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First let me say that I'm not trying to get in a big debate over brands but more to the higher end loads versus lower to middle range loads.

Last year was my first year of ever shooting trap or any clays sports. I have hunted and shot a lot of shotgun over the years but outside of hunting it been all 00 buck and slugs for work training. Now retired and no longer hunting I have decided to try some trap shooting last year. I started with a SKB 600 field grade 28 inch barrels, fixed chokes and mostly Top Gun, Super Target and Gun Club due to the price range. I did shot a couple boxes of AA early on but not much skill at that point.

This year having enjoyed the sport I decided to get a true trap gun and ended up with a slightly used Browning 725 Pro Trap with 32 inch barrels. Getting some ammo to try with this one I ended up picking up some Grands, STS and AAs. While I'm sure the gun has a lot to do with felt recoil and pattern with the barrel length, choke system and adjustability of it.

I have shot some Super Target thru it as I still have a couple of flats left and a few practice rounds with STS. However my first ATA shoot I ended up using Grands and was really surprised at how well I was smokin the clays. I had warmed up with some of the Super Target and there was a huge difference the breaks during the match for the better.

My question to the much more experienced shooters is, when you step up to the upper tier level of shells is it common to see a marked improvement in your breaks and just better overall performance. I will admit that I was somewhat nervous that day as it was a different club and my first ATA.

Look forward to your thoughts.
 

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It’s hard to tell because it’s difficult to prove with 100% certainty, but here’s how I look at it....

In both my Ljutic and K-80, I’ve never had a shell shot through it since new that wasn’t an STS, Nitro 27, or AA. This is true for all practice, 16yrds, Handicap, Doubles, and League.

My rationale is that the payload is the one and only connection between you and that 42mph target.
There’s no way that the shell is going to be the place where I’m going to try and save money, but it is where I’m going to eliminate one more variable.

If I want to save money, I’ll look for a hotel that’s $10 cheaper per night, skip dessert when I’m eating out, or travel 100 fewer miles for my next shoot.

I don’t reload because I’ve simply never had an interest in doing it.

You’ll get answers all over the board on this, but I’ve given you my opinion.

.
 

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You get better pattern with the higher grade shells. They have higher Antimony content in the shot, relates to harder shot that does not deform as bad as soft shot. To me once you get the basics down, it is a mental game. At 16 yards cheap shells and a Full choke can make do. That said if you premium ammo from the 16 and get nothing but a smoke ball when you truly center the target, then you do not get a smoke ball, you were a little off, you need to get back into the zone.

Jason
 

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Perazzi MX2000 31.5/34 combo with a prosoft
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I highly recommend you look at Neil Winston and Timb99’s work on shot hardness and promo vs. premium shells.

That being said, STS is a premium shell but super targets and gold medals aren’t generally. AAs and super targets aren’t the same other than they are Winchester. Federal has a premium line called just that. I think Tim looked at federal gold medals and the shot was basically the same as top guns with a different wad.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong here?

Most premium shells have harder shot and closer to the stated amount (1 1/8oz vs 1 1/16oz in the promos). More pellets, as much as hardness, equates to harder breaks.

Most here will tell you 16s don’t matter. You will see a difference for handicap though.
 

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They make a difference in the handicap game. Singles I don’t know, me personally Ivan shoot promo loads and break singles just fine. Same goes when I shoot spirting clays it’s shooter more than the shells.
 

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I always thought that when I used my reloads with the best components, I got more visually pleasing target breaks at the 16 yard line. Not more target breaks, just a sensation that I was crushing more of them harder, compared to using Gun Clubs. The evidence for better patterns using premium shells for handicap is not contested, so I always use premium factory shells for handicap. And I always use a full choke, I want the most payload in the center of the pattern as possible.
 

