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Trying to improve my shooting


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I finally made the leap, and purchased a Benelli UltraLight 12ga, specifically for upland hunting. I've hunted over the last few years very regularly and decided now is the time to get much better at shooting.


I've tried to stay with similar brands of ammo, but in retropect never paid enough attenion to velocity, shot weight, powder, etc. I'd figure I was pheasant hunting and needed 4 or 5 shot and went from there.


I'm curious how shooters better than I pick the shells to use, even the brand. I shot Fiocchi shells this fall while pheasant hunting, and I shot better than I have before. I bought them for my young son's 16 gauge Stoeger O/U, and he couldn't miss. So I'm leaning that way now for brand.


But how do I match my field loads to what I'll be shooting at the range for clays. Is FPS all I need to worry about, even though I'll shoot different shot size?


I'd appreciate others' thoughts. Thanks.

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I started shooting trap and skeet this year because I couldn't hit anything with a new 20 ga Montefeltro that I purchased Dec. 2007.


Some hints:


1) Go to a gunsmith and get your gun "fit" to you. My Monte had to be shortened by 1/2" to fit me correctly and I had a better recoil pad added while I was at it - cost $100.


2) Your UltraLight is actually a bit of a challenge to shoot due to the light weight. Unlike heavier guns, you will have to "push" your UltraLight through the target to get proper follow-through. The lack of mass cuts down on the intertia of the gun. You will really notice this when you start shooting skeet.


3) Pattern your gun with the loads that you are going to shoot. The drop and cast is easily adjustable in the Benelli, take advantage of it. Remember that Benellis shoot "high" compared to American guns. Once you get used to it, you will like it a lot better since you get to "see" the clay explode or bird actually getting hit and folding. It is not covered by the barrel.


3) Don't worry about matching field loads while trap and skeet shooting. You will kill your shoulder shooting field loads for trap or skeet no matter what gun you are using. I just shoot skeet with a couple of boxes of whatever field loads I will be using prior to the season or a specific trip. This includes 3" 20 ga steel loads that I have to shoot for pheasant in public areas in Iowa, SD, and ND (not to mention ducks). Once you get used to your gun shooting clays, adjusting to different shells is actually fairly easy. Steel is fun due to the shortened lead for close shots and the extended lead for long shots (steel leaves the barrel at a higher velocity than lead, but slows down faster).


4) Don't over-choke your gun. I have been using the IM choke in my Monte and new SS 20 ga. for pheasant all year with great results. After patterning steel, I will never use more than a IM choke for steel. I use a Comp-n-Choke ported skeet choke for game farm birds that are sitting tight. Take advantage of the patterning board from 32 and 22 yds to get the details on your patterns with different shot loads and chokes. You can also practice snap shooting to make sure that you are reliably putting the gun up in the correct position. After getting my gun fit, this has helped me more than shooting 4K rounds of clays.


5) A quote at my Trap&Skeet club is "A shotgun pattern at 40 yards is about the size of a hula-hoop. If you missed your target, you did something very wrong." After patterning my gun, I know this to be true (at least with IM and M chokes) and I do something very wrong about 17% of the time with clays (I'm getting better :-)). After a year of trap and especially skeet, I can now hit passing birds with some confidence. Lead and follow-through is everything.


6) I have shot Fiocchi Golden Pheasant #5 in 2 3/4 and 3" in both 12 and 20 ga for eight years without a problem. I really like this load for pheasant.

Edited by BlackDogs3
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You made a real nice choice in weapons for pheasant hunting. I have the same gun. I have owned a lot of guns and several Benellis and you couldn't do better for wild (or game farm) pheasant. My Ultra Light is a sheer joy to shoot with (and carry all day!)


So, after you adjust the gun to fit you, using the supplied shims for drop height to align your barrel ramp to your eyes, and different thickness of butt pad if necessary for length of pull (LOP), you will be ready gun wise.


Despite many opinions otherwise you'll hear in this forum, I like the idea of using nothing less than 6's for wild pheasants and really like 5's for both early and late season wild birds. As you know, roosters are tough, so I like your thinking on shot size.


