Shotshells for Budget Conscious Shooters and Ideas for Starting Youths!

Posted: February 16, 2009 in Reviews

Given today’s economic climate and increased cost of living, the cost of ammunition for clay target practice has become a painful drain on recreational shooting. There are bargains to be aware of and shells that perform well for trapshooting and other clay target sports that cost between 25% to 40% less than the top of the line competition shells offered by Remington, Winchester and Federal and most shooters won’t be able to tell the difference.

Today I will provide a summary of my experience with the following “Bang for the Buck” (BFB) Shotshells, where you can get them and add some ideas that I hope you find useful when introducing youths to the clay target sports.

First, my ammunition review


Federal Field & Target Multi Purpose Load
MP12 8
MP20 8

Remington Gun Club Target Loads

Winchester Super Target Loads

Over the past year, I shot thousands of 12 guage shotshells for trap and used all of the above plus some others. My primary gun has been an older Remington 1100 in trap configuartion with old style fixed, full choke barrel. Also fired during this period were the: Remington 870 in 12 guage; Mossberg 500 A in 12 guage; A Stevens 311 12 ga Side-by-side belonging to a friend and a Remington LT-20; 20 guage belonging to my wife.

Of the above listed loads, the Federal Multi Purpose load provides the best value for the dollar without sacrificing function and delivering target crushing performance for 16 yards to short range handicap. Available in 12 or 20 guage at the same price of $21.59 per 100 rd pack at WAL MART, the Federal offering is the least expensive of the “BFB” shotshells. The 100-rd value pack costs $5.72 per box TAX INCLUDED and sold in convenient, four box packs that are easy to lift, carry and store. Remington offers a black hulled sport load in similar packaging but at four to five dollars more per pack – or a dollar more per box.

In shooting all of the above listed loads, the Federal had the most consistent performance and ability to cycle gas operated actions. Pattern effectiveness among the three is hard to tell as all will grind targets hard with well centered patterns on 16 yard trap targets. The Remington and Winchester offerings had better looking, more uniform and polished shot and better wads that resemble those found in their top of the line loads. However, in both Remington and Winchester offerings, the powder charges seem lighter than the Federal and both had occasional problems in cycling the 1100 (opening and locking back the bolt on single shots) at least in the 2-3/4 dram equivalent 12 guage offering.

The Winchester Super Target was the most comfortable of all to shoot and seemed to smoke targets slightly better than the other two offerings – at least in my guns. However, the Winchester Super Target also caused difficult operation in the Mossberg pump tested and at least one occasion of a failure to extract – leaving the fired hull lodged in the chamber with the dual extractor skipping over the rim, leaving a safety issue requiring a rod to knock out the hull. I believe this may be due to the softness of the steel head on the Winchester shell. It seems to swell up and cling to the chamber walls of the Mossberg more than the better honed chambers of the older Remington and Stevens guns. That same Mossberg functions 100% with the more expensive, “top of the line” brass head target shotshells.

Dick’s Sporting Goods offers specials occasionally on the Remington Gun Club loads but their new policy requires ten box, or “flat” purchase of 250 shotshells and many Dick’s locations will require the “flat” to be ripped open at the register and all ten boxes scanned individually to get the discounted price. Another nod to Wal Mart and Federal for “customer friendliness” for that point.

I did not mention some other popular loads including: Estate, Fiocchi and Wolf shotshells. The Estate loads are really a version of the Federal Top Gun on different colored hulls (bright red vs. dull maroon) with the same heads and as far as I can tell, the same performance. The same parent company, ATK owns both brands. Estates are popular among clay target shooters, but I have found their prices to be slightly higher
than the Federal Multi Purpose and only available in heavy, costlier 10 box flats. Fiocchi is also a good shell and offers the greatest diversity of shot charge weights and velocity levels for competition, but again, their price point is somewhat between the “BFB” shells and the “Top of the Line” premium shells. I have fired the Wolf shells and am not impressed with them. In my Remington 1100, they were inconsistent and a notable delay in cycling often occurs. They appear to be formulated for manually operated actions, such as hinge action guns.

