Skip to main content

Article 8 – 2017 (September)

person aiming shotgun at target range

Russell Mark 

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 8 – 2017 (September)


Question: I am always in doubt about what shot shells to use to break targets at longer distances. I admit I am not the world’s greatest shotgun shooter, but I do think I have a fair understanding of all the basics. My question to you is simple. Will using faster shot shells mean that I will have to lead the longer (40 metre) Sporting Clay targets less and in essence will the faster velocity help my scores? Why am I always told to use faster loads on the longer shots? Thanks in advance.

Daniel Vella, Sunshine North VIC


Answer: OK let’s handle the scientific and analytical answer to your question first. Will faster shot shells mean less physical lead? The simple answer is yes. Mathematically at around forty metres a target going across the front of you at right angles being shot at with a 28 gram shot shell with number 7 shot which has a muzzle velocity of 1300 fps will need 9 centimetres less lead than a shot shell that has a velocity of 1200 fps. Now stop right there and think about that for a second. Visualize what 9 centimetres looks like at 40 metres. I have not met a person in over forty years of competitive shooting that can make that judgement at that distance. Your brain simply cannot make that type of minute calculation change simply because you have changed ammunition so in essence yes the will be less lead needed, but your brain hasn’t got the capacity at that distance to make the calculation.

Now in saying all of that we need to look at the second part of your question. Will the faster loads help my scores? Not knowing what shot shells you are using I need to make the assumption they are of a quality competition standard. By that I mean the quality of shot is of a high enough standard to hold its shot pattern at forty metres with the extra velocity. Generally speaking high velocity target loads need 5% antimony quality round shot to maintain their effectiveness. The obvious advantage of faster loads is that they will break into the surface of the clay target slightly harder, but the disadvantage is that they will recoil more therefore hindering the recovery time needed for a quick and accurate second shot. There are just too many variables to give an informative mathematical answer to satisfy you in relation to your question on what difference the shot will make on the targets breakability, but bear in mind at distance it is often the size of the shot, not the slightly faster velocity, that will cause the clay target to fracture and break. At forty metres my gut tells me to use the greatest legal size of shot permitted for the discipline of clay target shooting that you are partaking in regardless of what velocity it is being propelled at.

The last part of your question is why does everybody tell you to use higher velocity loads at distance? This is simple. It is a confidence thing. Often if you believe the shot shell is faster and more powerful then that little man in your head that feeds you self-doubt will disappear. In the late 1980’s Winchester in Italy produced a shot shell called “Thunder”. It was in a high brass case with beautiful bold embossed logos into the plastic of the hull. It just looked fantastic and I shot like a treat with them in Europe. I actually got quite a few back into Australia and shot some major events with great success back here also. That was until I had them tested and found out they were actually less powerful than Winchesters own locally made product. I was shattered. That little man in your head can be a very loud and distracting with too much knowledge! Sometimes ignorance is bliss!

Questions to:

Article 7 – 2017 Previous Article Article 9 – 2017 (October) Next Article