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9,941 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
All summer long we read the praises of 7/8 ounce loads, spurred, no doubt, by the jump in shot prices which not only led more people to try them, but made people look for the best in them; it’s only natural to try to find gain when you are forced to do something anyway. Among their advantages are the cost and recoil and they genuine for sure. Many said the reduction in recoil led to less fatigue, an actual increase in scores, and so on and frankly, I believe them.

Still, the load does throw fewer pellets out there and since it’s pellets that break targets you have to wonder: Are they really just as good at breaking targets?

While I was doing the linked (above) wad test with 7/8 ounce loads, I tried to answer this with a couple of additional loads, testing the “just as good” proposition in two different ways. One load was 1 1/8 oz. of the same 8 ½’s I used for the wad test (testing pellet count) , the other was light Federal Paper 7 ½’s (testing just which is likely to hit more targets.)


I tried to assemble what I thought a real-life competitor might use shooting singles with 7/8 ounce or alternative loads. The distance I chose was 34 yards, which is just my standard for singles; the pellets were Remington Tournament Grade 8 ½’s. WW 209 primers sparked enough Red Dot

Test 1. . . to produce speeds of 1300 FPS from once-fired STS hulls with 7/8 ounces of shot and Federal 12SO wads. For comparison I chose Federal light 7 ½ Gold Medal Papers, a load with around 425 pellets just 25 more than the 8 ½’s I was testing. The same number would have been better, of course, but they are what I had in the car. In any case, all we’re trying to do is see if there’s a difference, not account for it.

Test 2. . . . to produce speeds of 1150 FPS from once-fired STS hulls with 7/8 ounces of shot and WW grey wads. For comparison I loaded a couple of boxes using the same pellets but a Remington Power Piston wad to get a tested 1150 fps from 1 1/8 ounces of shot.

I used the under-barrel of an MX-2000 Perazzi with a bore of 0.738 and a choke of 0.030 inches, all entirely standard stuff, but just one of countless equipment choices shooters make all the time. I thought of this protocol as “typical” though another would have been equally reasonable.

Patterns were analyzed using Dr. Andrew Jones’ Shotgun-Insight program, with particular reliance on the “Probability of a single-pellet hit” feature of the software, which is exactly the question this test set out to answer. It looks at three areas of the pattern: 0-10 inches, 10-20 inches, and 20-30 inches and estimates just what it refers to, the probability of a single pellet hit in that area. My own guess is that if you were, for example, more to the center of any of these circles (or rings) the resulting value would be a bit higher (and the converse is also true, of course), but I think it’ll do fine, at least for comparison purposes.

Test 1.

First, though, let’s look at a conventional metric and absorb some of the caveats regarding generalization of one of these tests to more general pattern results.

The Federals patterned tighter. Does this mean that 7 1/2’s stay closer in general or even that I’ve finally found a barrel which “Likes bigger shot.?” No, nothing of the kind. There are too many changes here. Those kind of questions would have required at least handloads, same powder, matched speed, the kind of thing I did for the other test. So what we’re testing here is not the ballistics of shot size, but rather which of the two loads is likely more to put a pellet on a bird.

Once again what we’re looking at here is the calculated probability of a single-pellet hit in each area.

If you shoot better than plus or minus five inches you can expect to do better than this, but no matter what, few of us are being hobbled by loads like this when we are shooting well. And, clearly, even when we aren’t hitting the all, we are very close most of the time if we have a pretty good average, such as A or above, roughly speaking.

The intended matching load for this, 7/8 oz of 8 ½’s has 25 fewer pellets and has probabilities like this:

So which to choose when the deciding characteristic is score, not recoil or cost or comfort or anything, just score.

The difference here, especially in the 10-20 ring, means you’ll see me shooting 1 1/8 ounce factory loads with bigger shot at the most important shoots. But I shoot a lot of marathons as well, and it looks to me like 7/8 ounce of 8 ½’s might be just the ticket there. In fact, I intend to try them on some multi-day marathons based on these results, which tell me that my score should be no more than a bird or two off if that, and then only every couple of rounds, and I can accept that at Buffalo or Waseca (but not at Alexandria or Sparta.)

