A selection of cartridges from the best manufacturers in the world, for truly sporting birds

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ - Keats’ words, and how true they are! The partridge, that most quintessential English gamebird, is very much a part of this golden season. The grey partridge may be native to these islands, but also breeds and lives well across the map of Europe and Western Asia. As for the red leg, that flashy interloper from France, we must be grateful for him because, for whatever reason, the grey partridge has been in decline for some time in the UK. As to habitat, partridge live on grasslands and farmland, and can also be found on moorland. Wherever they are, be grateful if you get some partridge shooting, and here are some cartridges to help you bag that very sporting bird.

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1. Eley Zenith

The UK’s oldest manufacturer, Eley Hawk, is much more than that. With a fully integrated production, component parts – from the powder to the case – are developed and manufactured in-house. The result is consistency both in quality and performance, and a perfect example of this is Eley Zenith. It is essential for maximum lethality and clean kills that the shot load reaches the quarry in the best possible condition. With electro-plated copper shot, Eley Zenith ensures this, with every single pellet remaining completely spherical and undamaged during its journey down your gun’s barrels. A major step forward in shotgun cartridge technology, Eley Zenith loads are hard-hitting and kill cleanly.

Available in fibre wad 30g, 32g and 36g 4, 5 and 6, £320-£380 per 1,000.

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2. Eley VIP

Technology from clay target loads that have won medals at the highest competitive levels are incorporated into Eley VIP game loads, and will therefore satisfy the most discriminating sportsmen. With optimum downrange velocity, provided by the fastest burning powders and state-of-the-art shot production, VIP cartridges bring competition-bred ammunition to the game shooter.

Available in PDP (photodegradable plastic) and fibre wad 28g, 30g, and 32g 4, 5 and 6, £271-£304 per 1,000.

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3. Eley Zenith 20g

All the virtues of Eley ammunitions’ ballistic consistency, with the added knock-down power provided by copper-plated shot in a 20-bore load, is an opportunity small-gauge aficionados will want to take. Extending still further the ability of a small-gauge shotgun, on the pattern plate through my favourite 20-bore, the results were impressive.

Available in fibre wad 28g 5 and 6, £340 per 1,000.

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4. Fiocchi F3

The fact that Italians are avid hunters and Fiocchi are the longest established manufacturer in Italy is no secret. What is perhaps not quite so widely appreciated is how this distinguished manufacturer values its market share in the UK, and specifies its products accordingly. Tradizione Inglese is no mere slogan; Fiocchi F3 Game is a perfect example of this Italian ammunition manufacturer carefully specifying its product to meet British requirements. Super-fast powder, of course (the Italians love speed), but combined with modest recoil and well-distributed patterns the F3’s 30g cartridges with fibre wad and a 67mm case is a work of Italian art, that British sportsmen will appreciate.

Available in fibre wad 30g and 32g 5 and 6, £239-£244 per 1,000.

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5. Fiocchi PL28

Fast, hard-hitting and consistent, it’s a one-ounce load that meets all the requirements of early-season game shooting in the UK, and partridge in particular. This 28g fibre-wadded load with modest recoil is perfectly matched to lightweight English game guns, providing effective shot patterns through lightly choked barrels. Fiocchi PL28 is a perfect example of how simpatico this Italian company is towards its British customers.

Available in fibre wad 28g 6 and 7, £219 per 1,000.

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6. Hull Imperial Game

From a renowned English manufacturer that maintains the highest standards of manufacture and component parts, combined with an unrivalled understanding of the UK market. Imperial Game is the perfect partner for the classic English game gun, with a 65mm case length suitable for older guns with shorter chambers. With a fibre wad and one-ounce shot load, this cartridge represents a perfect combination for early-season partridge.

Available in fibre wad 26g, 28g and 30g 5, 6 and 7, £266.75-£279 per 1,000.

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7. Hull Three Crowns

As a brand, Three Crowns was introduced more than 60 years ago, but this is not an exercise in nostalgia on Hull Cartridge Company’s part. In a paper case, both the fibre wad and the card objurator are biodegradable, which chimes with modern eco-friendly thinking and at the same time delivers ballistics that compare favourably with other modern ammunition. The varnished red case may be traditional, but this cartridge also delivers performance.

Available in fibre wad 28g and 30g 5 and 6, £394-£309.75 per 1,000.

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8. Lyalvale Express Supreme Game

A high-quality game cartridge in a wide range of shot loads with a 65mm case, in 28g or 30g, is perfect for early-season partridge. Tests on the pattern plate revealed game-getting patterns from a selection of choke borings. A fast cartridge, but noted for its modest recoil; the discerning game shot could hardly choose better.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 28g, 30g, 32g and 34g 4, 5, 6, 6.5 and 7, £261-£324 per 1,000.

9. Lyalvale Special Game

Offered in a wide range of shot loads, from 25g to 32g, as a cartridge for partridge it’s one that will meet your needs in every situation. The light 25g load is perfect for early-season birds, while the high, wide and handsome ones later on can be successfully matched with the 30g cartridge.

Available in fibre wad 25g, 28g, 30g and 32g, and plastic wad 30g 5, 6 and 7, £235-£275 per 1,000.