A pair of budget clay loads from French maker Jocker give Richard Atkins an interesting subject for testing…
With cartridge prices having recently settled back a little after some sudden rises earlier in the year (when the price of lead saw a rapid spike), the talk among many shooters has been to seek alternative cartridges in the budget range. From comments on various clay shooting forums, it is evident that price is a big factor for plenty of clay shooters. Something else revealed is that many who seek a less expensive cartridge appear to have little idea as to what differences there might be between a budget and a premium load.
As I’ve written previously (and these tests confirm), there are differences between differently priced cartridges. Serious competition shooters will know this, and select their cartridges accordingly. But for the vast numbers of us who enjoy a Sunday morning at the clay club – shooting 50 Sporting or a round or two of DTL or Skeet – budget cartridges can do more than you might imagine. And, as I’ve explained in previous articles, there can actually be advantages to choosing a budget load for some applications. For example, no budget cartridge is likely to be well suited to second-barrel Olympic Trap shooting – but the cartridges developed specifically for such a use not only cost more, but are unnecessary for most closer, slower-moving targets.
The Jocker loads tested here are the least expensive clay cartridges I have seen by a fair margin, so are well worth investigating. Coming from a small French manufacturer, they are clearly made with price in mind and provide an interesting insight into just what’s possible to keep things cost-effective.
Immediately noticeable is their different packaging; no costly colour-printed cartons here. They are packaged in clear plastic bags sold in the conventional 25-round format as a box. The bag is closed with a large label printed with the cartridge type, calibre and shot weight, plus their CIP approval mark. While not particularly pretty, the plastic bag is practical; it is waterproof, and also makes it easy to ‘pour’ the cartridges into your shooting vest pockets.
Jocker LA28 28 gram 7.5 plastic wad
Shot load: 429 grains
Pellet (count per oz): 337
UK shot (size / CV): 7 / 25.5%
Pellets in 30in dia: 167
Pellets in 20-30in: 74
Velocity mps (fps): 390 (1280)
Recoil (M): 10.9
Pressure (unit = bar): 550
The LA28 is Jocker’s standard 28-gram 7.5 plastic wad cartridge, this being probably the most popular clay load for UK domestic disciplines. It is loaded into a 70mm long, light blue, lightly ribbed, parallel plastic tube Maxam case with Maxam primer and 10mm high brass plated steel head.
The plastic wad is not one with which I am familiar, but has full shot cup with pre-formed petals, lightly joined at the cup mouth (for reliable, snag-free feeding when being loaded into the cartridge). The central cushioning section is of a novel design that looks efficient, and the gas seal base has a line of spikes protruding downward to help distribute pressure on the powder charge. It is also several grains lighter than many plastic wads, which helps reduce cost and recoil.
The powder is Maxam CSB single base, grey, disc flake propellant that gives brisk performance and burns quite cleanly, leaving a light, dusty residue that is easily cleaned. Charge weight averages a modest 21.6 grains, so it is an economical powder too.
Interesting shot load
All cartridge components are examined as part of my test procedures, with the shot loads checked for average shot load weight, shot size, hardness, polishing and any coatings and so on. The pellets in the review cartridges are particularly notable because they are actually reclaimed lead shot from clay shooting grounds. This is something I have heard about, but not previously seen in a commercial cartridge. Given that the shot content accounts for a significant proportion of the total component costs in any lead shot cartridge, this is a novel approach to reducing production costs – economical and more eco-friendly.
Close inspection reveals that a proportion of the pellets exhibit telltale dimple indentations in their surface. This dimple effect is the result of contact with the pellets around them, and the compression forces generated as a shot charge is rapidly accelerated down the barrel bore. The compression forces increase with each deeper layer of lead shot in any cartridge – so what we see is typical of what all lead pellets look like when they leave the muzzle of any shotgun when first fired. Interestingly, the pellets that were originally in the upper layers of the shot load show almost no signs of marking at all.
Jocker don’t just collect spent shot and re-use it – they also go to considerable trouble to wash and grade the pellets for size before tumbling. Tumbling coats the shot with graphite, a standard process used by shot makers to help prevent pellets sticking together and smooth their journey down the bore. This doesn’t make them bright and shiny again (as freshly dropped pellets usually are), but does help get the best from them.
