How to shoot steel shot in an old English side-by-side

Mark from Rowland Watson Gunmakers says he’s been using steel shot in his own English gun, built in 1903, for many years with no ill effects at all. If you want to do the same, just follow his simple advice.

“Take it to a competent gunsmith who can check the barrels and make sure they are in good condition,” says Mark. “What’s important is barrel wall thickness. Personally I like to see something of 24-25 thou’ or more, and choke no more than half.”

“My personal favourite chokes are improved cylinder and quarter choke, but you can go a little tighter.”

The other advice Mark is giving his customers is to use a shot size one larger than you use in lead. So if you normally shoot No.6 in lead you’d use No.5 in steel. You’ll need to rein in your maximum range by around 10 yards too.

Follow that advice, says Mark, and shooting steel shouldn’t be an issue at all. “Steel isn’t as good as lead, but if that’s the way we have to go then we have to adapt and live with it – and I don’t really see any issue with it.”

Your gunsmith will also advise you on chamber length and the type of steel shot cartridges that are suitable for your gun.

Find out more about Rowland Watson Gunmakers at

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