Recent times haven’t been easy for cartridge manufactures, in the UK or anywhere else. Always keenly-priced due to fierce brand rivalry, the huge lead price increases in particular along with other unhelpful hikes in raw materials (like the plastic for cases and wads), caused price increases that had shooters thinking hard about what to buy. Not the best time to introduce another brand into the UK perhaps, but that’s exactly what Ladds of Crediton recently did: a brave move, but one already paying dividends with increasing NSI appearances at shoots.
NSI (Nobel Sport Italia) embraces a group of companies involved in the production of ammunition, including both Italian and French powder makers, NSI wads and Martignoni, who make cartridge cases and primers and supply many leading cartridge loaders around the world.
Being part of such a huge group means that every component required can be supplied from within, providing the greatest degree of control over specification, quality and availability that few, if any other manufacturers can match. Production volumes are kept high, which also helps with the economies of scale.
The NSI loading plant has been manufacturing ammunition since 1927 and has produced in excess of 3.4 billion rounds! Its shotgun ammunition range is comprehensive including everything from small bird cartridges for continental markets, slug for boar shooting and a wide range of game and clay target loads too.
NSI has extensive R&D capabilities within its group production activities and comprehensive test and analysis facilities at the cartridge loading plant; these enable NSI to develop products to precisely meet shooters’ needs and respond to changes in rules and disciplines and so on, whilst maintaining the highest standards of quality control.
This is all very impressive and explains why Ladds were keen to obtain the UK distributorship. We have seen NSI products at IWA in previous years and were aware that they had achieved success at the highest level – including a gold medal in Athens in 2004 and numerous World Championship and World Cup successes.
NSI cartridges are clearly worth a closer look, so Clay Shooting was keen to obtain some samples and see what they have to offer: we examined one from the budget end of the range, the Prima 28 and one from their competition range, the Quattro 24.
Following our usual procedure we obtained Proof Reports from the ISO 9001 approved Birmingham Proof House Laboratory; we then dismantled the samples to check the components, shot size and hardness, followed by pattern testing on steel pattern plates.
Right from the shot load weights – where each averaged within around a grain of the nominal shot load – right through to the ballistic laboratory reports for regular velocities and the patterns, which also proved even and regular. Taking into account the Prima is a budget cartridge these results are even more remarkable.
Both types are quite quick, velocities being in the higher region without being overly so; a sensible level that gives all the speed required for good shooting response and feel with good pellet striking energy but without excessive recoil: note the Quattro load’s momentum figure only just exceeds 9 N/m sec.
Velocity SD figures for both types confirmed consistency, with averages in single figures – excellent results. The powder used in the Prima is the fine granular flake GM3 type originally marketed by SNIA of Italy, which we presume has become part of the NSI group.
This powder became popular with cartridge loaders (and its ‘Fine’ versions with pistol shooters back in the 1990s) as it burns cleanly and meters consistently.
Prima cartridges use GM3 ‘Prima’ grade powder, developed to suit lighter shot 12-gauge clay target loads; they’ve evidently got it right as burn is as clean as the results are good.
Both types use NSI’s own plastic wad, the 24-gram version having an extra cushioning layer in its centre section.
The main differences between these loads is that the Quattro is loaded into a silver case with 23mm high nickel-plated head and with a green disc-flake powder (206, which SNIA also once produced) plus harder shot (around 5% antimony); its shot proved slightly more closely-graded than in the Prima.
Note that the stated shot size is approximately one size larger than the UK system, the 8s being UK 7.5 shot (400/oz.) and the 7.5 Quattro being UK 7 (340/oz).
Patterns show the effect of the sensible ballistics, excellent wads and particularly the harder shot (27% CV), with Quattro giving one of the highest pattern densities recorded from the Imp Mod (¾) test barrel. Naturally the Prima patterns were a little more open but, even so, still slightly exceeded the nominal (65%) barrel boring!
NSI and Ladds have certainly got a lot to shout about.
Many readers will have seen the name Andy Moon in various major shoot reports in these pages. Andy has been using the NSI Prima plastic wad 7.5s for about 12 months now and a look at the CPSA results for FITASC Sporting show he achieved the highest average in 2010; how’s that for a ‘budget’ cartridge?