RC Cartridges, Simply Superior

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This guest post was written by Henry SF Nachaj. 

I have been shooting RC on and off while in Europe and Africa, since when I discovered the shells in 2000. Whenever they are available at an event, I use them. They always seemed very consistent both in recoil and hits. At the 2011 World FITASC Sporting in Orville, I managed to get a few boxes of the new RC Red Black Comfort and RC Red Supernik. They performed very well. They performed so well for young Canadian Shawn Stitt, that he used them throughout the event and finished 4th in Junior at the event and 2nd Junior for the World Cup!

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RC is a very well know cartridge for Olympic Skeet and Trap as between 60 and 65% of cartridges shot at ISSF events are, RC. They are also well received by many European FITASC shooters. Recently, they have added RC Special Service which gives Shooters and Shooting Federations the opportunity to reserve the cartridges they wish to shoot at a major event, without bringing any ammunition by plane. The reserved cartridges will be put at Shooters’ disposal directly at the shooting sites where the competitions will be held, via the local RC importer or gun shop. Last November, several pallets of RC shells were shipped via military C17 transport from Italy to Qatar. Somebody in Qatar wanted to make sure that the shells arrived in plenty of time and safely!

Vittorio Socci was the man behind the name, RC. In 1882, Vittorio’s grandfather Primo Carmellini was selling shooting products and other sporting items. Vittorio discovered his passion for shooting at a very young age. He was very successful as a shooter. He had great charisma and personality and was a perfectionnist with his personally loaded shot shells. This lead to many requests from friends and acquaintances for his shells. This led to the founding in 1970 of Romagna Caccia (Romagna, a province in Italy and caccia, hunting). The company continued the wholesale business of sport and shooting products. It also started a commercial shot shell loading business. From this beginning came the famous clay pigeon and skeet shells, RC 4 Piccione and RC 1 Skeet. Luciano Brunetti using RC shells won the Gold Medal at the 1978 World Skeet Championship in Seoul. It marked the first time an Italian won this World title. Due to increased interest in shot shells from both the Italian market and from abroad, loading shells was giving the company its best results. 1988, Romagna Caccia was transformed into RC EXIMPORT. Loading high quality and consistent shot shells is now the only focus of the company.

RC loads about 130 million shells each year using some of the most modern and reliable loading equipment. Most of the loaders are from BSM which supplies the majority of commercial shot shell companies in the World. The shells are sold in Italy and over 60 countries. RC tests new components regularly but uses only the best that meet their quality requirements. Price of a component is a non issue, only the consistent quality matters. RC technicians’ test shells during manufacturing process and after. They also have a “Climate Cell” which can reproduce climatic conditions of anywhere on this planet. They make sure that their shells perform the same everywhere under so many varied climatic conditions.

Alessandra Socci, daughter of Vittorio is in charge of sales outside Italy. I had the pleasure of meeting her, her children and husband Stefano Lolli who is in charge of Italian sales, at the World FITASC in Orville. They invited me to visit the plant in Forli not far from both Ravenna and San Marino. After the World, we headed for Ravenna and visits to Rimini, San Marino and RC Catridges in Forli.

At the plant, we were very well greeted by both Alessandra and her husband Stefano. I was assured that I would have full access to all aspects of RC production, quality control and laboratory. After a quick tour of the offices and pictures of the many Italian and World champs using RC, we started our plant tour. Primed empty shells are stored in a separate area that has fire doors. All the shot shell hulls that I saw were Cheditte. Alessandra mentioned that after many years of testing and use, the Cheditte hulls were the most consistent. Wads are stored in an adjacent area. RC uses mostly B&P wads but have some Cheddite (RC Red) and Diana namely for steel loadings. Again, many years of continuous testing have resulted in these choices. Shells boxes are also stored in this area. The shell boxes are made to same quality as those used for the food industry such as cereals, soup etc. It is a waxy paper box that is very resistant to humidity. It is also much thicker than those used by most manufacturers. Powder is stored in semi underground bunkers separated from the buildings by a blast wall. Every lot of powder is tested and some are refused which is unheard of in many cartridge and shell manufacturing plants! Lead and steel pellets are in half meter square metal containers and are gravity fed to the production lines. Each barrel of pellets is individually double tested for roundness and hardness. Steel pellets like for most steel shot shells come from China. An interesting difference in lead pellet philosophy in Italy compared to some other areas including North America is the lower antimony content.

Premium shells in North America will have up to 7% antimony to make the pellet hard. Premium Italian shot will have a maximum of only 3% yet are as hard if not harder than North American pellets. They use an old trick called tempering. We used to do this with our cast lead bullets for long distance metallic silhouette shooting. One drops the still soft lead cast bullet into a 10 gallon pail of water. This sudden lowering of temperature will change the molecular structure of the lead alloy. Hardness of this lead alloy will go up tenfold! With less antimony, the pellets have higher mass than 7% antimony pellets. Higher mass retains more energy at distance. Higher mass gives you better breaks at distance! I know now why so many Italians use 8.5s and break long distant target very well: higher mass of the 8.5 compared to NA 8s with many more pellets than 7.5, ensure a better kill. RC Cartridge uses tempered lead shot even for the Supernik. The Supernik is a nickel plated shot. The nickel plating does not make the pellet harder. It is there to increase the smoothness of the pellets thus reducing friction among each other and allowing an easier transition in the barrel.

