Founded back in 1876 this family owned business has worked hard to become one of the world’s largest ammunition suppliers: Fiocchi make everything from .22 rimfire through centrefire ammunition and a host of shotgun types, with several specialities, and beyond for military ammunition.
So far as clay shooters are concerned Fiocchi ammunition has won many world championship events as well as Olympic gold medals; eight Fiocchi team members have ‘won their card’ for London 2012, according to the Fiocchi website, so they know how to build great cartridges.
The two new loads featured here are in their latest ‘F’ Line; this is used to denote clay target loads using the new Fiocchi ‘F’ series propellant powders. This is a double-base propellant (that being where nitro-glycerine is blended with nitro cellulose) whereas a high proportion of cartridges use single base (nitro cellulose only) powders today.
Fiocchi explains the advantage of the double-based F series powders as their high energy content that allows slightly smaller charges to be used, as well as better stability in different temperature and humidity conditions so the cartridges will remain more consistent when fired in different climatic conditions. They are a thin, lozenge shaped cut flake and burn with slightly more ‘vivacity’ which can help the shooter feel reduced recoil sensation as well as burning cleanly.
Both types certainly felt good to shoot to me and even the 24-gram load cycled well in an old style gas semi-auto that was designed when 32-gram loads were the norm, so that was an unexpected bonus. The burn proved to be exceptionally clean and when viewing the barrel after firing it was hard to detect whether the gun had been fired at all, as residue was all but non-existent.
Both the FBLU and FBLACK are premium loads and the wads used are the same design as that introduced in the Fiocchi ‘Official’ line some time ago. It has a very complex ‘honey comb’-type central section between the shot cup and gas seal that protects the lead shot very well.
The pre-formed leaves of the shot cup are quite strongly joined and collecting fired wads when patterning showed that it was not unusual to find some shot cups still intact after firing; this did not appear to affect the patterning ability though.
A striking feature of the laboratory results is the superb consistency in velocities reached by both samples of test shells. Single figure SD (Standard Deviation) results like these demonstrate the overall quality and compatibility of the components used, combined with the most precise loading procedures and quality control checks, as befits such a significant ammunition producer as Fiocchi.
The shot load weights were very consistent too, the FBLU being about one pellet below the 28-gram shot weight and the FBLACK a couple of pellets above the 24-gram weight. Shot size using the pellet count method averaged in between UK 7 (340 per ounce) and UK 7.5 (400 per ounce) in both types at 374 and 365 per ounce respectively, hence my 7.25 designation: pellets are well graded and highly polished.
This means these cartridges carry more pellets than those Italian cartridges marked 7.5 but to Italian size, which is very close to UK No. 7 shot size. Pellet diameters confirmed the count result, being around .002”/003” larger than UK 7.5 (0.090”) at around .092” / 093” in diameters. It is useful to know this as it will give the pellets slightly increased retained energy which, along with their low Crush Value figures, which shows them to be very hard, has the ability to strike clays with a shade more breaking ability at longer ranges, where shells of this type come into their own.
The pattern results are interesting too; massively dense! Slightly surprisingly, the heavier shot load FBLU put an extra couple of per cent more in the circle than the 24 gram FBLACK, but with these sort of performances where pattern densities are more than a complete choke boring higher than the test barrel used (Imp Mod/ 65% nominal) the results are impressive anyway (and note, could vary a percentage point or two either way if the tests were repeated).
You will see from the photographs that I scribe a 20” diameter ring inside the 30” diameter main pattern circle. This gives an indication of how strong the centre of the pattern is hence how even distribution is across the total area. The FBLUs put 160 pellest in the inner 20” circle on average and the FBLACKs 135; that works out to be 60 per cent of the total pellets in the 30”pattern for both of them being within less than one per cent on average, which is a strikingly similar result!
Obviously the 24-gram load puts fewer in the circle as it has less to begin with, but the two results are remarkable for their symmetry. Both are what would be described as somewhat ‘centre-dense’ as the inner 20” circle represents just 44 per cent of the total area. All modern clay competition cartridges put more than 44 per cent within the central zone, some more so than others.
What results like these do show is that the load is capable of holding a very close pattern out to extended distance and that, in a competition load, is something many will look for. If the results are too tight for the circumstances it’s easy to screw in a more open choke to achieve the result you are looking for.
Using a more open choke boring for your first barrel at Trap, for example, will give a shade more margin for error knowing the tighter choke barrel is well capable of pulling back the longer ones should it be required; this may also give a more even spread across the pattern, without losing much if in total pellets in the pattern. Such things are a consideration for Double Rise and Double Trap events of course, where a second barrel is always required. Here matching the chokes and cartridge to the situation is essential.
Designed and sold as premium ammunition for the discerning clay competition shooter, the latest FBLU and FBLACK are clearly top-performing cartridges with consistency to match. They are brisk, a shade faster than some previous Fiocchi loads we have tested but without being ultra fast.
Fiocchi knows that smoothness is an important factor and that sensible velocities can help maintain performance over extended competitions, especially when it’s hot: these factors help maintain pattern quality too and Fiocchi has achieved that as seen in these results.