Test 2.

How about narrowing the differences, here it’s just 7/8 and 1/1/8 ounce of the same shot.The overview which shows the obvious, there are way, way more pellets in 1 1/8 ounce compared to 7/8.

What does 1 1/8 ounce look like in terms to probabilities?

You aren’t going to miss many of them due to inadequate pellet count!

How about when you drop off a quarter of an ounce?

And compared:

Again, when it counts, more shot is the only rational choice.


But pause a minute here and take a look at that graph and think what it means, not just in this little test, but where else it may apply.

Think back to all the posters who’ve been promoting one ounce (or less) as a “cure” to the “handicap problem.” They always say “It’ll affect long-yardage shooters more than short” and when I ask them how they know they never do better than “We’ll, you have to be more accurate and that’s harder way back there and now – with less shot - you’ll have to be more accurate yet.’’

But see, this graph suggests that the effect is exactly the opposite to what is predicted. The high-average, long yardage members we want to hobble are right up in that the middle of that 0-10 inch circle when they are on track, and they won’t be affected much at all, once they switch to 8’s. It’s everybody else, the ones using those outer circles every now and then, it’s their scores which are going to suffer.

Of course, even thinking about the result of tests is anathema to some here, but to the rest . . .

Thank you for your attention,


© 2008 Neil Winston

170 Posts
Excellent work as always thank you for the time and sharing result. Do you think that there should be a pellet energy factor involved? As you go to 8 1/2 to keep the pellet count up you do sacrifice the mass. Is a hit with a 7 1/2 more likely to cause a break than an 8 1/2?

Thanks Again

1,473 Posts
Thanks Neil, great stuff. Not surprised you conclude the accomplished target pointer will still do better. Looks like unlimited yardage and/or reduced reduction requirements and reductions to closer distance are the only answers to re-level the handicap competition. Jim

50 Posts
Neil, do you have a handle on the pellet energy differnce of a 7 1/2 light compared to a 1300fps 8 1/2; 34 yds, 40 yds? What would it be at the same velocity, a 30% difference? Would find it interesting.


1,135 Posts
When I grow up, I want to be able to build graphs just like Neil does. As a visual learner, I like charts to back up any statistics. Nice job Mr. Winston. Omaha

9,941 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
sportshot, you raise an interesting point. I think it's certain that the Olympic rulemakers had done plenty of research I expect they got similar results.

Let's go over this again.

1. Patterns are, in general, most dense in their central parts. Everyone knows this.

2. The question is however, what happens when the patterns are made "thinner" by reducing the number of pellets in the load. There are (at least two) things we might expect.

a. Patterns thin out uniformly, losing pellets everywhere or

b. They hold together best in the center, with that part less degraded than the more outer parts, at least for a wile.

In this experiment alternative b. was what happened. This could easily account for the major change the international game instituted: maybe you have to make a surprisingly big change in shot-weight to get a score-lowering effect when your competitors are as much in the center of the targets as they are at the top reaches of that sport.

The people who say you need to be more accurate with less shot are right. It's just that everyone has to be, not just top shooters, and if you aren't one of them, you are going to more affected than they are.

This is not a radical proposal. What happened in this experiment is, in fact, just what you should expect to happen.


309 Posts
jbbor why did you imbed the "tree.wav" into this thread? Does the admin of the site allow stuff like that?<BR>

DEDNLOST is NOT a Moderator, but a Moderator used his thread to expose what jbbor did. Jbbor's two threads were deleted... this is the Moderators response to DENLOST regarding JBBOR:<BR>

MODERATORS'S RESPONSE: WE DO NOT LIKE THIS AT ALL! And if it happens again, he's toast!

This is what Mr Borum put into this thread. As a Moderator I have to apologize for this nuisance to Mr. Winston for all of his hard work to support our sport.


