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8 of the best cartridges for 20-bore shotguns

PUBLISHED: 11:30 04 August 2015 | UPDATED: 16:46 10 November 2015

Eley Grand Prix

Eley Grand Prix


The 20-bore shotgun has, in recent years, grown up. It is no longer a gun just for the ladies or old men well past their prime. In terms of weight, balance, handling and, most importantly, ballistics, the 20-bore has much to offer and can hold its own in the best of company. A lot of credit for this must go to the cartridge manufacturers who have upped their game by developing ammunition which exploits the advantages the 20-bore offers to the maximum. This month’s cartridge page celebrates their efforts.

Hull High Pheasant ExtremeHull High Pheasant Extreme


Two offerings from Eley Hawk, GBs oldest established manufacturer.

1. Grand Prix

Firstly, the legendary Grand Prix load in a 67mm plastic case with shot sizes 5 and 6. This cartridge is much more than just an established brand. Faster powders, harder shot and meticulous standards of manufacture ensure Grand Prix sets a pace for those seeking performance with every kind of 20-bore gun. Available in 25g plastic wad 5 and 6, £262 per 1,000.

2. VIP

Likewise, with the Eley VIP in 20-bore with 28, 30 and 32g shot loads, the small-gauge shooter is never going to be under-gunned. Ideal for the modern, grown-up 20g over-and-under with 2¾” chambers. Available in 28g, 30g, 32g plastic and fibre wad 5 and 6, £267-£323 per 1,000.


The Hull Cartridge Company is a market leader in the ammunition industry with state-of-the-art production and a highly skilled and enthusiastic team behind it, always leading the way in new technology to produce cartridges with optimum performance in their class.

3. High Pheasant Extreme

Their High Pheasant Extreme load in 20-bore is a perfect example. A small-gauge shooter who wants to hold his own in any company would do well to load his gun with these cartridges in the coming season. A real stopper on high birds, in a 70mm case with fibre wad and expertly formulated hardened shot, this cartridge kills cleanly and so humanely. Manufactured by a company of game shooters for game shooters, the know-how that goes with this ammunition is 
second to none. Available in 28g and 30g plastic 5 and 6, £279-£285 per 1,000.

4. Three Crowns

Hull Cartridge Company may be a high-tech manufacturer, but there is still room in their product line for tradition. Three Crowns is a paper-case cartridge with fibre wadding and it delivers great patterns. No exercise in nostalgia then; the component parts may be made of traditional materials but the modern methods of manufacture and quality control ensure this cartridge delivers to 21st century standards. Available in 25g fibre wad 6, £297.50 per 1,000.


A company that never stands still and is always pushing the envelope of shotgun cartridge performance.

5. Black Gold

This 20-bore load is a perfect example of their expertise – a combination of double base propellant powders with the company’s diamond hard shot. A prize-winning cartridge in 12-bore, the smaller gauge version is similarly effective on gamebirds at range. 
For the small-gauge shotgun shooter who wants to hold their own on the highest birds, it is a natural choice. Available in 30g, 32g and 34g fibre wad 4.5 and 5, £299-£335 per 1,000.

6. Traditional Game

Game shooting has its 
traditions and in the UK use of lightweight game guns made by British makers is one of them. 
With low recoil and high pattern density, Traditional Game is a cartridge that utilises these classic guns’ fast handling qualities and balance to their best advantage and at the same time provides performance with comfort for the shooter. Available in 24g, 28g 
fibre wad 5, 6 and 7, £236-245 
per 1,000.


Italy’s largest and oldest manufacturer, the company’s product line encompasses every category of ammunition and a wealth of knowledge and experience is brought to all of them. Fiocchi 20g-bore ammunition is no exception and I’ve been evaluating two examples.

7. 20HP

As its designation suggests, this cartridge packs a wallop. A 2¾” case with a 30g shot load, this cartridge is ideally suited to the modern over-and-under gun and any fear of being outperformed by 12-bore shooters can be discounted. It complemented a 20-bore Browning I have been shooting recently, and for range and pattern this 20-bore load has few rivals. Available in 28g and 30g plastic wad 6, £247 per 1,000.

8. 20g Magnum

Taking big performance to small-gauge ammunition a stage further is Fiocchi Magnum. These loads come in a 3” case with 1¼oz shot load and, again, its performance was outstanding and with less recoil than its 2¾” stablemate. Available in 35g plastic wad 2, £420 per 1,000.

1 comment

  • If you are intending to use a 20 bore for high bird shooting you will massively improve your kill ratio by shooting patterns at long range (50 yards to 60 yards) onto cardboard pallet liners with a 30 inch circle and a bulls eye (about the size of a CD) drawn on them with a black felt pen. As someone who does a lot of long range pattern testing I can confidently tell you that you will discover two things doing this which will surprise you. Firstly loads over 30 gm (in both 20 and 12 bore) actually deliver less pellets in the circle at those long ranges due to the damage they receive from being forced through the chokes. At normal pattern ranges like 40 yards this does not show up but a 50 to 60 yards those damaged pellets have flown outside the pattern due to the flats on them created by this crushing. The second surprise will be that on a 20 bore a full choke robs you of even more pellets because again it causes even more damage to load over 30 gm. For most 20 bores that I have tested half choke or three quarters choke produces optimum results at long range depending on the make and model of the cartridge. BTW never forget that a 20 bore produces better patterns at 60 yards than a 12 ever can, it is the long range champion of the shotgun world, a fact that the early gunmakers discovered over a century ago but which seems to have been forgotten since. I have shot hundreds of long range patterns which prove this point and recently discovered a book by Purdey written in 1946 which covers the subject and was happy to read that their results re 20 v 12 bore pretty well matched my own. Today however, you will be hard pressed to find even top gunmakers who know anything about long range patterns in either 20 or 12 bore which I find ironic when you consider that none of their clients ordering a £100-200k gun will be shooting game at the 40 yards they still insist on patterning at. The best way is to ignore everything you hear (particularly from the gun trade) and test your gun chokes and cartridges yourself, I guarantee you will be surprised by the results.

    Report this comment

    Charles Mitford Cust

    Sunday, October 8, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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