Cartridge afficionado Vic Harker presents his choice of the top 10 cartridges for pigeon shooting that, as long as you shoot straight, will humanely dispatch the grey hoards

The fact that the leading cartridge manufacturers provide loads expressly formulated to deal with the grey hordes that beset British farmers’ crops says as much about the size of the problem as it does the enthusiasm with which the pigeon is pursued. This month’s cartridge column presents what is currently available to the dedicated pursuer of columba palumbus, its ratings for quality and value for money.

1 Lyalvale Express Pigeon Special

A game load in a traditional 2½” case, expertly developed for lighter short-chambered game guns of British and European design. Enjoy again the pleasure provided by a light and fast handling gun without the discomfort of heavy recoil.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 65mm 30g No.6, £264-£271 per 1,000.

2 Lyalvale Express Pigeon Power

Suitable for game guns of greater weight and with a 70mm chamber length, this load is comfortable and compatible with the modern game gun weighing 7lb or above. Experience the advantages this bigger shot load can provide with a cartridge that is tough on the target but easy on your shoulder.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 70mm 29g No.6, £219-£228 per 1,000.

3 Eley Pigeon HV

Few, if any, cartridge manufacturers have the longstanding experience of formulating cartridge specifications for the UK market as Eley. Pigeon HV is an example of this. The 32g fibre wadded load is carefully formulated to deliver well-distributed patterns with moderate recoil that is compatible with relatively light English game guns. This provides effective all-day shooting without discomfort, which keeps the shooter on target as the shadows lengthen at the end of another successful day in the field.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 70mm 32g No.6, £257-£263 per 1,000.

4 Eley Pigeon Select

A top-quality pigeon load devised by Eley with input from Geoff Garrod, vice president of the NGO and a great pigeon shooter. A 30g shot load combined with a high quality fibre wad in a 70mm plastic case makes for the perfect recipe in all conditions.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 70mm 30g No.6, £221-£228 per 1,000.

5 Hull Cartridge Superfast Pigeon

This one’s from a manufacturer renowned for its game loads for every purpose, and their pigeon cartridges are equally famous. Speed isn’t everything, but combined with a quality shot, superb fibre wadding and a case produced to the highest standards of manufacture, you can hardly choose better than Superfast Pigeon.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 70mm 29g No.6, £219-£225 per 1,000.

6 Hull Cartridge Special Pigeon

Recently introduced, with all the virtues Hull Cartridge offer in the rest of their line, Special Pigeon is a fast load and ideal for a quick and highly manoeuvrable quarry such as the wood pigeon. It’s also a clean-burning cartridge and there is no fouling to jam your semi-automatic or any other shotgun of your choosing. Most importantly for the gunner who expends a lot of ammunition, it is very moderately priced.

Available in fibre wad 70mm 32g No.6, £269 per 1,000.

7 Fiocchi PL30

To the Italian sportsman, the pigeon, with its speed and agility in the air, is a quarry to be respected. The PL30 load therefore incorporates all the qualities required of a truly excellent pigeon load, a combination of a fast-burning powder with a self-sealing plastic wad makes for consistent and effective patterns from any type of shotgun. Just take this Italian load to the pattern plate and you will be convinced.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 67mm 30g No.5 and 6, £249-£259 per 1,000.

8 Fiocchi Pigeon 32

A simply superb 32g load which, in the right gun, can produce extraordinary results. From recent experience, results can be spectacular when matched with a 7½lb over-and-under with plenty of choke. A beautifully put together cartridge that delivers superb consistency on the pattern plate. Just try this load on the longer birds and you will not be disappointed.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 67mm 32g No.6, £220-£228 per 1,000.

9 Cheddite CH6

The joys of light guns and loads apart, the modern game shooter often demands a bigger gun and a heavier load. For the ‘higher and higher’ club, this cartridge and the next are loads which, in guns of suitable weight and specification, can provide success at ranges our grandfathers only dreamed of. CH6 is a hugely competent 32g game load. Moderate recoil is combined with consistent ballistics that are revealed on the pattern plate and demonstrated in the field.

Available in plastic wad 70mm 32g No.6, £290 per 1,000.

10 Cheddite Mini Free Shots

The characteristics of the CH6 are similarly repeated in the 30g Mini Free Shots. Don’t ask me to explain the brand name, but take my word for this cartridge’s excellent performance.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 70mm 30g, £226-£237 per 1,000.