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What is your preference, what patterns best and what gives you the best breaks. I completely understand that if you do your part behind the gun, the target will break, but i'm looking to get my loads as "dialled in" as possible.
I was told when i was a junior that 8.5 carried higher antimony levels, therefore better energy at impact but not being an expert I'd really value your input.
I only reload 20 & 28 gauge, and shoot the 20 in the 12 gauge.... for .410 i simply buy factory winchester AA because i only ever shoot tournament with them.

Thanks all!
 

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Good Evening,

My unscientific preference is for #8.5.

My reasoning is that I sometimes shoot in my back yard and missed birds land on grass and don't break upon landing. In the past, when I shot #9's I would find birds with 3 or 4 holes in them, but unbroken. They could often stand the stress of being re-launched from a hand thrower. Now that I only shot #8.5 (or commercial #8 if my friends are borrowing a shotgun) I only find "missed" birds with 1 or occasionally 2 holes. My conclusion is that 3 hits with #8 or 8.5 will break the bird while 3 hits with #9 may not.
My sample size is small and there are a lot of other variables I'm not accounting for but since it is just as easy for me to buy #8.5 vs. #9 I buy what I believe will break the bird. I also believe the confidence this gives me is a more important factor than any real difference in hitting power of the shot.
Others may disagree but I thought I'd share my observation.

Dan
 

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I shoot at sporting clays I just started shooting a 28 ga and was given 24 boxes of reloads in 9's they broke birds ok, but now I am going to use 8's because I think they hit a little harder a little farther out. I use 8.5's in my 410 just for a little more shot than 9's and they work good when I hit something, but some times the rabbit doesn't break when they are hit with 8's I would stick with 8's, that and a dime will get you a cup of coffee
 

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If your talking about skeet targets/distances only, then my preference is always for #9 shot. 9's deliver enough energy, at those distances to break all the birds if you do your part, they also give you the advantage of more pellets per ounce than all the larger sizes.
 

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With a great deal of bagged shot, you get some overlap from either side, meaning there will be some #8.5's present in both #8 or #9 shot and both #8 & #9 shot present in bagged #8.5, unless there was some extremely fine grading/sorting taking place. At least that has been my observation on numerous occasions; not every time and some shot is specially graded & alloyed for factory target loads that is extremely uniform. Still, cut open a few rounds of most factory rounds and you might be surprised on shot uniformity and actual weight as well.

As far as the 'better energy at impact' part goes with increased antimony, that's bogus because a pellet of a given diameter will not weigh as much as it would had it been solid lead. It will weigh less, but that also means that there will be more pellets to achieve a given weight vs. pellets made from pure lead.

Antimony does act as a hardener of lead and it is a very effective one, meaning those pellets so hardened or alloyed are less subject to deformation, so they fly truer/straighter and more of them will remain in the central portion of the pattern, all else being equal. It lead many persons to wrongly conclude that it 'hits harder'. What it does contribute to is higher pellet counts vs. pure lead, in most patterns.

At skeet ranges, it may be a coin toss if it matters, but the mind matters and so IF you think it makes a difference, by all means shoot THAT. Tighter patterns may even be a detriment in everything aside from the .410 w/its .5oz. shot load, at skeet ranges. With all of them you are looking for the most uniform pellet distribution within the payload's effective range. 22 Yards from a grease plate is a good place to evaluate your pattern's effectiveness for skeet. Shoot enough pattern's to establish a comfort level with both their density & distribution as well as their shot to shot uniformity. You don't have to count pellets, but you do need to shoot at least a box through each bbl. or tube, to develop a level of confidence and doit standing up and shoot at the pattern board's center just like it was a target. If you have a mount, POA, POI issue , it will show up.

Check first that your bbl.s are shooting to the same place. Do that by sitting and shooting both bbl.s at the same point of aim until there is a black center and it is pretty easy to observe if they are correctly regulated. If you do not start there, the rest is moot. In the end, what you are seeking is the widest effective pattern that you can achieve at that test distance of 22 yards.

