HEAVY LOADS 101, by Dave McCracken

Once a new shotgunner becomes familiar with the shooting process and comfortable with using the light loads recommended universally by trainers, he or she may wish to move into activities requiring heavier ammo.

These would include defense, deer, waterfowl and turkey hunting, and the "Practical" games.

Deer hunting is done with slugs, or buckshot, which is where the term "Buckshot" comes from.

Waterfowling is done with large shot, and since lead has been banned for decades due to its toxicity the loads are stuffed with pellets of Iron, Nickel, Tungsten, Bismuth, and compounds of these.

One story coming through the grapevine has a new pellet of a heavy compound plated with a coating of polywhatever that ends up heavier than lead and Hevi Shot, non-reactive with the environment, nontoxic and shoots efficiently with few flyers. As far as ammo goes, there are The Good Old Days.

Turkey hunting is mostly done with lead, lots and lots of lead. 12 gauge turkey loads go up to 2 oz now. If my math is correct, one of these produces 5X the free recoil of my pet trap load.

Defensive shooting and the games use buck loads to a great extent with some use of lighter shot and slugs.

What all these loads do is generate lots of kick. Isaac Newton's Laws are inescapable and universal. The more energy is produced going out the front of your shotgun, the more said shotgun is driven back. Equal and Opposite Reaction....

Nothing willl point out bad fit and form for a Shotgunner better than heavy loads. Pain is an excellent teacher. Here's a few ideas on how to avoid that teacher....

First, pick your load wisely. A 1 oz slug works as well inside 50 yards on deer as the excellent but excruciatingly heavy 1 3/8 oz Super Brenekke. In much of the Eastern habitat, 50 yards is a long shot. For many folks, the Reduced Recoil slugs and buck will do the job as well as the full bore Howitzers.

Were I dealing with Grizzlies, the Super Brenekkes might be my loads of choice, but a Maryland Whitetail needs nothing like that to reduce it to possession.

As for Maggie Numb slugs, all the 3" slugs will do that the 2 3/4" ones won't is go through your money and/or build a flinch faster. Few group as well either. Since a 1 oz KO Brenekke will usually exit on a broadside shoulder shot, how much more penetration is desired? None....

Next, get fitted right. That fit includes with a good pad or even pads. One on the shotgun and one on you. The PAST pads and similar are good to great, and cost far less than orthopedic surgery. Browning makes a nifty shooting vest that takes a plastic insert. This spreads the energy over a larger area, softening the kick nicely. Pachmyer, KickEez, etc, make great pads for installing on Ol Betsy, making Shotgunning less painful and more productive.

Good form is mandatory. If, despite all warnings, you insist on shooting a shotgun like a rifle, with the body more beside the weapon than behind it, all the energy is gettting dumped into a small area, instead of having the whole upper body moving as a unit with the spine as a spring, absorbing the recoil forces and spreading them over more area and taking longer to do it. Use both hands to really pull the butt into the cup,any slack here will make itself felt PDQ.

Lean well into the shot, more than I'd recommend for clays. Your nose should be past the toes on your leading foot.

Keep range sessions short with the big loads. Even 5 rounds for the first foray is not too few. Much as I like benchtesting slugs, I've a hunch the first few slugs should be fired offhand, seated shooting tends to accentuate feeling the kick. Take your time, and maybe an anti-inflammatory in advance.

Ear and eye protection should be worn, of course. Besides the safety issue, noise raises how the kick is felt.Less noise, less kick.
Use a shotgun suited to the load. A load of 1 1/2 oz of shot and/or greater velocity than most demands a shotgun near 8 lbs for comfort. 2 oz, nigh 10.

Dave McCracken has been shotgunning longer than many shooters have been alive. He regularly posts on TheHighRoad.org and TheFiringLine.com. This article is reprinted here with his permission; reprinting or redistributing this article without his permission is expressly prohibited.

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