Fueling Your Passion for the 28 Gaugeby Bill Hanus
You're a big-time beneficiary of a nifty new trend . . . the explosive growth of the 28 gauge in shooting sporting clays has led ammunition makers to offer great new 28 gauge loads.
Sporting clays’ shooters are writing the book on hitting small, fast-moving targets -- so here's your chance to go to school on their dime. And the first lesson is that clays’ shooters use the smallest pellet they can get away with. It's a judgment call, of course, with wind and target distance factored in, but they get to choose from No. 9, No. 8-1/2, No. 8 and, rarely, No. 7-1/2 shot sizes. Generally, No. 9 shot gives "the biggest bang for the buck." There are 439 pellets in a 3/4 oz. load that works well on close targets -- 18 to 25 yards. The compact shot string of the 28 gauge load offers bird hunters chances for multiple hits on soft targets like grouse and quail, as well as dead-in-the-air head/neck shots on close range dove and pheasant.
No. 8-1/2 shot (368 pellets to the 3/4 oz. load) thins out the pattern some but the heavier pellets are effective at 25 to 30 yards. Mike Jordan, a championship shooter, longtime spokesman for Winchester, says that Winchester's new SUPER SPORT™ Sporting Clays load with a 1300 FPS velocity extends the effective distance of No. 8-1/2 shot to 35 yards! By way of comparison, competition Skeet loads are limited to 1200 FPS and designed for maximum performance at 21 yards, usually with No. 9 shot. Here's another instance where the technology that goes into sporting clays shooting directly benefits the bird hunter. Winchester acknowledges this debt by making the bottom flap of their ammunition box into a membership application form for NSCA -- the National Sporting Clays Association.
Winchester packages their 28 gauge ammunition in a new, high strength HS Hull with special new HS wads and a new HS powder that assures a higher performance level -- and far better reloadability -- than their old AA hull.
Grist for our mill -- Target loads are where ammunition makers put their best foot forward. And nowhere is this more important than in the 28 gauge where, because of its relatively small 3/4 ounce load, each pellet is precious. Target shooters are big-volume users of 28 gauge ammunition, so ammunition makers really go all out to persuade them of the merits of their products. This is grist for our mill. What's good for target shooters is great for bird hunters.
Remington and Federal, for example use the back panels of their ammunition boxes to make their case for product excellence showing cutaway diagrams of their 28 gauge shells. Extra hard shot (high antimony content) graded for roundness, wads that cushion and protect the shot and present optimum patterns, plus powders that provide consistent performance, are the same properties hunters want. The extra hard shot used in target ammunition insures that the maximum number of pellets will get to the target area -- and be less likely to be deflected from their course by leaves and twigs on early season grouse and woodcock. Federal's Premium® Hi-Brass loads are copper plated (which reduces feather-draw) hard shot and go out the door at 1295 FPS and is available in Nos. 6, 7-1/2 and 8 size shot. Their Gold Medal® target has a velocity of 1230 FPS and is available in Nos. 8-1/2 and 9 shot. Remington has Premier® STS® Nos. 8 and 9 target loads with 1200 FPS and an Express® 1295 FPS "Extra Long Range" 3/4 ounce load of Nos. 6 and 7-1/2 shot.
Baschieri & Pellagri often runs an advertisement with a testimonial from Michael MacIntosh commenting upon B&P's low pressure 28 gauge load. The big benefit of low pressures is that it is less likely to deform shot at the instant of ignition, hence present better, fuller patterns in the target area. B&P's standard load has a chamber pressure of only 8750 PSI (11,000 to 12,000 PSI are the industry norm). B&P combines low pressure with 5% antimony (very hard) shot that is polished smooth by tumbling in a media, then dry lubricated. It's said to rival nickel plated shot for performance and is available in No. 7-1/2 and No. 8 shot sizes. B&P has a high velocity load (1300 FPS) also with a low pressure of 9250 PSI which uses the same ingredients as their standard load and is available in Nos. 6, 7 (boy, do these do a number on barn pigeons!) and 7-1/2.
With more and more public and private upland hunting land coming under non-toxic shot requirements, it's important to note that Bismuth Cartridge Company offers a 28 gauge 3/4 ounce @ 1250 FPS load in Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7-1/2 bismuth shot, which is as close as you can get to lead-like performance. Dan Flaherty of the Bismuth shop says his favorite load for quail is their No. 7-1/2 size shot.