Fiocchi LiteSpeed cartridge review with Richard Atkins

Hang on to your hat – Richard Atkins has got his hands on the super-fast Fiocchi LiteSpeed clay cartridges.

You can tell that clay shooting is a vibrant sport by the huge number of products that are available, whether that’s guns, clothing, hearing and eye protection…or cartridges! Having more choice is good; there’s plenty of opportunity to find what suits you best, and it keeps prices competitive.

Until recently, the choice of cartridge shot loads was simple: 28 grams for domestic competitions, 24g for ISSF disciplines and 21g as an economical option for training and low recoil requirements. Then along came the move to slightly lighter than 28g loads.

Hull Superfast led the way, with a brisk 27g shot load which has proved very popular. Others followed the trend, with Cheddite’s 27g Rapeed cartridge and Gamebore’s 26g Hyper Velocity. With each of these new sub-28g loads, it’s high velocity that is given such prominence that it is referred to within the cartridge’s name.


Understanding the test results

  • Velocity is measured at 2.5 metres from the muzzle.
  • Pressure is the mean breech figure in Bar (as per CIP).
  • SD is Standard Deviation (consistency).
  • CD is the Central Density rating. This records the percentage of the total pellets landing in the 30-inch circle that were also within the inner 20-inch circle
  • Shot size is derived from pellet count per ounce and listed to the nearest UK size, with < and > symbols where shot is larger or smaller than the nearest size. UK No.7 = 340 pellets/oz; UK No.7.5 = 400 pellets/oz; UK No.8 = 450/oz; UK No. 9 = 580/oz.
  • Shot weight is the average shot load, in grains. 1 grain = 0.065 grams = 0.0023 oz. 
  • CV is Crush Value. This is the amount by which the shot is reduced in size when subjected to the standard crush test. A smaller value means harder lead, so a CV figure of 20% is harder than 30%, for pellets of similar size. Smaller shot crushes proportionately more than larger size.
  • Choke boring Nominal pattern percentages at 40 yards are: Half Choke 60%; Imp/ Mod (three quarter) choke 65%; Full choke 70%.

Fiocchi too have a new lighter load, and this one neatly embodies both key aspects in the name: LiteSpeed. It provides an interesting, high performance option suitable for a large variety of sporting clay targets and is offered at an attractive price. Let’s see how they measure up!

Fiocchi is one of the oldest and most respected ammunition makers in the world. Founded in 1876 by Giulio Fiocchi, for many years it remained a family owned company and even today as a public limited company family members retain a large interest in the company with Stefano Fiocchi the president. It operates in sport, hunting, military and police sectors producing shotgun, rifle and pistol ammunition types.

Fiocchi shotgun cartridges have a long history of success in clay shooting at the highest levels. Several of their extensive range are very popular in UK with competition and club shooters with the F Black and F Blu range particular competition favourites, and the TT 1 and 2 much used in club competitions.

Fiocchi Litespeed 26g 8 shot plastic specification

The powder, wad and shot are visible through the transparent white plastic tubes
Shot load400 grains
Pellet count per oz435
UK shot size / CV>8 / 27%
Pellets in 30in dia (avg)243
Pellets in 20-30in 107
Pattern  61%
CD56%
Velocity424 m/s (1,391 fps)
SD6.2
Recoil11 Ns
Pressure652 bar

Fiocch Fiocchi Litespeed 26g 8 shot fibre specification

The fibre version uses the popular Diana wad with a 4mm over-powder card
Shot load401 grains
Pellet count per oz449
UK shot size / CV8 / 27%
Pellets in 30in dia (Av)252
Pellets in 20-30in 107
Pattern  61%
CD52%
Velocity407 m/s (1,335 fps)
SD9.2
Recoil10.6 Ns
Pressure602 bar

Case and powder

Fiocchi produce their own cartridge cases and primers, used by many other cartridge brands, and of course these are used in the LiteSpeed. A 70mm long, transparent white parallel plastic tube case with 8mm brass plated steel head is chosen for both fibre and plastic wad types. This allows the shot, wad and powder to be seen through the case tube.

A 70mm tube with the lighter shot load allows for a longer wad to be used. This is particularly useful in high performance loads as a longer fibre wad gives the opportunity for the wad to expand more under compression, improving gas obturation. The longer centre section of the plastic wad provides greater protective compression, which can also help with perceived recoil.

The lower metal case head saves a small amount of cost while still performing well. Cases ejected cleanly from both semi-auto and O/U shotguns. The plastic tube is good quality and strong; this can be seen from the tight, six point, crimp closures on the loaded cartridges and the good crimp fold retention at the mouth of fired cases.

The strong, well-formed crimps are essential to a steady ballistic performance, especially with the high performance loads. The lab tests showed low SD figures, suggesting that both of the LiteSpeed cartridge types performed consistently. 

The powder used is Vectan 206 V, a single base nitro cellulose propellant
in green disc form. The powder weights were 23.3 grains in the plastic wad and 24.6 in the fibre wad shells.

