Bruce Potts tests some likely candidates…
Subsonics are not for everyone but I love them; be it shotgun, rimfire or centrefire, there is just something very addictive about shooting a ‘silenced’ gun and still getting great results with either clays, vermin or foxes.
Some may think that the lower velocity is a disadvantage regarding range but in reality, the noise reduction far out ways any small shortfall there is in overall range. In fact, a subsonic shoots a little higher in a silenced gun, so gives a little more upward bias for compensation anyway. The second or third shot is easy to administer due to the minimal recoil and I have always found subsonic loads to have dense and well distributed patterns, another bonus. Here are six of the best.
I asked Saddlery and Gunroom to fit a Browning Invector type choke to their Hushpower 10-inch sound moderator model, as it fits the Mossberg pump action barrel that I was using. The choke fitted has a restriction of 0.720 to 0.698; so, a full choke size. I set about testing the patterns at 30-yards with a variety of subsonic ammunition, to see the spread and density of the shot patterns and, of course, best noise reduction. I had six differing subsonic loads or competition loads that were marketed as subsonic, all being 12-gauge for this test.
First up were a couple of Competition type loadings that, by their nature, were loaded light for target practice and had a velocity below 1100fps, so subsonic.
Game Bore Evo
This is a blue 65mm case and has a low rim with a fibre wad inside. The casing is seethrough and you can clearly see the 28-grams of No. 8 shot (2.2mm) inside. It is a very well-made cartridge with a good six-star crimp closure and uniform size.
Velocity is a little more than the other subs (dependent on barrel length and climatic conditions) but the muzzle report was still subdued but some shots were close to the supersonic crack at times. You had a dull ‘throng; on the muzzle report and some ringing to the moderator side walls.
On the pattern boards, I had a total of 314 pellet strikes to the 30-inch circle, of which 105 were centrally placed and the remaining 209 evenly spread around the circumference. A slight upward bias, as with all these subsonic loads, but a lovely dense pattern.
Price: £7.15 per box 25
Lyalvale Express Super Light
The light Competition 12-gauge load that doubles as a subsonic round and has a velocity of 1040fps. This is a smaller casing at 65mm, with a load of No. 7.5 shot and a fibre wad, so good for singles, doubles, triples and pumps but not autos. These were very quiet but there was a little higher frequency to the muzzle report and small degree of ringing from the mod, i.e. frequencies and vibrations have changed. However, in reality, still a very quiet load and patterned well too.
On the boards, there was a slight upward bias to the pattern, so no worries about the sighting being a little low, it’s compensated for. Here, the smaller No. 7.5 shot literally peppered the board, with a total of 355 hits, of which 212 were in the 30-inch ring and the remaining 143 shot were densely packed into 15-inches. A really good dense loading.
Price: £8.25 per box 25
Hull VLR (very low recoil)
The excellent Hull VLR loads, I have used to good effect in other suppressed shotguns. This uses a 28-gram fibre wadded load in a see-through green 65mm case, with No. 7.5 shot. These are marked low noise and recoil and are very handy for shotgun training grounds. to teach new students 12-gauge shotgun without hurting the shoulder and causing a noise nuisance. When used in combination with a suppressed shotgun, they are spectacularly quiet and my top choice.
First up, they are very well made and have a see-through green casing and functioned without fault in the Mossberg. With the Hushpower 10-inch fitted, the muzzle report was a short hollow ‘throng’ noise, with no follow-on sound ripple, rolling echo and, of course, zero supersonic crack. With subsequent shots, they were even quieter; this is due to the Hushpower filling with burnt gases, so less oxygen to burn and thus less noise.
On the boards, I had a good, even pattern, with an upward bias but a really good total hits of 339 pellets; 113 of which clustered in the inner ring and 226 were spread around the periphery. Quiet and good patterns, enough said!
Price: £7.85 per box 25
Next up, were three differing offerings from Eley, all three under the name Hushpower subsonic. First were two 28-gram and No. 7.5 shot loaded cases but one having a fibre wad with a red casing and the other a black case and plastic wad.
Eley Hushpower 28-gram Fibre
The 28-gram Fibre wadded load was more spread than the same load, see below, with its plastic wadding. I had a total of 286 pellets hit the board, with 190 No. 7.5 shot hitting around the edge and 96 pellets in the centre regions. Again, these sub loads seem to hold a good density and even spread, which is exactly what you want for an effective, pattern down range. Noise wise, like the others, a very hollow muted report and very little recoil, a practical subsonic where fibre wads are essential.
Price: £8.00 per box 25
Eley Hushpower 32-gram No. 5 Fibre
Finally, the Eley Hushpower, with the heavier load of 32-grams of No. 5 shot in a 67mm case and fibre wadding. Again, the muzzle report was a deaden, low-frequency whoosh of air and the pellet column cutting the air. Slightly more noise than the VLRs but hardly at all and all very dull.
On the pattern board, the spread was a total of 226 No. 5 pellets in 30-inches, of which the inner 15-inches had 108 pellets and the outer sector a further 118 more. There was a slight upward bias but really good density to the pattern and tight as well with pellet of those bigger pellets in it. A great vermin load with a better knock down power than the smaller No. 7.5 shot.
Price: £10.90 per box 25
Eley Hushpower 28-gram Plastic
The 28-gram plastic loading, by comparison, shot a total of 329 No. 7.5 pellets, compared to the fibre version at 286 pellets; plastic wads do tighten a pattern. I now had a hornet’s nest of 133 inner strikes and 196 outer hits, slightly upward again but great pattern for vermin. I would use this for squirrels running through the branches. As with the fibre wadded version, the report was very muted but just a slightly higher resonance from the S&G moderator.
Price: £8.00 per box 25
Noise wise, the Hushpower really took any muzzle blast that there was away and also reduced felt recoil too. The noise reduction is such that ear protectors need not be worn if you like and there is no rolling echo around the surrounding fields. At 100-yards, down range and in a safe position, the muzzle report is negligible and, combined with any ambient noise, is sufficient to disguise it as a shotgun report.
Saddlery and Gunroom/Hushpower. sandleryandgunroom.co.uk
Just Cartridges. justcartridges.com
Hull Cartridge Co. hullcartridge.co.uk
Lyalvale Express. lyalvalexpress.com
Gamebore Cartridge Co. gamebore.com
Eley Hawk. eleyhawkltd.com