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Buying shotshells: buy smart and sell more in the new year.

The purchase of outdoor clothing and footwear stock orders has always been the bane of the sporting goods retailer simply because of the "size factor." Indeed, in-depth stock orders which include "out-sizes" or "fringe" sizes can not only generate excess dead inventory but in the long run, substantial dollar losses as well.

A similar dilemma occurs when the retailer plans to purchase a stock order of shotshells too since the shot "size" factor is not only involved but a myriad of gauges and load-types as well - a dilemma which continues to grow as enterprising shotshell manufacturers continue to produce more new loads with each new year.

What makes matters worse is that each and every load as manufactured by the ammo combines surely has a selected niche in the world of the shooting sports. But before you attempt to tackle a stock order for shotshells let's talk a bit more about shotgun shells and more specifically, shot sizes in the overall shooting game.

Basically, the rank-and-file scatter-gunner can be divided into several distinct schools. There are those who venture into their favored sporting goods emporium the day before the upland bird hunting season and ask for a box of 12 gauge "high brass 6s." Then there is the more youthful nimrod who prefers simply a "box of 12 gauge mag 6s." These shotgunners labor under the misconception that size 6 shot is judged the most advantageous for all small game from woodcock and doves to turkey.

These very same scattergunners usually consider a "magnum" or "express" load will also dispatch any and all game with efficiency and at distances even a respectable howitzer couldn't handle. Unfortunately, these sportsmen are part of the legion of misinformed. If left to their own judgement, they may eventually lose interest in the shooting sports since more often than not they'll return home with an empty bag.

On the other side of the coin is the more knowledgeable smoothbore artist who chooses various shot sizes for varied individual species of game birds. These sportsmen are generally veterans who have learned by long experience which precise loads are most effective for various game birds.

So there does exist various schools among the rank-and-file when it comes to shotshell loads, especially shot selection. One group believes it makes little difference what shot size is used provided the hull contains sufficient powder to toss the shot to some incredible distance. On the other hand, we do have those sportsmen who are quite aware that proper shot selection means greater success afield.

In the middle of this on-going dilemma we have the sporting goods retailer who often attempts to satisfy every customer by carrying a large inventory of shotshells in all the various shot sizes - a situation which can become mind-boggling, not to mention the dollars tied up in such an extensive inventory.

Keep in mind large as well as small shot have their advantages and disadvantages. A simple way to determine the ballistic properties of various shot sizes is by experimenting with a garden hose - that's right, a garden hose.

Simply adjust its nozzle to produce a fine spray and it becomes quite obvious more droplets of water strike a given area at a given time. However, these miniature droplets do have less range, lose velocity rapidly and are more effected by wind. The same basic principle applies to lead shot.

Larger size shot, on the other hand, features more sustained energy than the smaller sizes because the pellets are larger boasting more retained energy. To prove this point simply obtain an old telephone book and place it, say, at 60 yards and shoot at it with size 9 shot. Check the page penetration and then shoot again with size 4 shot you'll see the result immediately. The size 4 shot will penetrate far more deeply. Keep in mind, too, this very same principle applies to game birds.

At 75 yards, for example, size 6 shot will rattle off the feathers of a goose, while number 2s will penetrate, although we surely don't suggest shooting at geese at 75 yards ! Initially, from such experiments you will be led to believe all larger shot sizes are more advantageous. But not really. While large size shot will reach its ultimate target with more energy, velocity and penetration, FEWER pellets will arrive on target. This means with less shot reaching the target the poorer the overall pattern and the easier it is for even a large game bird to readily slip through or be injured but not downed.

So the basic axiom is simply that "The more shot you have in a given load, the more opportunity to have it put more pellets into the vital area of any given target."

For example, a one-ounce shot load in a 20 gauge contains about 136 pellets of number 4 shot; 223 of number 6 shot; 345 of number 7-1/2, and 589 of number 9. These figures infer you have twice the opportunity to strike a target with number 9 shot as compared to size 6 shot.

In a 12 gauge field load containing 1 1/8 ounces of shot, you have about 153 pellets of number 4; 251 of number 6; 388 of number 7-1/2; 460 of number 8, and 658 of number 9. And in a 12 gauge 1-1/4 ounce shot load there's some 215 pellets of number 4; 279 of number 6; 431 of number 7-1/2; 514 of number 8, and 731 of number 9.

What we're implying is that bird hunters should endeavor to use the smallest size shot practical in accord to existing field conditions and the average range of the target. If you're still skeptical try shooting patterns at 35 yards with the various shot sizes. We guarantee you'll be amazed to learn that the larger shot sizes Will produce countless "holes" in the pattern holes sufficiently large to permit a gamebird to slip through unscratched.

Even with a full-choked scattergun there will be holes in patterns when using large size shot and as the yardage increases the holes become more magnified. So what do we suggest? Simply that, say, from 15 to 35 yards the smaller sizes of shot should be the choice of the upland gunner since there are far less holes in the shot pattern as a result of the greater pattern density.

For small game birds as woodcock, rails, snipe, etc we'd select the conventional skeet load in size 9 shot. For such birds as pheasant, grouse and quail we'd suggest size 7-1/2. Perhaps one of the finest all-around 12 gauge field loads is that 2-3/4-inch chambered 12 gauge load known as the International Flyer" or "pigeon" load and from this corner is one which should be inventoried in depth by the retailer. it is the closest to an all-around small game field load. The load in question contains the 3-1/4 drams equivalent of powder but with 1-1/4 ounces of shot. It retails a bit higher than conventional field loads, but once your customers discover its merits we guarantee they will return.

Again, smaller size shot - where practical - is judged best for all small game hunting. Indeed, early in the waterfowl season when ducks are still lightly featured we've learned that size 7-1/2 shot can be equally effective only because of the enhanced pattern density. But alas lead shot will soon become nothing more than a memory among the wildfowler.

What we wish to say is when selecting a stock order of shotshells keep in mind the smaller shot theory, especially if upland bird hunting is popular in your selling area. Also, explain to your customers the merits of the smaller size shot.

It is another story with steel shot. As a general rule, suggest going two shot sizes larger when substituting steel for lead shot. For longer range shooting with steel, it is further suggested you go three shot sizes larger. That is, size 4 or 3 shot to replace size 6 lead, or size 2 or I steel to replace size 4 lead. In more recent years several ammo combines have further developed duplex" loads, loads featuring two sizes of steel shot. For waterfowl hunting these duplex loads are judged most advantageous.

But again, the annual purchase of a stock inventory of shotshells can be mind-boggling and a difficult task for the retailer. Just keep in mind your particular selling area and what game birds dominate. Then purchase stock orders of shotshells in accord to your customer's specific needs, yet keeping the small shot size theory in mind. Smaller size shot, within reasonable shooting yardages, is far more efficient than the larger size shot loads.
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Author:Brant, Howard
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1990
Previous Article:Sievert's Gun Shop: a profile in excellence.
Next Article:When you're buying at the SHOT Show.

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