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The Light of Pure Heresy.

by Bill Hanus

Two compelling arguments in favor of small shot
When a hawk-eyed reader questioned the use of No. 9 hard shot I knew I was in trouble. It meant I was going to have to earn my keep by delving into the realm of arcane knowledge that leads along less-traveled byways, chucking along the way the advice given on ammunition boxes to seek and find true No. 9 Nirvana. I draw sustenance for this view from two sources.

No. 9 shot substantially increases the number of opportunities for "dead-in-the-air" head or neck hits. There are 170% more No. 9 pellets than No. 6 pellets and 75% more than No. 7-1/2 shot in equal loads. This is a significant margin where the target is the size of a quarter and getting smaller by the second.

This view is supported by Peter Hathaway Capstick in an article entitled "Shotgun Pellets: Is Bigger Better?" which originally appeared in the 1980 Guns & Ammo Annual and was subsequently reprinted in "Death In A Lonely Land" published in 1990 by St. Martins Press. Capstick puts it this way:

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" first flight of honkers, trembling hands clutching only a Browning Lightning Model 20-gauge, choked (for god sake) (sic.) skeet one and two, each chamber loading with seven-eighths ounce of No. 9 shot... I swung smoothly ahead of the nearest bird... he folded his wings and fell like a feathered bomber... I touched off the top barrel at the next goose and he also spun to thump the soggy woodcock cover... the same thing happened again as a second pair pitched forward, dead as virginity. The light of pure heresy began to dawn after what I presumed was the `freak’ quadruple with geese so many years ago. . .has been reinforcing itself with regularity ever since."

"In the light of pure heresy," Capstick specifically suggests No. 8 or No. 9 shot for the first barrel and No. 7-1/2 or No. 8 shot in the second barrel.

There is a long-held theory in the upper Midwest -- where grouse and pheasant hunting is serious business -- that shock or impact can be measured by the square of the number of pellet hits.

For example, with the same weight of metal involved, a bird struck by three No. 6s would rate a "9" on the impact scale. Five No. 7-1/2s would rate "25" -- almost three times more impact than No. 6s! From that I extrapolate that seven No. 9s would rate as "49" -- twice again as potent as No. 7-1/2s. Tootsie The Wonder Dog, my 13-year-old English Cocker, agrees. Our long-standing arrangement is that she works within 20 yards and I don’t shoot 40-yard birds, so No. 8-1/2 or 9 hard shot (whichever I have in the loader) works fine for us.

The support for the effectiveness of this theory is my wife. Last week she thawed two Nebraska pheasants, combined them with mushrooms and other magic ingredients then served them with Minnesota wild rice to the culinary delight of a few deserving folks living here on the left coast. In the cooking and boning process of both birds for this recipe, she encountered only one pellet! The secret is, of course, that these birds were "swatted" with a No, 9 fly-swatter.

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Swatted with a No, 9 fly-swatter?

Yep. Now, we cannot be the only ones who have had pellet-less, lead-free game bird dinners. How do you explain this phenomenon? If you refuse to accept that they were swatted or "capsticked," then we are down to beginner’s luck, road kill, lightning or Divine Intervention -- a rather short and depressing list of unacceptable explanations of how these birds came to be on the menu.

So, basking in the reflected glow of your good wife’s favorite recipe for game birds, busy yourself with the wine bottles and adopt a modest demeanor while accepting the well-deserved compliments that come your way for sharing the bounty of a well-stocked, semi-lead-free freezer. Swatted? Capsticked? Only your wife will know for sure and it is likely not the only secret with which she is entrusted.

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