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November 29, 1998. Last revised: May14/99. Steel shot update Dec. 18/99.



Physiologically Challenged Shooting

And Steel Shot

By Zermel


Last year a torn rotator cuff and subsequent surgery on my left shoulder changed my rifle and shotgun handling. The surgery did not turn out as good as I thought and I suffered a considerable loss of strength in my left arm and shoulder. I now shoot with my left hand close to my right hand in order to hold up the gun.

The first tries were abysmal. Rifle not as bad as the shotgun. I discovered in front of the mirror that the angle across my chest and the barrel of my shotgun is much more open or square. This of course changes the point where your face hits the stock, that is much further back.

It also changes the elevation of your eye in relation to the barrel and delivers the pattern low. In my case the pattern shot 8 inches low at 35 yards. The further back left hand position also accentuates my SxS double shotgun to shoot more to the right with the right barrel and left with the left barrel.

The reason is, the shooter's left hand does not restrain the barrels and the fired barrel kicks away from the other barrel. This is not a big problem since the amount of lateral error is minimal and is usually allowed for at the factory when the barrels are regulated.

Most of the lateral errors come from the cheek touching the thicker rear part of the stock. This can also cause canting, resulting one barrel of a side by side double shoot higher then the other.

The first thing I did is to remove the recoil pad to shorten the stock by one inch. And found that the gun cheeked a lot better with my face further up the stock. A thin piece of foam was taped on the end of the stock for temporary protection of the stock. It looks as though I have to reduce the length by another 1/4 inch. Previous length of pull was 13 5/8 new lengths would be 12 3/8 with the recoil pad reinstalled.

The second step was to determine the exact center of the shot charge. Since I hunt geese I set up two pattern papers with 8"x12" black oval centers representing a goose at 35 yards. I then fired 12 shots on each target loading both barrels and shooting the right barrel on the right target and the other on the left target. The shooter must refrain from aiming, look at the goose and fire like you would in the field. With 12 rounds on each paper the center of the pattern is easy to see.

Canting can also be seen, that is one barrel shoots higher than the other does, on SxS shotguns. A canted mount is much more difficult to correct, but elbow position, up or down will correct some of it.

My patterns were 8 inches low and 4 inches to the left. Stock dimensions needed to be corrected.

To change the height of comb and cast off, I used the following arithmetic.

1. Measure the distance from your eyeball to the end of the barrels with the gun in shooting position. In my case the distance is 35 inches.

2. Convert the shooting distance into inches. 35 yards x 36= 1260 inches.

3. Divide the shooting distance by the eye to muzzle distance 1260 / 35.5 = 35.49

4. To elevate the pattern by 8 inches at 35 yards Divide 8 inches by 35.49 = 0.225 inches.

So a 1/4-inch should be added to the top of the stock where your cheekbone touches the stock. This build up should be fitted so the height is parallel with the rib and long enough to allow your cheek to be at the same height all the time even when making high elevated shots.

Since the impact need to be changed 4 inches to the right. The same math is used. Your face needs go to the right, which requires the removal of some wood where your cheek touches. In my case 1/8- inch cast off was required.

Good wing shooting requires the shotgun to shoot where you look. A shotgun is not aimed but pointed. The shooter's focus must concentrate 100 % on the target, not looking at the front bead. The front bead will guide your hand with your peripheral vision but should not be in focus.

In case of a goose your concentration should be on the white spot on his head, this will assure that the pattern is in the front part of the bird.

To know where your gun puts its pattern is a good idea in any event. Minor stock corrections are easily made with some rigid foam and scotch tape. It is surprising how many shooters donít have any idea where their gun throws the pattern, and shoot with a build in miss.

With the minor changes I made to my old double shotgun, I can now put the pattern back on geese with some resemblance of skill. Although much more practice is needed to shoot a good score with my new acquired gunstock and left hand position.

With more weight training till next hunting season I hope to regain more strength in my left arm and convert the gun back to its previous stock dimensions. Maybe???

Unfortunately next fall my fine old double will be useless with steel shot, since these barrels can not digest the large steel pellets required for geese. An alternate Bismuth shot is available for use in older shotguns. Winchester has bought up all the Bismuth mines in North America and offers shooters loaded shells and pellets for hand loading.

In the old monopoly tradition Winchester is gouging shooters with outrageous and totally insane prices, which only the likes of Rockefeller can afford.


And then there is Steel Shot.

December 13, 1999.

