Identifying the best ammunition for shooting is difficult. Perhaps it would be more accurate to ask about the RIGHT ammunition for shooting because they should be suitable for those who use them, their physique and ability to absorb the recoil, to the type of shotgun and stock they use, to the way they shoot, whether on the fly, quickly, well in advance, more reflectively or fluidly.
It is believed that, while the shooter searches for “their” best ammunition, everything can start from this evaluation. This dilemma has always haunted shooters since they started practicing in the shooting field environment. In the 1990s, the most common ammunition was by the company Maionchi, the Trap 3 Rekord and also the Az-20, and those of the SNIA, while few used the Triumphs and Podiums, although quite advertised in the sector magazines.
While the former was the classic ammunition with a red, orange or blue case, the last two presented a captivating packaging and style; the first, black with golden writing, and the second one, silver, then it pleasantly came about that they were not very common in the field, and those who shot them felt a bit more “professional”. Those who initially tried their hand at it did not find any difference between the two ammunition, but later, continuing to shoot them, began to perceive that there were some differences, which later proved to be essential.
The neophyte began to shoot with the Podiums, which were softer especially in the summer period, being very gentle during the recoil, allowing them to reach average results; used, however, in winter or spring, the average number of plates hit fell by a lot, and a lack of concentration and training were often to blame, caused by the fact that they came from an idle period.
When, on the other hand, people switched to using the Triumphs, as early as the spring when the fields were opened, the average was immediately high and in line with the previous season. However, when it started to get warmer, this ammunition turned out to be more violent, causing a change in the shouldering setting (by moving the support to the shoulder and not supporting the cheekbone on the Monte Carlo comb to mitigate the effects of the recoil). Therefore, engaging the target from mid-series onwards was roughly out of step, and this resulted in poor performance.
On the other hand, those who shot with Maionchi fired them all year round easily because they were balanced ammunition; they did not have excess peaks or failures in their performance.
From what has been said, an interesting datum should be taken into account, as underlined by a recent B&P survey carried out among shooters regarding the most sought after feature in a munition, which is constancy.
The term “constancy of ammunition” indicates the degree of the insensitivity of the ammunition to climatic changes. Humidity and rigid and hot temperatures are all factors that influence the components of the ammunition, powder and primer above all. Therefore, a professional shooter or those who intend to maintain certain results on the platform will try to identify the cartridges that will give them greater safety throughout the year, offering an optimal ballistic yield.
Every shooter, whether professional or novice, tends to maintain a psychological balance and serenity that allow them to get good results on the platform. To obtain this status, however, the shooter should know, with almost absolute certainty, the reaction of the shotgun and ammunition used. In fact, everyone has their own rhythm when shooting, subjective reaction times from the moment the target appears to when the trigger is pulled.
This rhythm conforms and is closely linked to the yield of the ammunition and its constancy; otherwise, the shooter would be forced to change their time and the advance every time, then their way of shooting. The same thing is said for the recoil of the shotgun generated by the combustion and ejection of the projectile. It would be unthinkable for a shooter to use ammunition that varies the pressure values significantly, changing the effects of the recoil, because shotguns, not having a gas recovery, do not compensate for the force of the recoil, which is then completely absorbed by the stock and transmitted to the shooter’s shoulder and cheekbone.
But the modern shooter could have an additional advantage, that of mounting a technical stock in wood and aluminum onto their shotgun, like the Futur-K6Am of the Futurmec Srl company of Urbania. This stock, in a very short time and with very little effort, would make it possible to mount resilient rubber that cushions the recoil of the shotgun, allowing you to change ammunition, for example, passing from a standard speed to an HV without feeling an excessive difference in terms of stress and recoil, maintaining a coherent reaction to the recoil.
How to find the right cartridge
With the maturity and good advice of those who are more experienced, it is possible to identify and choose a suitable shooting cartridge that provides consistency in use and, as a result, serenity in performance.
In the selection phase, however, two types of considerations must be carried out. One concerns the quality of the components that the magazine or the production company have used; the other concerns the practical test of the ammunition to verify the requirements before showing your loyalty and taking it to a competition.
