Richard Atkins tests two new 28 gram target loads, one fibre wad and the other plastic wad, from two of Italy’s leading brands
First up, let’s look at the Fiocchi F3 fibre wad. Like the Lite Speed we reviewed here recently, the F3 fibre wad ammo has been designed to appeal to the UK market.
It’s a competition fibre wad load to complement their already successful F Blu and F Black cartridges. The F range cartridges are designed to meet the performance needs of competition shooters while also being attractively priced. Now of course fibre wad cartridges are increasingly required in the UK, so it’s significant that Fiocchi have introduced a fibre wad option.
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 actual pellet count per ounce and is listed to the nearest UK size, with < and > symbols where shot is slightly 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 actual shot load, measured 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%.
The F3 fibre wad shells come in very smart cartons, predominantly black with red and white highlights, and carrying the UK’s Union Flag, making it clear they’ve been developed for the UK market.
It’s a nice touch. Aware that some shooters feel at a disadvantage when required to use fibre wad cartridges, Fiocchi have set out to produce a competition grade cartridge that will perform as closely as possible to a quality plastic wad load, do it consistently, and not break the bank. Our test programme will reveal how Fiocchi has gone about this… and how well it has succeeded!
FIOCCHI F3 FIBRE WAD 28g 7.5 shot
|Shot load||441 grains|
|Pellet count per oz||412|
|UK shot size / CV||<7.5 / 25%|
|Pellets in 30in dia (avg)||286|
|Pellets in 20-30in||124|
|Velocity||373 m/s (1,224 fps)|
These shells are, of course, loaded into Fiocchi manufactured cases, primed with Fiocchi primers. The cases are bright red 70mm long parallel plastic tubes with 16mm high nickel plated steel head and closed with a six point crimp. Printed in silver on the case is the shot weight, size and wad type.
The marked shot size of 7.5 (2.3mm) is an ‘English’ 7.5, not the Italian which is 2.4mm diameter.
Being part of the Fiocchi F range of competition cartridges this fibre wad load also uses the very stable and clean burning Fiocchi F Blu propellant powder. This meters extremely well, is stable under a wide range of environment conditions and provides consistent performance and a clean burn.
The main driving wad is an 18.5mm long Diana fibre wad, as used by the majority of cartridge makers; this is used with a 4mm thick Diana over powder card which prevents wad lubrication grease affecting the powder and helps achieve better gas obturation.
The pellets in the F3 lead shot load are consistently sized, spherical and well polished with graphite. They are also hard; my testing gave a crush value reading of 25% which indicates around 5% antimony content.
This is about as much antimony as it is practical to use. The consistency of shot size will assist in keeping shot strings shorter at distance, as will the hardness. The actual shot size proved accurate too, the shot count per ounce being very close to the UK 400/ounce.
As usual, the cartridges were submitted to the Birmingham CIP Proof Laboratory for pressure, velocity and momentum testing to industry standards.
Fiocchi F3 fibre pattern tests were conducted at 40 yards from a 30in long, standard bore size barrel with 2¾in (70mm) chamber with standard length (short) forcing cone and bored Imp Mod (UK ¾) choke.
The results were uniformly excellent! The 22.7 grain powder charge gave very consistent velocities that comfortably match the figures achieved by the best plastic wad cartridges available. This in itself is a considerable achievement.
Velocity is quick without being punishingly fast – it’s in the area that Fiocchi and others have long recognised gives a balance between speed and smooth recoil that many top competitors appreciate.
The low SD figure also shows that the shot-to-shot consistency is also very good. In fact an SD of 4.7 is comparable with that achieved by typical good quality plastic wad cartridges.
The pattern results are revealing too. A 69% pellet density from the Imp Mod (nominally 65%) test barrel puts these patterns well into the top grade competition range of performance, whether plastic or fibre wad.
Pattern consistency also proved excellent with a maximum pellet count difference between the highest and lowest result over eight patterns of just 45 pellets in the 30in circle at 40 yards. That is a pattern consistency that compares very well indeed with quality plastic wad loads.
My first outing with F3 fibre was on Sporting clays. My shooting has been ‘in the doldrums’ of late, in part due to the changes in shooting opportunities we have all been affected by – and I was frankly delighted with the way things went.
My first stand was a ten, the next another ten, ending up 10,10,10, 9, 7 – the wind foxed me on the last stand. The quality of kills was good too; they were positive, so much so that a couple on the same squad commented. At that stage I still hadn’t pattern tested the F3s, but when I did that went a long way to explaining the impressive results.
I was genuinely impressed with these F3 fibre wad cartridges. They were very consistent, and that’s worth a great deal in any cartridge. Some guns handle fibre wad loads better than others of course, but these shells are capable of producing competition grade pattern performance.
If you are a clay shooter who feels disadvantaged when having to use fibre wad loads instead of plastic, you might like to give these a try.
MAIONCHI AZ20 28g 9.5 shot, plastic wad
|Shot load||431 grains|
|Pellet count per oz||590|
|UK shot size / CV||9 / 42%|
|Pellets in 30in dia (Av)||316|
|Pellets in 20-30in||149|
|Velocity||379 m/s (1,244 fps)|
Maionchi az 20 9.5
Recently reintroduced to the UK, Maionchi’s AZ20 cartridges have been winning new friends, as well as becoming reacquainted with older ones who knew them from 30 years ago. A few issues back we looked at the 8.5 shot loads in plastic and fibre wad for Sporting and Trap shooters.
There’s also a 9.5 shot plastic wad AZ20 intended for the Skeet shooters among us, which is also ideal for closer range Sporting targets – and that’s the one we are looking at here.
The bright yellow and blue cartons are similar to the other AZ20 options. The components are also the same as the previously reviewed types, with the 70mm long, orange plastic Martignoni cases and Martignoni primers, matched with Vectan single base propellant.
The plastic wad is the excellent GT plastic wad with honeycomb centre section and full depth shot cup which has its four petals lightly joined with very fine, thread like tabs.
The shot loads weighed spot on 28 grams and the shot size was almost exactly UK No.9, with a pellet count of 590 per ounce. The pellets were surprisingly consistent in size for smaller shot. They are sufficiently hard to perform well, round and well polished with graphite for a smooth, attractive and practical finish.
Once again these cartridges produced a set of very good results. There is no doubt that cartridges have, in the main, become more consistent in recent years.
Factors include superb component choices, excellent loading machines and the increasingly competitive cartridge market ensuring that all makers know they must strive for the best quality control.
The velocity of these AZ20s is in that sweet spot where they are plenty fast enough while remaining pleasant to shoot. The shells were patterned from a 2¾in chambered, 26in long Skeet bored barrel at 20 yards.
The 80% average pattern result at 20 yards is precisely what the old pattern performance tables suggest they should be; ideal for dealing very effectively with everything on the English Skeet range and most sub-30 yard targets. Pattern consistency from shot to shot was also remarkably good.
Target breaks were very positive, as you might expect with 465 pellets on average in the 30in pattern at 20 yards. With Improved Cylinder choke these cartridges also proved very able at giving good smashes up to 30 yards on Sporting targets.
I found them very good on high overhead targets too where the full profile of the clay is exposed; for the highest midi and mini clays from the high tower, half choke in my Sporter proved that No.9 shot is still very capable at tall overhead targets.
With performance like this, and competitive pricing, it is no surprise that the Maionchi brand is quickly re-establishing itself here in UK once more.