What’s the difference between plastic wad and fibre wad cartridges?
The wad of any shotgun cartridge (whether plastic or fibre) is part of the separation between the charge and the pellets. It creates a seal that forces the shot down the barrels. The obvious and key difference in plastic and fibre wads is in the name; one is made of plastic and the other from fibre.
Plastic wad cartridges consist of a plastic cup. This cup carries the shot, holding the pellets together as they leave the end of the barrel. As the plastic wad leaves the barrel, it releases the shot. Fibre wad cartridges contain a biodegradable fibre disk. The disk shape works slightly differently from the plastic cup, as it stays behind the shot and does not hold it together.
Plastic vs fibre
There is a lot of contention within the shooting world surrounding which wad is ‘better’. As a society we are growing more environmentally-conscious, seeking sustainable alternatives in many aspects of life. For this reason, fibre wad cartridges are becoming an increasingly popular choice. Every two shots taken with a plastic wad cartridge is like dumping one plastic shopping bag in a field; an image that brings into sharp focus the potential damage caused by the countless plastic wads shot each year. This is why many game shoots and shooting grounds (Lady’s Wood included) only allow the use of fibre wad cartridges.
As little as 10-15 years ago, there was a great disparity between fibre and plastic, surrounding the effectiveness of a cup vs a disk-shaped wad and how this affects shot pattern. However, this is no longer necessarily the case. Modern cartridge manufacturing has developed to such an extent that the difference in pattern between fibre and plastic is now minimal. Environmentally-friendly wads are the future of shooting so, naturally, cartridge manufacturers are investing in sustainable technologies without compromising on performance.
What’s the future of shotgun cartridges?
Experts within the shooting industry predict big changes in the way we manufacture shotgun cartridges in the near future. There’s a high probability shooters will have to start using steel shot (as opposed to lead) across the board. Unfortunately, the majority of steel shot cartridges have to be shot with plastic wads. Whilst we could go into great technical detail on why this is, simply put, steel shot can damage the inner walls of a shotgun’s barrels. Cupped plastic wads are more protective against this.
Of course, this creates a bit of a conundrum when it comes to the most environmentally friendly option. To negate the environmental impact of resorting back exclusively to plastic wads, cartridge manufacturers are striving to develop a cupped biodegradable alternative.