Richard Atkins tests new cartridges from Armusa, a leading Spanish manufacturer with green credentials
Armusa may be a new name in cartridges to UK shooters, but the Spanish manufacturer celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Several of its products have received performance awards and many top international shooters are using the brand. Colin Pennington of Purbeck Shooting Supplies, the appointed UK importer and distributor for Armusa cartridges, is an accomplished Sporting shot with a catalogue of major wins under his belt. He is well able to recognise a decent cartridge. Purbeck supplied samples of the standard Armusa AM Sporting clay cartridges and the latest eco-friendly type known as Green Shoot. The AMs are loaded with a plastic cup wad made of conventional polyethylene, while the Green Shoot uses a wad made from a water soluble and biodegradable EVA plastic material, developed by Spanish company Plasticos Hidrosolubles, SL of Valencia.
This new material is formulated to have no adverse environmental issues, being water soluble, compostable and non-toxic. The company already holds certification from independent bodies, with appropriate EN certifications also awarded: biodegradable according to UNE-EN-ISO 14851, non-toxic according to UNE-EN-ISO 7346-1 and UNE-EN-ISO 634, plus it’s compostable according to EN-13432. This means that if fired wads were gathered up by farmers for silage, they would pose no risk to livestock and would continue to biodegrade.
Green Shoot wads were first loaded into Armusa’s game cartridges, where the use could leave litter and possible risk to livestock. Many shooters prefer plastic cup wads, especially for high birds. The hope is that with the totally environmentally friendly credentials of Green Shoot’s wad and cartridge, shooters can use them where only felt or fibre wads are normally permitted.
Purbeck took things a stage further and asked Armusa to produce clay cartridges loaded with the Green Shoot wad, so they could be fully evaluated for potential use at clay shooting grounds. Naturally, shooters need to know how the green cartridges perform, so we will test them against the AM range.
The breaking down process
Several types of plastic wad have been developed to overcome the problem of plastic littering. Photodegradable plastics were tried, but the process can take too long, especially where sun levels are low. If still intact a month or two later, they’ve not proved good enough to overcome the obstacles that make fibre wads the required option for many shooting grounds.
This new plastic is different, and is derived from starches that ensure it is non-toxic and able to rapidly degrade once out in open, wet conditions. To check the rate of breakdown, two pairs of wads were monitored for a month, with one pair on soil and the other on short grass. After three weeks, the second pair was hidden by the grass, which was unaffected by this plastic content. It was vibrantly green, as though fertiliser had been applied.
Those on the soil showed signs of breaking down, even in the first week when no rain fell. Following a spell of wet weather, the wads’ rate of breakdown increased, visible by the change in shape and reduced size. They soon became a sticky blob that would attach to a finger to be lifted off the ground. It is quite clear that these wads break down well and the more rain they encounter, the faster the process will occur.
In discussing this with shooters, another question arose: what about storage? Samples of Green Shoot were subjected to several damp conditions, being left in an unheated (but secure) outbuilding, and more in a refrigerator, for a week. Others were immersed in water, some being stood up and some laid down in the same water for four hours. Only those laying in water were affected, with the wad cup starting to dissolve and becoming sticky, causing some shot to stick together with the wads. Immersing cartridges in water is an extreme test. We would anticipate no such problem arising during normal storage for clay ammunition.
The water soluble plastic has a much higher density than polyethylene, with two main effects: fewer wads can be made from a given weight of this more expensive material, meaning there’s a price impact, and wads will be heavier than standard plastic wads, affecting ballistics. The AM wad weighed 37gn while the Green Shoot weighed 60gn, with the soluble plastic appearing less stiff when squeezed.
Both AM and Green Shoot cartridges use a 70mm red plastic parallel tube case with brass plated steel head – 10mm high for Green Shoot and 8mm for AM. Crimp closures differ, with Green Shoot having a conventional six-point star closure while the AM uses an eight-point star crimp.
Both types performed well with brisk but sensible velocity levels, well up to the task without producing excessive recoil and with excellent consistency. Average pattern density from AM proved higher than Green Shoot: most likely a result of the shot, which was slightly larger and harder in AM. Pressure and velocity also averaged slightly higher with the Green Shoot loads. The powder loads averaged five per cent higher, influenced by the new plastic material’s characteristics and heavier wad.
My testing on clay targets proved interesting. Obtaining permission to use Green Shoot wads at a local ground normally restricted to fibre, I shot the best score I have achieved there in several months. It’s worth considering its performance and not being overly critical of the lower pattern density. Yes, the cartridges opened out the Imp/Mod choke to just under half choke percentage, but that can also prove useful. Some shooters choose tight chokes most of the time and don’t bother changing them for closer targets. They may disadvantage themselves at times, as tight patterns can give impressive kills when centred, but with more chance of a miss if timing or placement is off. For many Sporting targets, tight chokes and patterns may not be the ideal combination.
Green Shoot’s lower CD figure means there are more evenly distributed pellets across the whole pattern, potentially scoring a less impressive kill when not centred, instead of a miss.
The AM type worked well on a variety of Sporting targets, plus DTL and ABT targets. It’s primarily a first-barrel load but performed well on some longer targets, as the results indicate. They are also competitively priced.
Green Shoot wads offer a realistic alternative to standard plastic, being environmentally safe and breaking down to be absorbed into the ground with no lasting litter buildup. Ground owners who spoke about the possibilities of Green Shoot being used at felt and fibre only grounds raised initial concerns that policing would be difficult.
Green Shoot ammunition is a novel but genuine environmentally friendly option. They biodegrade quickly and though we don’t recommend getting them (or any other cartridges) wet, they withstood our tests. As Armusa claim: Green Shoot ammunition provide “shooting without trace.”
The standard Armusa range includes 24g and 28g loads for Sporting, Trap and Skeet, including premium competition types, which are also competitively priced. Expect to see more of them at a ground near you.