"EMBED SRC="" HIDDEN="true" AUTOSTART="true" Loop="true""


408 Posts
I don't follow all of Neil's conclusions, especially about lighter shot loads affecting less skilled shooters more than the highly skilled. That makes sense for 16 yd and doubles competitions, but doesn't for handicap since the less skilled shoot at considerably closer distances than the highly skilled.

1,030 Posts
OK, OK, so I apologize. It was not directed toward Mr. Winston. Only toward one who thinks others have no right to an opinion based on over thirty years in the sport and a boatload of targets shot. If I can't express my opinion without Mr. Crickets criticism, so be it. Before you start lumping aspersions on one's right to an opinion, you might check out what they and others, with different outlooks, might have done in their careers as members and supporters of the sport. I never was much into idol worship! I actually only came back to take it down. Your truely, Jimmy Borum 51-01912

PS: At least I don't hide my words behind a screen name as the rules of this forum suggest is in its best interest.

9,529 Posts
Delbert- You make a good point, but not the only point. It is safe to assume that a typical 20 yard shooter depends on the pattern fringe for an extra bird or two more than a top 27 yard shooter. With light loads, these fringe hits are more likely lost. The central core of the pattern for a 20 yard shooter will be good, but small for the 20 yard shooter with light loads. The central core of a pattern expands but remains somewhat intact for the 7 yard distance difference between 20 and 27 yards. The 27 yard shooter will have a larger "central pattern core" than the 20 yard shooter. Certainly, this pattern core for the 27 yard shooter will have more holes that allow a target to pass, but this may not be as critical to the 27 yard shooter as the loss of the pattern fringe to the 20 yard shooter. The problem with more holes in the central core for the 27 yard shooter will be partially compensated for by the larger central effective core.

Pat Ireland

Pat Ireland

7,357 Posts
Sportsh?t your ignorance is showing again. Frankly who cares, other than you, what USOC does, that have their sport and we have ours.


1,030 Posts
Another view of the same subject. Jimmy Borum

THE TECHNOID STRINGS YOU ALONG... Shot String. We have all
heard the phrase, but most shooters do not know what it really means in
terms of pattern performance. Is a long shot string good in that a bird
can "fly into" it? Does a short shot string put more pellets onto the
target? Does it matter? Do you care?

Well, of course you care! Shot string is of vital importance if
you are worthy of earning your genuine Junior Technoid plastic pocket
protector. Shot string is a great subject for a Technoid article because no
one really understands it, so no one will know when the Technoid trips
up on the odd little fact or two. E=M/C", E=M+C" or whatever.

Shot string is the flight formation your pellets adopt whilst
wending their way to the target. When you shoot a pattern on a piece of
paper, you are only getting a two dimensional view of what happened.
All those pellets did not hit that paper like an air-borne pancake. They
hit it about like a swarm of bees. Some hit first, some came a little
later. The length of this swarm is the shot string.

Why do pellets string out and not travel together? All the pellets
leave the muzzle at the same velocity, but some of the pellets are a bit
less round due to being damaged at shell ignition or during the trip down
the barrel. The pellets at the back of the shot column and along the sides
of the cup tend to lead the hardest lives. The damaged pellets are less
aerodynamic and tend to fall back a bit when flying to the target. The
perfect pellets go through the air more easily and surge ahead. Some
pellets move forward and backwards in the cloud due to "drafting" (like
stock cars). The end result is that at 40 yards, your shot cloud can be
from 6 to 12 feet in length.

Long is not good. Sometimes. On a distant crosser, a very long
shot string will deprive you of a great deal of your effective pattern.
Take the example of a 40 yard crossing target. The bird is traveling at
30 mph at the point you are going to shoot it. You are using the
Technoid's recommended 1 1/8 oz 3 dram (1200 fps) load of #7.5s
through your maximo .035" full choke.