If Fiochi shells are dropping birds clean, stick to 'em. Being a Minnesota boy myself, I started out with Federals but have always liked Winchester ammo. I think once you get what you like, stick with it for two reasons that will provide you rewards over time-- ingrained familiarity (*getting the feel for the ammo's speed) and just good ole' reinforced confidence every time you fold a bird.


It's stylish these days to get hyped up about ammo speed. If I had a dollar for every bird I killed with older "slow (1000- 1100) field loads I wouldn't worry about my retirement account like I am :p


That said I have been using the 1450 fps or 1500 fps loads and they probably kill better. Just remember that many a market hunter retired early with sore shoulders after killing tens of thousands of birds-- and they used slow ammo. *So it's all about familiarity with your ammo.


One more thing about the faster ammo- it will decrease the necessary lead for angling or crossing shots- but the one thing that helps most people I'm hunting with to bring up their averages is to lead more than they do...


Have fun with that new gun and Happy New Year! :)

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Absolutely, positively, find a reputable NSCA certified instructor and take som lessons.


Men won't think twice about taking lessons to improve their golf game, but somehow believe they should naturally be able to shoot a gun proficiently, just by shooting enough.


Probably the other biggest thing has been mentioned. Get a gun that fits you and shoots where you are looking. A good fitting gun is essential.

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Thanks much for the reply.


Seems "fit" is a recurring theme. I've always thought I understood the concept of drop and cast, but never thought much about the length of stock and assumed you'd simply get used to whereever it's at. I'm not sure I know right now if the stock is long or short for me. I guess that's why some feel better when I shoulder them in the stores. Perhaps this is something a gunsmith can assist me with. I'll do some checking.


Other than for turkey hunting, I've never thought of patterning my shotguns. I assume the process is the same for patterning any shotgun regardless of turkey hunting or wing shooting.


Thanks too for the info of steel vs. lead. I never thought much of what occurs once the pellets leave the barrel.


I can't wait to get out a shoot a bit...

Edited by fishinguy
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Birdbrooks -


Thanks too for your reply. Glad to hear you love your Ultralight. There's so much information out there about those who say these things kick like a mule, but I found those hard to belive from all I've read, and people I know, who own other Benelli's. They all love 'em and never heard complaints about recoil, yes I understand they are heavier guns. I simply assumed Benelli would have built a quality gun and taken that into account in design.


I'm not one for shooting 3" shells, except for my old Mossberg 20ga on pheasants. I don't plan to shoot 3 inch shells from this very often.


I apparently haven't paid enough attention, but does the faster ammo simply use more powder for speed? If so, do I ever have to consider the 26" barrel vs. the 28" I've shot previously to maximize those speeds? I've always heard that speed comes from the burn rate, and that you need a longer barrel to maximize the full potential. Whatchya think?



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"Does the faster ammo simply use more powder for speed?"


Sometimes. But usually, its a different powder altogether.


"If so, do I ever have to consider the 26" barrel vs. the 28" I've shot previously to maximize those speeds?"


For shotguns, barrel length has very little to do with muzzle velocity. Not enough to worry about. Barrel length is more of a personal preference thing. Target shooters like a long barrel that allows them a longer sight plane. Turkey hunters tend to like short barrels for ease of carry through the woods. For upland hunting, there's not all that much difference between 26" and 28", though I think 26" barrels on break action guns seem too short to me. Again, a personal preference thing.


"I've always heard that speed comes from the burn rate, and that you need a longer barrel to maximize the full potential."


Sort of. Yes, generally to get higher muzzle velocity you want a slower burning powder. The shell manufacturers use different powders and different quantities of those powders with different combinations of shot weight to get the desired speed, while not getting excessive pressure. But again, length of the barrel is not a major deciding factor. Most shotgun powders are fast burning enough that they are nearly completely burned in the first 20 inches of the barrel.


As far as patterning, you first need to know your intended use for the gun. Pattern it at the distance you plan to be making shots. Two things to consider, does the pattern shoot where you're looking? Does the shotshell/shot count/pattern density give you good coverage over a 20" or 30" circle to assure you'll hit what you're pointing at?


Don't pattern off-hand. Use a bench rest, and try to get the same sight picture you get when you mount the gun.

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