When I was a much younger fellow, I spent most Sunday afternoons at the trap field with my father. I have very fond memories of those days trapshooting with dad and my grandfather’s model 12. Back then I reloaded shot shells mostly to save money but really enjoyed the therapy of it all. Cranking through piles of shot, primers, wads and kegs of powder to produce thousands of rounds was fun then and still is today. I remember paying $7.50 for 25 lbs. of chilled shot. Things have certainly changed!
Maybe it is because I have the 12 gauge loaders and tubs of AA 12 gauge hulls that I have not strayed from that bore. I do like the smaller bores but to me it is the gun properly built for the 12 gauge that approaches perfection in weight, balance and handling. This perfection in field configuration produces a gun that is a pleasure to hunt with but can be a challenge to master. My scores on the clays course were cut in half when I went from a Beretta 680 target over/under to a svelte side by side. It took quite a bit of practice to climb back to my previous level of consistent mediocrity.
Proficiency comes with shooting but a summer hammering clays with these light, fast handling large-bore bird guns can be brutal. A Saturday morning spent running a 100+ rounds of 12 gauge target loads (1 1/8 oz of shot at 1250+ fps) through a sub-7 pound gun, usually without a recoil pad, can leave you feeling like a prize-fighter. It’s tough to focus on shooting basics when getting smacked with every shot. This makes for a tough day on the range! You can shoot whatever load you want while hunting without issue but a day busting targets with these guns is most enjoyed with light, easy shooting loads.
Reloading your own shells allows you to work up a load that is enjoyable to shoot and effective at the same time. The load I like for 12 gauge doubles is an ounce of #8 or 7 ½ shot moving at about 1,180 fps. IMR’s PB powder is my favorite because it produces very low chamber pressures (6,200 psi) plus I like the way it smells. Look to the IMR reloading data or other reloading guide for specific load information. There are light loads on the market but these hand loads shoot softer than any factory load I have tried. In fact, these are so light that they will not cycle an autoloader.
One thing certain is that these light loads are pure pleasure to shoot. They reliably smoke targets within upland game bird ranges and provide shooting enjoyment all day long without the bruises or loose teeth.
One of the joys of reloading is ending up with a pile of shot shells a couple of feet high. You can never have enough ammo.
Sweet lead shot. These are 8s – the kids love ’em sprinkled on ice cream.
Progressive loading is the only way to go.
Good old AAs.
This is an ounce of #8 shot. It doesn’t look like a lot but targets in upland bird range are reliably smoked.