I Love Small Shot

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

I Love Small Shot

by Bill Hanus

Here's a bumper sticker every bird hunter can display. The changes that have come about in the last few years in the small gauge shotshell business give new meaning the phrase: Little things mean a lot. Boy, do they ever!

Two major developments that will change bird hunting forever: The availability of number 8-1/2 size shot, and the increase in muzzle velocities to 1300 fps and faster.

Number 9 shot is the "official" shot size of the skeet field, where the maximum target distance is 21 yards and the rules of the game call for a maximum of 1200 fps loads. No. 9's work well on 20-yard targets (and are a good choice for the first barrel of a double gun when shooting over close-working dogs) but 1200 fps loads poop out pretty rapidly after that.

But then along came Sporting Clays with new rules that encouraged shotshell makers to enhance the performance. Winchester introduced the No. 8-1/2 shot size. Yep, halfway between No. 8 and No. 9. You'd figure it to be maybe a 26 or 28-yard performer. But wait, if you hype up the muzzle velocity to 1300 fps, the effective distance extends to 33 or 35 yards! In practical, everyday terms, you get to put more pellets in the air, without sacrificing effective ranges. Smaller pellets for larger birds -- that's the bonus that higher velocities deliver. Winchester's new Super- Sport™ Sporting Clays No. 8-1/2's load sacrifices only about 17% of the No. 9 pellet count -- but check out the bonus you get in effective yardage gained when they crank up the muzzle velocity up to 1300 fps.

Speed kills... and all the major ammunition makers offer loads in this high performance 1300 to 1400 fps velocity class. Check out Bascheiri & Pellegri's F2 Classic line; Federal's Premium® and Wing•Shok™ brands; Fiocchi's Golden Pheasant and High Velocity lines; Kent Cartridge's non-toxic IMPACT™ ULTIMATE UPLAND® and VELOCITY® lead loads; Remington's Express® High-Velocity Extra Long Range Loads and Winchester's Super-X® line in addition to the SuperSport™ AA® Sporting Clays line mentioned above.

This empowers small gauge shooters -- a throw-in benefit of these high velocity loads is that makers use absolutely the best components and their hardest, roundest shot to maximize performance. With 375 No. 8-1/2-s in a 3/4 oz. 28 gauge load and 435 in a 7/8 oz. 20 gauge load, you can get serious about routinely taking doubles on pointed bobs, woodcock and ruffed grouse. With high velocity No. 8's (and 40-yard capabilities) in the first barrel backed by No. 7-1/2's (okay, No. 6's if you are chasing Prairie Chickens with a flushing dog) in the second barrel, you're all set for pheasant, dove and desert quail.

No. 9 shot size is now available in 16 gauge loads from two different makers. Fiocchi has added No. 9's to their Game & Target/Multi Sport dove load, a 1 oz. load with a muzzle velocity of 1165 fps. B&P offers No. 9 shot in their F2 Classic line, a 29 gram load (1-1/16 oz.) with a muzzle velocity of 1280 fps.

Before WWII, when skeet was a 5-gauge sport, it included the 16 gauge. Sixteen gauge ammunition was quite common at that time and Winchester's development of WS-1 and WS-2 (which we know today as Skeet 1 & 2, or Quail I & II) for their great Model 21 side-by-side shotgun really got the best out of No. 9's -- on the skeet field and for birds shot over dogs. The 16 gauge was a champ then and these small pellet-size loads demonstrate why it still is a champ.

The small pellet sizes: Nos. 7-1/2, 8, 8-1/2 and 9 are vastly under-rated as bird hunting loads. And the increased velocities now available on many of these loads only enhance and extend their performance. For small gauge shooters, these smaller pellet options lend credibility to the concept.

Visualize a 28-gauge shooter shooting No. 6's on pointed pheasant. He gets only 169 pellets in a standard 3/4 oz. Load. But he gets over 300 No. 8's or 375 No. 8-1/2's. Small pellets give him a 2-to-1 chance of a dead-in-the-air head or neck hit. And if he had the wisdom to slip a load of No. 9's in the first barrel, he'd put 439 pellets in the air, increasing his odds to over 2-1/2-to-1!

That 25¢-piece in your pocket will cover the head/neck target area on quail and dove; and a silver dollar will do the same for grouse and pheasant. Now imagine either coin flipped in the air, 20 or 25 yards away. Which shot size has the best chance of nicking the coin? 169 No. 6's, or 375 No. 8-1/2 pellets? Hmmm?

Your toss -- heads or tails?

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