting way back when 11⁄8oz (32g) shot loads were used for Olympic Trap competitions. Jackie, wearing his signature cap, was also featured on Eley clay cartridge cartons and promotional material.

They were called the Olympic Trap Blue in promotional material, with ‘Blue’ reflecting the case colour. The word ‘Blue’ was printed on the cartridges, but with the word ‘Trap’ removed. This reflected what many keen users called this cartridge anyway — “Four boxes of Eley Blues, please,” was a common request when buying cartridges. (Read what happened when we looked for the best clay cartridges around.)

Eley Olympic Blues old packaging

The familiar face of Jackie Steward used to appear on the packaging of the Blues


Eley Olympic Blues are no longer promoted as a premium cartridge for Olympic Trap shooting, with Eley introducing VIP, Gold, Superb and Titanium cartridges into their premium trap cartridge range. Now a more mid-range cartridge at a competitive price and offered in shot sizes 7, 5, 8 and 9, and also with plastic and fibre wad options, Eley Blues have become a firm favourite among Sporting clayshooters, as well as plenty of DTL and Skeet shooters too. To this end, Eley Olympic Blues have been revamped during their long track record, and that included the move to 28g and 24g shot load weights for national and international competitions. (Read more about Skeet shooting here.)

Faced with recent escalation in cartridge costs following the many issues associated with coming out of the Covid pandemic – including the ongoing component supply shortages, plus raised transport costs from the more recent steep rise in fuel prices – most shooters have been looking for a saving on their cartridges.

For many of us this means going for a cartridge from the budget ranges, of which choices have increased over recent years. While Eley Select are Eley’s budget option with the widest range of shot weight, sizes and wad options in the range, the Olympic Blues also offer a step up in specification and a cost saving over the premium options.

Eley Olympic Blue cartridges

The selection of components that make up these Eley cartridges work very well together


Eley Blues readily stand out among rows of cartridges on the shelves of my local Eley stockist – Park Farm Shooting Ground in Ombersley, Worcestershire. The bright blue cartons have Olympic Blue printed large on the front and rear of the sturdy 25-cartridge cartons. Essential information for shot load weight and size plus wad type is clearly printed on the top flap, along with case and chamber length (70mm case/2¾in chambers).

Information printed on the carton sides informs us that the cartridges have:

• Specially developed CSB powder for higher velocity

• Extra-hard lead for clean clay breaks

• 12mm brass for strength and clean ejection

These points are accompanied with the following statement: “The Eley Olympic Blues have the heritage of the Olympics cartridge and the speed of the Blues, this producing class-leading patterns and clay breaks.” An impressive CV for sure, so let us take a closer look.


Since Eley were taken over by Maxam of Spain they have, quite naturally, used more Maxam components in their cartridge production. Maxam manufactures cases, primers, propellants and plastic wads. The 70mm long and Maxam-primed cases are obviously bright blue in colour. The brass-plated 12mm high steel heads complement the cases to provide a quality look. As the crisply retained form of the excellent, tight-crimp closures reveal (see photo of fired case crimps, pictured below) these Maxam cases are high grade and very strong. Quality cases help with ballistic consistency; they are also popular with those that reload their fired cases as the cases are sufficiently strong to form good crimps when reloaded. I mention this because although reloading for clay loads has not been financially worthwhile for a long time, the onward march of steel shot cartridges – possibly coming to clay shooting at some future time – may well lead to a resurgence of interest in hand-loading cartridges.

Eley often uses the Maxam A24 plastic wads in its competition clay cartridges, but the wad in the Blues is from world-renowned cartridge and component maker Baschieri & Pellagri (recently bought by Fiocchi). This has an excellent diamond-form centre section that gives this wad its Diamante name, this being the B&P Diamante H24 for 28g lead shot loads in 70mm cases. This has excellent gas-sealing properties, as the superb velocity SD (standard deviation) figures (see chart below) reveal. The propellant used actually appears to be from the Maxam PSB range, a finely cut square flake single-base powder visually similar to PSB 5, which Maxam promotes as ideal for 28g shot loads in 12-bore, with quite low charge weights providing high velocities around the 400 metres per second (mps) mark.

Maxam CSB powders are disc shaped, not square cut, so each is readily distinguishable. This square-cut flake powder performs extremely well and at cost-effective charge weights. Actual charge weights in the cartridges tested averaged a very consistent 19.9 grains (1.29g) and fractionally below Maxam’s suggested charge for a 400mps velocity in this loading. This is indicative of a high energy/cost-effective propellant.


Proof laboratory reports show that velocities at 2.5m actually averaged 390mps, which is an excellent fast-shot speed without being excessive. The test report also shows these cartridges were exceptionally consistent. The SD figure of 1.9 represents the tightest velocity tolerance I can recall for any shotgun cartridge result I have seen in many years of cartridge proof tests. The actual velocity variation from lowest to highest over the 10 test shots is just 11mps, and that, for any shotgun cartridge, is exceptional. The fact that such consistency is achievable proves every component involved works very well together.

