Eley Superb: what’s in a name?
Ritchard Atkins takes a close look at the cartridge behind many a competition winner's success - the Eley Superb
We have already written about Eley Olympic Blues; now its Superb cartridges come under the spotlight.
The Superb range sits neatly between the popular mid-range Blues and the top-of-the-range VIP and Titanium types. Attractively priced for a competition cartridge, the Superb range, at around £50 less per 1,000 than Titanium and around £30 above the Eley Blues, has worked very well, and has proved popular across the disciplines, especially Trap and Sporting clays.
The addition of a 24g option has also increased the range of disciplines that Eley Superb can be used in. Results confirm that the Superb range has carved out a very creditable name for performance among plenty of competition shooters, who seek the patterns and performance they need to achieve consistently high scores. So let’s take a closer look.
Eley recently launched new packaging for some of its range, with very smart, modern designs for its 25-clay cartridge cartons. Both types were on sale side by side at my local stockist, requiring a double-take to realise that the reflective high-gloss silver carton, with the bold script, really did spell Superb. Very smart indeed, but a tad harder to read for these tired peepers.
The essential information for bore, shot load weight and size, plus wad-type, are printed on the top flap, along with case and chamber length (70mm suitable for 2¾in chambers). More information on the sides states:
• Extra hard Magnum shot for powerful clay breaks
• Colour-coded print for ease of shot size recognition
• Fast, smooth and low recoil
The statement accompanies these points: “The Eley Superb has been built for the competition shooter — highly effective at long range, with evenly distributed patterns to ensure clean breaks.”
The 70mm long and Maxam-primed cases are silver-grey in colour. The test cartridges are printed in red, which denotes No 7.5 (UK) shot size and therefore 2.3mm diameter (not 2.4mm as is Italian 7.5 shot). The brass-plated steel case heads are 15mm tall, which befits a competition grade cartridge.
Metal head height does not in itself add significantly to performance today with modern, plastic-cased Reifenhäuser manufacturing technology; at least, not in the way it once did. Metal head height has, however, become so ingrained as representing higher performance that it is a brave maker who moves too far away from that concept today.
The loaded Superb cases have neat, tight and well-formed crimp closures, which retained their crimp ‘memory’ after firing. This indicates that these Maxam cases are high grade and very strong, which helps achieve ballistic consistency.
The wad used is the well-regarded Baschieri & Pellagri B&P Diamante H24 for 28g lead shot loads in 70mm cases, as used in the Eley Blues. The excellent gas-sealing properties were again shown in the excellent velocity consistency achieved.
The shot cup metals are lightly joined to avoid jamming the wad feed tubes. Recovered wads showed that some cups opened fully, others partially and some not at all. Perhaps surprisingly, the patterns produced were not affected by how the shot cups opened. Of the two cups that did not open at all, one gave the highest pellet count and one the lowest. With the effort some wad makers go to in ensuring all petals open, this looks like a topic for closer investigation.
The propellant used is 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. This propellant is high energy and achieves high velocities around the 400m-per-second mark with modest charge weights. This makes for economic loading and can help produce pleasant recoil characteristics.
Actual powder charge weights in the cartridges tested averaged a very consistent 20.1 grains (1.3g). Proof laboratory reports show that velocities at the CIP distance 2.5m from the muzzle averaged 394m per second. This is a sufficiently high shot speed for long-range energy while not too punishing for the shooter; especially important when shooting 100-bird contests where a shoot-off might be required.
As with any lead shotgun cartridge, the quality of the shot is key to good pattern performance. Other aspects affect patterns, including wad type and velocity. But if the shot is low antimony and therefore softer than high-antimony premium shot, it’s simply not possible to achieve the most densely populated patterns at range – choke-for-choke constriction – at whatever range.
The shot in the Eley Superb tested gave a crush value of 21.5%, which is low and shows that the Magnum shot description is accurate. This is among the hardest shot crush values I have recorded with No 7.5 (2.3mm) shot. It certainly qualifies as premium shot, with an antimony content of at least 5% being required to obtain these crush values from UK 7.5 shot.
