Plastic or fibre wads? We put our cartridges to the test at Gamebore

By Mathew Latchford

Plastic or fibre wads? We put our cartridges to the test at Gamebore

The plastic-v's-fibre wadding remains a topic of colourful dispute. Some shoots prefer guns to only use plastic as it is believed to provide a cleaner kill on the higher birds, so we put our own cartridges to the test with a summer experiment... 

Our view is that all guns should use fibre wads even though there is a common feeling that shooting with a plastic wad increases the pattern density of a shotgun cartridge and therefore increases the kill ability of a cartridge. We believe that the ballistic advantages of plastic wads over fibre are not as great as many people believe.

According to Gough Thomas who wrote Shotguns and Cartridges for Game and Clays (published 1963), it takes on average the following amount of pellets to kill the quarry:

  • Small birds such as snipe: Two pellets, striking energy at least 0.5 ft.lb.
  • Medium birds such as partridge and grouse: Three pellets, striking energy at least 0.85 ft.lb.
  • Pheasants and ducks: Four pellets and striking energy from 1 to 1.5 ft.lb.

In order to test these old theories with the modern fibre wads we all use today which are more advanced than the traditional wads, we shot at a pattern board with 50 Roxtons 30 gram 5 shot cartridges with plastic wad and another 50 with fibre wads. These all had the same powder and components and were shot through a 12 bore with 31 ½ inch barrels an ½ and ½ chokes. 

The results were more interesting than we expected. The fibre wad cartridges had a slightly higher percentage of hits to the pattern plate with 99% of the shot striking our board. Within the central circle (14½ inch diameter) there was a 62.1% hit ratio to the pattern for the fibre compared to 62.7% for the plastic wads.  However, if you look at the bigger picture of the 30 inch circle there was a 3% increase in the hits to the pattern plate for the fibre wad. 

Whilst this experiment does not look at how even the pattern is, it does show that the difference between fibre and plastic wads is under 2% and our experiment favours the fibre wad when you look at the bigger picture.

With this being the case, please take into consideration the thoughts of the non-shooter and shoot with fibre wads so we are not seen to be littering the countryside with plastic.

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