Ernie Broe Patterns Waterfowl Loads for a Year and a Half

By Randy Wakeman

Ernie is a gunsmith and FFL dealer from Vermont, nearing 85 years young. For all of one summer and half of the next, every Saturday, at the range at his house, Ernie and his duck hunting buddy Larry have patterned shotguns. Ernie reports that the guns patterned included a 12 gauge Winchester M50, a Beretta 390, Remington V3, a Beretta Xtrema 2, a Benelli M2, a Winchester M21, a Beretta 391, a Winchester M12 Heavy Duck, two Beretta 686 examples, and two Fabarm L4S models.

Ernie writes, “I hate getting up at 3 AM to go hunting so I want the best ammo I can buy. My partner is single and has plenty of money but doesn't want to spend too much on ammo. However we both have TDB dedicated duck boats with excellent blinds and engines so I consider ammo a minor expense. We are both very serious about our waterfowl hunting and enjoyed the preparation as much as the hunt.”

Most of the testing was done at 40 measured yards, all pellet hits marked and counted, and the percentage of hits in a 30 inch circle calculated. We used a lead sled off of a bench rest. We tested all one summer and half of the next, every Saturday, at the range at my house. All of the guns had an occasional good pattern with a particular choke and shell. We both felt the Fabarm was best overall.”

Ernie started loading #7 Sphero Tungsten 15g/cc from Ballistic Products. Ernie comments, “My load is in 2 3/4" Euro hulls from their tested and published info: 1-1/8 oz. of #7 Sphero, 36 grains of Long Shot powder, their wad for hard shot and an overshot card wad. The velocity per them is 1465 FPS. 249 pellets in the load. This is my "go to" waterfowl load for geese and big ducks.”

Here are the results from my 26 inch barrel Fabarm L4S. Again, all of the loads below are #7 Sphero (15g/cc) 1 1/8 oz. of shot by actual weight.”

40 yds 9/10 Fabarm factory choke 83%

25 yds. 9/10 Fabarm factory choke 97%

40 yds. 5/10 Fabarm factory choke 79%

25 yds. 5/10 Fabarm factory choke 85%

40 yds. 2/10 Fabarm factory choke 73%

25 yds. 2/10 Fabarm factory choke 95%


Fabarm Italy currently recommends a 5/10 factory choke (Modified), or looser, with tungsten-based shot. Steel shot loads are approved by Fabarm through their 9/10 'Extreme' choke. 

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