By Tom Roster
American 28-gauge shooters have been clamoring for years for lead hunting loads heavier than the 28’s longstanding 3⁄4-oz shot charge. And finally several manufacturers have listened.
A thorough perusal of shotshell manufacturers’ catalogs (current at press time) reveals that there are now six 1-oz, 28-gauge factory lead loads available to US shooters. This is impressive, given that for at least 15 years only Winchester marketed a 1-oz, 28-gauge lead load in the US. Within the past four years RST has jumped in with a 1-oz, 28-gauge load at a speedy 1,300 fps, and B&P and Rio have, as well, though with velocities hovering around 1,200 fps. The most recent introductions were by Federal (1,220 fps) in early 2017 and another by Rio in October 2017 (1,200 fps).
Editors’ Note: The recently released 2018 catalog from Aguila Ammunition offers a 1-oz, 28-gauge load in No. 6 or 7½ shot at 1,200 fps.
Importantly, all six of the 1-oz loads listed in the chart tested out within plus-or-minus 10 grains of a true 437.5-grain, 1-oz charge weight. And of the pellet diameters I checked, all measured within .002" of the US standard, making them true to US pellet-size designations. These six loadings currently remain our heaviest 23⁄4", 28-gauge lead factory loads.
I am sure that some 28 aficionados are going to point out that in recent years a European manufacturer marketed a 23⁄4" 28-gauge lead load as containing 11⁄8 oz of No. 5½ or 6 shot. However, the boxes I actually received were stamped “11⁄16 oz.” Upon examining some of these shells, however, I found that they contained neither the charge weights nor the pellet sizes that were stamped on the boxes or listed in the catalog.
Acquiring several boxes of these loads in each pellet size, the first thing I did was dissect 10-round samples of each shot size. My examination revealed that in neither shot-size loading was there more than an average 446.7-grain shot charge—a mere 9.2 grains more than 1 oz (437.5 grains). So the load was not 11/8⅛oz or even 11⁄16 ounce; it was a 1-oz load. As to the pellet diameters, I found both shot sizes to mic out about one-half shot size (.004" to .005") smaller than the US standard, so that the No. 5½s were really US 6s and the No. 6s were really US 6½s. Since 2016 I can no longer find this so-called 11/8-oz load being marketed in the US.
Having long shot Winchester’s 1-oz, 28-gauge loads—going through several flats in a variety of shot sizes—I can offer the following lethality findings. My initial experience came through several Oregon ruffed grouse seasons of 30-plus birds using 1-oz No. 8s through quite-open chokes, with No. 7½s for late-season work. The 7½s also proved deadly on mourning doves and Hungarian partridge. Finally, I have fired several boxes of No. 5s at pheasants and found them reliably effective out to about 35 yards. I have yet to find any 28-gauge lead load reliably effective on pheasants at distances beyond 35 yards—not because of gauge, but because of shot-charge capacity.
In case you missed it, in 2017 Fiocchi introduced two new, first-ever-in-the-US, 3" 28-gauge lead loads. One is a 1-oz load of No. 6, 7½ or 8 shot at 1,300 fps. The other, under the Golden Pheasant label, is a 11⁄16-oz load of nickel-plated lead in No. 5, 6 or 7½ at 1,200 fps. I have been able to thoroughly examine both loadings and have found them of the claimed shot-charge weights and pellet sizes true to US standards. As soon as I can have one of my 28-gauge barrel sets chambered for 3" shells, I intend to conduct pattern and lethality tests on appropriate gamebird species. Results and more discussion concerning the 3" 28 will appear in a future column.