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That being said, STS is a premium shell but super targets and gold medals aren’t generally. AAs and super targets aren’t the same other than they are Winchester. Federal has a premium line called just that. I think Tim looked at federal gold medals and the shot was basically the same as top guns with a different wad.
I may be wrong about Tim's testing but you might be thinking of the gold medal grand. The older gold medals were considered a premium shell. Shot a ton of them, have enough to last about another year and I'll be sorry to see them go! Wish federal wouldn't have listened to the bean counters. Guess when their gone I'll move 9n to nitro 27.
 

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I highly recommend you look at Neil Winston and Timb99’s work on shot hardness and promo vs. premium shells.

That being said, STS is a premium shell but super targets and gold medals aren’t generally. AAs and super targets aren’t the same other than they are Winchester. Federal has a premium line called just that. I think Tim looked at federal gold medals and the shot was basically the same as top guns with a different wad.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong here?

Most premium shells have harder shot and closer to the stated amount (1 1/8oz vs 1 1/16oz in the promos). More pellets, as much as hardness, equates to harder breaks.

Most here will tell you 16s don’t matter. You will see a difference for handicap though.
I think I'd put the old Federal Gold Medals in the same class as the AA's and STS's.
 

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I shoot what I believe in. I believe in premium shells and for me, those shells are Federal Papers. (yes I have some of the olds ones left). My second choice would be AA’s.

I must admit, the Estate Super sport competition load in the tan and red box are very reasonably priced and stand right up there in performance!
 

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I do not believe the difference with premium shells to be dramatic, but - they might allow a great shooter to pick up a bird or two. I can see how it matters more in handicap.
However, I do believe that confidence matters. When I want to convince myself that this is a serious competition, I shoot AA. Just one more thing that I do not have a worry about.
 

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I may be wrong about Tim's testing but you might be thinking of the gold medal grand. The older gold medals were considered a premium shell. Shot a ton of them, have enough to last about another year and I'll be sorry to see them go! Wish federal wouldn't have listened to the bean counters. Guess when their gone I'll move 9n to nitro 27.

Jk- I have about 5 flats of the oldies but goodie gold medal papers left. I am saving those for a possible first trip to the GRAND. I have become a believer in the new gold medal papers but AA’s find their way into the line up too!
 

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Perazzi MX2000 31.5/34 combo with a prosoft
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I may be wrong about Tim's testing but you might be thinking of the gold medal grand. The older gold medals were considered a premium shell. Shot a ton of them, have enough to last about another year and I'll be sorry to see them go! Wish federal wouldn't have listened to the bean counters. Guess when their gone I'll move 9n to nitro 27.
As usual, you are correct. I was thinking of the Grands. I thought for some reason they were just called “federal premium.” I used to shoot federal papers at the grand for handicap back when shells were compulsory.
 

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I totally agree w/ what Jabrg1 said. I shoot AA's for practice & for record. I believe they will get me 1-2 more birds out of a 100, I'm AA-27.

Besides the ability to break birds, I find the higher end shells also have a much better, sturdier box and have never torn an AA box going into my vest pocket. Not terribly important, but it is a real luxury!
 

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AAs, STS, and the old Gold Medals are the top shells out there! Pick any of the 3 and roll coal! My personal favorite is AAs, LT 8s or 7.5s for singles and Super Handicap 7.5s from 27yds for caps! I shoot them for practice and ATA! Whichever one you choose, they’re all great premium shells!
 

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C
I shoot the Estate Super Sport Competition 2 3/4 dram 1 1/8 oz 8 shot 1145 FPS for 16 yard line. For caps I shoot STS nitros.

Chief turned me on to the State super sport competition shell. Great performance and great price.

Chief, What happened to the Beretta cap? Did you buy a Perazzi?
 

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As usual, you are correct. I was thinking of the Grands. I thought for some reason they were just called “federal premium.” I used to shoot federal papers at the grand for handicap back when shells were compulsory.
Factory Ammunition is still required at the Grand for all Handicap Events.
Singles and Doubles you may shoot your reloads.
MG
 
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