Do you know what load youâ€™ll be shooting this turkey season? Well, you now have another option. And itâ€™s a good one.
Winchesterâ€™s Long Beard XR shotshells are made to give hunters extended range (hence the XR in the name) but at a price that is well short of the high-density, non-lead loads.
These shells use traditional copper-plated lead pellets in Nos. 4, 5 and 6. But the way Winchester drops the shot in the cup, and a unique ingredient, are what make it different.
First, Winchester pours a proprietary two-part resin, they call it Shot-Lok, into the shell hull. Then, in goes the shot. It falls through the resin and is coated and surrounded by it. The resin hardens and encases, or locks, that shot inside the shell.
If you cut open the hull, you will see the shot suspended in an translucent resin, as if you super-glued all the shot together. Itâ€™s one hard plug, with no loose shot.
When the primer ignites the propellant, the explosion pushes on that solid cylinder of resin and shot, and fractures the resin into a powder. At the moment of ignition, the resin acts as a buffer to the shot and prevents it from deforming. And when pellets stay round, as opposed to flattening, they fly truer and produce better patterns down range with more velocity and energy.
This is a very cool way to get more accuracy and knock-down power from copper-plated shot. You can bet youâ€™ll be seeing Winchester use this technology in other shells. I could see it in a waterfowl load and a coyote load as well.
AT WHAT COST?
Manufacturers know that the average turkey hunter uses only a handful of shells a season. And itâ€™s true that if you only get one or two opportunities to pull the trigger on a tom each season, you should shoot the best you can afford. But prices have been getting outrageous, and there is talk of even higher prices this coming season because of increased raw material costs.
Some high-density shells cost $35 or more for a 5-shell box. Thatâ€™s $7 or $8 per shell!
Without tungsten or other heavier-than-lead metals in your shells, you can expect to pay a lot less. Figure youâ€™ll see this Winchester turkey load for about $19.99 for a 10-shot box, about $2 per shell. Thatâ€™s comforting, especially if youâ€™re having any trouble patterning your turkey gun and chokes!
DO THEY WORK ON TURKEY?
I had the opportunity to shoot Long Beard XR on the range.
We put it through a Winchester SX3 using various chokes, and I saw some of the tightest close-range patterns I had ever seen. With a typical .665 tube, patterns were baseball-tight at 15 yards.
Backing up to 30 yards and shooting from a rest, we put an average of about 60 pellets in a 5-inch circle on a Birchwood Casey PreGame turkey target again and again. About 10-15 of the pellets were neck-spine or head-brain hits. Patterns were solid with few holes and held up pretty consistently well out to 50 yards.
I had no problem loading these shells into my SX3 for a hunt. The range work gave me confidence in the patterns.
Of course, itâ€™s hard to confirm that the energy is there when the copper-plated shot hits the board. But I did see the results when they went up against a mature Merriam’s turkey.
My friend P.J. Perea of the National Wild Turkey FederationÂ and I hunted Wyoming last spring and he tagged a 20-plus-pound tom at a good distance. And it wasnâ€™t a Chamber of Commerce opportunity either. With a steady rain, and wary birds,Â Perea had to pattern the bird and set up where the whole flock flew up at dayâ€™s end. One by one, hens appeared from the undergrowth and immediately flew up. Â Perea had a split-second to take an ethical shot on the tomâ€”the last bird to fly upâ€”just as the bird emerged from the brush and readied to jump into flight.
Perea had estimated it to be a 40-yard shot. But when he walked it off, the Long Beard XR dropped the bird at closer to 50 yards.Â The hunter did his part, and so did the shot shell without question.
R&D INSIDE OUT
Greg Kosteck of Winchester said the technology and processes they use to improve products are often internal and arenâ€™t easily seen from the outside. The Shot-Lok technology in Long Beard XR is one of those improvements.
â€śBut the ultimate proof that this new technology really does work is as easy as hanging a patterning target and shooting it side-by-side against your current favorite load,â€ť said Kosteck.Â â€śThere is no question in my mind the conclusion will be our new turkey load really does as claimed.â€ť
Winchester has obviously been doing their R&D homework. Earlier this year they unveiled their very cool, very fast .17 Winchester Super Magnum rimfire. Before that, Varmint X and Razorback XT cartridges took center stage. And waterfowlers are now very familiar with Winchester’s spot-on Blind Side hexagonal steel shot.
Long Beard XR joins a line of innovation that will pique the curiosity of hunters and, more importantly, prove their value in the field.
Game & Fish is your authority on turkey. Check out our turkey hunting tips from the pros, wild turkey recipes that will convert a vegetarian, and stay tuned for our 2014 Turkey Forecasts!
All photos by John Geiger
You can buy a 10-shot box for about $19.99 in stores sooon!
Have you bagged a giant tom that you want to show the world? Submit your photo to our Game & Fish Turkey Camera Corner!
We’ve also got some new mouthwatering wild turkey recipes coming this Thanksgiving from the pros over at The Sportsman ChannelÂ coming soon, so check back often!