Richard Atkins gets his hands on two of the brand new clay loads on offer from eley – vip Trap and First fibre 28 gram 7.5 clay loads – and finds them top notch
Eley is the UK’s longest established cartridge manufacturer and though now owned by Spanish company Maxam, its products are still made in the Midlands, just a few miles from the former Witton site.
What was really striking was the hardness of the shot in both cartridges. The VIPs recorded a very low Crush Value percentage for 7.5 shot, indicating it to be extremely hard (being crushed only 18.5% by the standard crush tester). The First gave a surprising 21%, which also indicates high antimony content lead shot; ideal for helping keep patterns together in a fibre wad load, but not what you expect in a ‘budget’ load at all: this is in fact quite typical hardness for a top grade competition cartridge.
The VIPs with their super hard shot held their patterns together very well, recording full choke densities from the Improved Modified (¾) choke test barrel. An interesting point about the distribution within the 30” pattern circle is that both the First fibre and VIP plastic wad results were both centre-dense and to a similar degree, with 57% of the pellets within the 30” landing inside the inner 20” circle on average, which equates to just 44% of the overall area, so this ‘budget’ First cartridge actually emulated its more exotic stable-mate remarkably well; which perhaps explains why it has done well in competitions.
Two top class loads, no doubt set to achieve more successes in their co-ordinated livery. Where plastic wads are permitted the VIP will probably be the competitor’s first choice, especially those who prefer a really quick load; though intended for Trap shooting there will be plenty of Sporting shooters who will find they deliver the performance they seek too. When fibre wads are required the First will not disappoint and will save a few bob into the bargain!
The move allowed expansion and new, modern, loading machines to be installed as well as the associated comprehensive testing and quality control equipment so essential to assure ongoing product development and performance. At one time manufacturing a good product that shooters were familiar with was sufficient to ensure success. However, competition in cartridge manufacture is even more fierce today than it was a few years back (and it’s always been keen) readily evidenced by the stability in retail prices over a great many years prior to the unprecedented effect that more recent price rises in materials, predominantly lead, have had on prices.
Eley has, under its new management, made great strides, especially in the clay competition side of things where, as we have seen several times with surveys at major shoots, including our own Clay Shooting Classic, Eley cartridges have been recorded as the most popular choice of cartridge by competitors.
The clay range has been developed and refined over time and has seen top end models like the Eley Superb and VIP types make quite an impact alongside the established Eley Blues. Also, in response to the rising costs of ammunition that had some clay shooters cutting back their shooting, Eley introduced a ‘budget’ range called Eley First. This has now expanded to include a huge range that embraces 21-gram, 24-gram and 28-gram shot loads, all offering fibre and plastic wad options.
This summer Eley has revamped its clay line, with a new VIP Trap and some fine tuning of the First range. We decided to test the top-of-the-range VIP Trap and also the First in 28-gram fibre, as so many grounds now insist on the use of fibre wad loads and the First has got into the prizes in a good many competitions since initially introduced.
The first thing to notice is the new style packaging, ensuring they stand out individually but are readily identifiable as part of the extensive Eley clay range.
The VIP and First are both shown with a black plastic case but the VIP has a 9mm metal head while the VIP is shown with its 24mm head.
The cases are all printed with full description of type and contents; the First cases are 67mm long while the VIP are marked 70mm. Printing is gold coloured on the VIPs and a yellowish-green on the Firsts. Both are loaded with Maxam propellant powders, a fine light greyish-green square cut flake in the VIPs and a darker green round flake in the fibre wad Firsts; both gave pressures well below the CIP ceiling.
A one-piece plastic wad is used in the VIP having four moulded in ‘leaves’ to the shot cup and a four leg centre section to provide cushioning to the shot loads as it collapses on ignition, atop an effective gas seal. Two Eley ‘Kleena’ wads are used in the First fibre, with a thick over-powder card but no top wad. Both types are closed with a neat six-star crimp.
Following our regular procedure, samples were sent to the Birmingham Proof Laboratory for testing to CIP standards; others were analysed for contents and component specification. Pattern tests were carried out using the usual Imp Mod test barrel.
As the results overleaf show, both types gave high velocity figures in the proof reports with the fibre First quite close to the VIP’s speed; in fact they are both faster than the original VIP Sporting we tested some time ago. Shot loads in both were very consistent at just a bare pellet on average below 28 grams. Shot sizes were slightly different with the VIPs having a marginally lower shot count at 390 pellets per ounce, which indicates fractionally larger size shot than UK 7.5 (nominally 400 per ounce) while the First were a fraction smaller giving a count of 411 per ounce.
When the chips are down the VIPs would hold their energy very slightly further; useful in Trap shooting with edge-on targets travelling away, though a larger shot size (for instance No7) might better suit really distant targets anyway. The shot in the Firsts appeared more polished than the VIPs, being rather shinier, but that’s probably down to more graphite on the VIP shot.