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Upland Techniques: Custom Ammunition
article by Ballistic Products, Inc.

Upland birds are significantly different from any other shotgunner's target. Clay target games use targets that lose speed during flight. Upland birds gain speed once in the air. To make matters worse, upland game, especially pheasants, offer themselves as opportune targets for only a moment. In a wink the bird is behind a tree, knoll, ravine or other hunter.

So, how do you improve your odds with live targets? First, you need to invest in the proper tools, including the right ammunition. Any hunter who goes into the field has already made an investment of time, transportation, license and many other expenses. You may want to save money by using less expensive ammunition. However, ammunition is one of the most important factors of a successful shot in the field. Who makes the best upland load? You do! You know what birds and territory you have to face. You know what weather conditions can do to the birds' habits. You can build loads "tuned" for your shooting conditions. As soon as you control your loads, reducing or enhancing shot size, pattern density, and speed, you control your hunt.

If you follow all instructions shotshell reloading is not difficult. Educate yourself before you begin reloading. Learn why each component of the shotshell exists and exactly what it does. You will begin to realize how these components can be combined to improve performance. You can tailor your handloads for your needs. Using only one kind of load for all your shooting is like using one fishing lure for all types of fish. You may be a good shot (or fisherman) but, with the right equipment, you could be a great one.

All right, on to the fun stuff; what loads work in what conditions with which birds.


In the Midwest the weather is of extremes. A hunter needs to understand weather conditions and keep a variety of loads on hand. We have developed a straightforward one to five force scale to help you select shotgun and loads for various weather conditions. As the conditions change, we add points to the scale. By following the scale you can change equipment and loads accordingly to suit your conditions.

"The idea is to build the best load that will give you the best results on your hunt."

Force One: A force-one on our scale allows for smaller gauges, such as a light 12 gauge, 20 gauge or 28 gauge. Force one hunting is done under clear blue skies on splendid autumn days. The weather is warm, little or no wind is blowing. The birds are small, reacting stupidly and can be tapped from the air with mild loads. Your main concern is the speed of the bird's departure. For the first shot a light spreader load is ideal. Good loads for these situations are:

  • 28 gauge 3/4 ounce about 1250 fps with #7 plated shot.
  • 20 gauge or 24 gauge 7/8 ounce at 1280 fps.
  • 16 gauge 1 ounce 1285 fps with #6 plated shot
  • 12 gauge 2-3/4" 1-1/8 ounce 1285fps with #6 plated shot.

Open chokes in all gauges are okay if you have good reflexes. Heavy and ferocious loads are not required for force one birds. However, this does not mean that clay target loads are acceptable, either in energy level or shot size. A

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