The 28-Gauge as an Informal Trap Gun
by: Tom Armbrust
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to retiring Don Zutz for his recommendation that I take over his column in Trap & Field. My work as an independent ballistic consultant (BALLISTIC RESEARCH, 1108 West May Avenue, McHenry, IL 60050-8918) is to test and evaluate the various shotshell reloading components that are available for velocity, chamber pressure and pattern performance. The development of loads with non-toxic shot has been very fast paced of late; first, steel shot, then Bismuth, and now Tungsten-Iron at Federal. In a future issue, I may devote a column to the steel-shot components available to the trapshooter, if there is enough interest in that subject.
Don Zutz, writing in Trap & Field (January 1997 issue, page 46), told about using his SKB Model 785 20-gauge over-under with a Briley X2 (light Modified) choke tube in conjunction with a 7/8 oz. charge of No. 8-1/2 lead shot. "It broke the clays like crazy," was Don's comment. Don said he was not about to recommend the 20 GA as a trap gun, pointing out that a heavier shotload is better, but...
Many trapshooters also grind up sporting clays targets and go for the occasional round of skeet, as well. I realize that the 28 GA can boast of only a modest following at best, but the idea of busting 16 yard trap targets intrigued me nonetheless. Having suffered a whiplash type of injury to my neck and back, I now shoot mostly the softer recoil 1- and 7/8 oz. loads for 16 yard trap targets. Knowing full well that the average trapshooter breaks his/her 16 yard targets at a distance of 32 to 35 yards, a question that kept coming to mind was this: Would the 28 gauge with its 3/4 oz. shotload have sufficient pellet density and pellet energy to break clays at said distance?
After a visit with John Ramagli at KOLAR (1925 Roosevelt Avenue, Racine, WI 53406, phone 262-554-0800), my mind was at ease. John is an avid sporting clays shooter, often shooting the 28 GA, and he thought a good shooter should turn in very respectable scores on 16 yard targets.
His comments were good enough for me. When he suggested that my Browning BT-100 be fitted with a Kolarlite full-length tube, I gave him the go-ahead. This barrel insert added only a few ounces to the total gun weight, and certainly not enough to change the gun's balance or the way it handled. When I asked John what choke tube he recommended, he replied that a full choke was a must so as to deliver maximum pattern density with the 3/4 oz. payload.
Later, extensive pattern testing at 35 yards proved that the full choke with .020-inch constriction was a good choice for informal 16 yard targets. As a starter, I worked with the Remington Premier Sporting Clays load containing 3/4 ounce of No. 8 hard lead shot. An average of 156 pellets registered in the pattern's 20 inch core, with 88 printing in the 5 inch annular ring. These patterns handled the clays with authority, but it was obvious that additional pellet hits in the annular ring would be of help in "killing" a claybird that was mispointed to the extent that it would not be covered by the pattern core.
A switch to a smaller shot size solved the problem of sparse annular density. Winchester's AA target load with No. 8-1/2 hard lead strengthened the annular density by 42 pellets, with an average of 130 hits. On the side of delivered energy, the No. 8-1/2 pellet was fully up to the task of breaking the clays in the face of upper midwest winter conditions. In fact, I broke a 25 bird straight on the first trial run. This was certainly an auspicious start, given the fact that I am not a regular trapshooter.
Looking at the handloading side of the coin, the following has proved to be a very good reload for informal 16 yard targets, as well as skeet and sporting clays.
Shell: 28 GA 2-3/4" Remington Premier Primer: Winchester 209 Powder: 12.5 grains Vihtavuori N3SM Wad: Winchester WAA28 Shot: 3/4 ounce High-antimony No. 8-1/2 lead Velocity: 1,165 FPS Pressure: 12,640 PSI
Very little reloading data is available for the new Remington Premier 28 GA target hull. The above loading, as well as others, was developed in my lab (see data table below). The excellent Vihtavuori shotshell powders (N3SM and N3SH) are available from the importing firm of KALTRON-PETTIBONE (1241 Ellis Street, Bensenville, IL 60106). For additional information and prices, contact Jeannie Bolda at: 708-350-1116.
Remington's 28 GA Premier hull is a good choice for handloading, its longevity running to about eight reloads. Compression-formed hulls such as the Remington Premier and the Winchester AA do pose a capacity problem with flake-type powders which generally bulk up more than high-density spherical or ball types. But with a straight-walled hull, such as the Federal paper-base offering, there is room enough for a full 3/4 ounce payload.
Loads for the compression-formed plastic hulls were developed using 11/16 ounce payloads, and please heed this warning: DO NOT use a 3/4 ounce shot charge for a recipe that calls for only 11/16 ounce, since most 28 GA reloads in compression-formed shells are already closely approaching the SAAMI maximum working pressure of 13,000 PSI. For that matter, any other component switching such as hull, primer or wad should NOT be done.
The 11/16 ounce shotload should not be a problem, since most bushings and bars rated at 3/4 ounce will drop a charge that is roughly 1/16 ounce short when loading with high-antimony shot which, for a given volume, weighs a bit less than ordinary chilled or soft shot. Be sure to check both powder and shotload weights on an accurate scale before loading.
Now get out there and enjoy your little 28 GA on some clay targets!