Whether you are shooting clays for practice or fun, there is a huge choice of cartridges. Our expert gives his verdict on some of the leading makes …
Clay pigeon or competition cartridges are a manufacturer’s delight because they are the big seller, more so than dedicated pigeon or game cartridges. They can represent, on average, as much as 60 per cent of total production because, unlike gameshooting, clays can be shot all year round.
Just think of the number of cartridges you can get through on a morning at the local club. I would not mind betting that even a few practice sessions mean a potential consumption of cartridges often greater than that expended by a shooter in the season on a small knockabout mixed gameshoot.
There’s a wide variety of cartridges for clayshooting
Forty or so years ago, when clayshooting was really starting to catch on, we used whatever cartridges were to hand. Due to the amount of shooting, price was always a factor because at least with pigeon shooting we could get money back from sales to the local gamedealer.
Some of the old hands — who, it was rumoured, would even shoot sitting game — never quite got used to the idea that for all that shooting, there was nothing to eat. They resented any extravagant expenditure, so there was always a determined search for the best deal on ammunition.
Spoilt for choice is a phrase that hardly does credit to the range of dedicated clayshooting cartridges now available. Who would have believed that, all those years ago when we first set up an old manual trap behind a couple of bales and a rusty piece of corrugated steel, today dedicated competition cartridges would be available for not only 12-bore but also 20-bore, .410 and even 28-bore?
Not only that but, as well as general- purpose clay cartridges, others designed for specific disciplines like trap and skeet would become fairly straightforward to obtain.
The cartridges I have selected here are nearly all those I have had some experience of using, mainly on test at the pattern plate and also at clays, usually driven bird. Scroll down and you’ll see a detailed description listed below.
As ever, when you are deciding which cartridge to go for, it is always a case of choosing what suits your own gun. One thing to bear in mind is that shotguns with extra-long forcing cones or taper bored barrels may perform better with plastic wad cartridges. It obviously makes sense to use a cartridge made to match the shooting discipline. With trap and skeet this is probably more important than for general sporting shooting. There may also be limitations on what may be used on a particular clay ground, but the choice of cartridges is so extensive that it should never be a problem finding a cartridge that suits the gun and the place of use.
Eley Hawk produces an extensive range of competition cartridges covering all bases, from traditional lead shot to steel, a choice of subsonic and in sizes 12, 20 and .410. I have always had good results with the VIP range and the more economically priced 1st Select. This cartridge is suitable for 21/2in (65mm) chambered guns and is produced with 21, 24 and 28g loads in shot sizes 71⁄2, 8 and 9, with plastic or fibre wad.
The Eley Hush Power subsonic cartridge which I tested in a sound-moderated 20-bore was impressive for its quietness; the strike of shot on the pattern plate was more audible than the report from the gun. While not the greatest fan of the .410 shotgun, Eley’s little trap cartridge has unfailingly produced good patterns on test. Available in 21⁄2in (65mm) and 3in (75mm) lengths, shot loads are sizes 71⁄2, 8 and 9 with a plastic wad.