It’s that time of year. From doves, then Teal and on to ducks and geese, hunters across the country are taking to the fields and swamps for some on-the-wing shooting. A few weeks earlier, however, I had different goals in mind. Using a Glock 26 and some of the CCI ‘BIG 4’ shotshell cartridges, I set out to take at least one Eurasian Dove or a pigeon that attempt to dominate my mom and dad’s small farm – in flight.
Now before you get all touchy-feely with me, Eurasians doves and pigeons are invasive species. Which means they can be hunted as pests year round (check your state and local regulations). And it’s not just that they are outsiders; left unchecked they can interfere with the native song bird populations. English Sparrows and Starlings are on the invasive (kill list) too.
The Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto), most often simply called the collared dove, also sometimes hyphenated as Eurasian collared-dove, is a species of dove native to warm temperate and subtropical Asia, and introduced in North America in the 1980s.
In 1974, less than 50 Eurasian Collared Doves escaped captivity in Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. From the Bahamas, the species spread to Florida, and is now found in nearly every state in the US, as well as in Mexico. In Arkansas (United States), the species was recorded first in 1989 and since then has grown in numbers and is now present in 42 of 75 counties in the state. It spread from the southeast corner of the state in 1997 to the northwest corner in 5 years, covering a distance of about 500 km (310 mi) at a rate of 100 km (62 mi) per year.This is more than double the rate of 45 km (28 mi) per year observed in Europe.
Shotshells designed for rimfire or handgun firearms are known as snake-shot for a reason. Typically they are only viable for a distance of about 10 feet. But those cartridges are usually loaded with #8 or #9 shot. CCI designed the Big 4 series of shotshells to improve the distance and penetration issues inherent with the older versions.
Still, I’d be lying if I said the Big 4 loads were designed to take flying quarry.
I dissected two of the Big 4 shells to find 15 #4 shot rifle at 50 grains. The red cap, or container, pulled off easily using only my fingers. Below the shot is a plastic cup-shaped wad that was tightly sealed to the sides of the case.
I loaded a few of the Big 4 shells into a magazine, seated it and let the slide slingshot closed. The first round chambered without issue.
I decided to get some highly-sensitive testing equipment for a few rounds of pattern testing at different distances – pizza boxes. Unfortunately the pattern testing pictures didn’t turn out to be useable, but the results were pretty clear: anything more than 15 feet these little shotshells weren’t going to leave a mark. Also of note is that the shells would not cycle the action on my trusty G26. Single shot it is.
Just like all hunting trips, this experiment turned out to be a waiting game. Several times I was buzzed by mourning doves (non-combatants) or the Eurasians would circle me keeping a 30 yard buffer zone. Either way, the birds knew I was up to something.
To top it off, tracking a small flying object in the sky with a handgun is unsettling. It was even hard to get quality pictures of the excercise.You immediately feel like you are breaking one of the cardinal safety rules. Eventually you get used to the fact that if and when you pull the trigger, those little #4 shot will be blowing in the wind after anything past 20 yards.
After about two hours, a single Eurasian flew by at about 20 feet and I decided to take a shot. He was flying fast, directly above us. I tried to lead him a few lengths off his nose. And…
Nothing. No joy. This wasn’t going to work.
A couple of observations:
- For their size, the Big 4 shells are loud. Not hearing safe.
- Without a choke, the shot pattern expands greatly when being only a few feet away from a target.
- Using a handgun to shoot a flying object is hard and unnerving.
- Used as intended, these CCI shells are fun and effective.
I really wanted to come here and tell an awesome story about how I shot a feathered intruder in flight. It just wasn’t meant to be. So it’s time to dig for victory, since I won’t be shooting for it.