Richard Atkins evaluates two of the latest clay cartridges from leading Italian maker NSI
NSI stands for Nobel Sport Italia. The company’s presence has certainly increased since RUAG Ammotec took on the UK distributorship, and with their support for and promotion of the product, NSI has gained a considerable foothold within the UK shooting scene in recent times with their clay, game and field loads.
NSI is now one of the largest shotgun cartridge makers anywhere in the world. Major brands have come together in this cartridge-making consortium so that every component required can be manufactured within the NSI group.
This means everything from cartridge cases and primers to wads, shot and a broad range of propellant powders can be sourced from NSI companies. This allows certainty of supply, as well as very close working relationships when developing new loads for particular purposes.
We have two examples of the fruits of this development and co-operation this month: the NSI Quattro Compak and MultiTarget in 28 gram, 8.5 shot loads. Also, with the Compak, we see that NSI also works with other leading specialist makers for particular products.
Both the MultiTarget and Quattro Compak are very neatly packaged. The MultiTarget comes in a predominantly white carton with brightly coloured swirls, while the Compak has a black carton with an enlarged picture of a cartridge case head, which has a very obvious cut diamond inset where the primer should be.
This signifies that the shot pellets are of the highly graded and polished ‘Diamond’-type shot that gives the bright effect of nickel plating (but is not actually nickel). More loose diamonds are also shown on the base and side of the carton.
Both cartons have their cartridges’ shot size in large print on the tape that holds them closed. Other details are printed on one side. Both types of cartridge are loaded into light green transparent plastic cases that allow their contents to be seen. Both are 70mm long, effectively making them suitable for 2¾” or 70mm chambers.
The MultiTarget has a 16mm tall nickel-plated steel head, while the Compak has a 22mm head of the same material. Both are neatly finished with a six-point start crimp with tight turnover for consistent ballistics.
The primers appear to be of different output to suit the propellant charge used; MultiTarget has a primer with red paper insert sealing the flash hole, while the Compak primer has green sealing insert.
The propellant used appears to be the same, a light greenish grey, square-cut, small-flake single base type. The different primer is probably matched to the heavier charge weight in the Compak, which has 25.5 grains compared with 22 grains in the MultiTarget.
Both cartridges burned very cleanly in my test guns, with no visible residue at all in the pattern test semi-auto barrel.
Wads the difference?
The MultiTarget’s wad has a conventional design, a one-piece plastic shot cup with moulded petals, a compressible centre section and a gas sealing base.
The moulded shot pouch follows the Baschieri & Pellagri style, with slots at the base of each vertical split between the petals, which are lightly joined to avoid tangling in the wad feed process during loading. The centre section is a modified version of the ‘honeycomb’ in the NSI GT wad.
The Compak uses a very different style of wad: the BIOR wad by famous wad maker Gualandi. This has a sturdy central section with two layers of cross-tubes and an oval separating them. Each end has a heavy ‘cup’ that can serve two purposes: holding a small proportion of the shot column or providing a more substantial gas seal.
By having a component that serves both these roles, the wad can be loaded either way up, so it causes no problems for the cartridge loader. This ability to be loaded either way gives the wad its name, BIOR being shorthand for ‘Bi-orientable’.
The short cup means the majority of the shot load will be in contact with the barrel walls; it will be interesting to see just how much effect this has on patterns.
Where the cartridges really differ is in their shot loads. MultiTargets are loaded with well-polished shot that is quite tightly graded for size, with the pellets coated in something that gives a brassy sheen. Pellet-polishing materials other than traditional graphite are being used more and more nowadays.
Whatever the reason for this, the new materials serve the same purpose, helping pellets to stay separate when the propellant is ignited and they are subjected to acceleration.
The stated pellet size in both cartridges is 8.5; this is the Italian size and, as the pellet count shows, they are larger than UK size 8. This means they should be able to break targets slightly further away than UK size 8 shot.
My shot pellet crusher showed that both are somewhere in the mid-antimony range; the Compak was harder than the MultiTarget, as its lower crush percentage of 6 per cent shows. Given the different wad, different velocity and different shot hardness, it was intriguing to see how the patterns worked out.
The NSI cartridges were 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 barrel with 2¾” chamber, standard forcing cone and bored Imp Mod choke. I also did some 30-yard patterns for comparison.
Fascinating results! As can be seen, the MultiTarget is quick without being hyper-fast, while the Compak is positively brisk – a fraction above the notional ‘high-velocity’ zone of 400 m/s.
I was intrigued to see it had taken an extra 10 per cent propellant powder to achieve the difference; this goes some way towards accounting for the extra cost (as does the extra antimony for the harder shot). The consistency of the MultiTarget was extremely good, with the Compak not far behind; no shooter could tell the difference shot-to-shot with cartridges as consistent as these.
Personally, I could notice the difference in my shoulder, but it is getting a bit battered now after years of abuse! Several younger shooters with well fitted, heavier guns, found the difference less obvious.
The most striking result for me was that the Compak’s BIOR wad was indeed shown to help in the case of closer-range targets. The Compak produced lower-density patterns, with a more useful spread at 30 yards.
Surprisingly, the Compak also produced patterns at 40 yards that were not noticeably different from the MultiTarget! Just how this can be I cannot explain; more research was called for.
I teamed up with well known sporting shot, Mike Bartlett, to pattern test using his Zoli and his partner Cheryl Hall’s Perazzi. Both of these produced more open patterns at closer ranges with the Compak than the MultiTarget. This shows the added value of the BIOR wad, especially so for those with fixed chokes, to improve your chances on fast, close targets.
Using the same Imp Mod test barrel, I got these pattern results at 30 yards:
I found the Compak devastating on all sporting targets, even beyond the range you might anticipate for a closer-range load; the pattern results here reveal why that could be.
I would probably use a more open choke as well to gain best advantage on closer targets (I need more help!). I preferred the MultiTarget, not just because they did all that I required of them, but because they did so smoothly, and that means more to me these days than high velocity does.
A pair of quality cartridges to have in your shooter’s bag for sure. Try them out and see how they suit you and your gun/chokes to take full advantage of the performance they offer.