First Look: Federal Grand Gold Medal Clay Competition Shotshells

First Look: Federal Grand Gold Medal Clay Competition Shotshells
The Federal Grand Gold Medal competition shotgun loads produce less felt recoil, more reliable ignition, improved shot hardness and excellent reloadability. (Photo courtesy of Federal)

A new competition shotshell from Federal is designed to hit clays harder while remaining soft on shooters

Competitive shooters have relied on Federal Gold Medal shotshells for decades in trap, skeet and sporting clay events worldwide.

For 2017, the time-tested design has been refined to create a new load called Gold Medal Grand. The lineup of reloadable plastic shotshells produces less felt recoil, more reliable ignition, improved shot hardness and excellent reloadability, all while retaining performance shooters expect from Federal Premium Ammunition.

More Power, Less Pain?

Federal Grand Gold Medal competition shotgun
loads are equipped with SoftCell technology, a
two-piece wad with a cushioned air
chamber. (Photo courtesy of Federal)

Repetitive recoil is the bane of shotgunners’ shoulders, capable of inflicting serious punishment and inciting flinches in shooters of all shapes and sizes.

New Gold Medal Grand tames the kick of all shotgun styles with an ingenious two-piece wad armed with SoftCell technology.

“The two-piece design allows us to create an air pocket within the wad, which basically serves as a cushioning chamber,” explains Dan Compton, senior ammunition product line specialist for Federal Premium. “This not only absorbs energy, it delays the entire compression process, so the force hits your shoulder a little later and little softer.”

Compton notes the SoftCell system is based on a proven concept. “In the past, a version of this type of wad was used in some of Federal’s shotshells,” he says. “New molding and polymer technology allowed us to bring it back – better than ever – with Gold Medal Grand.”

Realizing a number of factors can influence felt recoil, Federal Premium engineers bolted shotguns onto rigid test fixtures and used minute electrical impulses to precisely measure the recoil force generated by new Gold Medal Grand and a number of traditional shotshells.

The results were compelling. “Gold Medal Grand produced from 11 to 17 percent less peak force than the competitive brands we tested,” says Compton. “It also had roughly 5 percent less recoil than current Gold Medal shotshells, and generated a much narrower, more consistent range of force.”

Such recoil reductions are a godsend to avid shooters who count the number of rounds they send downrange by the box or case.

“If you only fire a couple of shots at a time, this might not seem like a big deal,” says Compton. “But when you’re shooting hundreds or even thousands of rounds at a multiday event, even a 5-percent decrease in recoil is going to be very noticeable.”

Federal Grand Gold Medal competition shotgun loads feature white hulls and quality printing for premium appearance. (Photo courtesy of Federal)

Compton notes Gold Medal Grand’s unique two-stage wad also produces tighter, more uniform patterns than one-piece designs. “The cushioning effect of the wad allows us to use faster-burning propellants that reduce the muzzle pressure that can throw off patterns.” he explains.

“To further ensure tight, even patterns, Gold Medal Grand’s lead shot is engineered for an optimum blend of hardness and density. “We use a special lead alloy that provides the hardness of 5-percent antimony lead,” says Compton.

“Harder pellets don’t deform as much and produce more consistent patterns. Testing conducted by Federal Premium engineers revealed that significantly more pellets from Gold Medal Grand loads hit inside a 30-inch circle at 40 yards compared to standard Gold Medal. The average increase in pattern efficiency was nearly 5 percent”

Increasing hardness also means more downrange energy. “Hard shot breaks clay targets better than soft shot,” Compton adds.

Reliable Performance

Thanks to its rigid, PrimerLock head, Gold Medal Grand is also less prone to misfires caused by variability in firearm firing mechanisms and subtle differences in primer loading.

“The PrimerLock head is made of brass-plated steel, which transmits energy from the firing pin to the primer better than traditional solid brass heads,” says Compton. “As a result, less force is required to ignite the primer. There is also more room for error if the firing pin lands off to the side.”

Indeed, standard SAAMI-approved drop-test procedures showed new Gold Medal Grand outperformed standard Gold Medal and competitor ammunition in zero-offset and .025-inch offset impacts on the primer cup.

“You basically drop a heavy ball bearing onto a primer head from gradually lower heights until the rounds stop firing. This is called the ‘all fire height,’” says Compton. “In zero-offset testing, current Gold Medal fired at drop heights down to 11 inches; Gold Medal Grand fired at down to just 9 inches, which was better than all the competitive ammo tested.”

When the bearing’s impact was shifted .025 inches off center, Gold Medal Grand fired at 14 inches, well above original Gold Medal and the rest of the competition. This testing conducted at Federal Premium facility in Anoka, Minnesota.

In a nod to shooters who reload their shotshells, Gold Medal Grand also features an integral basewad for improved durability.

“This means the wad’s plastic tube and base are formed from one piece,” says Compton. “This design maximizes reloadability over standard inserted base wads.

“Testing conducted at Federal Premium’s facility showed you can reload Gold Medal Grand hulls an average of 16 to 17 times, which is better than regular Gold Medal and competitive brands we tested,” he added. “Individual results for Gold Medal Grand ran as high as 25 reloads with no deformities, which is truly remarkable given that most shooters don’t reload a shotshell more than 10 times.”

In addition to these enhancements, Gold Medal Grand features the same great components as original Gold Medal rounds, including high-powered Federal 209A primer and specially formulated propellant.

It also sports a distinctive white hull and is available in shot sizes 7.5 and 8 for 12-gauge shotguns in 2¾-inch shell lengths. Shooters can choose from a variety of popular dram and payload configurations with velocities ranging from 1,100 to 1,235 feet per second.

Features and Benefits

  • Two-piece wad utilizes SoftCell technology to decrease perceived recoil and produce more uniform patterns than one-piece designs
  • Rigid PrimerLock head improves primer sensitivity, ensuring proper ignition in the event of a light hit
  • Lead shot is engineered for the optimum blend of hardness and density for even patterns and maximum downrange power
  • Integral base wad maximizes reloadability


  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, 2 3/4 dram eq., 1 1/8 oz., 1100 fps, 7.5 shot Extra-Lite
  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, 2 3/4 dram eq., 1 1/8 oz., 1100 fps, 8 shot Extra-Lite
  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, 2 3/4 dram eq., 1 oz., 1180 fps, 7.5 shot
  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, 2 3/4 dram eq., 1 oz., 1180 fps, 8 shot
  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, 2 3/4 dram eq., 1 1/8 oz., 1145 fps, 7.5
  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, 2 3/4 dram eq., 1 1/8 oz., 1145 fps, 8
  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, 3 dram eq., 1 1/8 oz., 1200 fps, 7.5 shot
  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, 3 dram eq., 1 1/8 oz., 1200 fps, 8 shot
  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, HDCP, 1 1/8 oz., 1245 fps, 7.5 shot
  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4 inch, HDCP, 1 1/8 oz., 1245 fps, 8 shot

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