Shotgun Barrel Insanity: Never Smarten Up a Chump

By Randy Wakeman

The unverified (and unverifiable) claims of better shotgun patterns over the years have never stopped, whether it stems from over-sized bore claims, forcing cone claims, cryogenic treatment claims, or other fact-free, evidence-free ad-brags.

The Basic Wakeman Shotgun Barrel Performance Test

It is actually quite simple to verify any claims of better performance, due to supposed forcing cone or bore differences, or claims of better performance through cryogenic treatment. All it takes is 80 shots.

Take a 12 gauge barrel, any barrel, with the same choke constriction (.035 in. for example), and print 20 patterns at 40 yards with a consistent shell, say Remington STS 1-1/8 oz. #7-1/2. You'll have a robust sampling of average pattern percentage. Repeat this with one other good quality shell: Winchester AA's for example.

Now, take ANY other 12 gauge shotgun barrel and repeat, expending another 40 shots using the same constriction with both shells from the same lot. You'll now have a robust pattern percentage with barrel number two.

No one in the history of shotgun barrel offerings has been able to show that their barrels offer ANYTHING significant in pattern percentage improvement. No one. I've been waiting for some manufacturer over the last 50 years to be able to show ANYTHING significant. I expect I'll still be waiting until I've passed onto the happy hunting ground.

What shotgun manufacturer can show that they have significantly improved pattern performance in the last 50 years . . . with any shot material? Beretta can not, Mossberg can not, Browning can not, Perazzi can not, Kreighoff can not, Benelli can not, Blaser can not, Zoli can not. Beretta uses 480mm forcing cones in their DT11 - - - a $12,000 clay target gun that is used with lead for the most part. The DT11 is just about as far away from a turkey gun, an upland gun, or a goose gun as can be imagined. 

The Beretta 692, also a target gun, doesn't get (allegedly) superior 480mm cones, but the sub-optimal "super-long (360 mm) forcing cone--meaning more durability, increased shot consistency and accuracy, and lower felt recoil and muzzle rise." Apparently, based on Beretta's claims, common Beretta 686 and A300 shotguns must throw truly miserable patterns by comparison, along with low durability, poor shot consistency and accuracy, high recoil, and excessive muzzle rise.

When was the last time anyone wore out a forcing cone with lead target loads? Yet, Beretta claims "increased durability" anyway. None of these claims can be shown or independently verified . . . primarily because they do not exist. Again, Beretta does not bother to caution or advise you that their 686 actually "features" less durability, poor shot consistency, less accuracy, higher felt recoil, and more muzzle rise.

Hastings Wadlock barrels use “wadlock rifling.” Hastings says, “unlike the traditional smoothbore barrel, each barrel is designed with six straight lands and ..005" deep grooves that run the length of the bore. This prevents wad and shot charge from spinning, which in turn greatly reduces the number of flyer shots and stray pellets. You should see a 7-10% improvement in pattern density.” There is no verifiable evidence of that, just like all the other fact-free carnival claims. 

Benelli publishes that “With Crio® System barrels, you get denser patterns with 13.2% more pellets on target.” It is such an empty-headed claim that Beretta, owner of Benelli, doesn't bother with it. Nor does any reputable shotgun manufacturer. Note that Benelli does NOT say, "13.2 % more pellets on target, or your money back." It is far easier to blatantly lie when there is no financial downside. 

Don Zutz claimed the Green Dot propellant tightened patterns. I've burned more Green Dot in 12 gauges than anything else, it is an excellent propellant, but it does not tighten patterns . . . there is no evidence any propellant does. Shotgun barrel brags are constructed to bag more shooters' bank accounts than they are more clays or mallards. If only Bernie Madoff had learned to burn Green Dot in a cryogenically treated Wadlock barrel, he could have ruled the world.

Above: the rumored inventor of the elongated forcing cone.

For all of the bloviation about denser patterns, you might think all of these knuckleheads have never heard of a full choke? That's exactly how you obtain a denser pattern: use more constriction, not throwing your barrel into a vat of liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is seldom around when you really want it. Whatever magic there may be regarding patterns, it remains strictly relegated to the specific shell and the amount of choke constriction. 

There are certainly several legitimate reasons why someone might use and enjoy all of the brands mentioned, and others not mentioned. The bogus evidence-free carnival claims of marvelous barrels that pattern somehow better or denser than anything else are not among them.

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Copyright 2022 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.