A couple of queries from readers ..

Q: I only shoot duck on rare occasions, but I recently bought some bismuth cartridges and was horrified by the price of them. Is it possible to shoot steel shot from an ordinary side-by-side shotgun?

A: It depends on the shotgun. 
A gun of modern manufacture with 70mm chambers and preferably no more than half choke should be perfectly safe to use with standard steel shot cartridges, provided that 
it is in proof and in sound order. Because steel is less dense than lead or bismuth, you should choose a shot size that is at least two sizes larger than that which you normally use. 
If you are in any doubt, then check with your gunsmith. If you have an older English side-by-side, however, 
I would not recommend using even the standard steel shot loads, as these could damage the barrel walls.
High-performance steel shot cartridges should only be used in shotguns that have passed the special steel shot proof and bear 
the words “steel shot” and a fleur 
de lys proof mark. GD

Q: I have recently started using steel shot for pigeon shooting. Only thing is, do I need to tell my game dealer the pigeon have been shot with steel? Could it cause a problem for him so far as processing is concerned?

A: ( Peter Theobald) As far as I am aware, there are no health and hygiene issues associated with steel shot in pigeon entering the food chain.

Some game processors already put warning notes on their products, advising care with spent pellets in the meat, but I doubt whether there is any need to specify those pellets may be made from steel.

Q: Is steel shot different to magnum proof? I ask because I have two Laurona 3in Magnum 12- bores and wonder if they are suitable for steel? Should I check with a gunsmith?

A:  Yes, there is a difference. Without seeing the guns I can’t tell exactly, but I believe your Lauronas would be proofed to 1,200 bars, which would mean they are safe with 3-inch magnum lead cartridges.

Steel shot proof is something different, and the mark includes a fleur de lis, which is a symbol similar to the Boy Scout badge.  On multi-choke guns the choke tubes should also be stamped as being suitable for steel shot.

In short, it is neither wise nor safe to shoot 3in steel magnums through a gun/ choke combination which is not proofed for such a load.