William Powell Country

Grouse Shooting Cartridge Review


Article written by 30 August 2012

As with most things in the shooting industry, personal opinion is the deciding factor on what cartridges a shooter puts through his or her gun. There are reams of technical data on cartridges and their associated benefits, but the chances are that until a few seasons ago, few people would have strayed from a trusty cartridge to something new and fancy. Imagine on the first drive of the day, you couldn’t hit a barn door with a shovel, therefore it must be that the new cartridges are rubbish! Or perhaps your gun or even both. Not the fact that you had one too many glasses of wine last night, got slight headache and you are shooting three foot behind everything. In this article, I will discuss popular loads and shot sizes commonly used on the Grouse Moors and share with you what I think are some of the best Grouse cartridges currently on the market.

Early season

As with any Gamebird early in the season, Grouse will be slower than in the later months of the season and more importantly, they will be unaware of awaits them in the butts. Not used to being driven and given the probable warmer August/September days, will create a different bird to shoot to what you will see in October or November. The early season Grouse cartridge sales reflect that. Through a 12 bore, the 28 and 30 gram no. 6 shot features heavily on the moors. There isn’t the need for a heavy cartridge to bring down early Grouse and there is often more emphasis on shot size as some people will opt to shoot a no. 7 shot 28 gram, to achieve a good shot spread as the proximity of early season grouse will often require this.

Two very popular cartridges for this time of year are the Eley VIP Game fibre wad 28 gram no. 7 & 6 as well as the Express Supreme Game 28 gram no. 7 & 6. The VIP and Supreme Game have been and still are an extremely popular cartridge for all types of game shooting. Both come in a 2 ½” (65mm) length which is popular amongst Grouse shots who, in my experience, enjoy shooting with older English guns which are predominantly chambered 2 ½”. The beauty of the 28 gram, 6 or 7 shot cartridge is that on the earlier days where bag numbers are likely to be higher than late on in the year (and you will hopefully get through some cartridges) the recoil is far less than the heavier punchy cartridges and even through a light side by side, they shouldn’t leave your shoulder black and blue.

William Powell has made our own Red Grouse cartridge for several years and these are made for us by Gamebore. The best specification we have found is with 29 gram and 6 ½ shot, fibre wad. The 29 gram makes the cartridge man enough to keep up with the Grouse all season long without being too punchy. They are ideal to put through older English guns as it won’t shake them to bits! The 6 ½ shot size gives a good spread of shot and creates an effective shot string travelling at 1350 fps muzzle velocity. Again this makes the cartridge not too heavy and therefore kind to you and your gun. All of our William Powell cartridges have the Gamebore Diamond shot. This coating on the lead creates a tighter effective pattern which keeps a well formed shot pattern at further ranges. They are therefore ideal for taking longer range shots out the back of the butt when the Grouse is not at all vulnerable.

Late Season

As the season progresses and the weather becomes colder, windier and wilder so do the Grouse. A far stronger, faster and smarter bird, usually in large packs will create a target to test the finest of shots. There will be people who use the same cartridge all season, some will start and finish with a 32 gram 5 and that’s fine, as mentioned before it’s all personal preference, but as the season progresses cartridge choice will generally mirror the Grouse and most people will then tend to choose a heavier load. Moving on from the 28 gram no. 6 and 7’s, the 30m and 32 gram no. 5’s and 6’s will feature heavily and continue to do so into the rest of the winters sport.

The heavier Eley VIP range caters for such Grouse with their 30 gram 6 and 32 gram 5 shot in a 2 ½” case. The Black Gold Game range by Gamebore is undoubtedly one of the most popular cartridges in the country, shot by George Digweed and Simon Ward they are the cartridge of professional choice. With a muzzle velocity of 1450 fps and by combining diamond shot and the Gordon Low recoil system, they are a serious cartridge for all game shooting. However they are something to be used through a 100 year old English Sidelock! An equal competitor to the Black Gold Game is the RC range. The professional game fibre wad in 30 gram 6 shot is 2 ½” in length and ideal for use in older side by side guns. The Prestige Sipe range is a heavier cartridge and one used on many a West Country shoot, but if you are after a 32 gram for late season Grouse, the 32 gram no. 6 and 5 shot will be a good shell for those long crossing coveys, who know all too well the dangers of flying straight over the line of butts.

