February 13, 2015
By David Hart
Hunters are always looking for an edge, some sort of advantage to help knock down more game with fewer shots. Thankfully, shotshell manufacturers are hunters, too. That's why they are constantly working on new, improved loads that hit harder and perform better.
This year's SHOT Show saw a host of new loads designed to help you bring home more game. Whether you hunt upland birds, waterfowl or even whitetails, there was something new to stuff into your favorite gun. Here's a look at the latest shotshell offerings.
Federal | 3rd Degree Turkey Loads
Can't decide which shot size to use in your favorite turkey gun? Federal
made your life a little easier with the introduction of the 3rd Degree turkey load
. It includes a layer each of Federal Heavyweight No. 7, 6 and 5 pellets packed in such a way to offer maximum knock-down power at extended ranges. Available in 3- and 3 ½-inch 12-gauge loads, they travel at 1,250 fps. If that's not enough to convince you to try these new loads, a portion of the proceeds of each box goes toward the National Wild Turkey Federation.
24.95 for a 5-count box
Hornady | American Whitetail Rifled Slug
Hornady's American Whitetail
line-up just grew with the addition of a rifled slug made for smoothbore shotguns. With a muzzle velocity of 1,600 fps and 2,848 foot-pounds of energy, these loads are ideal for hunters limited to shotguns for deer hunting. Sighted in with a 100-yard zero, the slug drops just 11.4 inches at 150 yards. The 1-ounce, hollow-point, Foster-style slug is only available in 12-gauge.
Kent | Ultimate Fast Lead 20-gauge 3-inch
Kent's Ultimate Fast Lead
has been around for several years, but up until this year, there were no 3-inch loads for 20-gauge shotguns. That's changed. Starting this year, the company will offer Ultimate Fast Lead in 3-inch, 20-gauge shells loaded with 1¼ ounces of either No. 5 or 6 Diamond Shot. The load travels at 1,300 fps. Be patient, though. The loads are so new, they have not been released yet. Kent doesn't even have an official photo of the box yet, but it will reportedly look identical to the 12-gauge Ultimate Fast Lead packaging.
Remington | Nitro Steel
took its popular waterfowl load and made it even better. The new Nitro Steel
has increased energy and more velocity without any additional recoil. If that's not enough, the engineers at Remington added zinc-plated pellets for corrosion resistance, along with a waterproof primer and crimp to prevent moisture from entering shells under the most extreme conditions. Available in 10, 12, 16 and 20 gauges and in loads ranging from BBB to No. 4 shot, waterfowlers of all stripes will find a load to their liking.
Rio | Bismuth
recently entered the non-toxic shotshell market with the introduction of Bismuth
shot. It's perfect for vintage shotgun fans who fear barrel damage from harder steel pellets. In fact, bismuth is 86 percent less dense than lead, offering ideal penetration and knock-down power. Rio offers a variety of shot sizes (No. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7) in 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauges and even .410. Velocities range from 1,175 fps in .410 to 1,400 fps in 3-inch 12-gauge loads.
Winchester | AA Steel
Although Winchester's new AA steel target loads
may be geared toward the sporting clay, skeet and trap market, there is a growing number of non-toxic shot-only hunting areas. As such, shooters looking for the perfect non-toxic dove, quail or even rabbit load would be wise to check out AA steel loads. These loads are available in 2¾-inch, 12-gauge 7½ or 8-shot and are packed with 1 ounce of shot.
119.99 per case
Winchester | Blind Side Magnum Pheasant
Made with the same lethal, non-toxic pellets as Winchester's
popular Blind Side waterfowl loads, the Magnum Pheasant
load is the ideal choice for the countless mandatory non-toxic hunting areas scattered throughout pheasant country. The hexahedron-shaped pellets are stacked in the wad cup, allowing up to 15 percent more shot and additional powder in each load. Available in 2¾ and 3-inch loads, both options are packed with 1 3/8-ounce of No. 5 shot.
219.99 per case
Winchester | Rooster XR
Late-season roosters can be cagey birds. Winchester's Rooster XR
can bring down those pheasants that refuse to hold tight or that have an extra layer of late-season fat. These hard-hitting loads aren't just for late season, though. They'll knock down birds from opening day to the final sunset. Made with Winchester's patented Shot-Lok technology, which prevents misshaped pellets and poor patterns, Rooster XR is available in 12-gauge 2¾ and 3-inch shells in No. 4, 5 or 6 shot. It travels at a capable 1,300 feet per second. Available in 15-round boxes.
Winchester | Long Beard XR
Is there anything more frustrating than a gobbler that hangs up just beyond range? Thanks to Winchester's
new Shot-Lok technology, that range just got extended a few more yards. This load sends twice as many pellets into a 10-inch circle at 60 yards as traditional lead turkey loads. Long Beard XR
is available in 3- and 3½-inch 12-gauge loads in No. 4, 5 or 6 shot. The 3-inch shell has 1¾ ounces of shot and moves at 1,200 fps. Ten rounds per box.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.