The Jocker shot loads had evidently been well graded for size, as variation was quite well controlled. Although there will obviously be some variation, the shot was mainly quite hard too, the average CV result in the LA28 being 25.5 per cent. This compares well with premium brand hardness for similar-sized pellets, and proved less varied than I had anticipated. It would seem that most of the customers at the shooting grounds where the lead is reclaimed from use premium grade cartridges!
Serious shooters will know the vital role the quality of shot plays in any cartridge, and so the patterning and shooting tests were something I was particularly keen to complete.
The excellent ballistic figures that resulted show that Jocker has chosen components that work well together, and has assembled them very competently. Maximum average breech pressure is a moderate 550 bar (190 below the limit), while velocity is definitely brisk without quite reaching the Holy Grail of 400m/s (which seems to have become something of a benchmark for ‘high velocity’ clay target loads). Higher velocities do, of course, come at a price in several ways, not least of which is recoil (momentum), and here the LA28 remains below 11Ns, which is a recoil level most can cope well with in a full-weight clay gun.
The SD figure of just three is exceptional, and shows extreme consistency and a
figure seldom bettered by cartridges in any price band.
As always, the proof of the product is in the shooting. The pattern results do reveal that the LA28 didn’t match the 65 per cent pattern density of the Imp Mod test barrel, but actually produced an average of 51 per cent. This equates to an opening up of the pattern to almost Improved Cylinder percentage. This is almost certainly a result of the pellets now having the natural surface deformations from two firings, with surface imperfections tending to result in a slightly quicker rate of dispersion from a straight path than a perfectly round shot will (largely why steel shot produces tighter patterns than lead shot). Notice, too, that the CD figure indicates less tendency to patterns being centre-dense than premium Trap loads tend to be.
So the patterns are less dense, but consider this: there are plenty of shooters actually using more choke than they need for many of the targets they shoot. Therefore, a cartridge that opens up the patterns with the chokes they use (especially if non-interchangeable) can actually prove of benefit in providing a greater margin for error, especially for closer targets.
Jocker Super Flash 24 gram 7.5 plastic wad
Shot load: 373 grains
Pellet (count per oz): 334
UK shot (size / CV): 7 / 26.5%
Pellets in 30in dia: 154
Pellets in 20-30in: 70
Velocity mps (fps): 387 (1270)
Recoil (M): 9.3
Pressure (unit = bar): 515
Super Flash are, like the LA28, simply packaged in a plastic bag of 25. The 70mm long red plastic Maxam cases look distinctive with their 24mm tall, brass-plated metal head. Like the L28 loads, they are neatly closed with well-formed six-point star crimp with tight turnover. The wad is the Gualandi Flash, designed by this world-leading wad maker for Trap cartridges.
The propellant used is from another world leader, namely Baschieri & Pellagri, this being their F2 laminate, purple, square flake powder for 24-gram 12-gauge loads. It is another high-energy and clean-burning propellant that leaves virtually no visible residues, and can produce high velocities within moderate pressure limits.
The lead shot in the review Super Flash cartridges is also reclaimed; it is graphite coated and visually very similar to that in the LA28. The marked shot size is 7.5, but again the pellet count per ounce was actually very close to UK No 7. This means fewer pellets per ounce, but larger in diameter. Pellets (as with the LA28) were well graded for size, the bulk of the charge between 0.092 inches and 0.098 inches in diameter, with just a small proportion outside these sizes. Pellet hardness averaged slightly softer than that for the LA28, with an average Crush Value of 26.5 per cent, which is still quite hard. It cannot be practical to grade reclaimed pellets for hardness as well as size, so this tends to confirm that Jocker obtains its shot supplies from ranges where serious competitors mostly use premium ammunition.
Slightly slower than the LA28 (by10 fps), the Super Flash’s consistency (SD) is again very good; the lighter shot load also results in a low momentum (recoil) figure. These laboratory results stand comparison with any brand and price band cartridges.
