March 10, 2021
By now, most turkey hunters have at least heard of it. Some have read about it, and others have invested in it. And when we say “invest”, we mean it. Tungsten isn’t cheap!
TSS Shot has been all the craze for the avid turkey hunter for more than a few years, but in 2021 a few major ammunition manufacturers are stocking exciting loads that contain TSS shot. But, what is TSS anyways? And, why on earth is it so expensive?
History of TSS
TSS stands for Tungsten Super Shot. Apparently, this title was given to the magical blend of imported tungsten shot by the late Kyle Smith: a man who pioneered the use of tungsten for waterfowl hunting more than 20 years ago, thereby initiating a history all its own. Soon after sharing his discovery of tungsten’s effectiveness on game birds, reloaders across the country began experimenting with different ways to pack their shotgun loads with the stuff.
That’s where a man by the name of Hal Abbot comes into the story. Hal began loading TSS shot in 2006 in an attempt at creating the world’s most lethal turkey load. Much like Kyle, Hal began sharing his success with others, specifically on online forums, and the news spread like wildfire – eventually getting into the hands of some major hitters in the turkey hunting industry.
You can’t blame any of the major manufacturers for taking advantage of the success discovered by grassroots reloaders. At 18g/cc in density, TSS shot is around 60% denser than lead shot. When shot is more dense, it hits harder. Consider a Mack truck going 20 mph or a bicyclist going 20 mph; that’s quite a difference in the impact if one were to get hit by either. And because of its weight, you no longer need big shot size to hit hard and effectively kill. A No. 9 TSS pellet will hit your target with the same power as a No. 4 lead shot. Because of the lethality tungsten’s density delivers downrange hunters are choosing to shoot a smaller pellet size in their TSS shells.
“But it’s really not that simple,” said Abbot, “When it comes to shotgun pellets and fowl, what determines a pellet's lethality is penetration. And penetration depth is determined by the energy per surface area of the pellet. Weight does not determine this; it's weight per area. If two pellets weigh the same, but one is smaller, the smaller one will penetrate deeper because the energy is focused on a smaller surface area on contact and is not dissipated over as wide an area”
So, in the past, No. 8 and No. 9 shot were usually saved for your dove hunts, or a day of clay pigeons; but now, turkey hunters are finding that No. 9 TSS pellets are greatly increasing their number of pellets in the kill-zone, and doing so in an effective and respectable way, especially on turkeys.
What else can TSS add to the table? According to TSS expert Hal Abbott, there’s one more factor that tends to get skipped over.
“In addition to penetration energy and pellet count, there is a 3rd factor that doesn't show up in the math - patterning characteristics,” said Abbot. “In a nutshell, the denser and harder the shot material, the better the pellets will hold together in a pattern. And in real life scenarios, on real birds, the TSS will actually do better vs lead, because of hardness. TSS will break bones better, or any other hard material, because of its hardness and lack of flattening out when it comes into contact with any surface.”
Tungsten ultimately trumps lead, Hevi-Shot, bismuth, and other materials that try to boast as the “best performing turkey load”. It’s all part of why TSS shot is becoming the obvious best choice for turkey hunters.
So, here’s a breakdown of off-the-shelf TSS ammunition that you can add to your turkey vest this spring.
Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS
Offered in .410, 20 ga., and 12 ga., with a number of different shot sizes, including: No. 7, 8, 9, and 10, while supplies last. If you’re a Federal fan, then you’re bound to find something from their Heavyweight TSS line that will work for you. And in 2021, they’ve rolled out a new and improved version of their already amazing shell: The Heavyweight TSS blend of No. 7 and 9 shot.
Federal ammunition authority J.J. Reich tells us: “TSS is more than 20 percent denser than Federal Premium’s previous Heavyweight shot, which has a density of about 15 grams per cubic centimeter. Further, it’s 56 percent denser than lead. It has a density of 18 grams per cubic centimeter and is harder than steel. The increased density retains velocity, and the hardness prevents pellet deformation, which improves pattern efficiency and penetration.”
All of Federal’s offerings, excluding the .410 bore, add the use of their Flitecontrol Flex wads for extremely tight, consistent patterns. “The wad’s redesigned rear-deploying brake fins and side-mounted vents stimulate the payload for separation from the wad at precisely the right moment for the densest, most consistent patterns possible,” says Reich. www.federalpremium.com
Federal 3rd Degree w/ Heavyweight TSS
Offered in 20 ga. and 12 ga., 3rd Degree blends No. 5 copper-plated lead shot, No. 6 Flitestopper lead and 18 g/cc No. 7 Heavyweight TSS shot. All 3rd Degree shells utilize a three-stage payload that helps ensure you can kill turkeys both far and near. This blended design helps cut down the cost of the individual shell to give turkey hunters a more budget friendly TSS shell.
“The No. 6 lead pellets form a forgiving close-range pattern, the copper-plated No. 5 lead delivers lethal performance at mid-ranges, and the No. 7 TSS pellets allow dense, lethal patterns at 40-plus yards,” said Reich. www.federalpremium.com
Apex Turkey Ninja
A box of Turkey Ninja is a bit more affordable than the Federal Premium, but not by too much. No matter what way you cut it, TSS turkey loads will not be cheap. Apex Ammunition is a veteran owned small business that utilizes the precision of hand loaded shells. And recently, Apex has partnered with Woodhaven Custom Calls to offer their newest take on TSS. Offered in .410, 28 ga., 20 ga., and 12 ga., there’s something for most everyone. The Ninja Series uses a unique “highly polished, dense and uniform 8.5 shot,” says owner Jared Lewis, “and the most exciting aspect is that the spectrum has opened up to all sorts of sub-gages. We’re seeing more kids on their first bird than ever before.” apexmunition.com
Apex Turkey Tungsten Super Shot
This Apex load steers away from the NINJA line and chooses to offer the turkey hunter with further options in shot and pellet size. You can pick up a box of 5 shells in .410, 28 ga., 20 ga., 16 ga., 12 ga., and 10 ga. With speeds of up to 1,200 fps, you’re bound to reach out and knock down that big old tom. With Apex you can pick up just about any combination of shell length from 2 ¾” to 3 ½” and pick any shot size between No. 7.5 and No. 9. Regardless of what you need, Apex has you covered. apexmunition.com
Browning TSS Tungsten Turkey
Browning offers a more limited line of TSS shot for those who choose either a .410, 20 ga., or 12 ga. to carry into the turkey woods this spring. They don’t really complicate their offerings with lots of different blends or shot sizes, and that can be a breath of fresh air. You can pick up any of the previously listed gauges with fully loaded TSS No. 7s, or with a blended TSS No. 7s and No. 9s. With a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps, Browning claims that “turkeys out to 70 yards don’t stand a chance”. Pick up a box this season and see for yourself. browningammo.com
Regardless of which TSS load you may pick up this coming spring, remember that a few shots on a pattern board and a hunt or 2 will equip you with real-world knowledge, not just ballistic charts and online forum boasting points. TSS is notorious for attracting braggadocious online comments, but we say nothing is more brag worthy than a dead gobbler. Take the time to conduct your own study and product review and we’re sure you’ll be much more lethal than ever before.