Shot is, of course, a key component in any game or clay shotgun cartridges, as it ultimately delivers the final blow to the target. The shot in the Eley Olympic Blues tested gave a crush value of 32%. This indicates around 3.5% antimony content, which is harder than in the budget Eley Select cartridges, but not quite so hard as in premium Eley clay loads. This confirms the positioning of the Blues in the mid-range category, where patterns can be tighter than the budget loads for more consistent breaks at greater distance.

The pellet in this is harder than budget range shot, but is under premium shot hardness. Antimony is much more expensive than lead, and so price increases with antimony content.

Shot load weights were very consistent, and shot count showed these are true UK 7.5 and therefore around 50 to 60 pellets per load more than an Italian size 7.5, 28g clay cartridge. Pellet sizes were well graded for size with the vast majority falling within the 0.089 to 0.0915in diameter range (UK 7.5 shot is nominally 0.09in diameter).

Eley Olympic Blue cartridge

The cartridge cases are so sturdy that they’re easy to refill


Following our standard procedure, these cartridges were submitted to the Birmingham Proof House laboratory for pressure, velocity and momentum testing. Patterns were fired from the regular Imp Mod bored test barrel – with 2¾in chamber and standard length forcing cones – over a 40-yard distance.

The velocity results achieved by these cartridges did, in fact, prove quite remarkable. The SD figure achieved is the smallest I can recall in over 40 years of regular testing. The SD figure of 1.96 over 10 consecutive shots actually means a total variation of just 6mps. This is in the territory of the finest match rifle ammunition and is something quite rare and difficult to achieve in any shotgun cartridge. The many factors that go into components, and the assembly into a finished cartridge does not lend itself to producing quite such tight tolerances, much as manufacturers may try. The selection of each component in the Olympic Blues evidently work very well together too. The mean pressure is also remarkably low and indicates a relatively modest burning rate for it to produce such high velocity in a 28g load. It also burns cleanly, which many shooters appreciate.

Patterns were well filled and reasonably evenly spread. Pellet distribution does play its part in performance. Though we might imagine pellets behave in a well-ordered manner, that isn’t always the case. Patterns will vary from shot to shot from any shotgun cartridge, whether budget or premium. Results always give a typical ‘Bell curve’ distribution result when logged over a series of pattern tests (which is why just one or two patterns can never reveal the true average pattern result).

Patterns produced an average 63% average pellet density, just 2% below the nominal for the Imp Mod choked test barrel. This resulted in 241 pellets in the total 30in pattern circle at 40 yards, which helps ensure good coverage. On average, 102 pellets landed in the outer 20 to 30in annular outer zone: this equates to 58% central density (CD) and produced good overall coverage. Patterns like these, with good pellet density and helpful distribution, are what make a cartridge like Olympic Blues so popular with so many clayshooters, especially Sporting shooters. (Read key clayshooting tips here.)



Spread pattern at 40 yards with the highest pellet density – 260 pelletes within the 30in circle

Eley Olympic Blue cartridge test pattern test

Eley Olympic Blue cartridge test pattern test

Another pattern offered 260 pellets – the average central density was 58%

Eley Olympic Blue cartridge test pattern test

This pattern offered the lowest density, with 220 pellets inside


This sensible repositioning within the market, linked with a catchy name and a great history, reflects the move away from the very top rank of international trap shooting (Olympic Trap), and creating an even larger following in the much larger Sporting clays market.

I initially tried them for DTL and found that, in my Browning Citori trap gun, my favoured 3⁄8 choke in the bottom barrel gave very positive kills. They even brought home a couple of targets I realised I was too high on, but the outer fringe pellets still kindly broke the new eco clays for me. The fixed full-choke top barrel produced positive second barrel kills when needed, too, so these will work for both barrels at DTL. But the first barrel is key and I found a bit more leeway came in handy.

On Sporting layouts I tried a range of targets, including incomers, overheads and springing teal. Even some quartering away targets at decent range were well broken when I did my part. Using my own electric trap, I established that full-size clays up to 40 yards and just beyond, where more clay was showing as in springing teal presentations, were in range.

When I come across more distant clays, especially smaller than standard, I know that premium cartridges improve my chances. Eley has plenty of options for the more distant, faster and edge-on clays you will encounter, so a box of premium cartridges in the bag will come in handy. A clean burning, moderate recoil cartridge with performance to cope with a very wide range of targets and at a mid-range price, Eley Blues has certainly carved a new niche in the clayshooter’s armoury that will surely see the Blues proving perennially popular.

Tech specs

  • Configuration Eley Olympic Blues 28g 7.5 shot, plastic wad
  • Shot load 431.2 grains
  • Pellet (count per oz) 390
  • UK shot (size/CV) 7.5/32%
  • Pellets in 30in dia (Av) 241
  • Pellets in 20in-30in 102
  • Pattern 63%
  • CD 58%
  • Velocity 391m/s (1,283fps)
  • SD 1.96
  • Recoil (M) (Ns) 11 Ns
  • Pressure (bar) 440 bar