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Article 9 – 2023 (October)

Australian Shooter Magazine

Question and Answers

Article 9 – 2023 (October)

Question:  I was looking for some advice before I purchase a shotgun for my fourteen year old son. I was told recently that after 2024 all international trap and skeet shooting will be with steel shot only. If this is the case, I am very concerned about what firearm I should purchase for him? At present he just shoots sporting clays and the odd round of trap for fun, but like every father I guess ultimately, I would like to see him wearing the green and gold and competing in the Olympics. Is there any truth in these rumors and if so, why? If steel shot becomes mandatory, I would assume I may need to buy a shotgun that has barrels especially designed for this type of shot?

Manny Garfield, Indooroopilly QLD

Answer:  There are certainly many rumors flying around the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) at the moment about the introduction of the compulsory use of steel shot after the Paris Olympics in 2024. At this stage that is all these are. Rumors. I guess where there is smoke you could also suggest there may be fire forthcoming. The ISSF is certainly under strong pressure to save itself as a sport at Olympic level. The television ratings from the Tokyo games suggest that the Shooting sports were one of the worst rating events. It is a sign of the times when both Skate-boarding and Rock-climbing made the top ten.

Anything that the ISSF can do to save their sport at this level is paramount. If they lose Olympic representation then the flow on to everyone involved in the firearms fraternity will be huge. In many countries around the world it is only the fact that Shooting is on the Olympic program that even allows their citizens to touch a firearm. Using steel won’t make it a better television event by a long way. If the current rules were applied and only 24 grams of shot size number 7’s were able to be legally used then the scores in the Trap event in particular would surely decrease. In Skeet I am not sure anything would change. The close distances that Skeet targets are shot at won’t have quite the same detrimental effect in my opinion.

In the small amount of testing that I have conducted with steel shot it was my conclusion that the penetration power of steel shot at greater distances clearly diminished therefore anyone that is relying on their second shot at forty metres or more to break a clay target that is driving away from you and is pretty much facing “edge on” will be in some trouble.

Most serious duck shooters would probably tell you that the killing power with steel shot compared to lead is certainly less and it can only be overcome with larger pellets. Here lies the problem for Trap shooters using steel. For many trap shooters their barrels are of a fixed choke and are usually configured with an improved modified (three-quarter) choke in the bottom barrel and a full choke in the top barrel for the second shot. There are some major manufacturers that strictly forbid any steel shot to be used through barrels with this amount of constriction in fact many only recommend the use of no more than half or modified choke when using steel shot. This will be the ISSF’s biggest issue. Using steel shot may make themselves look wonderful in the eyes of the green movement, but they may very well be creating a huge “barrier to entry” for their own sport.

Plenty of existing competitors simply will not be able to afford a new firearm or at the very least purchase a new set of barrels and have them fitted to their existing firearm. It would be a brave person to start using steel shot through a fifteen thousand dollar custom made shotgun with barrels that will have its warranty void when they do so. I am not sure the ISSF will want to take that risk.

If you are still un-sure I would strongly suggest you buy a shotgun with ”screw in” or variable chokes in its barrels. Whilst many Olympic Trap shooters might be able to get by with a modified choke for the first barrel, I doubt anyone of note would use this same choke for their second shot.

Stay tuned. I am sure there will be much more on this topic in the coming year. What everyone is wondering is of course what will happen to the domestic disciplines world-wide in regards to this issue if the international governing body gives way? This has the potential to get really ugly very quickly.

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