What are the best premium cartridges?

Neville Jay, Essex Gun owner, urges us to go premium.

Neville, together with his son Chris, runs Essex Gun, a well-loved retail business with branches in Rush Green and Braintree. Established from modest beginnings just over 40 years ago, father and son have grown it into a go-to retailer for shots in the South East who value great service and reliable product advice.

Arguably, Neville is better known as one half of the duo who dreamt up the modern phenomenon that is the Essex Masters. This hugely successful 200-bird event was conceived 20 years ago by Neville and legendary course setter John Dyson.

Essex Gun have remained the main sponsor ever since, and it continues to attract hundreds of competitors every year, including many of the world’s top shooters.

Like most retailers, Neville’s core cartridge sales are dominated by middle-market ‘club-day’ shells like Gamebore’s Velocity+, Hull’s CompX and Eley’s Select. But he urges shots to consider some of the premium shells for competition use.

“These days, all cartridges, across the entire spectrum of brands, are made to such exacting standards,” says Neville. “The consistency from shell to shell is incredible – there really isn’t a bad cartridge out there.

“However, the premium shells do excel at long range, recoil management and uniform patterning. There really is a difference in ammunition – it’s not just marketing hype.

“You can see where the money goes – tempered lead, nickel coatings, special powders, clever wads and longer heads. Ultimately, how much of a difference this makes to your shooting will depend on your level of skill and ability. But in situations where you need that edge, they’re worth the investment.”

Black Gold, Dark Storm
Gamebore

Black Gold, Dark Storm

It may sound like some kind of fancy fragrance, but this shell is a technological tour de force. Gamebore has thrown everything at this high velocity cartridge in terms of development, materials and quality of manufacture.

CX2000 primer is coupled with Gamebore’s exclusive F2 Powder to give consistent, ultra-high muzzle velocity without excessive recoil. Not only can it throw patterns out there with vigour but its precisely graded hardened shot ensures that they remain uniform. This is a shell with an appetite for extreme distance Sporting clays.

Gauge: 12
Case: 70mm
Head: 20mm
Load: 28g
Shot size 28g: 7.5, 8
Shot size 28g Fibre: 6.5, 7.5, 8
Muzzle Velocity 28g: 472mps, 1550fps
Material: Gamebore Diamond lead shot

Supreme Comp
Lyalvale Express  

Supreme Comp

A firm favourite with both Richard Faulds and Kevin Borley, Lyalvale’s Supreme Competition has played its part in bringing home the silverware time and time again.

A good looking shell with a smart 25mm brass head, it’s packed with premium Vectan D20 powder that shoots smoothly for a cartridge that excels at extreme ranges.

That powder choice, combined with super-tempered lead shot, produces a clean release, good clean breaks and uniform patterns. 

Gauge: 12
Case: 70mm
Head: 25mm
Load: 28g
Shot size: 7, 7.5, 8, 9
Muzzle Velocity: 449mps, 1475fps
Material: Super-tempered lead shot

Titanium Strike
Eley

Titanium Strike

This relative newcomer is a handsome looking shell. Its blue casing is sealed with six star crimps and a smart 25mm nickel-plated steel head for smooth ejection.

It uses a Maxam A-Type plastic wad with a shock-absorbing centre for managing recoil, and powder is the PSB +3. The Strike has ultra-hard antimony lead that’s nickel coated to stop it clumping together for consistent patterns over any range.

Gauge: 12
Case: 70mm
Head: 25mm
Load: 24g, 28g
Shot size 24g: 7.5
Shot size 28g: 7.5
Muzzle Velocity 24g: 455mps, 1495fps
Muzzle Velocity 28g: 455mps, 1495fps
Material: Nickel coated, high antimony, lead shot

Sovereign 
Hull Cartridge

Sovereign

The choice of many of Hull’s shooting ambassadors, from Emma Stacey to Richard Bunning, the Sovereign has proved itself in championship after championship. This is another high antimony, long-range cartridge that shoots smoothly and consistently with very manageable recoil. 

The hard pellets are graphite coated for superior performance over long ranges – even the small sizes pattern well and carry more than sufficient energy over challenging distances. The black, blue and red colour-coded cases that denote shot size are also quite a neat touch.

Gauge: 12
Case: 70mm
Head: 16mm
Load: 24g, 28g
Shot size 24g: 7.5, 8, 9
Shot size 28g: 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8
Muzzle Velocity 24g: 472mps, 1550fps
Muzzle Velocity 28g: 457mps, 1500fps
Material: Lead shot, 5% antimony

RC4 Red Shot Supernik  
RC

RC4 Red Shot Supernik

RC is well-loved for its RC4 Champion Excellence cartridge that has multiple Olympic wins under its belt. The RC4 Red Shot Supernik is a step-up again. Its loud, red livery and high 20mm shiny nickel-plated head just screams ‘high performance’, and it doesn’t disappoint. 

This is another premium shell that benefits from nickel-plated hard shot. The slippery plating enables the super-tempered lead pellets to gain good separation as they leave the barrel, which results in superior patterning at range.

Gauge: 12
Case: 70mm
Head: 20mm
Load: 24g, 28g
Shot size 24g: 7, 7.5, 9.5
Shot size 28g: 7.5
Muzzle Velocity 24g: 415mps, 1361fps
Muzzle Velocity 28g: 410mps, 1345fps
Material: Nickel coated, high antimony, lead shot

Mirage T4 Pro Extra Evolution  
Clever

Mirage T4 Pro Extra Evolution

Since it was established in the 1950s, Clever has won seven Olympic gold medals in Men’s Trap, and has amassed scores of world and European records. Its pedigree is not in doubt.

The Mirage T4 Pro Extra Evolution is its premium competition shell that’s been developed specifically for long range Sporting, FITASC and Trap targets. It uses premium F2 powder by Baschieri & Pellagri and a specially developed Cromoflex wad.

What makes it truly interesting is its carbon/quartz lead shot, which Clever claims is harder and heavier than normal lead shot. Heavier shot will retain its energy much better at long distances and hard shot is less susceptible to deformation on firing. Clearly, this is a shell that will go the distance. 

Gauge: 12
Case: 70mm
Head: 22mm
Load: 24g, 28g
Shot size: 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9.5
Muzzle Velocity 24g: 425mps, 1394fps
Muzzle Velocity 28g: 416mps, 1365fps
Material: Carbon/quartz lead shot

More on cartridges from Clay Shooting Magazine


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