Here are the numbers: Your load of #7.5s has slowed down to
675 fps (feet per second) by the time it reaches the target. The target is
crossing at 30 mph, which is 44 fps. Your effective pattern width (80%
chance of a two pellet hit defining the fringe) at 40 yards with maximum
choke and 1 1/8 oz of #7.5s is only about 12". That 30" effective
pattern hype at long yardage is just dreaming. Let's assume that you
used high quality shot (like Lawrence Magnum with 6% antimony), so
your shot string at 40 yards is about 6 feet. Hard shot has a shorter shot
string than soft shot because hard pellets stay round and retain better

It will take 675/6 or .0089 seconds for the entire length of the 6
foot shot string to pass through that 40 yard target. During that time the
30 mph target itself will have moved across through the pattern for
.0089*44 = .3911 feet or 4.7 inches. If the part of the pattern that you
can count on to kill the bird at 40 yards is only 12" wide to begin with,
you have just given away over 1/3 of that to shot string! The target will
literally move out of the way before the back third of your shot string
catches up to it. The two dimensional stationery pattern paper does not
show this aspect of shell performance.

If you had used a poor quality shell, with easily deformed soft
shot driven at a pellet distorting high velocity, your shot string could be
as much as 12 feet at 40 yards. This would deprive you of more than
2/3 of your effective pattern on the above target! This is bad stuff. The
further away the target is, the more shot string elongates and the worse
things get.

A long shot string is not always bad. In the sixties the Russian
Olympic skeet team went to great lengths to produce a shell/choke
combination that produced a long shot string at 20 yard skeet distances.
They reasoned that a long shot string would help them. They would
simply shoot slightly in front of the target and if the front pellets did not
get the bird, the target would surely run into the following ones. They
were correct. Why does a long shot string help on short skeet shots and
hurt on long sporting shots? Long shot string helps in skeet because of
the very high pellet count of those little #9s. They can afford to lose
some pattern density due to stringing. They have pellets and pattern
density to burn.

Sporting's long distance crossers are very different. Instead of
dealing with 651 #9 skeet pellets, you have at most 389 #7.5s on your
side in a 1 1/8 oz load. At 40 yards a #7.5 has about the same energy
per pellet as a #9 at 20 yards, so the numbers equate. 389 is not a high
enough pellet count to give up anything to shot string. Sure, when you
shoot in front of the bird, the target could still fly into the trailing shot
string just like the Russian skeet shells. The difference is that the
skimpy shot string of the #7.5s is not dense enough to insure the
required two pellet hit because there are not enough #7.5s to begin with.
Aye, there's the rub. It all comes down to pattern density. Long shot
strings rob you of density and that means that a bird can sneak through
your pattern if you do not have a high initial pellet count.

What to do and how to test? Unless you glue a 16 foot piece of
pattern paper to a boat trailer and tow it behind the family car through a
cow pasture as Bob Brister did, you cannot do much actual testing. You
can do some sharp surmising though. It is a pretty good guess that the
shotshells that offer the tightest patterns on your standard stationary
pattern paper, also usually have the shortest shot strings. Bad or badly
treated shot not only lags behind and strings out, but it also flies out
laterally to the sides. This will show up as erratic fringe on your pattern

You want the roundest hardest shot possible and you want to
launch it as gently as possible and still get the job done. Lower velocity
shells pattern tighter and have shorter shot strings than high velocity
cartridges if all other things are kept equal. That is because more pellets
are deformed under the ignition and setback forces required to obtain
that high velocity. It stands to reason. Plated shot is better than
unplated shot, not because the plating adds hardness (it does not), but
because the plating allows the shot to slip around in the shot mass as it
moves up the barrel and avoid being crushed as much. It is a lubricity
thing. John Brindle feels that slower burning powders (such as Green
Dot, one of Don Zutz's favorite powders for tight patterning shells) also
distort shot a little less by providing a somewhat smoother initial launch.

