From what I have seen, many shooters have their "Favorite" wad that they use in a tried and true reloading recipe of shell, powder, primer, shot and wad. They do not ever change anything. Then on the other side of the equation, there are shooters who just pick up just about any component they can to see if they can either save a buck or find a secret recipe that gets them one extra bird.
For me, if the shell and reloader like the wad I tend to stay with them and purchase at the case quantity.
There is a difference in the volume/grain (density) of powders from one to the next. Some powders take up more room in the hull while others take up less room for the same weight. A powder that takes up a lot of room requires a shorter wad be used than does a powder that takes up less space if the height of the component stacks of each formula is to be right for the hull.
Ditto Keller's post. In the big picture, the most important aspect of a wad is how it "fits" the job at hand. Your favorite neon pink, super slick wad with 16 petals and wildflower fragrance is useless if the stack height isn't correct. A coupla fer instances...
I use Claybusters for most everything. Cheap, always available and zero fouling in my fixed choke guns. My 100 yr old SxS's, and 40 yr old BT99 and TM1 haven'y seen a bore brush in the last 50,000 rounds, just oily mops.
My bread n butter 12ga load is 1 ounce of shot in a Remington Gun Club hull with a 1 & 1/8 ounce, white Remington (style) Fig 8 wad. When I loaded mostly STS and old AA's, I happily used either the green TGT wad or the pink AA wad. I like deep, flat, tight crimps and the white Fig 8 is perfect in the promos which vary in length more than the premiums.
For years I've used a Gualandi 7/8 ounce 20 GAUGE wad to load 7/8 ounce in the Rem 16 GAUGE hull with excellent ballistics.
You'll hear a lot of lip service about "patterns" but, IME, darned few people ever pattern test at all, and it's very rare to encounter an individual who actually does it in a meaningful way. I've learned the best way to test loads is to load and shoot a flat at targets. After 10 boxes, you'll know whether it's a keeper or not. Then, no amount of theory or anyone else's opinion will convince you otherwise.
winselect, yes there is a difference. How much depends on what hull you are using. You will get your most pronounced variations if you are reloading the straight walled Riefenhauser hulls (like Fiocchi). However, you have to be very careful of base wad height, because it varies from mfg. to mfg. What fits in a Fiocchi 7mm base wad height hull will not work as well with a 10mm base wad hull. Gualandi and B7P make, IMO, the best wads for these hulls.
When it comes to American hulls, a whole lot of experimentation and testing leads me to conclude the best wads for a specific hull are the same the manufacturer uses for factory loads. The reason is the base wad height and the curve of the base wad are different for STS/GC, AA and Gold Medal hulls. Factory wads are specifically designed for the hulls they are loaded in, so you will not have any fit problems unless you go goofy on powder selection.
I only reload STS and Gun Club hulls now. Actually, with the skiving problems Remington has with the GC hulls, I don't use them any longer, because they stick in my resizing die.
So, using STS hulls, I use Fed 12S01 wads for light 24g and 7/8oz loads (up to 1220fps) or DRM Pink XXL. The Federals work the best with the e3 loads I use.
I use TGT-12 wads for heavy 7/8oz loads and almost all 1oz loads. A good clone such as the DRM works just as well. If you are trying to increase pressure while keeping the velocity the same, the Green Duster wad works beautifully and doesn't seem to have the collapsing leg problem the WAA12SL wad does.
For 1 1/8oz loads, two wads work and fit perfectly- the Fig-8 and the Windjammer (or good clones).
For what it's worth, I don't like Claybuster anything because of the fouling problem, especially in hot weather.
If I were still loading the Gold Medal plastic hulls I's use the Fed 12S01 and 12S03 wads, but I'd also try the new DRM "semi" clone of the 12S01. It was the same overall height, but a true 1oz shotcup.
<blockquote><I>"Actually, with the skiving problems Remington has with the GC hulls, I don't use them any longer, because they stick in my resizing die."</I></blockquote>You want to elaborate on this...even in a new thread?
Keller, the last 2-3,000 Gun Club hulls I got vary a lot in hull length and skiving. Skiving is the chamfering of the edge of the hull that thins it for easier crimping. Some hulls are normal and others have little or no skiving.
For some reason the unskived, or lightly skived hulls stick between the decapping button and the ID of resizing die on my Grand press. When I move to the upstroke, the end of the hull sticks and is pulled out of the index plate. Manually pulling the stuck hull out of the die is a royal pain. Also the unskived hulls stick in the priming station as well.
I starting to see a lesser version of the same problem on the newer STS hulls I've shot.