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What would be the ideal cartridge for Down The Line? Hull Cartridge Company think they have the answer with their Pro One and Pro Trap selection. We put them through their paces.
Hitting a standard DTL target isn't of itself that much of a challenge. Hitting 100 of them in a row with the first barrel most certainly is. It is a constant search for perfection with a margin for error slimmer than your average supermodel. This means that equipment has evolved over time which is fine-tuned to give the best results in this quite specific situation. The typical trap gun for example, as developed for DTL, puts steadiness and pointability at a premium. Precision rather than outright speed is the aim. The same could be said of the perfect trap cartridge. If you were to sit down to make a list of desirable characteristics in this discipline, speed would not necessarily be high on your list. Speed in a cartridge has a price. Pattern quality is harder to control and will certainly depend on top quality shot being used. Secondly, Newton's laws dictate that the extra speed you gain in one direction is matched by an increase in recoil in the other.
Now the last things you want from a DTL cartridge are unreliable patterns and recoil which has you worn out on the last line of the day. This search for consistent 25/75s demands that you take as little punishment from gun and cartridge as possible and that every time the gun is pointed in the right place the target breaks. These were the principles Hull Cartridge Company had in mind when they sat down to design the shells we have on test this month. Under the DTL 300 label they ended up with two offerings - Pro Trap and Pro One. They enlisted the help of top trap shooters in designing the range, most notably David Ball. That many others have become regular users is tribute to the high regard in which the products are held within the trap shooting fraternity.
Essentially the two cartridges are the same, with the main difference being that the Pro One has higher grade shot containing 5% antimony rather than the 3% of the Pro Trap. There should be theoretical advantages at least in the higher level, as the shot will be harder and therefore less likely to deform as it passes through the barrel. Deformed pellets will not fly true and are unlikely to contribute to an effective pattern. For most people the gain might be considered marginal but, as we have said, DTL at the highest level is won and lost on small percentage errors, so the keen competitor will take whatever edge is on offer. Shot apart, the only other difference is the addition on the Pro One of a few extra millimetres of cosmetic brass on the fetching pink case.
The powder used is Neodisc 28, a single base powder favoured by several loaders for shells in which out and out speed is not the goal. It produces muzzle velocities of 1350 fps, which is indeed relatively slow in an era when 1400+ is commonplace and some (like Hull's own Sovereign for example) reach 1475 fps and above. The plastic wad appears to be one of the excellent Baschieri and Pellagri range.
As ever the proof of the pudding is to be found on the shooting ground not in the laboratory, so I blew the cobwebs off my 32 inch Miroku trap gun and headed for the local club. The first impression is of really effective patterns - real clay crunchers which do wonders for your confidence. My gun is not tightly choked (half and three quarters) but the results looked much more like full choke patterns. It would be well worth spending some time at the pattern plate checking out how the cartridges perform in your gun. Most serious trap shooters would do this as a matter of course with any new cartridge, going as far as to have their guns regulated to their preferred brand for optimum results.
There is no doubt also that these Hulls achieve their target in terms of comfort. Recoil is as well controlled as expected and they offered a pleasant contrast to some thumpy continental shells I was using in the same session. All this comes at an affordable price, because the other penalty for extra speed is usually extra cost. The Pro Trap is widely available at about £104 per thousand, while the Pro One carries a premium of about £5 per thousand, one which I think the serious competitor will probably be happy to pay. For the keen trap shooter then, these cartridges have to be on the short list. However, with shot sizes 7, 7 1/2 and 8 available, there is nothing to stop sporting shooters enjoying the benefits of smooth shooting and quality patterns.
Further information: Hull Cartridge Company 01482 342571.
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