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20-bore high game cartridge review

Some shooters will argue the sense of shovelling heavy loads through a small bore gun pointing to the increase in recoil and simply ask: “What’s the point in that?”

In the case of short-barrelled lightweight side-by-side game guns their argument has some merit but, within reason, heavier loads can be used comfortably through weightier O/Us with 30in or 32in barrels.

As ever, picking the right cartridge for a gun is a question of compromise and balance.

For instance if your 20-bore gun has 3in chambers you can propel almost 1.1/4oz of lead shot up the tubes if the fancy takes you.

Try it, but don’t blame me if it sets your teeth chattering or loosens some fillings. So what constitutes ‘suitably heavy’ where 20-bores are concerned?

Given that the commonest 20-bore load for game is 28gms (1oz), I’m looking here at 1.1/16oz and 1.1/8oz offerings – ideal high bird material.

All the British manufacturers and the likes of Fiocchi, RC and Viri- FOB make some pretty potent 20-bore shells with plastic shot cups but this month I’ve chosen a selection carrying fibre to meet the requirements of the many eco-friendly shooting estates out there.

GAMEBORE PURE GOLD
This 20-bore is available with 1.1/16oz (30gm) of 5 or 6 shot and its high performance makes it a very popular choice.

20-bore high game cartridges

Pure Gold in 1oz format is an extremely good seller, so the slightly heavier load seems a natural progression if you think you need a little extra help on good sporting birds.

It is also sells for sensible money at £246 per 1,000.
» Gamebore Pure Gold 20-bore 30gm Fibre 5, 6
» Case Length: 70mm
» Wad: Fibre or Plastic
» Powder: B & P
» Muzzle Velocity: 1425fps


HULL CARTRIDGE
This company’s 30gm offering comes in the shape of the well known Sterling Game range.

20-bore high game cartridges

And like near neighbours, Gamebore, Hull doesn’t produce one in 32gm… yet!

The similarity between both loads doesn’t end there because Sterling, like Pure Gold, is also available in shot sizes 5 or 6 and again represents good value at £243 per thousand.

Hull’s game cartridges have a very long pedigree, and the performance of the 30gm Sterling Game is up there with the best.
» Hull Sterling Game 20-bore 30gm Fibre 5, 6
» Case Length: 70mm
» Wad: Fibre
» Powder: Nobel Sport
» Muzzle Velocity: 1360fps


LYALVALE EXPRESS
Unlike the previous two, Express make both a 30gm and 32gm Special 20 (formerly known as Somerset Game) and both come in a genuine 65mm case for use in guns with 2.1/2in chambers.

20-bore high game cartridges

Express was one of the first makers to spot a niche in the market for potent 20-bores and as such, they know how to put them together.

These days Lyalvale doesn’t even bother to make a plastic wad variant because in the UK that market is pretty much negligible these days.

Not the cheapest at £255 for the 30gm and £276 for the 32gm but you will not be left wanting standing under a 40-yard plus pheasant.
» Express Special 20-bore 30gm & 32gm Fibre 5, 6
» Case Length: 65mm
» Wad: Fibre
» Powder: Vectan
» Muzzle Velocity: 1375fps


ELEY HAWK
Eley’s leading VIP load comes in both 30 and 32gm format but it’s only recently that the company has started producing them in fibre wad.

20-bore high game cartridges

Both cartridges are aimed squarely at the high bird shot and they’re available in shot size 5 only so there is no doubt about what they are designed for.

Other shot sizes are available in the plastic wad variant.

With the VIP performance you have come to expect, these represent sensible money at £245 (30gm) and £270 per 1,000 for the 32gm.
» Eley VIP 20-bore 30gm & 32gm Fibre 5
» Case Length: 70mm
» Wad: Fibre or Plastic
» Powder: Maxam
» Muzzle Velocity: 1425fps


BORNAGHI
Finally here’s an offering from the continent – a hyper efficient cartridge in 30 and 32gm format, again available in 5 or 6 shot loadings – another true specialist.

20-bore high game cartridges

I use Bornaghi in a 28-bore and they are about the best I have found, so I can vouch for their efficiency!

Being Italian, the shot size helpfully equates to about an English 4½, so these are about as useful as you will get for late season pheasants.

Need I say more? They are not cheap at £280 per 1,000 (30gm) and £290 for the 32gm but they are well worth the money.

What’s more the 30gm version also wins the prize for coming in the nicest package this month!
» Bornaghi 20-bore 30gm & 32gm Fibre 5
» Case Length: 70mm
» Wad: Fibre
» Powder: Nobel Sport
» Muzzle Velocity: 1425fps

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