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Spreader Loads....

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by Dave McCracken, Sep 16, 2006.

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  1. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

    Dec 20, 2002
    The period between World Wars I and II saw a lot of innovations in shotguns and the ammo for them. John Olin pioneered progressive powders, hard shot and testing on both paper and real birds.

    Since the preceding half century saw the birth and proliferation of the concept of choking a shotgun to extend its working range,and the philosophy of Better Too Much Than Too Little, resulting patterns oft ran too tight than too open for the shot offered. Check any shotgun made before 1940 other than a skeet gun. It'll be choked Full or Fuller more than not.

    So,the ammo companies developed "Brush", "Scatter" or "Spreader" loads. These used divers contrivances to open the pattern up. One had the shot column split with three thin discs to open things up, another had an X shaped divider to disrupt the shotswarm. A Euro variant used square shot.

    The idea was to make a shotgun suitable for longer shots usable for shorter ones,oft at smaller birds that needed no great amount of large shot to drop. Quail,ruffed grouse, and woodcock come to mind.

    Of course, the introduction of first the "Dial A Chokes" like the Polychoke and then the ubiquitous tube choke have made any given shotgun so equipped more versatile. And ammo has helped this along. Trap style loads for longer shots, cheap soft lead loads for up close and sudden.

    But, most shotguns made before 1980 are limited to a single choke, and even the guy with a hatful of tubes may want a wide pattern for a hyperfast rabbit at 10 yards underfoot.

    Spreader loads can be gotten from companies like Polywad. Their spreaders have the added bennie of being in 2 1/2" cases and loaded to low pressures for older guns.

    Gamebore sells similar ammo, and Ballistic Products sells components to roll one's own. Their X insert displaces less than 1/8 oz and works. It's inserted in the hull after the shot is dropped and before crimping.i

    Another gizmo is a plastic disc with a stem looking like a little like a golf tee or mushroom. installed like the above.

    Writer Les Greevey found out that soda straws clipped to the length of the shot cup worked well also. I made some of these that added about 4" of usable spread at 32 yards. A hassle, but it works.

    Using old style wads sans a shot cup will add a few inches to the spread also, but pattern density may suffer. There's no free lunch.

    Part of the shotgun's mystique is its versatility. Spreader loads give us another option.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2006

    HSMITH Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    Best spreader load I have found is a good tight newish hull and a STIFF charge of fast powder under a lightish charge of shot. Cheap wads ala Claybuster help too when compared to a Winchester or Duster wad for instance. Bad part is they thump the shooter pretty well.

    I played with loads for a long time, and then I learned to shoot well. Sorry if that sounds arrogant, I don't mean it to, but special loads are a crutch at best. If the crutch gives you a mental edge then by all means go for it, what resides in your head when you call for the bird is far more important than the load or choke used. If a special load or changing chokes puts your brain where it needs to be I am 115% for changing up and getting the thoughts you need. If you are a pragmatist like me, you are just going to have to learn to shoot as well as you possibly can. Pattern your gun with a load suitable to the task, get a pattern that is dense enough to do the job with the worst pattern you have ever shot with that load, load thousands of them and shoot them. The rest will work itself out.
  3. sm

    sm member

    Dec 22, 2002
    Between black coffee, and shiftn' gears

    Dave, as always a great post
    One I appreciate, for personal reasons.

    Cubed Shot. Yep, one could buy little cubes of lead shot in various sizes.

    Flat shot, yes this too was available, then again too many of us has been running over shot / beating with a shovel, hammering, or others ways to make that chilled shot, "not round" .

    I was reading Olin, Brister, Baker, Ruark and you name it, to learn about this this Art & Science

    We did not have screw in chokes as Dave shared in orginal post.

    and C-lect chokes came out later. We all grew up learning to shoot, and this included patterning guns and loads for tasks and distances.

    I still feel many folks are missing out by not having to learn on fixed choke guns and the limite loadings we had.

    Just look at how many questions we get today, with all sorts of modern loadings, and components. Add , screw in chokes , and barrel work.

    We shot fixed full choke guns and got pattern akin to skeet for quail.
    One can get a fixed IC to pattern more like a Mod too...

    Paper straws seemed to work better for me on them "straw loads" instead of plastic straws. Pinch of Flour helped too.