As we enter the loading rooms, everyone is wearing ear protection as it is very noisy! We are greeted with three BSM quadruple loaders. The machines load 4 shells at a time. It is a multi step process of: dropping four shells, dropping powder into four, checking powder heights, inserting wads, checking wads, partial closing of the shells, closing and tapering the shell. The shells are then convoyed to a labeller and then to the boxer. At some of the loading areas, shells boxes are loaded by hand and others by machine into carton cases. Three of the machines produce each, 270,000 shells a day. The speed of production can be increased or decreased. Over the years, they have discovered the optimum production speed that will provide the most consistent shells. They will not go quicker but will go slower. Every 30 minutes, four shells are removed for testing. They are tested for shot weight, powder weight and fired in the lab where velocity and pressures are verified. Each lot number is also retested in the lab and for patterns. Every step is catalogued and every shell box has a distinct serial number which can be traced back to the original component lots used. While I was there, I saw shot weight variance of 1% and less or one to three pellets per shell. This is unheard of in commercial shot shell manufacturing. They have two older machines that are used for specialty loadings and some of the smaller calibers. On average, they load 550,000 shells a day. They are now installing a new revolutionary shot shell loader that will take some time to properly adjust and keep consistent. Most of the shells from this loader in the coming months will never be sold as they do not meet the company’s consistency standards.

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I got my DT10L with Muller U2 (LM) and U3 (MOD) chokes to go to the company’s patterning range. I chose a regular for me, the RC 4 Excellence Trap in 28 Gr and 7.5, the same loading for the RC Red Black Comfort and Supernik. There were some nervous looking faces while I prepared myself to test the cartridges at a measured 35 meters or 38.2 yards. While Alessandra and Christian Laghi (head of QC) looked on, I shot the RC4 with the U2 choke (equivalent to my Optima Beretta LM). The pattern was not bad but it also showed that a 1 Oz loading at distance with a more open choke leaves some things to chance. U3 tightened it up a bit. I proceeded to shoot the same with the RC Red Black Comfort. The patterns were similar but with smaller empty spaces. The RC Red Supernik was clearly superior. The nickel plating works for patterns. Both RC Red loading had noticeably less felt recoil. Alessandra and Christian felt relieved.

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It was time for lunch. We headed for lunch with Alessandra and Sefano at a local trattoria. It was a great lunch with salmon carpaccio with dill and red peppercorns followed by fresh tuna that was slightly massaged with very old balsamic vinegar en encrusted with pistachio crumbs and grilled. While we were enjoying the conversations, food and wines, Christian was performing some lab test on 10 shells from each box that I shot.

When we got back, we headed to the lab that had a 35 meter indoor range. The test barrel is connected to a computer that uses a number of sensors including barometric pressure, temperature, relative humidity, pressure and velocity at 2.5 Meters (8.2 feet) and 10 Meters (10.9 yards). He had also weighed the powder, wads and shot. All the data was given to me on a sheet for each loading. It showed Velocity at 2.5 M and 10 M, Pressure in Bar, the median of each, min and max of each velocity and pressure and Standard deviation for also velocity and pressure.

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SAAMI standards for shot shells allow a 90 FPS extreme spread but they also have a 90 to 99.7% “Level of Assurance”. They use a “Sigma Prime” or extreme variation within samples of 10 rounds or less. As an example, a 1330 FPS load that has an extreme allowance of 1240 to 1420 FPS or 180 FPS, would with “Sigma Prime” of 5 rounds allow speeds of 1274 to 1375 FPS which would be the lower and upper reject limits or an extreme spread of 101 FPS. Standard Deviation for pressure allowed is up to 900 PSI in SAAMI standards. Of course, all of this is VOLUNTARY as no laws are at stake! I have yet to see any North American premium shot shell have a Standard Deviation of less than 25 FPS! So how does the RC compare?

The RC4 had a SD of 8.8 FPS and an extreme spread of 24.3 FPS at 8.2 feet. The average velocity at that distance was 1282 FPS. Pressure was at 8832 PSI while the SD was only 262 PSI. The RC 4 Black Comfort had a SD of 11.5 FPS and an extreme spread of 39.4 FPS with an average speed of 1266.7 FPS. The SD for pressure was also 261 PSI with an average pressure of 8570 PSI. The RC Red Suprenik produced an average speed of 1278.5 FPS with a SD of 8.2 FPS and an extreme spread of only 21.3 FPS! The average pressure was 8890 PSI and a SD of 272 PSI. It is important to note that testing at 8.2 feet is more demanding than the North American standard of 3 feet as the shot has already been afflicted with ballistic deficiencies due to shot deformation. All three loadings outperform any North American and most if not all European loadings that I have tested in the last 30 years, in consistency.

Patterns of the shells will vary with a shotgun barrel and choke combination and should be tested as to which shell combination gives optimum results with your shotgun. But, when starting with a premium consistent shot shell, one can be assured of results at distance! It is the confidence that a certain shell will give you while travelling and shooting major events. From personal experience, RC truly performs in all climates from Europe to Africa.

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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