Thursday, December 30, 2010

Shotgun Patterning: "00" Buckshot

this picture makes me smile
I. What is Patterning?
There are all sorts of brands for shotgun ammo out there. It is important to remember that each individual shotgun will have a unique pattern or spread for these at various distances. Even if you & your wife have the same type of gun and ammo, it is likely that their patterns will be different!

The most common ammo type is the "00" buck, pronounced "double ought" buck. These are  2 & 3/4 inches & each of these contain 9 pellets. Since shotguns belch out these out of a smooth bore barrel, they don't travel in a straight line. This is important so you could choose the ammo with a pattern that will suit your lifestyle.  

II. Shopping Spree
I purchased stuff that was available in major shopping malls or gun stores. Too bad I could not find any of those low-recoil Federal Premium shells, those are fantastic. My loot bag consisted of a box of 40 rounds from each of these goodies: 
  • Armscor "00" buck
  • Armscor #4 birdshot
  • GB "00" buck, made in Spain
  • Jethro "00" buck
    • Tactical Edge -  2 1/4 Inch bantam, 6 pellets per shell
    • RC1 Shotgun Shells, by A-Zone Arms & Ammo

    III. Testing Procedure
    The ammunition were fired with my Benelli M3T at 5, 7, 10, & 15 meters on a single target board per brand.  After each shot, the holes are marked & encircled to indicate the spread since they get bigger the farther I go.

    The goal is to help me find the ammo that will have a consistent pattern of pellets.  I'm also looking for stuff that's capable of cycling my weapon's semi-auto setting. My gun can do either pump action or semi-auto, but I prefer the latter so I can shoot faster.

    Now lets get to the fun part!

    IV. The Fun Part
    ARMSCOR "00" buckshot
    The ammo cycled my semi-auto mode. Nice. If I need to rock and roll, I can do it w/ this brand. At 5 & 7 meters, I got a nice round 3-inch spread. It got much wider at 10 and 15 meters measuring 9 and 10 inches respectively.

    A "doughnut" shape developed as the target became more distant. This is a tendency for some ammo to make a shape similar to Homer Simpson's favorite snack. The pattern looked good because majority of the hits landed in the Alpha zone even at 15m.

    GB "00"
    A lot of multi-gunners seem to favor this brand. This imported stuff cycled my semi-auto & kicks noticeably harder than the rest. The spread of the patterns had pretty much the same compared to Armscor's "00" buckshot, but I noticed that the last shot at 15 meters seemed to have drifted to the left side of the target paper. 

    RC1 Shotgun Shells
    The label says that these are "economy" shells that are reloaded from once-fired shells. They're pretty cheap too. The patterns were very similar to the previous two, but the pellets mysteriously drifted to the lower left again the way GB's did. Bad news is that this could not cycle my semi-auto & I had to use pump action for each shot.  Good news is that the patterns seemed consistent and held a tight grouping.

    Jethro "00"
    This cannot cycle my semi-auto.  Bummer.
    Big surprise: this ammo had really tight patterns! The light recoil must be a contributor to this. At 10 meters, it had an amazingly close grouping of just 5 inches in diameter. That is a lot of stopping power focused on a very small area. Remember that each "00" pellet is equivalent to a .32 caliber bullet. A smallish pistol round, but devastating when 9 of these are flying at you with each blast.

    Tactical Edge -  2 1/4 Inch "bantam"
    This ammo type is slightly smaller than the standard "00" buck and has 6 pellets instead of the usual 9.
    • Upside: I can load 8 of these in my magazine compared to the 7 from the regular size. Lowest recoil.
    • Down Side: Pump Action only.
    I was pleased at how the groupings were comparable to the other brands. Take note that each shot made a ring or "doughnut" shaped pattern from 5 to 15 meters.

    Bonus Stage: Armscor #4 birdshot
    This was a lot of fun. This ammo is designed for shooting birds. Do not use this for defense because the tiny little pellets will just irritate your target & won't stop them from shooting back. Same banana with zombies. The pattern we made was entertaining to look at because of the insane amount of holes we made on the target paper. If you need new ways to feed your family in a prolonged crisis, this can help a lot.

    V. Summary

    As of this test I found that for my particular defense requirements, Armscor's "00" buck works best for me because the patterns held a consistent shape & had a small diameter from 5 to 15 meters. It also cycles my weapon's semi-auto mode. For pump-action only, I'm torn between using Jethro and the Tactical Edge bantam shells because of the tight patterns for the former and the additional round I could carry with the latter. 

    There are other types of ammo to try later on. I'm looking forward to testing the various magnum (3 inch) and single-slug rounds that I bought from the November 2010 Gun Show. 

    This is an opportunity for me to contribute to that debate about other buckshot types, especially with  "000" and "0" for our next installment of Shotgun Patterning.

    Stay vigilant!

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