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Words of Wisdom About Baschieri & Pellagri by Terry Wieland
Today’s world of shotshells is a dizzying roller coaster of new products screaming in and last year’s heroes slinking out, of bizarre concepts with equally bizarre marketing claims, all with a greater range of choices than we’ve ever seen.
Confused? Me, too.
Even the simple act of picking ammunition to take pheasant hunting— which by now should require little thought—can lead to considerable agonizing. Over the past few years, though, I’ve used some particular loads that have worked so well, they’re now an automatic choice for certain guns and game birds.
They come from several different companies, and not all are intended for hunting. One, in fact, is an out-and-out trap load that just happens to be perfect for a particular bird. What they all have in common is that they’re very well balanced. Not too big, not too small; not too fast, not too slow. But each, in its particular sphere, uncommonly effective.
You’ll notice that all are 12-gauge, and none is nontoxic. Smaller gauges and nontoxic loads demand separate treatment, so we’ll leave them to another time. As well, there’s a dearth of 3-inch or 3½-inch magnums. I’m not a big fan of three-inch anything in shotguns, and I don’t believe they’re needed in any upland-game situation. Anyway, I don’t own a 12-gauge with three-inch chambers.
I do own a couple with 2½-inch chambers and two with Damascus barrels. The latter were both proofed in England more than a century ago for black powder. In one of them—a Woodward hammer gun—I shoot black powder, not because of any danger with smokeless but because that’s what the gun seems to prefer. In the other, I shoot a smokeless load that has become my all-time favorite for almost anything that flies.
Since we’re talking about purely upland loads here—from doves and woodcock on the small side to cackling rooster pheasants on the other — we can take a few lessons from the English, whose game guns were intended for that purpose and that purpose only.
In the United States a century ago, many guns and loads were used for ducks and geese as well, which altered the equation. After much soul-searching, testing on plates and penetration pads, and shooting thousands of birds, the most experienced and analytical of the English game shots—notably Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey, Lord Walsingham, and Sir Frederick Milbank— concluded that the optimum all-around combination for birds was 1 ounce of shot powered by 3 drams of black powder.
Today, the standard English load is 11/16 ounces, and they consider 11/8 to be rather heavy. Americans, on the other hand, think 12-gauge game loads start at 11/8 and go swiftly up from there. For those who don’t speak the language of drams-equivalent, one ounce ahead of three drams gives you 1,230 to 1,240 feet per second.
For the record, the usual shot size was English No. 6 (our No. 7), as offering the best combination of hitting power and penetration, with enough shot to give a proper pattern and the probability of three to five hits on a bird.
Baschieri & Pellagri High Pheasant (2½ inch) B&P’s High Pheasant ammunition comes in a choice of two charge weights in two different sizes at two different velocities. Here we’re specifically talking about the 1 ounce (28 grains) load of No. 7 at 1,160 fps (25/8 drams-equivalent.)
You can get High Pheasant with larger shot (No. 6), and more of ’em (11/16 ounce) at higher velocity (1,260 fps), but why? In 1913, Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey (High Pheasants in Theory and Practice) proved to my satisfaction that the best load for pheasants under all circumstances and conditions is No. 7 shot (English No. 6).
What matters is pattern and the number of hits, not shot size or velocity.
B&P High Pheasant may be the best-balanced game load available anywhere. Shot size, charge size, and velocity are all optimum for an excellent pattern. When people speak about a gun or load killing birds with efficiency out of all proportion toits size, I think it’s because it throws a consistently good pattern; this is one such load.
I love it for any gun with 2½-inch chambers, especially my E.M. Reilly with its 30-inch Damascus barrels, but it works equally well in longer chambers. If I were limited to one load for everything, in every gun, this would be it. a Federal Gold Medal Premium Extra-Lite
The code number for this little gem is “T172 7.5.” It’s one of Federal’s paper-hulled trap loads, and consists of 11/8 ounce of No. 7½ shot, at an inordinately modest 1,100 fps. It was intended for recoilconscious trapshooters who also realize that a good pattern is vastly preferable to higher velocity.
This is my candidate for the ideal ruffed grouse load, and here’s why. Ruffed grouse aren’t hard to kill, and No. 8 or even No. 9 shot is sometimes recommended. What is difficult, however, is getting a pellet through all the obstacles to bring a grouse down. You may be forced to shoot through a tree still in leaf, or through a stand of hemlock, or an interfering tree trunk may absorb half your shot charge.
For this reason, No. 7½ shot is preferable because it will punch through leaves and keep going. Because it’s larger, however, there are fewer pellets, which isn’t good (see above), so we go to a larger shot charge to increase the number of pellets. Ordinarily this would increase recoil, but at 1,100 fps these loads are gentle as a dove, yet provide all the velocity any grouse hunter would ever need. Finally, no small consideration to romantics: They smell wonderful in the autumn woods.
B&P Star Rossa Technically, this is a pigeon load, not a game load. It’s the classic “1¼, 3¼” configuration, with 1¼ ounces of No. 7½, at 3¼ drams-equivalent. Other companies make pigeon loads (most call them “flyer” loads now, out of political correctness), but where the Star Rossa differs is in its use of the Gordon system of compressible base wad to mitigate the admittedly stiff recoil.
Pigeon guns normally weigh 7½ to 8½ pounds, which absorbs a lot, and pigeon shooters fire relatively few rounds; a 30-bird race in one day is normal, which is no more than 60 shots. The Star Rossa’s Gordon wad allows the comfortable use of these hard-hitting loads in game guns of seven pounds.
I would use these only on pheasants, and then only under abnormal conditions, but when circumstances demand, these do the trick. Gamebore Classic Black Powder Normally, I load my own black powder cartridges with 1 ounce of English No. 6s over 3 drams of black, in a shortened Federal paper hull. Gamebore’s black powder rounds, however, are the crème for those occasions when only the best will do.
The hulls are paper, the wads fiber, the cases 2½ inches, nd the shot charge 1 ounce of English No. 6. This is as close as one can get, today, to the classic load of Walsingham, Payne-Gallwey, and Sir Frederick. The English used them on everything that flew, and so would I (game regulations notwithstanding). One feels like a gentleman just looking at them. B&P Competition One This load (7/8 ounce at 1,160 fps) was a Gray’s Best in 2011. With No. 8 shot, it’s a fantastic dove combination, and is also excellent for woodcock, snipe, and similar birds.
"The recoil is light, the patterns gorgeous. What more can we say?"
As one who ponders what loads to take where, weighing the probabilities, possibilities, and “what ifs,” I often wish I lived in the days when all one did was drop a note to one’s gunmaker and 10,000 rounds of his best ammunition would arrive by rail two days later. No decisions to make, no choices to weigh, and, most important, no second- guessing oneself when two pheasants appear overhead and disappear in the distance, cackling at your barrage.
The thing is, not much has really changed since those days. A pheasant is still a pheasant, and the laws of physics governing round lead pellets traveling at the speed of sound are still in force. Forget the hogwash about spooky late-season roosters at 60 yards, or bulletproof doves and Kevlar grouse. The vast majority of successful shots are at 20 to 35 yards. Prepare for that and you’ll do well. Having found that the above loads work well for me, I always keep a couple of cases of each. There’s no sign the manufacturers intend to stop making any of them, but one can’t be too careful.
Having discovered such dependable loads, Wieland is now faced with the decision of which shotgun to take. He shows no signs of limiting himself to just one, but admits that doing so would probably improve his bag more than any other factor.
SOURCE Gray’s Sporting Journal www.grayssportingjournal.com March/April 2012