January 03, 2011
By Layne Simpson
Layne shoots Federal's Mag-Shok turkey load with FlightControl wad through Benelli's Super Black Eagle II and Franchi's 912 with SteadyGrip stocks.
By Layne Simpson
Our perception of recoil is greatly influenced by which part of the human body is subjected to it. For example, take two shotguns that are identical in every way except one has a relatively straight stock while the stock of the other has excessive drop. Firing the same load in both, actual recoil will be the same, but it will appear greater with the gun with the crooked stock because it rises up and strikes the cheek with greater force and the face is one of the more sensitive areas of the human body.
Up to a certain toleration level, the hand and arm can comfortably absorb more recoil than the shoulder. I was reminded of this many years ago while comparing the velocities of .45-70 Government factory loads as well as various maximum-velocity handloads for it in a Marlin Model 1895 lever-action rifle and a Thompson/Center Contender handgun. The Contender had a 14-inch barrel from SSK Industries while the Marlin wore its original 22-inch factory barrel. I was also interested in the accuracy of the .45-70 in those guns, so all shooting was done from a benchrest.
The Contender was about three pounds lighter than the Marlin, and because I had never fired the .45-70 in a handgun, I was somewhat apprehensive about shooting it. I was in for a surprise. As I discovered after firing only a few rounds in both guns, the Contender was far more comfortable to shoot with a two-hand hold than the Marlin from the shoulder. The rifle pounded my shoulder and cheek unmercifully with each squeeze of its trigger, but the pistol would simply rise up from the sandbag, bringing both of my arms along with it. In addition to adding weight to the gun, my arms also served as shock absorbers.
That wasn't the first time this phenomenon had been brought to my attention. Years before I shot the .45-70 Contender, I had hunted elk with a Wyoming rancher who used a Winchester Model 70 in .300 H&H Magnum for all his hunting. At the time, I also hunted elk with a Model 70 in the same caliber. One day as we were checking the zeroes of our rifles before a hunt, my friend offered to let me shoot his Model 70.
The Benelli Super Black Eagle II's SteadyGrip buttstock makes it very easy to control. And the gun's drilled and tapped receiver makes optics mounting quite easy.
We both were shooting handloads with 180-grain bullets at about the same velocity, yet perceived recoil was noticeably less with his rifle. Our rifles differed only by their stocks; mine wore its original factory wood while he had restocked his rifle with a thumbhole-style stock made by E.C. Bishop & Son of Warsaw, Missouri. I found my friend's rifle more comfortable to shoot simply because my hand and arm were absorbing some of the recoil before it got to my shoulder, exactly as I experienced years later with the Contender.
By now you're asking yourself what any of this has to do with shotguns. Well, it has plenty to do with three available from Benelli and Franchi.
Benelli Super Black Eagle II & Franchi 912 With SteadyGrip During recent hunts at Stasney's Cook Ranch in Albany, Texas, I took a Rio Grande gobbler with a Benelli Super Black Eagle and used a Franchi 912 to bump off a huge wild boar. (Both companies can be contacted at Benelli, Franchi, Dept. ST. 17603 Indian Head Hwy., Accokeek, MD 20607; 301-283-6981; www.benelliusa.com; www.franchiusa.com.) Both guns had one thing in common: the SteadyGrip stock. The stock gets its name from its extended grip, a design feature that first appeared some years ago on Benelli shotguns built for law-enforcement use. Lawmen like it because a shotgun wearing this type of stock can be controlled--and even fired--with one hand while the other hand is busy opening a door, operating a walkie-talkie, or some other important task. The stock works equally well on a shotgun used for sporting purposes, especially when the gun is aimed and fired at a stationary target. In addition to making a shotgun more controllable, it also reduces perceived recoil. This makes it ideal for a turkey gun and for a shotgun used for hunting big game with slug loads.
