January 22, 2022
- Above: First look at Winchester Blind Side 2 Waterfowl Shotshells. Game & Fish Editor John Taranto talks with Jimmy Wilson to learn about the new Blind Side 2 waterfowl shotshells from Winchester.
Advancements in materials and ballistics spur ammunition companies to create the best shotgun loads for hunting waterfowl, turkeys and upland birds.
While hunters may shake their heads in the field or blind about a miss, it rarely is due to a dud in the chamber. It’s more often the dud holding the shotgun who needs more practice. But that’s another deal for another day.
READ MORE: See all the new hunting and shooting gear from SHOT Show 2022
Decades ago hunters used one thing — lead shotshells — for all of their hunting. If they were going after quail or pheasant in autumn, waterfowl in winter or turkeys in spring, they were firing lead through their Remingtons, Winchesters or Mossbergs. A push for non-toxic shot came along, primarily for waterfowl, and the floodgates opened with shotgun ammunition made from steel, copper, bismuth, tin and tungsten.
Lead has been used for as long as someone figured out it could be melted and formed into a projectile. Steel has been primarily used for waterfowl hunting for about 30 years, and copper has been around for a while as a non-toxic alternative. Tungsten Super Shot, better known as TSS, is a heavyweight nontoxic load with more density than lead.
They’re in play for turkeys, waterfowl and upland birds. Do you need an expensive TSS load to hunt those birds? No. Could it make your hunting better by reducing cripples or putting them on the ground better? Yes, if you practice and know the load and gun. Only you can make the decision about which load to use.
Two things you definitely should know about patterning a shotgun for hunting turkeys, birds or waterfowl: rarely are shotgun pellet patterns centered, and your choke-load combination will affect the pattern. Patterning is important to get the best performance.
READ MORE: Best Shotguns for Waterfowl, Upland, Turkey New for 2022
No matter how well you freehand your shot, whether from a bench, standing or a seated position, your body will move. Thus, your shotgun’s muzzle will move and anything you’re trying to pattern will not be centered. To correct this, use a Caldwell Lead Sled on a stable bench (not a fold-up card table supported on one corner by a rock). Go to a range or place with a stable, secure bench. Take a Lead Sled or sandbags. You want a platform that won’t move around, so you can accurately get on the target to pull the trigger.
Use targets large enough for patterning and seeing all the pellet impacts, such as Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C targets. You’re not shooting a pie pan with a rifle. Go big. Set up the targets at appropriate distances with help from a laser rangefinder. Have multiple targets and ammunition. If your goal is finding the right choke-ammo combo, go with a friend or two who has other chokes, split the ammo and make a day of it. Shoot enough to get good feedback. One shot and "Eh, looks good!" isn’t enough (and you know it). Put in the time to get the results.
Your choke and cartridge work hand in hand. You may get great results with the GobblerSmasher Throat-Choker and No. 5 lead, but switch to TSS and the pattern may go haywire because the choke doesn’t like that load. Or your WaterfowlWhacker Choke loves a specific TSS load but you switched to a different TSS load and they got married and had a lot of target pattern babies because of all the love. You didn’t know until you switched. Choke manufacturers offer recommendations for loads – traditional and TSS. Don’t ignore those. Use them as a starting point to get the best pattern from your shotgun.
Check the regulations for your hunting area to learn what ammunition is legal or prohibited. Waterfowl, upland and turkey loads vary in composition and you don’t want to run afoul of the law. Find out what you can use, and go from there to pattern testing at the range. You’ll probably be surprised after a few hours of shoot pellets into targets, and better off once hunting season arrives.
Best New Shotgun Ammo for 2022
The annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas is when the hunting and shooting industry takes the spotlight. Here is some of the best new shotgun ammunition for 2022 for upland birds, waterfowl and turkeys.
Remington Premier TSS, Premier Magnum
Big Green is back in spring with its new Premier TSS turkey loads, available in No. 7 and 9 shot for 12- and 20-gauges and .410 bore. They’re Remington has ramped up its ammunition manufacturing and is back this year with 17 new loads across its shotgun, rifle, handgun and rimfire lines. Premier TSS is its showcase gobbler smasher but you’ll pay for it; the 12- and 20-gauge loads are more than $10 each. If that’s an issue, lighten the load on your shoulder and budget with Premier Magnum Turkey High Velocity: 20 gauge. You’ll get five cartridges per box of 1 1/8-ounce No. 5 lead shot pushing 1,300 fps at the muzzle and for $8.99 a box.
Fiocchi Flyway Series
If you’re good with steel shot, Fiocchi Flyway covers the bases for 12- and 20-gauge in multiple loads. You’ll have options to knock down birds over decoys in the woods or pound geese on the edges of the spread. Flyway is comprised of treated steel shot along with matched wads and powders. Loads range from T and BBB to No. 6, with three in 20-gauge and 17 in 12-gauge.
Winchester Blind Side 2
Winchester turned heads years ago with its Blind Side loads, and now Hex shot is putting attention on its new Blind Side 2 shells. Each pellet has six flat sides and rounded edges. If that sounds unusual, it is. But Winchester’s testing has revealed that the pellets fly and pattern well with lethal penetration thanks to a tumbling effect created by the Hex shot. Winchester’s patented Drylok wad keeps water from ruining the powder while the nickel-plated head resists corrosion.
Hevi-Shot Hevi XII
HeviShot is offering 25-shell boxes this year of its Hevi XII, the new name for its original shot. Rebranding, yes, but also with updated components that let you shoot three sizes smaller than steel. The main workhorse is the 12-gram pellets that are more dense than lead and undeniably pound ducks and geese. They’re available in 1-ounce loads of No. 4 and 6 shot, pushing 1,350 fps, for 12-gauge (5 options), 20-gauge (3 options) and now in 28-gauge.
Winchester Bismuth Shot
Among the new offerings this year is Winchester Bismuth, which the company says “shatters performance expectations with a premium, uniform shot, which is tin-plated to produce the smoothest, roundest bismuth shot in the industry.” From its testing, Winchester says Bismuth puts 90 percent of its pattern on target. It also says any choke can be used. It has Winchester’s familiar components: Drylok wad system and primer, and proven buffer to assist with pellet flight and pattern expansion. The 3-inch 12-gauge will have 1 3/8 ounces of No. 4 shot (ducks) No. 1 shot (geese). Bismuth 20-gauge will come in 3-inch offerings with 1 1/8 ounces of No. 4 shot.
READ MORE: First look at Winchester AA Diamond Grade 20 Gauge Shotshells
Winchester Super Pheasant Diamond Grade
New this year from Winchester is Super Pheasant Diamond Grade, which has 8 percent antimony copper-plated shot in a 5-shot configuration for the toughest roosters. Initial offerings include 2-3/4 inch for 12 and 20-gauge, and a 3-inch 12-gauge load. Winchester says its Diamond Grade shot has four times more antimony (hardening alloy) than standard target loads, resulting in harder copper-plated shot that is precision sorted for use in Super Pheasant loads.
Fiocchi Golden Pheasant
Big upland birds hold tight, blast off quickly and need a stout punch to put them on the ground. Fiocchi’s Golden Pheasant should get a look for your game vest this season. Golden Pheasant offers nickel-plated lead shot along with innovative wads to assist with initial flight and optimal patterning. You’ll find six offerings in 28-gauge, seven in 20-gauge, six in 12 gauge in 2 ¾- and 3-inch, and even two in 16-gauge should you be in a mood for a throwback to yesteryear.