February 22, 2022
There’s general agreement in the turkey-hunting community that TSS loads are the most lethal and dependable gobbler stoppers available—even when loaded with shot the size once considered suitable only for quail or doves.
A mixture of 95 percent tungsten and 5 percent nickel, with a dab of iron thrown in, TSS is almost 60-percent denser than lead. That means the pellet size can be smaller and, consequently, more of them can be loaded into a shotshell.
Team a TSS load with a full or modified choke, and the result is a denser pattern at distances you probably wouldn’t consider with a lead load. The resulting penetration power also means the lethality of the load is increased exponentially.
That’s the upside. The catch is that price-wise, tungsten is more like gold than lead. Ranging from about $40 to $90 for a box of five rounds, TSS is anything but cheap.
You’re probably not going to go banging away on a dove field with TSS. However, presuming you only get one shot at a trophy gobbler this spring, are you going to quibble about how much that one shot costs?
If the new TSS products on display at the recent NWTF Convention in Nashville are any indication, turkey hunters will have more choices than ever this spring when it’s time to load up.
Here are a few of the options we found.
When Apex Ammunition introduced its extensive TSS gallery at the NWTF get-together a couple years ago, it practically needed a traffic cop to control the crowds that showed up at its booth. It might be said fairly that the engineers at Apex were the first to fully exploit the inherent properties of the tungsten alloy, which is why its extensive lineup includes Turkey TSS, TSS Smalltown Hunting Blend, Upland Bird TSS, Waterfowl TSS, Waterfowl Tungsten/S3 Steel Blend and Predator TSS.
Taking advantage of the TSS craze as it relates to smaller gauges, Benelli debuted a 3-inch, 28-gauge Super Black Eagle 3 earlier this year. It follows that somebody was going to have a TSS load for the new Benelli, and Apex was the first in line. It introduced 28-gauge loads a few seasons back, but more recently COVID and ensuing supply-chain issues affected distribution.
All’s well now, according to a company spokesman. Apex’s 2 3/4-inch Turkey TSS shells are loaded with #9 or #9 1/2 shot, and a box of five sells for $40. The Ninja version (#8 1/2) is also priced at about $40 for five.
A 20-gauge, 2 3/4-inch, reduced-recoil Heavyweight TSS shotshell has joined the Federal family of turkey busters. With a muzzle velocity of 1,000 fps and 1 1/8 ounces of #9 pellets, the Heavyweight still packs a lot of kick, but in front of the muzzle rather than on your shoulder. Federal, a pioneer in TSS development, has jazzed up the pattern capability of the Heavyweight with its full-length Flitecontrol Flex wad, which helps maintain a controlled pattern in ported or standard chokes while protecting the bore from wear and tear. Likewise, the buffering material keeps everything in its rightful place to help maintain velocity and down-range energy. The MSRP is $57 for a box of five.
So named because of its ultra-density pellets (18 g/cc; lead is 11 g/cc), HEVI-18 TSS Turkey is available in shot sizes #7 and #9 in 12 and 20 gauges, as well as .410 bore (3- and 3 1/2-inch versions). These are state-of-the-art loads with performance features that include a buffer-and-wad system said to help maintain velocity and tighter patterns. At the top of the range, the 12-gauge 3 1/2-inch version delivers a 2 1/4-ounce payload at 1,250 fps, while the 3-inch .410 #7 or #9 manages 1,090 fps. Basically, these stretch out the reasonable range at which you’ll stop a gobbler by several yards. A box of five shotshells starts at around $55, depending on gauge.
The tungsten blend in Remington’s TSS version is 22-percent denser than unadulterated tungsten and 55-percent denser than lead, says the manufacturer. What that means is higher downrange energy and patterns that tend not to drift apart on the way. Remington also delivers on pattern performance with new "Remington R”" top wads that help secure shot and buffering. Three-inch shotshells are available with #7 or #9 shot in 12- or 20-gauge, while the .410 load can be had in #9 only. Prices range from about $45 for the .410, to $68 for the 12-gauge.
Fiocchi fans will want to try the company’s new line of TSS loads for turkey hunting. Golden Turkey (18 g/cc) is available in 3-inch lengths for 12 and 20 gauge and .410 bore. Pellet payloads range from 13/16-ounce for .410 (#9 shot) to 1 5/8 ounce for 12 gauge (#7 and #9 shot). Out of the gate, a box of five in any gauge will run about $65.
Rogue’s booth at the NWTF show drew a constant crowd of curious hunters eager to see the mail-order company’s new TSS loads. Rogue has all the bases covered, with offerings in .410 bore and 28, 20 and 12 gauges. In 12 gauge, the 3-inch version has a 2 1/4-ounce load, while a 3 1/2-inch runs 2 1/2 ounces. Two 20-gauge, 3-inch shells deliver 1 5/8 or 1 7/8 ounces of shot. All loads feature #9 shot, except #9 ½ is offered in a 3-inch .410 and 2 3/4-inch 28 gauge. A box of five 3 ½-inch 12-gauge shells retails for about $65, while five .410 loads go for about $40.