I am approached, on occasion, by vendors asking me to try their product. I like to try different things and usually agree. This time I was asked to shoot the Federal Target Load 9 shot. Normally, 9 shot is too small for me to hunt with and about the only application I would use it for is a field trial. I don't shoot skeet or trap. In the National Shoot to Retrieve Field Trial Association (NSTRA) format, the dog points the bird and then the handler shoots the bird for the retrieve. We almost always use pen-raised quail for the trials as they are easy to get and are relatively cheap. In addition, they are not very tough birds and will normally drop pretty easily for light loads and small shot. Since you can pack more induvidual shot in to a shell the smaller they are, it makes sense that the smallest shot would improve your odds of hitting the target.
I took these shells to a 2 day trial with my 3 dogs. Added all together, I entered the field 12 times over the weekend and had plenty of opportunity to shoot pen-raised quail. I found that 90% of the time, the hit bird would drop on the first shot and be dead when it hit the ground. However, about 10% of the time, I would hit the bird and feathers would fly, but the bird would continue on, either to drop later or continue on out of the area. My conclusion is, that for my type of field trial, the 9 shot, light load shell may not be the best. Probably an 8 or 7 1/2 (largest allowed) would be more suitable for NSTRA to ensure a dropped bird for points. I have nothing against the reliablility of the shell- I had no misfires. I will not use the 9 shot again in NSTRA. Perhaps shooting skeet would be more to the style of the shell.