I knew a very fine shooter & skeet shot who was continuously seeking the extra target via equipment & ammo, spending unbelievable amounts of time and money w/some of the better known smith's on both coasts and everywhere in between. He had both the time and means to shoot all over the country for years inclusive of all the old big name skeet tournaments and did and he was convinced when shooting tournaments that in the .410 event, if it was cold and damp or the targets had been out in the wet, that they broke with much better consistency w/#8's or even #7.5's than was possible with smaller shot. I dunno, my scores w/the little gun are consistently unremarkable in all conditions.

Physics are not flexible, so if you want more energy per pellet at the clay target use larger shot [within the allowable rules] and if you are an advocate of the more is better school of thot, then use #9's. In all cases I would wish to shoot what I had the most confidence in using.
 

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For skeet, stick with 9s in anything but 12ga (and 9s are best here too, but you can get away with 8.5s and still have a decent pellet count). You loose a LOT of pellet count when you start going up in size, and if you're shooting your targets where you are supposed to, doubles included, 9s still have enough energy to get the job done.
 

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Do you prefer -

More pellets with enough energy (#9s), or

Less pellets with more than enough energy (#8.5s)?

IMHO, enough energy is enough energy. More pellets wins.
 

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For skeet, I use 9s in both gauges. For sporting clays, I use 8s for 7/8 oz. loads (20 ga.), and 8 1/2s for 3/4 oz. loads (in both my 20 ga. and 28 ga.). The pellet count is essentially the same, actually a couple of more in the 3/4 oz. load of 8 1/2s.

The clays break just fine - at least for me.
 

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Showme's post seems spot on.

I tend to ride my targets out past the center stake from 3, 4 and 5. I'm going to get the tape measure out and find out just how far away they actually are at the point I shoot most of them. It's just a guess now (I am not good at judging distance) but I'm going to guess it's about 27-30 yards. On the remaining stations I hit them near the stake where most other shooters do.

I have used everything from #7 1/2 to #9...depending on what I have to reload and whether I am shooting in league, informal competition, or just practicing. I am comfortable with 7/8 oz. 9's in both 12 ga. and 20 ga. at those middle stations but...I am wondering...at what distance does #9 shot lose enough power to reliably break a clay with a proper hit? I may switch to larger shot just for 3,4 and 5. But I'm afraid switching may distract my thoughts though, and that is frequently a disaster for me.

I'm going to do some patterning and research on retained energy though and may just stick with one best size to simplify things, which helps my addled mind. If I always broke 3,4 and five at the stake I'd just choose 9's and be done with it. But even though I know it's not kosher, it's not likely to change at the informal point I'm at with my skeet shooting now, or where I'm going in the near future. I'm not a registered shooter.
 

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I reload 3/4oz loads for both 12 and 20 and switched to 8.5s for sporting and 5-stand. They work well and smash the targets just fine, even at distances far greater than a typical skeet distance (21 yards)
 

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tw said:
Snip...

Physics are not flexible, so if you want more energy per pellet at the clay target use larger shot [within the allowable rules] and if you are an advocate of the more is better school of thot, then use #9's. In all cases I would wish to shoot what I had the most confidence in using.
So true.
 

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I can provide a bit of data on what happens when you go the other way on shot size. I had an old box of hunting reloads I wanted to get used up. It was 1 1/4 ounce of #6. I have my own trap out back and generally do walk out and see what I can find after shooting. I found a few whole targets with holes punched through. Bigger holes than #8 or 9, but holes in an intact target. A single #6 has a LOT more energy than #8 or 9 but still, a single pellet can punch a hole and not break the target. My conclusion: the pellets need to arrive at the target with enough energy to punch a hole, but once you reach this point, you need more pellets rather than more energy. I also concluded shooting a whole box of 1 1/4 ounce at one time wears on your shoulder.

I shoot an ounce of #9 for first shot on doubles in standard trap. I am not one of those guys that shoots real fast and gets them real close. This seems to work fine.
 

