Bruce Marks, shooting coach and director at the Association of Professional Shooting Instructors, sorts through some of the shells that work well for him and his students.
Bruce Marks knows a thing or two about shooting. He first shouldered a gun at the tender age of 12, fell in love with the sport and has ended up dedicating most of his life to it.
A career in the police as a firearms officer introduced him to the technical side of shooting, reinforced the importance of safety and saw him master of the legal framework that envelopes our sport.
All very worthy qualities that have proved immensely useful during his time with the APSI. But anyone who’s met Bruce will know that he adores shooting because, above all else, it’s great fun.
Bruce loves the social side of the sport. The smiles and the laughs he’s enjoyed with the friends he’s made on grounds up and down the country. The beams on the faces of those he’s coached as they’ve gone on to accomplish more.
“Getting to pass on my knowledge as a coach is the best,” says Bruce. “I believe a good coach requires a lot of empathy, some sympathy and a bit of humour! Shooting has been great to me and now I enjoy putting something back by teaching the latest generation of shooters.
“Cartridge choice is very personal, so I suggest you try to experience as many brands as you can before settling on your favourite. If you’re not at ease with a cartridge, both mentally and physically, then you’re unlikely to perform at your best.
For example, I believe comfort is always more important than the promise of extra power and reach. You need to be comfortable with the cost too! Expensive shells have their place, and I have included some here, but there are some truly excellent mid-range cartridges out there too.”
Hull Comp X
These are my go-to cartridges for use with novice shooters. In the 21g load they perform consistently well and, despite their 60m+ range, are a very forgiving cartridge for the new shooter.
The Comp X is a reasonably priced shell that represents good value and, as such, it’s a very popular club cartridge. You’ll invariably spot Comp X cases filling up the bins at most grounds.
Load: 21g, 28g
Shot size 21g: 7.5, 9
Shot size 21g Fibre: 7.5
Shot size 28g: 7.5, 9
Shot size 28g Fibre: 7.5
Muzzle Velocity 21g: 434mps, 1425fps
Muzzle Velocity 28g: 419mps, 1375fps
Material: Lead shot, 2% antimony
This is another cartridge that’s high on quality but low on price. Its consistency inspires confidence whether for practice or competition. The Evo is available in a variety of loads, with fibre options. This is a good club competition cartridge that is capable of breaking most clays put in front of it.
Case: 65mm – 70mm
Load: 21g, 24g, 28g
Shot size 21g Fibre: 7.5, 8
Shot size 24g: 7.5, 8, 9
Shot size 24g Fibre: 8
Shot size 28g: 7.5, 8, 9
Shot size 28g Fibre: 8
Muzzle Velocity 21g: 405mps, 1395fps
Muzzle Velocity 24g: 412mps, 1420fps
Muzzle Velocity 28g: 412mps, 1420fps
Material: Lead shot
RC is regarded for its quality shells that enjoy a spectacular reputation in high-level competition. The Romagnola was introduced as a lower cost option.
Load: 21g, 24g, 28g
Shot size 21g Fibre: 7.5
Shot size 24g: 7.5
Shot size 24g Fibre: 7.5
Shot size 28g: 7.5
Shot size 28g Fibre: 6, 7.5
Muzzle Velocity 21g: 427mps, 1,400 fps
Muzzle Velocity 24g: 427mps, 1,400 fps
Muzzle Velocity 28g: 427mps, 1,400 fps
Material: Lead shot, antimony 2.5%
Lyalvale Super Comp Bior
I have recently been fortunate enough to try this cartridge and results were very impressive indeed and demand further trial. This is definitely a cartridge for the closer targets in disciplines such as FITASC and Sport Trap and so on. Lyalvale Express claims it excels at any targets up to about 35 metres and my experience matched this.
I’m looking forward to trying this cartridge again soon but first time out it gave consistently impressive results, albeit for a more expensive outlay.
Shot size: 8.5
Muzzle Velocity: 419mps, 1375fps
Material: Super Tempered Shot
Lyalvale Super Competition
My personal preference and go-to cartridge for competition shooting. This premium cartridge performs consistently well in all areas and is well suited to the more experienced shooter. It’s not a cheap shell to buy but in this case the additional cost really is outweighed by its performance.
Lyalvale Express is proud of the lengths it goes to in order to produce shot that it says meets the highest standards of sphericity, grading and surface finish. I don’t know about these claims but I do know that these shells work for me!
Shot size: 7, 7.5, 8, 9
Shot size fibre: 7.5, 8
Muzzle Velocity: 442mps, 1450fps
Material: Tempered Shot
Gamebore Black Gold Dark Storm
An excellent cartridge manufactured to the highest of standards. Gamebore Black Gold Dark Storm is used by a number of elite shooters in various styles of competition and its success speaks for itself. However this is reflected in the cost and this Gamebore shell is the most expensive cartridge I have selected.
Will it work wonders for you? Perhaps. Much of your shooting success is influenced by psychological factors and many of us are suckers for clever marketing. Of course, Gamebore’s Black Gold product line has real substance, so there’s more to it than just hype.
Nevertheless, will these shells bring you more trophies than its humbler Evo product? To discover the answer you need to look at where you are in your shooting journey and where you intend to go. Try them both, remain impartial and then make your decision.
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