With the conclusion of that early season pheasant hunt it was time to get out the Perma Gel ordinance gelatin and run some 40 yard penetration tests using some of the remaining Hevi-Steel #4’s I had rolling around in my shooting vest. I was clearly upset with myself for not running those tests prior to taking the seemingly wimp load afield. However, we are not perfect, least of all gun writers, and I had goofed badly to my way of thinking. The lesson seemed clear to me that there was trouble in the works, and the Perma Gel penetration and wound channel observation with measurements would tell the story in clear ballistic gelatin detail.
Shooting by way of the BSA Classic and a full choke tube at 40 yards, I proceeded to send a round of #4 Hevi-Steel into the gel block which measured at the target face 10" X 6", and 6" deep. When I checked the gel block after firing it had received 14 pellet hits, with almost 2/3rds of them penetrating the block completely. Except for three individual pellets, all had at least cut through 5" penetration depths. The bottom line was by this test those pellets should have produced adequate penetration even when shot from back to front on going away targets.
We know that small steel shot and this Hevi-Steel is only a small jump in performance over standard steel, will not produce radial energy shock found when pellets of Bismuth, Matrix, or lead are used. This channel reflection is called "stiletto effect", and it means that all the energy related to the hard shot is driven forward and not to the side so as to produce shock to vital organs. When I had processed the birds I had taken home I had found very little damage in terms of table fair, and to my way of thinking that element only adds to the stiletto knife point theory.
Pattern work using the standard 30" circle at 40 yard produced a nice uniform pattern with an average 81% grouping. These patterns were even for the most part, and even with the full constricted Benelli installed choke in the muzzle of the BSA side by side, the tube did not develop open holes as some tubes will when using hard steel or other hard non-toxic shot types.
In terms of computer ballistics, rough data would suggest the #4 Hevi-Steel was reaching the 40 yard mark with a terminal or at target velocity of 668 f.p.s., and generating 2.24 ft / lbs. of killing energy. However, much beyond that, and I say a very few yards beyond, and these light weight pellets start to fall off in terms of speed quickly. (569 f.p.s at 50 yards.) For the most part I have never liked #4’s in steel shot, or types of shot close to steel with this shot size, and this is the basic reason why. Now, add the very high winds (40 + mph) to the equation and you have some of the reasons birds were lost even when dogs were in use. (Fringe pattern hits on cross wind shots.)
By way of comparison just running a quick check of a #2 Hevi-Steel pellet and we can see that at 40 yards terminal velocity figures jump to 751 f.p.s. with 4.7 ft / lbs of killing energy. My conclusion is to simply move to a #2 pellet, or even a BB anytime you’re gunning a non-toxic restricted area with standard steel shot, or close alternative types.
On the penetration blocks I ran a comparative test using the new and advanced Federal Cartridge soft tungsten in a #2 was shot. The results of that test were that all pellets exited completely, and the energy channels in the Perma Gel block were wider, and indicated far more radial or damage to the pellets side, thereby radiating additional energy. You can be sure that on my next trip to east river South Dakota I will be packing larger shot, and even in a larger payload package. At the least #2’s or B in Hevi-Steel, or BB’s standard iron shot loads. A heavy Winchester Supreme black bullet 1 1/4 oz BB steel seems about right. "B" (.17 cal) is the largest shot size offered by Enviornmetal Inc. in Hevi-Steel 12 gauge loads.