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TRUE STORY
Area ATA Vice President Bob Craft, used to shoot with us regularly in the Houston area. He was a very good shooter and shot Handicap from the 27 yard line. Bob shot #8-1/2 loads at ALL yardages, 16 thru 27. That will tell you a bit about the effectiveness of shooting #8-1/2 loads. Also placement has more to do with it than pellet size.

DLM
 

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Kidd said:
What is your preference, what patterns best and what gives you the best breaks. I completely understand that if you do your part behind the gun, the target will break, but i'm looking to get my loads as "dialled in" as possible.
I was told when i was a junior that 8.5 carried higher antimony levels, therefore better energy at impact but not being an expert I'd really value your input.
I only reload 20 & 28 gauge, and shoot the 20 in the 12 gauge.... for .410 i simply buy factory winchester AA because i only ever shoot tournament with them.

Thanks all!
This part of the OP has not been explored very well so far. First, I don't think it's true that #8 1/2s have more antimony than #9. But assuming it's true, wouldn't it be a push in terms of "energy at impact" because the higher antimony would make the #8 1/2s lighter than they otherwise would be if the antimony levels of the 2 sizes of shot were the same? Assuming the higher antimony equalized the average weights of the 2 sizes of pellets, wouldn't it be better to go with the #9s because there would be more of them?
 

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There is not a higher antimony content in #8-1/2's. As Nebs explains, that would kill the effectiveness of the larger shot.

Besides that, I have read an analysis of the kinetic energy (at Muzzle velocity), between 8-1/2 and 9 shot, and reportedly that figure is 37%.

I have reason to believe that is at least, close to correct. Personally, I can tell a distinct difference in the breaks using #8-1/2 shot, in that it crushes the targets noticeably harder.

YMMD, but I'll stick with the 8-1/2's as my preference. And seriously, I have no qualms using #8's in the 12 and 20 gauges either.

DLM
 

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The difference between the two shot sizes represents a trade off between energy at impact and pattern density. The #8 1/2 will give more impact energy but a less dense pattern. The #9s will give a more dense pattern but less impact energy. When shooting skeet, either will work fine and I doubt using one over the other is going to have much of an impact on one's score. Some of your missed targets might be attributable to lack of impact energy and some due to lack of pattern density, or both (more likely neither, you just plain missed because you stopped your swing or didn't give it enough lead (pronounced "leed" as opposed to "led")).
 

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I can't speak re #8 1/2 but I currently have multiple bags of Lawrence West Coast Magnum in #8 and 9 and multiple bags of Lead Global Magnum in #8 and 9 on my bench. They ALL say "High Antimony Magnum" on the bag. The bags for the 8 and 9 Lawrence are identical other than the shot size stamped on them. Same is true for Lead Global. If #8 and #9 shot have different amounts of antimony in them then both these manufactures are keeping that a secret. I really doubt 8 1/2 is any different. I have in the past used a few bags of Eagle #8 1/2. Other than the stamped on shot size, those bags were identical to Eagle # 7 1/2, 8, and 9.

I suspect the "8 1/2 contains more antimony" is something carried over from years ago by someone who does not really understand or remember clearly. At one time soft chilled shot was popular for skeet shooting. It was low antimony and it was nearly always #9. So, there was a time when you could buy #9 that had less antimony than a lot of #8 or 8 1/2. That does not mean that all #9 has, or had, less antimony than 8 or 8 1/2. But, it was possible to buy #9 that did.
 

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Kidd said:
What is your preference, what patterns best and what gives you the best breaks.
I was told when i was a junior that 8.5 carried higher antimony levels, therefore better energy at impact
Actually, as antimony is less dense than lead, you have lower energy at impact with high-antimony shot compared to chilled or low-antimony shot, not more.

In commercial target loads, only #8 and #7-1/2 is available in 6% antimony, and they pattern more efficiently as a result than 8-1/2 or 9 shot.

If you measure "8-1/2" v. "9" shot, don't be shocked when you discover that they are the same diameter.
 
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