Many estates and shoots of all sizes are now moving towards non toxic options.  With this demand growing more options are rapidly being released by cartridge manufactures to cope with this.  People often seem unsure what steel shot is, is it safe in their particular gun or choke and the pressures associated with it.  Let’s break it down simply…..

Steel shot comes in two different ratings “standard steel” and “high performance steel”.  So what is the difference and will it be suitable for my gun?  In simple terms it’s the pressure that is different.  Standard steel can be shot as long as the gun is proofed to a pressure of at least 850 bar or stamped in the modern version of CIP N.  The shot size in standard steel cartridges can be no larger than no 4.

The proof marks - it's important to identify the icons such as the fleur de-lys ⚜️ and particular pressure markings

High performance steel can only be shot in a gun the caries the fleur-de-lys stamp which is proofed to 1320 bar.  Steel shot cartridges with a shot of  no 3 or larger are High Performance steel regardless of how light or heavy the load is.

Choke is another very important factor when using steel shot.  Standard steel is suitable to be shot through guns choked up to 1/2.  High performance steel can only be shot through guns which are choked up to 1/4.

If you are in any doubt as to the suitability of your gun for steel shot Bywell Shooting Ground provide a complimentary service to check your choke and proof markings.  We can then advise as to the suitability of steel shot in your gun. 


Checking the box of your chosen steel also advises what the gun needs to be to be shooting them safely

So what wads are used in steel?

In the early days all steel cartridges were loaded with plastic wads.  This is because steel can be abrasive against the barrel wall so can’t touch it, therefore it needs to be enclosed in a cup.  Fibre wads only seal behind any shot so it wasn’t possible to load steel with these wads.  With the ever-growing environmental pressures, the cartridge manufacturers needed to come up with a new option, and over the previous few years the eco/bio/hydro wads were born.  Each manufacture has its own opinion on the materials and construction process, but their purpose is all the same.  To be a cup shaped wad to protect the barrel which degrades naturally, and being manufactured from natural materials which have no adverse effect on the environment.

So what sort of shot size and load should I be shooting in steel compared to my normal lead loads?

This is a common question and all shooters situations are different.  Normally you would want to stick with a shot weight (EG 30 gram, 32 gram etc) that is the same or similar to what you would shoot in lead.  The shot size however does change things slightly.  The usual recommendation is to drop 2 shot sizes down from what you would usually shoot in lead, so if shooting a lead in a no 6 go down to a no 4 in steel.  This is because with the same load in steel you have significantly more pellets, but because of the much lower density there isn’t sufficient striking energy.  To achieve this the only way is to shoot larger pellets so going down in shot size.

The only thing to bear in mind is if you shoot something like a lead no 5, as going down 2 sizes brings you to a no 3.  This would become a High Performance cartridge so make sure your gun is capable of this.  Also, the choke should be no more than 1/4 so weigh this up against shooting a 4 with tighter choke as this may indeed be more effective for your quarry.

The smaller calibres are also catered for.  The 20 gauge options are growing with some heavier options expected this year in 29/30 gram, these will however be a High Performance Steel load.  Hull are also on the brink of launching a 16 gauge steel so watch this space.  There are always new additions being added to the ever growing steel lines.


Lets look at some options currently available that we stock…..



Hull Hydro Steel 32 Gram 4


Gamebore Dark Storm 35 Gram 3

Gamebore Dark Storm 32 Gram 4

Eley VIP Steel Pro Eco 32 Gram 5

Eley 20 Gauge VIP Steel 24 Gram 4 Pro Eco









If still unsure the staff here at Bywell Shooting Ground are all knowledgeable and will guide you to make sure your cartridge selection is right for your needs.


Cartridges are available to purchase online or in store.

Please see our full range of cartridges here Cartridges & Ammo | Bywell Shooting Grou