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Ask the Instructor: Faster shell, less lead?

Updated: Nov 10, 2022

Question: “I tend to shoot behind longer range targets. Does a faster speed shell, say 1,325 feet per second, get the shot to the target more quickly and therefor reduce the lead I need? I have shot 1,350 fps on faster and longer birds thinking there was an advantage but now I am questioning this idea.”


For the overwhelming majority of shooters, there is no perceivable difference between a shell that is 1,250 feet-per-second versus one that is 1,325 fps as far as “time to target” is concerned. With all other factors being equal, does the faster shell cause the shot to reach the target faster? Yes, but again, as fast as the shot cloud moves to the target, the difference is miniscule and we lack the ability to discern such a small differential in time-to-target.

While a faster shell will tend to carry the shot farther than a slower speed shell, there are also some drawbacks to using a faster versus a slower shell. Again, all other factors and variables being equal, the increase in speed will create more pattern distortion or holes in the pattern at longer distances. The faster shell will also yield a greater felt recoil which, over time, can take a toll on your body. Most of us that have been shooting for a lifetime have backed off on shell speed. I personally shoot a one ounce 1,250 fps shell.

Additionally, greater velocity will yield a more pronounced “muzzle jump” increasing visual distraction causing you to react a bit slower to the second target of a pair. If you are looking for a cure for missing behind targets, it is likely one of two things, neither of which is switching to a faster shell. You might want to shoot more long-range targets (>35 yards).

Many shooters don’t get the opportunity to shoot a lot of longer-range targets and therefor don’t have the “subconscious database” to break them consistently. Nothing will improve your “long game” more than practicing on longer-range targets. The other issue might be your technique. For example, many shooters use sustained lead for shorter range targets but will use a pull-away or a “bump the lead” technique on longer range targets.

Bottom line: I don’t think a faster shell is the answer to your challenges with long targets.

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1 Comment

Excellent review of peoples' thoughts on faster shells. We are fed so much BS about so many shooting techniques, equipment, shells, chokes, ribs, etc., that it is absolutely refreshing to find someone who has a 'grown up' perspective on the shooting sports. Well done, Don. Keep the truth going.

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