The weights were very consistent, within 0.1 grain difference between several dissected cartridges. Both plastic and fibre wad loads burned very cleanly, leaving an almost mirror-like clean barrel. As the laboratory results show, the propellants used are well suited to the task.

Wads, shot and patterns

The LiteSpeed fibre load contains the hugely popular Diana one-piece main driving wad that is used by a majority of cartridge brands in their fibre loads.

This one is 20mm long, and has a protective laminate coating at each end. It is used in conjunction with a 4mm thick nitro over-powder card which helps improve wad obturation and prevents any ingress of lubricant from the fibre wad affecting the propellant.

The plastic wad is of honeycomb design, with a 19mm long collapsible centre section, a short shot cup at the top and a cupped gas sealing skirt at the base. Recovered wads show that the finely joined shot cup petals opened up well when fired to slow down the wad’s travel.

Fiocchi produce their own lead shot too, and the shot used in both wad types proved to be hard, round, consistently sized, well polished and graphite coated.

The average pellet counts were fractionally different between them, but the size variations within each were tight, with just a small number outside the main bulk. Crush values proved almost identical, indicating both are equally hard.

The stated shot size is UK size 8 (2.2mm). The fibre wad shot gave exactly that pellet count per ounce, while the plastic wad shot was very fractionally larger. Choosing No. 8 shot is a good way to ensure that the pellet count stays high.

The shot being quite hard also ensures that pellet deformation is minimised, which should be reflected in improved pattern performance. As the results show this is how things worked out, with patterns proving remarkably close in performance, especially so given the velocity figures. 

You would anticipate the plastic wad load to put a higher percentage of its pellets into the 30in pattern circle than the fibre version, all else being equal. As can be seen, the average percentages were actually identical! The likely explanation for this, following known shotgun ballistic behaviour, is down to the velocity difference.

Both are indeed fast; even the fibre wad load achieved above 400 metres per second, which is in the upper reaches of lead shotgun pellet performance.

At 424 mps velocity the plastic wad version is into the ‘hyper’ velocity zone, making it one of the fastest clay cartridges I have tested! Despite the speed and relatively small shot size, both put plenty of pellets into their patterns, achieving dense coverage within 3% of the nominal choke boring for a blistering and effective performance!

It’s interesting to note that, although the total pattern percentage results are so close, they are achieved in a slightly different way from the same test barrel.

The CD (Central Density) figures show that the plastic wad load put more of its pellets (56%) into the inner, 20in pattern circle, while the fibre wad load produced a more even spread, with 52% of its pellets in the inner circle. This may only be a small difference, but more pellets in the outer 20 to 30in outer zone increases effective spread.

Provided there are sufficient pellets in the centre, which there are, then more in the outer zone can help put the odd extra target on your score card. There are no extra points for turning targets into ‘smoke’, no matter how satisfying it looks!

The fibre wad patterns were particularly impressive with even spread across the 30in circle
Despite its speed, the plastic wad cartridge achieved a good dense pattern at 40 yards

Performance

Both cartridge types were submitted to the Birmingham CIP Proof Laboratory for pressure, velocity and momentum testing to industry standards.

Pattern tests were conducted at 40 yards from a 30in long, standard bore size barrel with 2¾ in (70mm) chamber, standard length (short) forcing cone and bored Imp Mod (UK ¾) choke. The results are shown in the tables on these pages.

It’s clear from the laboratory and pattern tests that these new LiteSpeed cartridges have been very aptly named! If you are a fan of high velocities then these are for you.

Naturally, higher velocity comes with a penalty of higher recoil but this is, to an extent, offset by the reduced shot load. The fibre wad LiteSpeed has a similar momentum (recoil) figure as a 28g load travelling at around 380 mps.

The cartridges were remarkably consistent in all departments, both in their ballistics and their patterns. It requires a good blend of carefully selected components, very well put together, to achieve results like this. Considering that these are both high performance and competitively priced, the overall consistency is truly excellent.

Shotgun patterns do vary; they always will. But with six-pattern averages of just below 17% for the plastic wad and 12% for the fibre wad (yes, fibre was the lower figure!) these are premium results. It’s not uncommon to get a wider variation with more expensive ammunition, especially with fibre wads.

On the Sporting clays tackled, the results were very good. Kills were positive on a variety of presentations, and the range for good kills may surprise anyone not accustomed to using No. 8 shot. I also used them for DTL; first barrel kills were very positive and they handled some good second barrels too just to check – although I prefer 7.5s for the second barrel.

I was aware of the recoil in my modest weight sporting O/U. This was less noticeable in my trap gun and semi-auto. The cartridges are crisp and quick into the target. Being senior in years and aching of shoulder, I would love to try a slightly less high velocity version of these.

However if you like speed and crispness with consistently good patterns Fiocchi LiteSpeed offer all the performance you could wish for. 

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