Non toxic choices

jmnhunter

New member
what does everyone use for their non toxic shells? I currently use federal blue box in 3" #3's or 4's or winchester xperts of the samething, about 10-$12/box. anyone else finding something better? i also do not want to spend $20+ a box
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
i also do not want to spend $20+ a box
I get that you're not interested in spending the $$ for something other than steel. Maybe somebody else is interested though. Since Kent put the kibosh on 16 ga. Tungsten Matrix, I've switched back to bismuth 5's, also by Kent now. So far, so good.
 

jmnhunter

New member
I get that you're not interested in spending the $$ for something other than steel. Maybe somebody else is interested though. Since Kent put the kibosh on 16 ga. Tungsten Matrix, I've switched back to bismuth 5's, also by Kent now. So far, so good.
you liking the bismuth and tungsten vs steel? I may have to pony up and try a box if its worthwhile, i'll do it
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
you liking the bismuth and tungsten vs steel? I may have to pony up and try a box if its worthwhile, i'll do it
Not tungsten....Tungsten Matrix. Yes, I prefer almost anything to steel, although I'll admit the other more pricey non-tox options aren't always necessary. I shoot the softer bismuth to be damn sure I don't damage my older barrels & because of the lack of 16 gauge steel options. If you're shooting a relatively modern 12 gauge, though, there's really no reason you can't hunt pheasants with steel, particularly if you've got a dog who knows how to deal with cripples. And you don't need 3"ers. I'd find a 2-3/4", 1-1/8 oz. load doing at least 1,400 fps.....#3's. Some guys like 2 steel. Lots of people shoot 4's (& even 6's) successfully, but there's something about 4's that makes them not perform quite as well as they should. 3's are (arguably) the best. Once you get into fast steel, though, it becomes even more important to pattern your loads & find one that performs well from your gun/choke combination. They vary wildly.
 
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The only thing you might want to do is not use the #4 steel load and go with the #3 steel load or go to a #2 steel load! And, 12ga 3" loads aren't necessary for most pheasant hunting, a 12ga 2 3/4" 1 1/8 oz load is all you really need if choked properly! I'm guessing you are talking about Federal 12ga 3" 1 1/4 oz steel loads so you'll have a hard time finding anything "better" in that price range!

If you're having trouble killing pheasants with your loads you might want to make sure your shooting at birds within reasonable shotgun range and at distances you can reliably hit them, and go shoot some patterns at the distance you shoot your birds to make sure your load/choke combo if performing adequately to kill pheasants.

Roster's steel shot lethality research on pheasants showed #2 steel to be more effective (at all ranges) than #6 or #4 steel. Yes, steel #4 or even #6 steel loads will kill'em too but a little extra pellet energy is a good thing on wild pheasants where many shots are going-away shots and can get on the long side. Roster's research showed #2 steel resulted in fewer cripples than either #6 or #4 steel loads and Roster concluded that the #3 steel pellet would be a good compromise between pellet count and downrange energy. You can google the research yourself and read the particulars. Here’s a link.

https://www.ultimatepheasanthunting.com/forum/showthread.php?9368-Test-of-steel-shot-on-pheasants

When I use a 12ga with steel on pheasants, I go with 2 3/4" 1 1/8 oz loads of #2 steel. Here are a few of my pattern numbers to give you an idea of how these 2 3/4" perform, in my gun anyway!

Patterning results from a 12-gauge Browning Citori with 28" Invector-plus barrels using Briley flush chokes (patterns average of five, 30" post-shot scribed circle, yardage taped muzzle to target, and in-shell pellet count average of five).

12 GA 2 3/4" REMINGTON SPORTSMAN HI-SPEED STEEL LOAD
1 1/8 oz #2 steel (139 pellets) @ 1,375 fps
30 YARDS – SK / pattern 116 (84%)
40 YARDS – M / pattern 114 (82%)

Good luck!
 
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I shoot a 16 gauge SxS and in the past few years, I have used nothing but nontoxic shot. Lately, I have found 7/8 oz of #4 steel @ 1550 fps to be very effective for pheasants.

I like 7/8 oz of #3 steel for my left barrel. I have also recently purchased a box of 1 oz bismuth #5. I look forward to trying that in Iowa next week.

I have read Roster's study and it is my understanding that his loads were 12 gauge, 1 oz loads at 1365 fps (or so).
 
Yes, they were using 1 oz 1375 fps steel loads but you can read the research for yourself on that topic. In the past, I also shot and killed some pheasants with 20ga 1 oz loads of #4 steel but I'll let the research speak for itself on the pellet size topic, here is one quote from the article link.

"Bagging vs. wounding

Of the three loads tested, No. 2 steel exhibited the highest B-1 bagging rate over all distances, at 76.9 percent. No. 4 steel was second at 65.7 percent, and No. 6 steel came in at 62 percent.

At distances of less than 40 yards, where the hunters in this test, when not constrained to fire at certain distance increments, took most of their shots, 86.5 percent of birds bagged with No. 2 steel were B-1, dead or immobile within 30 seconds. At less than 40 yards, No. 4 produced a 73 percent B-1 rate, and No. 6 produced a 75 percent B-1 rate.

What that means to hunters who need to make a choice between steel shot loads is that of all birds bagged, No. 2 steel produced a higher percentage of clean kills than the other two steel shot sizes tested.

