Low-Recoil Hunting Loads - Can They Work?

For some 20 years to date, I have been working with and developing loads specifically designed to shoot quietly and at the same time recoil less as they become useful training ammunition for new shooters, injured shooters and even heart patients.

The first role of these loads is to provide subsonic performance for my longstanding, quiet shooting Metro Gun Systems™. It was at that time the industry had a bright idea to start offering my basic Metro Quiet Gun Systems™ as training ammunition to police departments and clay target shooters.

Within the past year, Cabela's BassPro has introduced the Herter's brand of subsonic ammunition that has been doing well through their outlets. Just this past summer, Kent Cartridge has come on board with a low-recoil, 12-gauge target load soft enough to qualify as working in my load group for Metro Quiet Gun Systems™. It is here in this product area I will take some time and give a complete run-through of this new ammunition both on cold and warm targets. It would seem Kent has, like others (Federal, Winchester, B&P and Herter's) filled out their offerings regarding these new breeds of quiet training ammunition.

Evaluation Process for Kent Cartridge “Low Recoil" 12-Gauge Shotshells

With a number of test tools at my disposal ranging from chronograph velocity measurements to some set up for hunting junk birds on dairy farms in Minnesota, we will observe the performance associated with this new training/target ammunition by Kent Cartridge.

Chronograph testing at the muzzle using a Remington 870 Express modified to an Orion Supressor Metro Gun System™ produced the following velocities at three feet from the muzzle.

Load: Hard data: Kent Cartridge 12-Gauge 2¾" Low-Recoil Target. 7/8 oz. payload #8 lead shot.

Round #1 1,238 f.p.s.

Round #2 1,280 f.p.s.

Round #3 1,304 f.p.s.

ES = 66 f.p.s.

Avg Vel = 1,277 f.p.s.

In general, the new Kent low-recoil loads produce some higher velocities than what I like to see in a low-sound shotshell load. However, based on a sound meter app in an I-Phone, I recorded a range of 79 dB to 81 dB three feet from the shotgun's muzzle. This is about on the line for quiet shooting scattergun loads and just workable by a thin hair in the field.

ES figures illustrated the load was a bit scattered in terms of a uniform muzzle velocity, as I have handloaded target ammunition that held an ES of 5 f.p.s.

Pattern work with this load was not considered for the most part, as the choke system employed here was a fixed “Dead Ringer” choke of my own design installed in the suppressor system attached to the 24" 870. In this case, patterns were so tight they could be considered for card shooting, or in my case, a fall turkey.

No, that is not a misprint here. Kent 7/8 oz. #8 lead for a decoying 25 yard or closer gobbler is on the test list for autumn. You have never seen anything like a stiff load of #8 pellets cut down a big 25-lb. tom dead in his tracks when a tight kill net is applied to the great calling game of turkey hunting.

Just for the reader that demands a paper target or two covering a new load, I did decide to plaster a few rounds downrange on paper birds to satisfy that hunger for pattern knowledge by some. In this case, I moved away from my specialized 870 Remington system and turned to my Browning stack barrel and an Invector-Plus™ Full choke for these published results.

Patterns. 40 yards/ Elevation 3,000 ft. above sea level. Wind 3/7 m.p.h. following. Temp 79 F.

Pattern #1 76% Good central thickening.

Pattern #2 81% Good core density & uniform print.

Pattern #3 71% Somewhat open, but core held tight.

Pattern #4 75% Uniform.

Pattern #5 80% Good core density.

Patterns resulting from these test loads were very predictable. With over 40 years of experience sending test loads downrange into warm targets, you get a feel for how it all plays out. I had that warm fuzzy feeling about this Kent Cartridge lightweight training game load from day one of testing.

In line with warm targets, this load was taken afield on the annual Todd Gifford's “Crow Man's” summer event in Minnesota. This year we busted junk bird targets on commercial dairy farms, and I pressed the new loads on crow targets here in the Dakotas.

It was clearly obvious the light #8's fell away quickly in terms of penetrating energy when targets drifted a bit beyond 35 yards. This was the observation I made time after time when shooting at fringe birds. And again due to pellet weight and size, the best effective range limit was clearly about 28 yards measured by clean one-shot-dead-on-the-ground subjects.

Test guns for this work were Winchester SX-3's and my own personal Browning Citori in a field-grade gun. Chokes in this case were Modified in the single-barrel guns, and I shot Modified upper and a Skeet tube in my lower barrel when in the field, and as previously indicated, a Full choke for pattern effectiveness.

Stress Relief

During the course of testing on 100+ crows, it was evident shooting the new Kent low-recoil loads in my fixed-receiver shotgun was a definite advantage. We not only shot live birds, but we also spent considerable time over a special setup for the upcoming crow season in the Midwest that made use of three trap machines, a central blind location and an over-decoy experience that was both fast and furious gunning, to say the least.

Todd Gifford had designed this static course of fire, including screaming crows that masked the sound of the electric trap machines which sent clays from one of three angles and directions over the decoy spread. With some straightaway trapshooting that produced well-dusted clays, the turn to the three-position clays course put all of us in the doghouse in terms of returning some nice scores. In simple terms, that clays course kicked our behinds and required about a half case of shotshells to get it done.

By the time we set up for our afternoon live-bird shoot, my partner Tom Hansen looked for an ice bag after turning loose a lion's share of Federal's “Hi Bird” loads. I was not much better off even with a mix of Kent low-recoil and two or three other heavy-hitting, longer-range products. When I did make a complete switch to the Kent loads for the last half of the day, I finally came to life and right off I dropped 17 straight birds over bait in the cattle pens. No detached retinas or flinch reactions and headaches with the continuous pounding of high-volume fire were experienced even when shooting a stack barrel shotgun.

In most cases, I would not make much of a new or basic 2¾" shotshell load. However, lately I have been scaling back my use of the heavy stuff in favor of saving my aging body for some better days ahead, I hope.

By loading that 7/8 oz. payload of #8's, Kent is reducing felt recoil. The load has more than enough punch to it and penetrates crow-size vitals if the birds are allowed to close the range. Small targets like starlings don't have a chance against the clean-killing swarm of pellets. Clays when test shot at 30 yards were turned to a fine gas-like dust when well-centered.

I must indicate, however, in terms of clays shooting we were not running our testing at handicap ranges or high skeet tower limits associated with competition shooting. The crow course was inside 35 yards, and the straightaway clays were taken at 25 yards when released almost under foot. I call it hunting clays style of training. Rising ringnecks outgoing over the corn tassels, crows diving in and away to the caller and sharptails in coveys on the rise straight ahead of the shooter by way of examples.

By taking some time and giving a box or two of these new loads a try, you may just have some arm left for a few other things after a long day hunting or clays busting. For the most part, the whole hunting/shooting population is not getting any younger, and some time spent over the trap thrower or game field with a soft-shooting target load can very possibly turn an average day into a special one. SS

L.P. Brezny has worked in research and development in the shooting industry for 38 years. He developed and marketed the first sub-sonic shotgun and shotshell — The Hastings Metro Gun™ System (www.metrogun.com or 605-787-6321) — and was the first to measure shotshell pellets in real time at target distances, building ballistic tables demonstrating shotshell load performance and chronographing systems that are still in use today. He also developed the Dead Ringer® high-performance waterfowl/upland choke-tube system. L.P. has been writing for various shooting publications for over 33 years.

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