Choke does not really seem to affect shot string at long distance.
Full choke does not "string 'em out" any more than cylinder bore shoots
a pancake. Some semi-wise pundits disagree, basing their opinions on
old shot string photography taken at the muzzle or a few feet beyond.
At those close distances, full choke does indeed string out more than
cylinder bore. More modern photographic techniques capable of
showing the string at 30 yards, prove that the pellets resort themselves
based on aerodynamics, not choke. With the same shell, full and
cylinder produce about the same string length at distance. Full choke
may distort pellets a tiny bit more due to squeezing in the choke, but it
mostly really depends on initial pellet quality and launch setback

Trap shooters have known all this for years. A 27 yard handicap
shooter is hitting his birds at well over 40 yards. True, they are not
crossers and thus less susceptible to shotstring loss, but shell
performance is still paramount at that distance. For long range sporting
clays shots, you never go wrong buying a premium handicap trap shell.
Anything less is just cutting down your percentage chances of a hit.
Most Travelers' courses usually have a station or two of long ones.
Make sure that you have a box of super premium #7.5s lurking in your
shoot kit. It will be worth your trouble.

So there it is. The long and the short of shot string. Another
dose of salts from your nearly dearly beloved Mephisto of Myriad
Mystical Mechanical Marvels. Sheath that slide rule!

10,106 Posts
Pat, please don't tell us that Kay and the rest of the "big dogs" always put every target in the pattern center. Most of us who shoot from "back there" are always greatful for those "chips and chunks" we've grown accustomed to-same with them.

Neil's results may also indicate not everyone who shoots the 21yd. line spends $10,000 on a gun, $600 on barrel work and $3,500 on a custom stock. Many times it's a combination of knowledge and equipment that prevents them from being competetive-not 1/8oz. of shot. And there's always the recoil factor-not everyone can justify spending $1,100 on a PFS on a $900 gun. Lighter shot charges perform the same function without the capital expenditure.

Seems to me that Neil's charts and graphs prove that mandatory reduced shot charges in Handicap events are a no-brainer!!

10,782 Posts
I sometimes shoot 7/8ths loads of 9s for a first shot on doubles with 2 different O/U guns. I break birds better with the tightest choked bottom barrel of the two guns with the same loads.

If I planned on shooting a 7/8ths ounce load at singles, I'd make sure to do it with a TIGHT full choked gun! I think the Olympic guns have gone to tighter chokes too since the shot weight was reduced?

Mike,PBB always said he got better results with certain wads above 1300 fps. Light weight shot charges coupled with overbored barrels and less velocity doesn't seem to me like a good match either.


9,941 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
One of the aims, we are told, of International's change to light loads was to reduce scores and limit ties, that is, to provide some "headroom" so that the excellent competitor could show his stuff over a merely really, really good one. Thus the aim was to emphasize differences in skill.

The one-ounce proposal for ATA shooting is promoted as a way to _reduce_ the effect of differences in skill.

Only one can be right.


3,211 Posts
If the average shooter is now breaking in the mid 80,s in handicap now he will be in the low 80,s or high 70,s with 7/8oz. loads . The big dogs (what ever that is) are in the high 90,s and will go to the mid 90,s (big deal) still winning . We will be at the SAME point we are now . Why is it so hard so understand whey are better (the big dogs) and you and I will never be as good . Some people would like to beat the big dogs but not on a level field . The answer is and will always be target speed and angle . But some don,t like the idea of missing targets because of target difficulty unless it,s only DIFFICULT for the other guy .


11,024 Posts
Target speed and angle have nothing to do with it. Leave the game alone. There is nothing wrong with the game. The problem is with the humans who play the game. HMB

Premium Member
3,300 Posts
Neil, Thank you for all your hard work and posting these results for the readers of! My take from your results is: "if you are on 'em; you're on 'em"...meaning the results in the 0 - 10" and 10 - 20" categories ought to be of highest interest in making conclusions about the 1 1/8 vs. 7/8 and 7.5 shot vs. 8.5 controversies. Each shooter needs to consider what works for him/her re: cost, recoil, and pattern percentage. Worrying about the 20 - 30 inch area is simply hoping on the "golden BB" to break a target since all the results are in the 80% range. There is no better way to break a target than to center your pattern on it and not depend on fringe breaks. Again, Thanks and Best Regards! Ed
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