I first used the SteadyGrip stock during its prototype stage on a turkey hunt in western Kentucky several years ago. I was sitting with my back against a tree with the Benelli resting atop my knee when a gobbler came in silently from behind me and stopped about 20 yards away. There was the bird and here was I with my shotgun pointed in the wrong direction. Any movement from me would have spooked the bird, so I froze until it started walking from left to right in front of me in the direction of several hens. I could see that if he continued on in the same direction he would momentarily pass behind the trunk of a small tree and that would give me a chance to make my move.
|BENELLI/FRANCHI STEADYGRIP SPECIFICATIONS|
| ||BENELLI M2 FIELD||BENELLI SBE-II||FRANCHI 912|
|Overall Length (inches):||45.5||45.6||45.5|
|Barrel Length (inches):||24||24||24|
|Chamber Length (inches):||3.5||3.5||3.5|
|Chokes:||IC, X-Full||IC, X-Full||X-Full Extended|
|Length Of Pull (inches):||14 3/8||14 3/8||14 1/4|
|Magazine Capacity:||3 rounds||3 rounds||5 rounds|
|Finish:||Timber HD||Timber HD||Timber HD|
Just as the gobbler's head disappeared behind the tree I swiveled the Benelli around atop my knee, and as he emerged into view, I plastered the big red dot of the Burris electronic sight on his neck and pressed the trigger. When I fired, the butt of the stock was nowhere near my shoulder; I simply held onto the extended grip of the stock and fired the gun with one hand, same as I would have done had I been shooting a handgun. Harold Knight of Knight & Hale Game Calls was looking over my shoulder while all of this was happening, so when you see him tell the story in Benelli SteadyGrip advertisements, you will now know that the hunter he's talking about is me.
As I said before, you cannot beat the SteadyGrip stock on a shotgun used for aiming at and shooting a stationary target. It is presently available on three shotguns: Benelli Super Black Eagle II, Benelli M2 Field, and Franchi 912. All are very nice guns, but if I had to choose between the three I would grab the Franchi 912 and run. Its slightly heavier weight along with its gas operation makes it a bit more comfortable to shoot with heavy loads. The price of the Franchi also makes it one of the best buys available in autoloaders for the turkey hunter and for the deer hunter who shoots slug loads.
Federal's Lead Shot Turkey Loads With FliteControl Wad
Many shooters don't realize how much air resistance a charge of shot slams into as it exits the muzzle of a shotgun. To get some idea of just how great it is, you can extend your arm from the window of an automobile traveling at 60 miles per hour (88 fps) and try to imagine how it would feel if the resistance were about 14 times as great.
I go into this because the tremendous air resistance a shotshell wad runs into as it exits the muzzle is what causes the petals of its shotcup to fold back. Serving as airbrakes, the petals immediately begin to slow the wad down, thereby allowing the heavier shot charge to exit its protective shotcup and continue on toward the target. Total separation of the typical plastic wad and the shot charge has usually taken place after the two have traveled only a few feet from the muzzle of the barrel.
The FliteControl wad can be "programmed" for wad/shot separation at various distances from the gun's muzzle.
Since the introduction of the one-piece plastic wad in the 1960s, a few experiment-minded handloaders have attempted to increase pattern core density in turkey loads by using custom-made wads having a shotcup with no slits in its wall. Their experiments involved shooting the wad as it came from the manufacturer or by slitting the wall of its shotcup by varying degrees. Pattern uniformity and density at specific ranges delivered by those handloads proved to be unpredictable simply because how far downrange the wad and shot charge would travel together before going their separate ways would often vary from round to round. What was needed was a wad with a nonslitted, solid-wall shotcup for maximum pattern core density that could also be programmed to put on the brakes at a predetermined distance from the muzzle and allow the shot charge to continue on its way.
Several years ago the great amount of time a friend of mine wasted in his futile search of just that inspired me to draw a cartoon and send it to him. In it, my friend had just fired his shotgun and the wad had been stopped in midair by a long string attached to the barrel. But of course, that particular method works only in cartoons with kids' guns that fire cork projectiles.
Unlike a conventional plastic shotshell wad (L), Federal's FliteControl wad (C, R) has no slits in the shotcup wall, but slits in its base skirt form petals that act as airbrakes during flight.
