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Hunting Icon: Federal Game Load No. 123

Hunters have relied on this shotshell for nearly a century.

Hunting Icon: Federal Game Load No. 123

In 1926, Federal Cartridge Corporation listed 12-gauge shotshell load No. 123 at $35.78 for 1,000 rounds. (Photo courtesy of Federal Ammunition)

In 1926 Ford Motor Co. announced a 40-hour week for its factory workers and the College Board administered the first SAT for university and college admission. That same year Federal Cartridge Corp. listed 12-gauge shotshell load No. 123, more commonly known at the time as the Federal Hi-Power Favorite, on its price sheet in various shot sizes for $35.78 per 1,000 rounds. The company, then in its fourth year of business, recommended it for game from squirrels and quail to turkeys and wolves. Hunters have used load No. 123 in their escape from the grinds of work and school ever since.

The Hi-Power Favorite was a 2 3/4-inch, high-brass, paper-hull shell with 1 1/8 ounces of shot loaded to a medium velocity equivalent to that produced by 3 1/4 drams of blackpowder. The dram system was far from esoteric in those days, blackpowder still being used in some factory-produced hunting loads. (Federal’s 1926 price sheet shows four.)

Federal 12-gauge No. 123 
Photos courtesy of Federal Ammunition
 

Today, Federal calls Product No. H123 the Game Load Upland Heavy Field, forgoing the superlative for a more practical description and using a plastic hull and wad in the shell’s assembly. Nonetheless, the round offers the same charge of lead shot at a moderate velocity of 1,255 fps, a potent load for a variety of small game and birds—if not wolves.

In its early years, the load became popular among sportsmen in part because of company president Charles Horn’s marketing savvy. When Horn found it difficult to obtain display space on traditional ammo dealers’ shelves, he distributed his shells through other businesses such as barber shops, pool halls and even dentist offices. According to company history, patients would come in to have a tooth filled and leave with an armful of ammunition.

Federal kept the ballistics of its standard No. 123 the same throughout the decades, although the company made periodic changes to the street name of the shell. In 1963 it was called Monark, "the choice of champions," according to a Federal ad from the period. It became the Field Load in 1973 and, more descriptively in 1996, the Classic Lead Field Load.

Perhaps wanting to underscore the shotshell’s potency on game, in 2006 Federal referred to it as Game-Shok Heavy Field. For the last 20 years, Federal has sold the load in boxes that are predominantly blue. The color also appeared on Monark packaging with a mallard on the front, lead shot being legal for waterfowl in the 1960s.

Federal 12-gauge No. 123 over the years 
Clockwise: Hi-Power, Monark and Field Load brand names. (Photos courtesy of Federal Ammunition)
 

Federal marks its 100th anniversary this year, a milestone that the company may not have obtained without the continued success of its shotshells. Steel loads at more than 1,600 fps and turkey loads of TSS get the attention today, but while most hunters don’t refer to it as No. 123, Federal’s standard 12-gauge game load has been there all along.

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