Shooting instructor Adam Calvert offers some tips for the season
A: I think cartridges are very much a personal preference and I would say that whatever gives you confidence when you are shooting is the correct cartridge for you. Shooting is a mental game and it is important to believe you have the correct tools for the job.
However, cartridge choice is obviously affected by what type of gun you are shooting. For my side-by-side users I would tend to recommend 28g 6s, moving to 30g 5s later in the season. For my over-under users I recommend a 30g 6 for the early part of the season, moving to a 32g 5 later on. I think most people are now aware that an increase in shot size gives you better knock-down power, which can be useful when the birds are slightly older and stronger later on in the season.
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Speed of weight over shot
There is currently a fashion to shoot bigger and bigger loads, which is fine if you are targeting extreme birds. I personally never shoot anything bigger than a 34g 4 (and they would need to be extreme for this), preferring speed over weight of shot.
I am also a big fan of copper-coated cartridges (lead shot electro-plated with copper) as my experience and testing appears to suggest that copper assists enormously with patterns. The copper almost acts like a lubricant going down the barrel, preventing shot balling but also improving penetration. That said its effects seem to be negated on bigger shot sizes.
Four tips for cartridges
Storage Store your cartridges in dry conditions at room temperature. Don’t dump them in the garage or an airing cupboard. Do this and they will perform at their best.
Patterns Consider having your guns regulated and pattern-tested to your particular cartridge. This may involve fitting chokes.
Back-boring You will find that most shoots now insist you use fibre, not plastic wads. This can affect the performance of your gun so find out how a fibre wad will react with it. Many modern guns are back-bored to reduce recoil – which can result in pressure loss and striking energy.
Recoil I regularly see people shooting with loads that result in too much recoil, particularly if they are using a side-by-side. Don’t underestimate the effect recoil can have on your performance. It can lead to flinching, bruising, trigger free and poor second-barrel recovery.