Shooting these heavier cartridges towards the end of the Grouse season will prepare you for the pheasants that follow, as you will become accustomed to the cartridge’s performance, speed and recoil.

Smaller Calibres

The choice of smaller calibre cartridges is somewhat limited compared to the 12 bore range. However, smaller calibres are proving to be very popular and we have noticed this through our Continental gun sales. The 28 bore is becoming ever more popular and featuring on many moors across the country.

16 bore

Considered to be the best all round calibre and popular on the continent but doesn’t feature quite so much in the UK. The 26 ½ gram 6 shot VIP Game fibre wad from Eley is a popular load. Shot by Mr. Osborne through his pair of William Powell No. 1’s, they are an enjoyable cartridge to shoot with but still have the knock down power (1380 fps) to kill Grouse throughout the season on a variety of challenging moors. If you are looking for something heavier for later on in the season the Express Super 16 comes in a 28 gram 6 shot (1oz) cartridge in a 65mm case, 1375 fps, using Vectan powder manufactured in Brittany. Hull, Gamebore and RC all produce 16 bore cartridges and people who think that the 16 range is limited, would be pleasantly surprised at what is actually available on the market.

20 bore

Similar to the 16 bore, all the major manufacturers produce a relatively good range of 20 bore cartridges. The most popular 20 bore cartridge we sell is the Sipe 26 and 28 gram 5 and 6 shot fibre wad. The 26 gram is an efficient and medium weight load, ideal for early season Grouse. The 28 gram 5 is considered to be the best load through a 20 bore, ballistically and for comfort of use. Any heavier and you will lose the benefits of shooting with a light, lesser recoil gun which the 20 is and you will be getting towards the recoil of a 16/12 bore. Excessive recoil can cause problems such as muzzle flip and flinching, both of which can seriously affect your shooting. The Express Special 20 range comes in 2 ½” and 2 ¾” length and the 25 gram no. 5 is a particular favourite of one of William Powells Sporting clients. The Gamebore Pure Gold is a popular cartridge not only on the moors but is also common on high pheasant and partridge shoots as well. Using the diamond shot and travelling at 1450 fps, the 28 gram 5 shot is a cartridge that would suit from the 12th of August to the 1st of February.

28 bore

The 28 bore is fairly well covered by the major manufacture’s and as popularity of the calibre increases, new cartridges in varying shot sizes have and will enter the market. Gambore’s 25 gram 5 and 6 diamond shot has sold well and at 1450 fps it’s a quick, hard hitting little cartridge. Gambore do make a 28 gram 5 shot that will pack a punch but it’s only available with a plastic wad. The Eley VIP range also cover the 28 bore and their 24 gram no. 6 shot is a nice light cartridge producing very little recoil and is a joy to shoot with. A particular client of William Powell Sporting chooses to use Federal Wing-shok 21 gram 6 shot and will shot consistently well at testing birds with such load.


As with most shooting, cartridge choice will follow the progression of the season; lighter loads to start and heavier towards the end. The Grouse cartridge will generally need a wider shot spread to that of a cartridge used for pheasants due to the nature of the sport. If you are looking for a one cartridge to stick with throughout the season, my choice would be:

• William Powell Red Grouse 29 gram 6.5 shot

• Eley VI P Game 30 gram 6 shot

• Gamebore Black Gold Game 30 gram 6 shot


Rick Bond (William Powell Gun Room)

Part of the William Powell team, a gun expert based in the Gun Room. Rick specialises in game shooting and English guns. . Read more.

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