The costlier “Premium” brand shells are good for long range handicap – 25 to 27 yard group and upland hunting due to the premium quality hard, round shot that holds excellent patterns at extended ranges. But for most shooting, the “BFB” loads are fine!

In 20 guage, my wife shot this summer with her Remington 1100 LT-20. She found that the Remington “Sport” loads in 20 guage (the one picturing the dove on the box) would occasionally cause difficulty in pressing the bolt release button. Further inspection revealed some of those shells were slightly longer than the premium brand STS loads which functioned flawlessly during her trap session. The longer “Sport” loads would cause a hang up in on the carrier latch and often had to be loaded directly into the chamber.

This brings me to my ideas for starting youths. I am NOT a fan of introducing younger shooters with very small, specialty guns like 28 guage and .410 bore. This is just my opinion, but let me tell you why. First, small guage shells like 28 guage and .410 are very costly. Often exceeding $10 per box of 25! Second, the guns to shoot them are small and light and less readily sold in the autoloading and pump variety.
In hinge variety, I’ve seen many small youths on shooting fields with their dads behind them with little guns like entry level single shots with small frames, plain, unpadded buttstocks, and skinny, shorter barrels that do not lead to good shooting habits.

The result is often, the small boy or girl has trouble manipulating the stiff, crunchy actions of these tight, inexpensive guns; wear themselves out physically very quickly; get slapped with sharp recoil even though it’s a small guage gun due to the light weight and unpadded stocks and they are shooting on a squad of “old salts” with big 12 guage guns smoking targets while the youngster misses, and misses and misses some more quickly eroding fragile, youthful confidence and hence any interest in pursuing the sport as they become older. This is the old “Oh, my dad gave me a shotgun when I was ten and it knocked me on my butt – never again” story, we’ve heard time and time again.

Instead, it is better to teach with a 20 guage for a 12 or 13 year old than it is to try a .410 with a ten year old. Let the young shooter grow large enough to handle a 20 guage “youth model” than knock his shoulder and rattle his teeth with a broom stick, “barn yard” gun.

Remington, Mossberg, Beretta, Bennelli, etc. all offer youth models or “small statured” shooter models with upgradebale stock and comb inserts, that can be changed as the youth grows INTO the gun; appropriate length barrels, the cost effectiveness of 20 guage ammunition which is priced the same as 12 guage and increased resale value since the gun will be appropriate for a wider range of shooters to use.

Of these, the semi auto, used a single shot is the best. The recoil is soft, the guns’ sighting planes and balance lend themselves to hitting targets easily (I’m still using mine after 30 years of shooting) and I would argue they are the SAFEST to handle and teach on. The bolt handle to open the action on ALL brands and models of semi auto shotguns is conveniently located in front of the shooter’s face and out of the way so that should the gun need to be unloaded at an instant, it needs only to be lowered, while still pointing the muzzle downrange and the bolt handle then easily pulled back to extract and eject the shell. Also, for a qualified adult or parent supervising the young shooter, you can put the youngster into a ready shooting position, with the open action and drop the shell onto the carrier latch and close the button for the youngster when he/she is ready to call for the target. The young shooter then calls for the target, shoots and voila! The fired hull ejects cleanly from the gun leaving the action locked open and SAFE, ready for the next shot. There is no struggling with tight hinge lever, with a small youth bracing the stock against his rib cage and tilting his body in potentially unsafe directions to get the gun open.

Consider my advice, buy the autoloader and the Remington is a strong contender. In my opinion it’s the easiest to shoot; it’s the simplest and the least costliest to repair and maintain and retains its resale value very well.

Talk to your gun club’s management or shooting coordinator about youth and new shooter programs. You’ll find many willing to accomodate, provide instructors and at some facilities, dedicated fields where one on one instruction is provided.

We need this to generate the NEXT generation of Connecticut Shooters & Sportsmen!




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