The popular Shooting Industry Awards run by Sporting Gun magazine and its sister shooting titles recognise and reward the achievements of the gun trade – and this includes cartridge manufacturers.
Not only do the judges carry out technical and field tests on nominated loads but they also take into account the products’ volume sales.
This month then I thought it would be interesting to look back at the winners over the last five years to get an idea of what people are – or were – buying at the time.
All the winning game cartridges are still loaded so if you haven’t yet tried them, this might be the season to give them a go!
This year’s awards saw Hull’s High Pheasant receiving the IPC Media gong. High Pheasant is by far and away Hull’s best selling game cartridge and justifiably so.
As part of Hull’s premium game range, High Pheasant is ballistically similar to its Imperial Game and Sterling Game stablemates, with the different branding sensibly signifying different loads and case lengths.
Hull Cartridge have very recently revamped its entire premium game range with some very nice new packaging (take note Express!) which is understated but oozes quality and gives you an idea of what to expect performance wise.
High Pheasant is a very smooth shooting, classic English game load, and the manufacturer’s Royal Warrant provides peace of mind in that you are buying a quality product which does exactly what it says on the tin.
Lyalvale Express’s Supreme Game range – another long time favourite of mine – deservedly held the limelight this year.
Lyalvale of course was the first British manufacturer to put a game load into a black case and it has been much copied since.
Supreme Game probably offers the largest range of loads and shot sizes of all and it is also the only winner to be loaded in a genuine 65mm case across the range and that is a significant plus point in my view.
All the Supremes can be fired through a classic English side by side without worry.
Supreme with its smooth shooting Vectan powder will not disappoint in the field when under pressure.
Sadly the packaging is now looking extremely dated and could really do with being a little better quality. I raised this with Express quite some time ago but they don’t want to change – probably for very sensible economic reasons.
And they say that improving the packaging won’t improve the performance. Fair point lads, but I really do think it needs to be dragged in to the 21st Century.
Prices are £ per thousand.
This is the year we saw Eley’s VIP taking the honours – a top end game shell in every respect with an extremely high performance to match. In recent months Eley has extended, upgraded and generally improved this 1450fps load by putting it into all new packaging and a sexy black case with super long brass head (you don’t need it).
The makers have opted for a smoother propellant in the form of Maxam’s PSB and it also has the only photodegradeable Plaswad available if you fancy it.
The VIP range has the distinct added advantage of offering exceptional value for this kind of performance in these increasingly austere economic times.
The winner that season was Gamebore’s very worthy Black Gold Game range, developed about four years ago and sensibly extended into other areas of the sport.
It, too, turns in a very high performance with Diamond Shot for improved patterns and loaded in a Gordon Recoil System (GRS) case to keep things smooth on the shoulder.
While Black Gold really does provide the very best performance money can buy my only gripe is that Gamebore should come up with a 5 and 7 shot 28gm fibre load, rather than just the 6 they currently do.
You are missing a trick here boys – they would sell!
The other thing is that the GRS case is 70mm (2 3/4in) so they can’t be used in your old English game gun.
This is a minor point, because Black Gold is a feisty little number, so probably more suited to O/U guns.
I do love the nickel head mind!
The latest winner of this category is the RC SIPE, and a well deserved one too if I might say so because it really has become the industry standard for mainstream pheasant shooting.
It’s another high performance load, extremely well made and comfortable to shoot in any O/U of standard weight.
I have been extolling its virtues for many a year. It’s a classic 32gm (1.1/8oz) pheasant load in shot sizes 4 to 7 – continental remember, so the true English size is always half a shot size larger than what it says on the packet.
Until four years ago it was only available loaded in a plastic wad, but a fibre version was added specifically for the UK market.
Finally, as one of my mates observed after a particularly successful day: “They are proper bloody flatteners!”