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Steel vs Lead shot in older shotguns

Discussion in 'Shooting Related Threads' started by Porcupine, Jul 12, 2011.

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  1. Porcupine

    Porcupine Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 1998
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    South Central Massachusetts
    I didn't want to hijack the other thread.

    Only one of my shotguns can accept choke tubes for steel shot, my duck and turkey gun. All my others (W-12's, a W-37, a Broadway, some SxS's) have fixed chokes and should not be fed steel ammo. If I couldn't find a club in my area that allowed lead shot, I'd retire from shooting and take up golf again.

    LA in MA
     
  2. Brian in Oregon

    Brian in Oregon Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Deplorable Bitter Clinger in Liberal La La Land
    Steel shot may, or may not, be an issue in a specific older gun.

    First, steel shot wads have evolved. They are thicker to help provide cushioning when going through a choke tube. And to help keep shot from touching and leaving cosmetic burnishing marks on the bore. However, that can still happen if shot gets between the slits in a wad. The problem with early steel shot wads is that most ammo makers simply used lead shot wads that were only changed for the volume of shot, and most of these had thin wad petals.

    Open chokes are not really an issue unless the barrel is very very thin and made of substandard (soft) steel.

    Tight chokes are not an issue if the barrel is thick enough and made from quality steel and the choke is not overly tight.

    So what happens if you have a tight choke in a thin barrel made from softer steel? It's known that with early wads that over time the choke would be pounded and could open up a bit. There were some wild tales of a full choke becoming a cylinder bore, but no one ever substantiated that with photos and measuring instruments. I've never heard of one even going from full to mod. But, there were some that did show a slight increase in pattern diameter, but not a total step in choke size.

    Another issue is steel shot tends to pattern tighter than lead shot. This is because it does not distort in the choke, since it is incompressible. The fixed mod choke on my Browning Model 12 in 20ga patterns full with steel shot. My full chokes on my 1187s pattern extra-full with steel shot.

    What's really needed to help trapshooters continue to use their older guns is for ammo makers to put a really thick wad in their steel target shells to cushion better through chokes, and overlap the fingers to make sure a pellet cannot touch the bore. I see no reason why most or nearly all quality target shotguns cannot use steel if the shell makers will address these issues.

    BTW, "steel" shot should actually be made from soft iron (no carbon). Companies using actual steel for their shot should be avoided.

    An alternative is shot like bismuth. Bismuth is soft and is much denser than steel. It's as close to lead as you can get while retaining softness. Unfortunately it is expensive. While steel shot will wind up going down in price once it displaces lead, I doubt there will be a substantial reduction in bismuth price. But it would allow the use of older guns, if your budget allow it.

    Face it. Non-lead shot is eventually going to be mandated. This should have been fought years ago, but too many shooters and hunters did not care what happened to "the other guy" as long as they were left alone. Well the chickens have come home to roost.
     
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