Shot load weights were also 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 nicely polished with graphite and evidently well graded for size; the majority being within the 0.089in to 0.091in diameter range (UK 7.5 shot is nominally 0.090in diameter).
As our standard procedure, these cartridges were submitted to the Birmingham Proof House for pressure, velocity and momentum testing. Patterns were fired from my regular Imp Mod bored test barrel – with 2¾in chamber and standard length forcing cones over a 40-yard distance.
These Eley Superb cartridges recorded very consistent results with an SD (standard deviation) result of 4.1. This figure – though slightly higher than the exceptional result for the Eley Blues – is still excellent. It equates to a spread of only 11m per second over 10 shots, which is within the tightest realm for shotgun cartridges. Good consistency proves every component works very well together, has been well assembled and properly finished with a consistent crimp closure.
The mean pressure of 437 bar is also modest. As with the Blues, the burn is clean with minimal residue. This is a characteristic of modern single-base propellants. Metering is evidently very good too.
Given the similar velocity, same plastic wad and same size but harder shot, more dense pattern results were anticipated. As the chart (above) shows, the strikes in the 30in diameter pattern totalled 295 pellets at 40 yards from the Imp Mod (nominally 65%) test barrel. This equates to 72% of the shot charge and is 2% above full-choke pattern result at this distance.
The make-up of the total count comprises the average of 173 pellets that landed inside the inner 20in circle, plus the average 122 that landed in the 20in to 30in outer zone. This compares with the 62% (139 + 102 = 241 total) pellet counts for the Eley Blues previously tested and is a good example of how premium cartridges can improve longer-range kills.
The comparison of results between the mid-range Olympic Blues and these Eley Superb cartridges may help to explain – for those who do not pattern test their own gun/choke/cartridge patterning performance – the difference that merely changing cartridge can make.
Put simply, the harder shot retained more pellets within the 30in pattern and thickened up the pellet count in both the inner and outer pattern zones. That is what premium cartridges can provide and why I use them for tougher targets. I do recommend having a box of premium cartridges in your bag.
My local clay ground, Park Farm, Ombersley, attracts a good number of serious competition shooters. Some of these people use Eley Superb cartridges and I asked one of them, Adam Gutteridge, to provide a brief review of his experiences and successes using them. I thought this would make a useful addition because it involves shooting at a very high level.
I moved from another manufacturer to using Eley cartridges in 2002. I was fortunate to be part of the group that trialled the initial test batches of [what became] the Eley Superb in that year.
The sales director at the time said this was going to be something “very special”.
The initial batches came out and, from the beginning to this day, the performance has been off the charts – the recoil is smooth, speed moderate, and the pattern performance is excellent. It’s my go-to shell in most situations.
I have utilised the Superb in most competitive environments, from county-level Skeet and all-round competitions, all the way up to England and Great Britain Trap selection shoots.
I shot my first 100 straight ABT and 125 straight Universal Trench with Superbs. Most recently, I won the English Open ABT 2021 using the Superb No 7s.
With the recent release of the 24g variants, there is no discipline-limiting option now to not use the Superb.
Adam’s shooting career
• Shot internationally for England since year 2000, and Great Britain since 2002. Previously English and Welsh Open ABT Champion, runner-up at British Open ABT. Multiple world, European and Home International medal winner.
• Specialising in the international disciplines of Trap, but shoots all disciplines for recreation.
- Configuration Eley Superb 28g 7.5 shot, plastic wad
- Shot load 435 grains
- Pellet (count per oz) 407
- UK shot (size/CV) 7.5/21.5%
- Pellets in 30in dia (Av) 295
- Pellets in 20in to 30in 122
- Pattern 72%
- CD 59%
- Velocity 394m/sec (1,293fps)
- SD 4.1
- Recoil (M) 11.1Ns
- Pressure (bar) 437 bar
Footnote: Premium cartridges with hard shot come into their own as range increases; therefore, for many of the close to mid-range targets on a Sporting ground, a decent budget to mid-range cartridge can suffice. When you come to the longer, edge-on and departing targets, reach for a premium option because this is where premium cartridges earn their extra cost.