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During the Nilo event we were shooting both steel and lead shot, Winchester Xpert steel, and a new lead shot Super Target load of which I shot both interchangeably in the field. I guess I get a bit turned off by some shooting schools when instructors are telling duck hunters that they had to expend several cases of steel shot to learn the behavior of the new shot type. The fact is, steel shot, lead shot, or anything else is just not that much different from one another by the time it moves from the muzzle to the 40 yard mark.

While steel shot is pushed out of the shotgun’s muzzle at ultra high velocity, much of the time it is because it is quick to slow down when it has reached that magic 40 yard mark. Tungsten / Iron shot, Bismuth shot, lead and even the new Hevi-Shot are at times not sent at massive down range speeds, and end up at about the same relative terminal or at target velocity as those faster steel shot pellets. While not every shot type or shotshell load example is going to fit this profile, enough of them will so as to make the teaching or shooting school exercise involved in changing over to steel from lead, or tungsten from steel very elementary. My rule here is to have a good time and just shoot the stuff.

Remember, you retain a shot string from that payload that acts like a large oval kill net. That net can work at the lead edge, middle or tail end. Regardless of the pellet contact point your bird is going to get clobbered if you’re anywhere close to being on target.

Because shotgunning is a random act in terms of exact pellet placement don’t get all caught up in the exact science of ballistics or detailed shooting skills when it comes to dusting ducks out of the sky.

Just the other day I was viewing some material sent to me via the net and a duck hunter was saying that he had been having great luck with the new and different Hevi-Shot loads on geese, but being it moves so much slower out of the muzzle he had been forced to pull “way ahead“ of incoming birds so as to make up for that slow start. This was a mental perceived condition, and in fact he didn’t have to change a thing from shooting common black lead at a 150 f.p.s. faster velocity, because the Hevi-Shot being 12% denser and heavier then lead won’t fall off in velocity as fast, and in fact reached the 50 yard mark at the same velocity as lead shot does.

Whereas a BB lead shot will reach 50 yards moving 758 f.p.s. with a muzzle velocity of 1330 f.p.s., the actual terminal velocity of the Hevi-Shot BB that the hunter insisted required more lead was 751 f.p.s., or a scant seven f.p.s. less.

The forward allowance for the BB lead was 10.4 ft on a 45 mph crossing target, where as the Hevi –Shot forward allowance was 10.8 ft. That Hevi-Shot had been sent aloft at a whopping 1100 f.p.s. out of a 12 bore duck gun. This is one of the best field examples I can make for just shooting any of the new non-toxics and let the chips fall where they may. Even steel shot sent into the air at 1330 f.p.s is less then a foot difference(slower) in forward allowance from lead shot, or Hevi-Shot at the 50 yard mark. You be the judge here and I’m sure you will start to see that mental attitude is a big player in hitting moving targets being ducks, geese, or anything else.

On the other side of the coin, however, I was just shooting a sporting clays course at the Willows in Mississippi this past year and having a hard time hitting my crossing left to right clays. My partner, Nick Sisley, noted gun writer and shooting instructor, was covering the course with me for a double unrestricted round that ate up a full case of shotshells in no time flat. Nick covered my sight line and coached me back into hitting after several attempts on my own. I was pulling off the stock, a typical right handers problem on left to right crossing targets, and as such, everything seemed correct regarding lead or forward allowance, but in effect I was shoot a full yard behind the clay targets. If these had been crossing teal over decoys I would have been experiencing a very bad day indeed.

Watching the Shot Cloud
There are some shooters that have shot so much that they can see the actual shot cloud as it move toward a target in the air. I have found this possible when the sunlight is just right and the backdrop being a clear blue sky is exactly the correct color. Even so, actually being able to study the shot cloud is another matter, and to do this you need to observe freeze, or slow motion photography. Recently, I got the chance to view slow motion photography by way of a special CD being developed for a shotshell tracer shooting product. What I observed was that regardless of payload, and to some extent velocity, the shot cloud was quite tight, painting a rough oval in the air just ahead of the tracer. Also of interest was that when the shot cloud was chasing a clay bird, often the fringe or very outer edge of the cloud would make target contact leaving the shooter to believe that he or she was right on the money. In truth, that shooter can come within inches of missing everything out over the shotgun barrel.

I believe that if we ever got all the junk data in our heads regarding exact lead, pellet velocity, drop, and shot cloud size, we would never hit anything. Again, we are back to that 75% factor that says, “I think I can”, so I will. If you think back how many times have you made a great shot but never gave it any thought whatsoever? You know what I mean, that special shot on a fast flying teal that just dropped over your barrel as an almost surprise to you. To my way of thinking that is the element of shotgunning that separates it from any other form of general shooting sports. In working with rifle shooters, for example, I have found many times that they start out tight as a bow string and need to be loosened up prior to getting that load of shot on target. Think free and shoot well, versus think small and shoot tight targets. At any rate, it is something to think about the next time you’re off target, catching the edge of clays or game birds, and just having terrible day in the field.

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