A friend of mine was talking about a big shoot he is hoping to enter next year that has no restrictions on the type of cartridges that can be used. He seemed to be quite excited at the prospect of using some really heavy shells... does it really give a big advantage?

DON BRUNT replies: They can be both a help and a hindrance. Even though the shoot may not have a cartridge restriction the chances are that most people who are going to shoot it will be using standard 28g shells and as such it’s highly unlikely that the course setter will put on anything that can’t be broken with a well placed shot from a ‘normal’ cartridge. There may well be a few extreme targets and these may well warrant a 32 or even a 36g load if, and it’s a big if, changing to a monster cartridge will actually help you put more X’s on your card. Big heavy loads tend to run at slower speeds than the modern high performance clay load so you may well end up putting a massive pattern out there but find that it arrives later at the clay than you expected which might end up costing you targets. Similarly all of that extra weight translates to added recoil which causes fatigue; just ask any of those people who have been to the USA and shot themselves into oblivion with 32g shells, (which are still legal for sporting there) ending up with sore shoulders, splitting headaches and a scorecard that looked like a game of noughts and crosses and most will say that switching to heavy shells doesn’t deliver the benefits you might think. Of course there can be a psychological benefit to using them if it gives someone bags of confidence but always think carefully before going down that route.