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An e-mail arrived from the folks at BulkAmmo.com, and it asked if they might have anything I'd like to write about here on Carteach0. Looking over their inventory, I noticed the reduced recoil 12 gauge buckshot ammunition. Having never tried it myself, the obvious answer came to mind. Not long after, a box showed up on my doorstep. Printed on the side, the wonderful ORM-D signal of fun ahead!
The good folks at BulkAmmo.com sent along not only the reduced recoil Rio loads, but also some Sellier & Bellot standard buck, and some S&B 3" magnum buckshot as well. The three loads nicely stack into a good comparison of reduced recoil loads vs. standard, and the 3" magnum shells add a 'spice' to the mix.
Despite being a reduced recoil load, the Rio was the only high based shell of the samples. Having ripped the bases off shotgun shells on extraction before, I heartily approve of high based shells for defensive loads. There is no such thing as 'works too well' when it comes to self defense.
Dissecting one of each sample to check payload, I was a little surprised to find both the Rio shells and the S&B standard buck loads carrying exactly the same number and size of pellets. For some reason I had it wedged into my brain that 'reduced recoil' meant lighter payload. In this, it does not. Both shells have nine OO pellets above the wad, although there is significant difference in the wad structure itself.
The 3" S&B magnum load carries fifteen OO pellets. Like most shotgun shells, 'Magnum' really means 'bigger payload' more than higher velocity. This is a change from what shooters know with pistol and rifle cartridges, where magnum means a bigger powder load and higher velocity.
None of the three loads carry any buffer amongst the buckshot. As cheaper shells, this does not come as a surprise. Does it matter? Really? I would suggest that at defensive distances (25 yards and less) the buffer contributes little. If I was choosing a buckshot load for hunting, and wanted to reach out to 50 yards, I might sing a different tune.
Now, why is buffer used at all? It's there to help reduce the deformation of shotgun pellets under firing shock, in order that they stay round and fly straighter. Get that... buffer is used to help keep shot round..... because round shot flies more true.
So... what happens if the pellets are not round to start with? That leads us to the OO pellets loaded in the S&B casings, especially the 3" magnum loads. In each S&B shell I cut apart, there were one or two buckshot that were deformed significantly. Fly true? Not likely.
Now, again, let us consider the intended use of the shotgun loads we are looking at here. 25 yard defensive... more likely across a room of a house. Would a wobbly OO pellet matter? I doubt it greatly. In my judgement, while I dislike seeing sloppy work at any time, I am not terribly concerned about a few malformed pellets.
The Rio payload, on the other hand, was uniform and round... each and every one. Also noticed, the wad in the Rio load seemed built to higher standards. This was evidenced by the powder flakes that had migrated into the shot on the S&B loads, but not on the RIO shells.
As for function, they were all flawless in several shotguns tried. One, a Remington 870 set up for home defense, the other a Mossburg 500 base model hunting gun. Both shotguns ate up the buckshot rounds without a care nor worry. Feed and extraction were smooth and easy.
How about the main point of the comparison.... the recoil reduction of the Rio buckshot loads? When it came time to shoot, the reduced recoil rounds were just that.... easier on the shoulder. The standard loads were noticeably sharper in recoil, with slightly slower recovery time. The magnum rounds? Impressive recoil, even with the advantage of the Knoxx recoil reduction stock mounted on the Remington 870. Of the three rounds, the magnum load is the only one that offered any discomfort at all.
How did Rio achieve their reduced recoil goal? Quite simply by taming down the load and cutting velocity back by 150fps or so. Once again... will that 150fps matter at 25 yards? Perhaps more important might be the quicker follow up shot, and better control. A cloud of nine OO pellets fired from any shotgun at any significant velocity is a fearsome thing to face from the downrange side, but with the reduced recoil shells it need be a little less scary from the shooters perspective as well.
To demonstrate the recoil properties in a totally non-scientific but real world way, here is a very short video which shows firing two rounds of each load, with the same stance, from the 870 house gun:
On another day, and in another post, I will compare patterning between the loads, and perhaps find a way to demonstrate their 'authority' on the downrange side.