As for the LA28 cartridge, it is the pattern density that reveals a lower percentage of pellets in the measured patterns. The Imp Mod (65 per cent) test barrel put 54 per cent of the Super Flash pellets in the patterns – a fraction under quarter choke (55 per cent) result. When looking at patterns and comparing with those from premium loads, it would be easy to conclude that the lower densities will automatically mean inferior results on the clays. But shooting some clays from my own test trap showed that clays were breaking well and, indeed, further away than I had expected.
The shot size being UK 7 helps with higher pellet energy, so a couple of pellets can smash a target, but there seems more too it than that. Patterns are made more effective than they may at first appear due to the speed at which the shot cloud overtakes the clay targets, because pellets can strike the front, middle or back of a target as they overtake, which effectively thickens up the shot pattern.
Mindful that many Sporting and first-barrel DTL targets are taken at under 40 yards, I decided to test some patterns at 30 yards. I used an SK2 (three eighths) choke too. As the photo shows, the patterns proved well up to closer clays, even with the more open choke. Interestingly, both the L28 and Super Flash averaged 76 per cent pattern densities at 30 yards with the SK2 choke in standard Browning Invector barrel. That equates to quarter choke, and proved effective on sporting clays.
Jocker Summary (L28 & Super Flash)
It was fascinating to test these shells, as it provided an opportunity to check out the theories about cartridge performance and, in particular, how shot loads influence results. I’m pleased to report that they served to confirm several important aspects.
Particularly interesting is how these Jocker loads performed better in practice than figures might imply. This helped me feel confident in my views that many shooters use tighter patterning chokes than they actually need.
Having shot Sporting targets well with them, I tried some at DTL. I’m no Trap expert, but can hit a few. Using my Browning Citori Trap, I shot a first line using Super Flash 24-gram with the SK2 (three eighths) choke in bottom barrel and L28 in the top barrel (bored Full choke). I scored a 23 with three second barrels, with the kills so positive that I’m confident the losses were down to me. I then did a round using the L28 in both barrels for a 24 ex-25 with two second barrels. The kills again told me that a decent DTL shot would hit them all.
Internet forums again provided interesting comments on Jocker cartridges – and nobody commented about the reclaimed shot; some asked what size the shot actually was but not one commenting had checked to confirm! However, that was actually very useful, because it meant those who had shot with them were going purely on results rather then preconceptions. These users’ comments were almost universally positive.
I quote just one that reflects many others, and confirms the points I make regarding improved performance and tight chokes. Having tried both the L28 and the 24 gram Jockers, one forum user wrote: “…the 24 gram (plastic wad) gave lovely even patterns judging by the breaks. Going away birds were crunched and full face clays disappeared. I was shooting 28 gram, but will now drop to 24 gram with these. I was using 2 x ¾ chokes but no matter – these shells did their stuff… Brilliant.”
Jocker loads are imported by Shooting Star, who also import the premium RC cartridges. Proprietor Nick Levett-Scrivener confirmed that Jocker is now stocked in numerous shops and shooting clubs, including some noted for their Trap shooting facilities, and that customer feedback has been good. From the results I obtained, it is easy to see why that is so. If you fancy discovering what Jocker can do for your shooting, while saving some money into the bargain, do give them a try. You might be surprised how well they perform – I was.
Know the terminology
Velocity = metres per second @ 2.5 metres from the muzzle.
Pressure = Mean breech figure in Bar (as per CIP measurement).
SD = Standard Deviation (consistency).
CD = Central Density rating – the percentage of total pellets landing in the 30-inch circle recorded within the inner 20-inch circle.
Shot size: this is derived from actual pellet count per ounce and listed to the nearest UK size (< denotes slightly smaller than, and > slightly larger than). UK shot 7 = 340 pellets / oz; 7.5 = 400 pellets/oz; 8 = 450/oz; 9 = 580/oz.
Shot weight = average actual shot load, measured in grains. NB 28 grams = 432 grains; 24 grams = 370.4 grains; 21 grams = 324 grains. There are 437.5 grains in one ounce.
CV = Crush Valu-e. This is the amount by which the shot is reduced in size when subjected to the standard crush test. Note: smaller value means harder lead and vice versa (ie 20% CV is harder than 30% CV in pellets of similar size. NB smaller shot crushes proportionately more than larger sizes.
Choke boring: half choke = nominal 60% pattern; Imp / Mod (¾) choke 65% and Full choke 70% at 40 yards.