Leave it to Federal engineer Rochelle Poore to figure out a way to accomplish what was once considered impossible, and there is no string attached to what she came up with. In fact, it is one of those "why didn't I think of that?" ideas. Here is how the revolutionary new FliteControl wad works. First of all, since the wall of its shotcup has no slits like a conventional plastic wad, there is no way the shot can make contact with the bore of the barrel. The gas-sealing skirt at the concave base of the wad does have weakening slits, six to be exact. As the wad exits the bore during firing, propellant gas pushing on its base causes the skirt to separate into six extremely stiff petals and then flex outward to become airbrakes. Simply put, the petals at the base of the FliteControl wad serve the same basic purpose as the feathers on a badminton shuttlecock.
During the developmental stages, it was discovered that optimum shot/wad separation distance could vary from load to load. In other words, one load might deliver its best patterns when the shot charge and wad had traveled only a few feet from the muzzle before separating while another load performs best when shot/wad separation takes place farther downrange. Its design allows the FliteControl wad to be programmed to separate from the shot charge at various distances from the muzzle, and this is accomplished by making modifications to the six slits in its skirt at the factory.
As slit length is increased so is the surface area of each petal, and the greater the total surface area exposed to air resistance, the quicker the wad slows down. With the three-inch turkey load, total shot/wad charge separation takes place at about 20 feet from the muzzle although its momentum usually causes the wad to tag along behind the shot for 30 yards or so before it drops to the ground. The flexible shotcup petals of a plastic wad of conventional design cause it
to begin its separation from the shot charge immediately upon exiting the muzzle, and because propellant gas escaping around it is traveling at considerably higher velocity, the shot charge is unable to outrun the turbulence created by the gas as it impacts the air.
This disruption of the shot charge can cause the pellets to begin dispersing quite soon after exiting the muzzle, which results in fewer pellets in the very center of the pattern where they are needed most in a turkey load. Pattern core density is greater with the FliteControl wad for several reasons but mainly due to the fact that the shot charge remains protected inside the shotcup until it has traveled beyond the influence of propellant gas turbulence at the muzzle.
The FliteControl wad has one other small but important detail worth mentioning. Early on it was discovered that even though the six petals at the rear were doing an effective job of putting on the brakes at a predetermined distance, some of the pellets inside would occasionally bridge and stubbornly refuse to leave the shotcup at the optimal distance from the muzzle of the gun. The problem was overcome by cutting three vents completely through the wall of the shotcup; immediately upon exiting the muzzle, the stiff flaps of those vents open just enough to allow air pressure to enter at the rear of the shotcup cavity and the turbulence created serves to agitate the pellets sufficiently to prevent bridging. What we have is a shotshell wad that looks and performs like it was developed by NASA rather than by a manufacturer of sporting ammunition.
In addition to increasing pattern core density, the FliteControl wad was also designed to deliver optimal pattern performance when fired in guns with a wide range of choke constrictions. So before rushing out and spending money on a super-tight turkey choke, try the one marked "Full" that came with your gun. Most chokes wearing that marking have somewhere in the neighborhood of .035 to .040 inch of choke, and if most of your shots at gobblers are inside 35 yards, it may be all you need. You will probably need more choke for longer ranges, but even then .050 inch should get the job done out to 40 yards and .060 inch should extend the effective range of your gun to an honest 50 yards.
At the 40-yard pattern board, I compared the performance of Federal's old Mag-Shok turkey load with the new Mag-Shok load with FliteControl by seeing how many pellets each would place in an eight-inch circle (the approximate length of a gobbler's head and neck). Both were three-inch loads with two ounces of No. 6 copper-plated, buffered shot. The Franchi test gun had .060 inch of choke constriction. As incredible as it might seem, the new load outperformed the old load by 37 percent.
More specifically, the load with the FliteControl wad placed an average of 81 pellets inside the eight-inch circle at 40 yards compared to an average of 59 pellets for the load with the conventional wad. And while there was less difference between the two loads when less choke constriction was used (29 percent with .050 inch of choke and 21 percent with .040 inch of choke), the FliteControl load still outgunned the old load by enough to matter in the field.
I would be greatly surprised if Federal's exciting new turkey load with its revolutionary FliteControl wad does not perform equally well in your gun.