Steel shot became law in Canada this year for all water fowl. I held off on getting steel shot, because rumor had it that we still could use lead for field shooting. This did not come to pass. And now we use steel shot. For me it meant I could not use my 12 gauge SxS nor my 20 gauge O/U. The 20 was my favorite goose gun over decoys in the early warmer season with 1-3/16 oz Nickel plated #3 shot. The Win 21 SxS 12 gauge was used in colder weather with 1-3/8 oz #2 Nickel plated shot. These two guns with the loads above left nothing to be desired for geese and ducks.

I modified my Ponsness 375 loader to load steel shot 3" magnums in 12 gauge. It toke me a long time to get the machine to work dispensing 1-1/4 oz of BBB (.190") steel shot. It meters very badly and hangs up in the hopper and drop tube. Any knocking and banging would throw out the powder measure. The steel shot in the bushing would lock up the discharge. Are we ready to give up?

Here is how I attacked the loading problems. The powder measure on the loading tool is not used, and the wad seating guide is removed. The steel shot bushing is replaced with a heavy rubber strip of truck inner tube and thinned down to about 0.080". The rubber bushing provides "give" to the steel shot when the slide is moved. The rubber bushing is tedious to calibrate to throw 75 BBB pellets. Accuracy is plus or minus one pellet. Shot is coated with white motor mica in the bag. I also polished the drop tube. All the wads are shaken in the bag with 1/4 tsp. of motor mica. This reduces barrel friction.

The empty is pushed into the single 3" die and de-and reprimed. The die with the primed hull is then dropped out of the loader and charged with powder on a bench mounted powder measure. The wad is started by hand and the die is put back in to the loading tool. The wad is seated with drop tube and the shot is dropped after two knocks with a rubber hammer on the side of the slide. Slide the die to the crimp starter and the crimper and eject a 6 star perfectly taper crimped shot shell. Production is slow but demand is low. One box of 25 is enough for two limits of geese. This is also the possession limit, which are 16.

The load I put together is as follows. 1.) New 3" Active hulls. 2.) Win 209 primer (below freezing temp I use Federal 209A primers). 3.) 32gr of Win 571 Powder. 4.) A BP 1-1/4 oz Multy Metal Wad. 5.) 1-1/4 oz BBB steel shot. 6.) A 6 star flat crimp.

I bought 100 empty hulls from Ballistic Products Inc. and marked 4 hulls and used them 6 times and they are still useable but just. So 6 uses are possible using an O/U Win 101 Waterfowler with these hulls. The hulls cost $10.99 US per/hundred that is less than 2 cents a load. There can't be any complaint about that. The skived mouth makes beautiful crimps too. The finished product is superb

On our first goose hunt this year I dropped five geese with 6 shots over decoys including two doubles. We hoped to stay inside 45 yards and put a decoy at that range on each open end of a U-shaped decoy lay out using about 78 decoys. We did not get two limits that day but were pleased with the steel shot performance. I found the recoil of these high velocity loads going 1325 ft/sec very disturbing and still do. Aggressive shooting with a rapid pulls through stops me flinching. I have to maintain a great deal of mental concentration to make my shots count. The long and unhandy gun does not help matters much. Shorter and lighter is not the answer either. Autoloading goose guns are even clumsier for me, and seem to fowl up and malfunction frequently. So I guess next year I will have to bite the bullet and use Bismuth shot with guns I like to shoot with?

We also found that birds shot over 50 yards flew as much as a quarter mile before dropping dead out of the sky. With only 75 pellets, the pattern density is too small for reliable kills at that distance. My friend shoots a 10 gauge Ithaca with 105 pellets to the load. He has no trouble with birds out to 55-60 yards. If you can handle a beast like that you got the best "steel gun" with 0.028" choke. I use Hastings screw in chokes 12 and 20 thou in a .734" bore. The pattern at 35 yards is 90 and 94% in a 30" circle with most of the pellets (42-45) in a 24" circle. That means not to may pellets in a goose at 50 yards, even less if you are off a bit. A pattern at 50 yards is really "nothing" to look at.

With our season at the end for this year I can reflect that steel shot is actually quite good. Judging by the number of geese we bagged; the numbers where not less than if we had used lead shot loads.

1999 Conclusions for Canada Geese: Consider BB the smallest shot over decoys. I feel BBB is a better choice for cleaner kills. Use highest possible shot charge velocity. Stay under 50 yards with the 3" 12 gauge. Shoot aggressive with fast swing through. Fire a rapid second shot if in doubt. Use a 3-1/2" Magnum for higher velocities not for more shot. For best result use a 3-1/2" 10 gauge with BBB or T-shot.

If you like to talk more about goose hunting, blinds, pits and of course guns and shot sizes, please direct your question to:

Fred The Re-Loader.