The analysis of the components can be visual by opening a couple of ammunition and evaluating, in this way, the hull resistance, quality of the pellets, wad, quantity and type of gunpowder and primer. Alternatively, an analytical analysis can be carried out starting from the product data-sheet, and the following will be evaluated:
The cartridge case
Let’s start with the plastic tube that we commonly call the case. In addition to the function of keeping all the components of the cartridge inside, it plays a very important role in the unfolding and opening of the cartridge, because a seal that is excessive or too light will positively or negatively affect the ballistic yield.
The powders used in the shooting cartridges must not only ensure a uniform thrust of the projectile, translating this into pressure values and constant speed performances and, therefore, into uniform patterns. They must also be stable and insensitive to the different climatic conditions, i.e., they must be constant from a thermodynamic point of view.
A good shot pattern also depends a lot, perhaps above all, on the initial selection of the pellets. The perfect sphericity, hardness, and regularity of the small spheres will help to create the most homogeneous pattern possible, able to hit the target in flight in the best way. In fact, the pellets destined for competitions are made with a special alloy with 5% antimony, which makes them harder and less subject to deformation, which determines a better trajectory coherence. They are selected for sphericity and dimensional regularity.
This plastic element performs several important functions inside the case.
First, hold the gunpowder on one side and hold the pellets together on the other. Avoid contact between the incandescent propulsive gases and the pellets that otherwise would suffer excessive heating, causing melting and deformation.
The wad also absorbs the violent thrust of the combustion gases, transferring it evenly over the straight surface of the barrel to push the mass of the pellets in a uniform and regular manner.
But the task of the wad is not yet finished; it protects the swarm of pellets from the expulsion of the muzzle (expulsion of pressure gases) outside the barrel so that the swarm does not scatter and remains compact and opens symmetrically.
To achieve this, the wads must be of good quality; they must have a shock-absorbing piston and a structure that ensures a uniform seal and the perfect opening of the petals. For this reason, many are precut (see B & P wads). With the use of 24-gram ammunition, special wads had to be created, longer in the central part, and with a central cell-shaped body, so they are not too soft at the time of combustion or too rigid.
The test on a pattern plate
Once the components have been analyzed and considered satisfactory, it is necessary to carry out a further check on the different batches of cartridges, as there may be differences when the powder batch changes.
If the manufacturer does not carry out this check at the bench test by doing random tests, thus not ensuring the homogeneity of the batches put on the market, the shooter should take care of this by doing pattern plate tests, perhaps, to see if there is ballistic constancy and performance.
Try new ammunition
The pattern plate test, in addition to being the most common among shooters, is used when one decides to change ammunition, of course, or try a new one. The reason why shooters choose this option is to try to improve their performance. The pattern plate test eliminates many doubts about ammunition, but above all, it provides us with objective feedback on the greatest ballistic performance of the tests done during training.
What values to detect
In the pattern plate test, on the other hand, we will evaluate the shot pattern’s size and density made at the right distances and with both barrels, the energy of the pellets and therefore their fracturing capacity. If you already have reliable cartridges, it might be interesting to compare old ammunition with new ones at the same weight, of course.
Testing ammo during shooting and training
Some consider the testing of their ammo during shooting and training as a substitute to the bench test or pattern plate test. However, in reality, this should come after the first tests because the random rupture of one or two small targets, perhaps further away than usual, in a series, is not only an index of the quality of the ammunition but can mislead the shooter’s judgment.
To overcome this kind of inconvenience, it is advisable to carry out the test on a consistent number of cartridges, say 250, which done in training will show us immediately if there are performance improvements not. They will also give us visual confirmation of the breaking capacity of the target and the right perception of the shotgun recoil.
The importance of speed
Once all the various tests, components, bench or pattern plate tests and training have been carried out, the next phase is the final choice of the ammunition, which will have to accompany us in training and competition. The research will lead us to the identification of a balanced, reliable, and constant cartridge. But we haven’t talked about speed. Is speed a crucial aspect to consider? Is it true that the best shooting cartridges are the fastest ones? We will carefully analyze this aspect considering it case by case.
The advantages of fast ammunition
Indeed, in many sports, speed is an important element, and at the shooting range, it also plays a key role.
It is a fact that fast ammunition takes less time to reach the target, simplifying the aiming action and the advance. So, many armory industries have perfected 24-gram ammunition that reaches the speed of 435/ms, like the F2 Power of B&P.
