Shotgun Patterning, Part 5: Some Unexpected Results…

Last week, I finally had time to go to the range and continue my shotgun pattern tests. Specifically, I wanted to see how my 870P SBS with its modified choke compared to my Winchester 1300 Defender that has a Vang Comp barrel treatment. In a recent class, Tom Givens remarked to me that the introduction of Federal FLITECONTROL nearly put Vang Comp out of business… after my most recent range trip, I can see why! (Astute readers will notice that I mention Federal FLITECONTROL in this paragraph but talk about Hornady Versatite below… I believe both represent largely the same idea and concept, and are in fact the same design sold to different companies.)

Since Hornady BLACK and Hornady Critical Defense buckshot were some of the best performers out of my gun, and since I can acquire both locally, I decided to pattern both with my Winchester. Rather than my usual 5, 15, and 25 yard shots, I simply shot three rounds at 15 yards to compare the patterns.

I should mention that my Winchester barrel only has a bead sight, so my accuracy was not as good as it could have been. I adjusted my point of aim for the second target. Nonetheless, the pattern spread is still evident.

Now, let’s compare…

On the left above, is the three shot 15 yard pattern with my Remington 870P with a modified choke, with Hornady BLACK 00 Buckshot. The right side photo is the same ammo, same range, with my Winchester 1300 with Vang Comp barrel. I think my 870P may have actually produced a tighter pattern… look carefully at the target on the right, and you can see where a pellet creased the edge of the target, right above my writing.

Above is the same with Hornady Critical Defense 00 Buckshot. Again, I’m hard pressed to call one better than the other.

I may have to buy some more of one of the brands of buckshot that patterned so poorly out of my 870P in order to repeat this experiment to really appreciate the Vang Comp modification. At any rate, I am seriously considering whether I actually need to send my 870P off for Han’s barrel treatment after seeing these results. The only reason I can see to do so is if it would improve my results with Federal FLITECONTROL (which I doubt), or if for some reason I were forced to rely on generic ammunition. I should probably also compare the 25 yard results to get a complete picture.

This might be a good time for a brief story about Hans Vang… Back in 2004, I think, I stopped into his shop to drop off my barrel while I was in town at Gunsite. I expected to have to leave it with him, but Hans immediately put it in his lathe and went to work. As we were talking while he worked, he accidentally drilled one of the porting holes out of position. He immediately offered to buy me a new barrel! I shrugged it off as inconsequential and we agreed that I would have a truly unique barrel. Can you spot the difference?

I offer the story above simply to show that I am not in any way trying to disparage the Vang Comp system. On the contrary, I have the utmost respect for Hans Vang as a gunsmith, businessman, and all around good guy, and I may yet send him my barrel.

If you look at the pattern comparison photos again, you’ll notice that with my 870P with a modified choke, the wad impact is more offset from the predominant pattern. With the Vang Comp system and a cylinder bore, the wad impact is generally within the pattern. This is far from scientific, but my WAG is that the tighter choke constriction of my 870P barrel prevents the Versatite wad from performing as intended. With the cylinder bore, it flies true and impacts the target accordingly. Obviously, the Versatite wad still helps, as this is borne out by my previous pattern tests with inexpensive buckshot. I need to repeat this test with Federal FLITECONTROL. By all accounts, the the Federal version generally works better. However, so far with my gun, I haven’t necessarily experienced that.

The above isn’t complete hearsay, by the way. I recently cut apart some Hornady shot shells (stay tuned for a future blog post), and discovered that while the Versatite wad would drop cleanly down the muzzle of my Winchester cylinder bore barrel, it needed to be forced through the tighter muzzle of my modified choke barrel. So the wad is definitely impinged, however briefly, when exiting the barrel with the modified choke constriction. This no doubt, has some effect on its performance.

I hope my ongoing shotgun series is of interest to our readers, and I invite you to stay tuned for some more pattern tests with my Vang Comp barrel and to see what I discovered when I recently cut open some shot shells for comparison. As always, thanks for reading, and please share this blog with like minded individuals.

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