    Cut all them straw up and other stuff while the paper hulls were drying in the oven.

    I remember so well!
    Honest, I still like pidldin' with this, and shooting the old plain barrels with fixed choke.

    Must be why I like them single shot shotguns and was asked recently " just what are you doing?"

    Got me Skeet patterns out of fixed Mod barrel I did. :D

    Answered the "why" of how come I was rolling a weight like used for new sod over a bag of chilled shot earlier.

    Thanks Dave!
  4. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

    Dec 20, 2002
    H, agreed on learning to shoot. I wrote this more for those of us with tightly choked older guns than for those of us looking for a crutch or angle.

    I note there's more IM and Full tubes in the barrels of SC shooters these days. The days of Smoker Smith's "No choke in one barrel and not much more in the other" are long past.

    I see spreader loads as useful for hunters. IMO, more wounded birds are caused by getting clipped by the sparse edge of a too tight pattern than wounded by scant density in a too open pattern.

    The old Southron quail fanatics who used drop shot instead of harder chilled shot had the idea. They said it killed better. I'm inclinded to agree, because it'd put more pellets in a not quite centered bird.

    My old spreader load used a top listed charge of Clays. Claybuster wad, Win 209, AA once fired hull.

    Steve, I recall that flat shot, Old buddy used flat 8s for woodcock. They worked as well as anything else, maybe better.
  5. sm

    sm member

    Dec 22, 2002
    Between black coffee, and shiftn' gears

    If one learns to shoot with a crutch - and crutch is lost, shooters fall down
    - Mentors of mine.

    Yep agree about learning to shoot.

    Spreader Loads.

    Well down in the Duck Captial of the World, back before non-toxic shot, Folks were using #7 1/2 shot. Yep sure were and felling them Greenheads and such over Dekes, Flooded timber , Marsh , Resevior, Stream and River hunting .
    Some were using 3 dr loads like for skeet and trap, with #7 1/2 shot, some using Pigeon loads . Yes these felled ducks

    Funny part was all the folks were shooting them tight choked guns. Anything from H&R Toppers with plain barrels to 870, 1100 to you name it.

    Funny part was the "reasons" folks "thought" the # 7 1/2 was "better"

    "Smaller shot pierces better, like a ice pick pokes a hole better than a bowling ball"

    I am dead serious. This was still back when folks said "high brass shells got more power to 'em" as well.


    Dang shot was deforming hitting that forcing cone, and all that "deformed" shot (more pellet count) meant the durn folks were HITTING the durn ducks!

    Spreading the load they were and did not know it. :D

    Did no good to try and explain this Art & Science to them, these folks varied from city slickers coming in, to high rollers coming in from out of state to shoot ducks, I mean spending big bucks to do so.

    Those of that did know how to shoot, just gave up arguing. Just have cases of high brass # 7 1/2 's to shoot, and everyone happy.

    Using a low brass, got one funny looks, and forget trying to explain reloading and all.

    One old boy from New York, NY come down and was having a hard time...not one duck fell for him in 2 days. With as much lead he was tossing, one was bound to fly into shot it seemed, never did.

    He finally listened to me and some lessons.

    He was hesitant at first, but took note I was hitting my limit early and sitting there in flooded timber, drinking coffee, smoking and watching the dogs work. Best recall the limit was 8 and I had taken 8 greenheads in 8 shots. These were to be mounted up.

    "You the idiot felling with a 28 gauge?" he asked me.
    "Yes sir, I am"
    "Anyone nuts enough to use a 28 ga and fell 'em is nuts enough to show a city boy from NY how to shoot".

    These lessons should have been put on film - Southern Boy and Yankee doing lessons.

    He was a neat guy, and very receptive. We did pattern boards, he read Brister, and "Click" light bulb went off.

    He "got it" and when he did, he cracked up at the # 7 1/2 shot "advice" going around.

    He moved, got to taking up skeet in PA, and would come down.

    Another movie should of been made, us two shooting 28 ga felling ducks and and having a ball.

    I reloaded hard #5 and #6 for 28 ga btw.

    I am not sure who was more proud - him or me, the day he took 5 ducks with 5 shots using that 28 ga.

    "Just imagine how many more ducks we could kill with flat #12 shot from these Little Guns" - he said laughing.

    Refering to poking holes smaller like ice picks...
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