This choice has basic motivations and is not left to chance. Using fast ammunition that gets to the target quickly, it is easy to understand that there is no need to calculate the shot too much advance. On the contrary, it will be enough to align the target with the barrels and shoot, with the shotgun always in motion, surpassing the target by the minimum necessary that serves to hit the target.
Moreover, if it is true that the weather affects the ammunition, a fast cartridge, in the case of adverse weather conditions, may lose some of its speed but remain fast or at least re-enter the parameters of standard ammunition while maintaining a reserve of higher energy. On the other hand, a cartridge that has standard speed will further increase reaction and combustion times. What will this translate into?
With greater difficulty in hitting the target and an advance that isn’t always intuitive, we are forced to aim the barrels and gun sights towards an empty space in front of the moving target, a space that will increase as the performance of the ammunition decreases.
Another important aspect linked to speed is the ability to break, which is inflicted on each pellet, as well as the entire shot pattern. You should remember that if the clay pigeon does not break or release the “smoky cloud”, a point will not be assigned, even if we thought we hit the target. Therefore, the importance of the speed given to the whole swarm of pellets and also the marginal ones that will preserve high residual energy and high damaging power, which will result in a greater ability to crush the target even if it is not hit with the center of the shot pattern.
Negative aspects of speed
Naturally, a fast cartridge means that it is loaded with lively gunpowder, the greater the speed of expulsion forward, and the greater the recoil that will discharge on the stock and then the shooter’s shoulder and cheekbone, the greater the force of rotation inflicted on the shotgun.
In practical terms, this means a greater movement of the shotgun, which could rear up, causing the line of sight to be lost and a loss of time in realignment if the second-barrel target were to be recovered, or if a second target were to be hit (Double Trap or Skeet). Furthermore, in the long run, a greater recoil could bother the shooter, whose face and shoulder are excessively stimulated by continuous and energetic recoils.
These are aspects that need to be evaluated carefully, but can also be easily overcome, let’s see how.
Reducing the negative effects of fast ammunition
One solution, not very practical to tell the truth, could be to use softer or standard ammunition in the first barrel, which does not transmit stress to the gun and, as a result, to the shooter. This is advisable if you practice disciplines such as double trap or skeet, which require the engagement of two targets at the same time and making a double shot in the shortest possible time. In this case, it is very useful to have faster ammunition in the second barrel to engage the second target quickly, but it would also force us to use two different shooting modes.
Another solution concerns the use of in/out bottlenecks if you have barrels prepared for chokes. In this case, you could use porters that reduce the effect of the expulsion of the gas from the muzzle, and that could also reduce the effect of the recoil.
The third choice could be the use of cartridges with a Gordon cartridge case (such as the Baschieri & Pellagri cartridges), whose structure allows the thrust action of the gases to be weakened, as the special basewad performs a passive compression, limiting the dynamic discharge to the back of the cartridge and slightly and perceptibly attenuating the feeling of recoil.
From a technical point of view, the best solution for shooters who intend to use HV ammunition and want to avoid the undesirable effects of the increased recoil of these types of ammunition should use ammunition in the Gordon case, without a doubt. Above all, they should mount a technical stock like the Futur-K6AM onto the shotgun, which, thanks to the aluminum structure, the special 50 shore rubber stock and the internal interchangeable rubber pads, supplied with the stock in a set with different levels of hardness 60sh/70sh/80sh/90sh, offers the possibility to increase the insensitivity of the recoil on the shooter’s shoulder and cheekbone. These features also reduce the effect of the shotgun’s rotation, allowing us to keep the shotgun on the line of sight, facilitating the engagement of two targets and possible recoveries of the second barrel.
For those who use shotguns with a classic wooden stock, the best shooting ammunition could be identified in the ammunition that, evaluated on a scale of pressure values and standard speed (min/max), remains within the maximum parameters without exceeding the HV values. As a result, you could detect pressure and behavioral values of the standard ammunition but with something more.
Those who use shotguns with a technical stock like the Futur-K6AM stock can easily opt for HV ammunition throughout the year. When they perceive a variation in the pressure values of the cartridge, due to weather conditions, for example, they can simply modify the rubber pads thus regulating the effects of the recoil, maintaining the consistency so sought after by shooters and avoiding a bothersome firing-shooting-firing action and, as a result, enhance it.