Showing some fibre

Hull Cartridge Company is a great supporter of the clay shooting sport, as is evident from the generous cartridge prizes it provides at a host of major events. That Hull cartridges are used by a large number of the most successful shooters, in a range of disciplines including Fitasc, English Sporting and DTL, is obvious from a glance at the champions featured on the Hull website. Devotees include Ed Solomons, former Fitasc world champion, and ‘Mr DTL’ himself, Paul Chaplow, who has racked up 150 scores of 100/300 in competition to date.

Over my many years of testing shotgun cartridges, Hull’s cartridges have always performed well. As a company representative once told me: “We produce all of our cartridges to perform well for their intended purpose, whether it be short-range Skeet, a smooth trap cartridge like the DTL 300 or a Sovereign for distant Fitasc targets, our motto is simply this: that each cartridge will ‘do what it says on the tin’.” Hull Cartridge prides itself on producing consistent ammunition, and over 40 years of testing have proven to me that its products always live up to its standards.

The company introduced the Sporting 100 cartridge in 2015, in 7.5 shot size, and only with a plastic wad. Faced with a considerable number of customer requests for a fibre wad option of this top-performing, attractively priced competition load, Hull has responded by recently adding a fibre wad version into its already extensive range of clay target loads.

It is becoming clear from almost daily news reports that plastic is coming to be seen as a demon. It isn’t just the green lobby agitating about the used water bottles and coffee cups clogging up our waterways any more. Even some shooters are beginning to ask if we should be allowed to scatter plastic wads over the countryside. I have seen this commented on numerous times on Facebook shooting forums. One spokesman for a large clay shooting ground, where major national events have been held, was reported quite recently to have suggested it was a problem. While we all understand these sentiments, this is a dangerous path to tread. Everyone wants to be environmentally responsible, but talk of restricting anything in the shooting world is fraught with risks. We must do what we can to be prepared for future developments, but it would, in my view, be sensible to actively seek out practical solutions to environmental challenges before we start calling for restrictions on ourselves.

One positive point I have confirmed is that the quality of cartridges has improved in recent years; never have the patterning and velocity of shotgun cartridges been better. The top-grade brands are yielding some amazing results, and even the budget loads are catching up. And fortunately for us, this is true of fibre wad loads too! While it is unlikely that fibre wad loads will ever quite match what is possible with the very best plastic wads, the better ones are already close enough that for many shooters there is no detectable difference in clay breaking ability. This may surprise some, but it is so.

Sporting 100

I recall testing the first Hull Sporting 100 cartridges back in 2015. Given how well they performed, the fibre version has a lot to live up to. Shooters who buy this cartridge will want an equivalent performance to the plastic wad loads. The Hull website indicates that velocity level is a close match for the plastic version, so timing should not be affected. This consistency could help when choosing cartridges for grounds where plastic wads are not allowed.

Like their plaswad cousins, the new fibre wad cartridges are packed in cartons of 25 that are so shiny they appear to be chrome coated! This makes photographing them difficult, but they do look very striking indeed. Let’s look into how they perform.

Components

Hull does not manufacture cartridge components; it sources what it needs to meet the performance criteria the cartridge development technicians set, from wherever appropriate components can be obtained at a good price.

The Sporting 100 cartridges we were given for review were loaded into a strong, 70mm parallel plastic tube Cheddite case using that company’s highly regarded CX primer. This has a plastic base wad. The loaded cartridges are closed with a tight, neatly formed six-point crimp closure. The crimp is more important than many realise. It does more than hold all the components in place; it also resists the initial impulse to the case opening when the primer ignites. This resistance helps ensure the propellant powder burns efficiently and cleanly so the cartridges can achieve their full ballistic potential and offer consistent performance. Weaker plastic cases can open more readily, and less consistently, than top-quality cases. This can contribute to a greater variation in velocity between cartridges.

The powder used is the same as that used in the plastic wad Sporting 100: a green, disc-form, single-based nitro cellulose propellant with light yellow identification flakes. This has the appearance of the excellent 206 powder now manufactured by the NSI group. The charge weight is increased for the fibre wad load to 22.4 grains. The powder burned cleanly, with just a trace of smoky residue in the barrels, and produced moderate breech pressures almost identical to the plastic wad Sporting 100.

The wad column comprises a Diana single-unit main driving wad, separated from the powder charge by a 4mm thick ‘nitro’ card to stop grease migrating from the wad and contaminating the powder. The wad is 20mm long and 18.9mm in diameter. This is as large a diameter as a fibre wad can have, given that it has to fit in older guns with bores as small as 18.2mm diameter. It also has to be kept down to ensure it doesn’t bulge the cartridge case, or the cartridge may not chamber well.

The shot is well graded for size, with a variation in diameter of just a few one-thousandths of an inch from largest to smallest; the average diameter of the charge is 0.091”. This is fractionally larger than UK 7.5 shot (0.090”), and as a result there will be a few less pellets per ounce. This is an ideal size though, as it still gives a lot of pellets to fill the pattern, but with a little more energy to positively break targets. The CV figure shows that the pellets are reasonably hard, indicating an antimony content between two and three per cent; this should work well for all clays, except perhaps those at the most extreme ranges. The pellets have been well polished in graphite, so they will have loaded consistently through the loading machines at Hull’s factory. Graphite also helps to prevent shot from sticking together on acceleration, meaning it helps to produce more even, effective patterns.

Laboratory tests

These Hull Sporting 100 cartridges were, as per standard procedure, submitted to the Birmingham Proof Laboratory for pressure, velocity and momentum testing. Pattern tests were fired at a distance of 40 yards from a 30” long, standard bore size (0.729”) barrel with 2¾” chamber, standard forcing cone and bored Imp Mod choke.

Once again, these Hull Sporting 100 fibre cartridges held up the company’s reputation for consistency as the very low SD (Standard Deviation) figure of 3.5 shows. SD results below 6 were once only found with good quality plastic wad loads. Checking back to the results of my earlier submission of plastic wad Sporting 100s to the proof laboratory, I see its SD was 4.0, so this fibre load has fractionally bettered the SD of its plastic wad counterpart! The central density figure is almost five per cent lower too; this equates to a more even spread across the pattern, something that can be very useful.

Once again, the cartridges’ velocity is comfortably below 400 metres per second. This is a sensible and effective level that avoids punishing recoil. Surprisingly, the fibre wad load is marginally quicker than the plastic wad version, at a consistent 386m/s.

As the pattern tests revealed, these fibre loads almost matched their plastic wad counterpart. A point that some may find surprising is that both loads exceeded the pattern density for the Imp Mod (65 per cent nominal) test barrel. The plastic wad load recorded a 72 per cent average pattern density while this fibre load averaged 70 per cent. The slightly greater velocity of the fibre load will account for part of the difference, but in real terms these results show that the two loads virtually identical.

As you can see, the days are gone when shooters need to feel disadvantaged by having to use a fibre wad cartridge. If you currently use a budget plastic wad cartridge, the chances are it would struggle to match the pattern performance produced by the fibre wad Sporting 100s.

I shot these at Sporting and Compak sporting clays and also some first barrel DTL. I can happily report that the kills I got were positively top notch. I asked another very good shot to try some on the Compak and he was absolutely smoking his targets. He was a little surprised when I revealed they were fibre wad loads after he had shot!

In summary, this is another top-notch competition grade cartridge from Hull Cartridge, at a price below that of their premium price-point range loads. If you have reservations about using fibre wad loads, I suggest you try some of these.

This review first appeared in the September 2018 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. Buy the issue online or subscribe and never miss an issue again!

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Posted in Features, Reviews, Technical

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