An article in the Jan/Feb issue of NZRod&Rifle contains the results of some simple testing I’d done to evaluate the performance of several 20-gauge steel shot loads for duck hunters. Unfortunately, one of the loads I’d been keen to test arrived from Italy well after the publication date for that issue and couldn’t be included in the survey. I’ve subsequently tested the B&P loads with the results shown below.
Oak Lodge, B&P’s New Zealand distributor, provided two samples of their high performance 20-gauge steel waterfowling load: Valle Steel 28 Magnum Extra Velocity. The branding says it all; it’s a 28-gram (1oz) magnum load in a 3-inch case with a velocity of 1378 fps measured at 1 metre from the muzzle. That’s a pretty impressive performance from a 20-gauge. The samples came in two Italian pellet sizes: #3 (3.3mm diameter) which corresponds to a US #4; and #4 (3.1mm diameter), roughly equivalent to a US #5.
As in my previous testing, I assessed the performance of these B&P shells based on the criteria suggested in Tom Roster’s Nontoxic Shot Lethality Table. This table gives the minimum number of pellets enclosed in a 30-inch circle required to ensure a clean kill at ranges between 20 and 45 yards. For a mallard-sized bird, the count is 85-90 pellets. Using a modified choke, I pattern tested at two distances: 30 yards to simulate decoying birds, and 40 yards for longer-range passing birds. As you can see, the B&P shells easily exceeded the minimum requirements.
Number of pellets hitting in 30-inch circle
#4 shot at 30 yards: 216 pellets; at 40 yards: 158 pellets.
#3 shot at 30 yards: 185 pellets; at 40 yards: 160 pellets.
If I was shooting ducks with 20-gauge steel, my preference would be for a 28-gram payload because of the increased pattern density the magnum load provides. This preference was reinforced by the fine performance of these B&P Valle Steel loads.