The other side of the equation is wounding loss, or birds visibly struck by pellets but not retrieved. All pheasant hunters have lost roosters that "hit the ground running" because the bird was not centered in the pattern (a nice way of describing shooter error), or perhaps because pellets did not penetrate to vital organs. All pheasant hunters who use steel shot and want to reduce the potential for crippling loss can tilt one factor in their favor by choosing No. 2 steel whenever possible.

Of all birds struck with the No. 2 steel load, 108 were retrieved and 10 were lost, an 8.5 percent wounding loss rate. No. 6 steel produced a 13.6 percent wounding loss, and No. 4 steel came in with a 14.3 percent wounding rate. Interestingly, hunters lost only two of 68 birds hit at distances of less than 30 yards with all three loads combined, a wounding rate of 2.9 percent. All test loads together produced 15.1 percent wounding loss at shot distances of 40 yards or greater.

For the entire test, wounding loss was 12.2 percent. "That's a pretty low wounding rate," Roster noted, especially when compared to findings of 15 shotshell lethality tests on waterfowl, some of which examined both lead and steel. Trained observers in those tests detected 30 percent or more of birds hit by hunters with either shot type were not retrieved."
 

mgorvi

Member
I’ll use Kent Bismuth (4s) in my 12 and Federal Heavyweight 7s in my 20. They seem to pattern well. See what hsppens.
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
I shoot a 16 gauge SxS and in the past few years, I have used nothing but nontoxic shot. Lately, I have found 7/8 oz of #4 steel @ 1550 fps to be very effective for pheasants.

I like 7/8 oz of #3 steel for my left barrel. I have also recently purchased a box of 1 oz bismuth #5. I look forward to trying that in Iowa next week.

I have read Roster's study and it is my understanding that his loads were 12 gauge, 1 oz loads at 1365 fps (or so).
John, which brand of steel are you using?
 

A5 Sweet 16

Member
I have been shooting my own reloads. It is a published recipe and it is available here:

https://www.ballisticproducts.com/VP80 data.pdf

See load #50204

Prior to using my own reloads, I experienced very good performance with Sporting Ammo 15/16 oz #3 steel at 1450 fps.

They are available here: https://www.sportingammo2.com/steel-shot-shells
Ahhh. That's precisely why I started shooting factory shells when I got my first 16 ga. about 20 years ago. Didn't want to buy a 16 ga. press & have another portion of my house filled with components. I could also see the writing on the wall. I was newly married; kid on the way; new home owner. I wasn't going to have the time to devote to hand loading, patterning, chronographing, etc. that I'd had in the past. I may look into the "Sporting Ammo II" thing though. If nothing else, it's intriguing. Thanks for the info!
 
Yes, they were using 1 oz 1375 fps steel loads but you can read the research for yourself on that topic. In the past, I also shot and killed some pheasants with 20ga 1 oz loads of #4 steel but I'll let the research speak for itself on the pellet size topic, here is one quote from the article link.

"Bagging vs. wounding

Of the three loads tested, No. 2 steel exhibited the highest B-1 bagging rate over all distances, at 76.9 percent. No. 4 steel was second at 65.7 percent, and No. 6 steel came in at 62 percent.

At distances of less than 40 yards, where the hunters in this test, when not constrained to fire at certain distance increments, took most of their shots, 86.5 percent of birds bagged with No. 2 steel were B-1, dead or immobile within 30 seconds. At less than 40 yards, No. 4 produced a 73 percent B-1 rate, and No. 6 produced a 75 percent B-1 rate.

What that means to hunters who need to make a choice between steel shot loads is that of all birds bagged, No. 2 steel produced a higher percentage of clean kills than the other two steel shot sizes tested.

The other side of the equation is wounding loss, or birds visibly struck by pellets but not retrieved. All pheasant hunters have lost roosters that "hit the ground running" because the bird was not centered in the pattern (a nice way of describing shooter error), or perhaps because pellets did not penetrate to vital organs. All pheasant hunters who use steel shot and want to reduce the potential for crippling loss can tilt one factor in their favor by choosing No. 2 steel whenever possible.

Of all birds struck with the No. 2 steel load, 108 were retrieved and 10 were lost, an 8.5 percent wounding loss rate. No. 6 steel produced a 13.6 percent wounding loss, and No. 4 steel came in with a 14.3 percent wounding rate. Interestingly, hunters lost only two of 68 birds hit at distances of less than 30 yards with all three loads combined, a wounding rate of 2.9 percent. All test loads together produced 15.1 percent wounding loss at shot distances of 40 yards or greater.

For the entire test, wounding loss was 12.2 percent. "That's a pretty low wounding rate," Roster noted, especially when compared to findings of 15 shotshell lethality tests on waterfowl, some of which examined both lead and steel. Trained observers in those tests detected 30 percent or more of birds hit by hunters with either shot type were not retrieved."
I have read Roster's report....many times. I printed a copy of it several years ago.

There are two means used to overcome the ballistic shortcomings of steel when compared to lead. Those two means are increasing speed and increasing the size and therefore the mass of the projectiles.

Using #2 steel definitely increases the mass.

I am shooting a 16 gauge gun. I am essentially limited to 7/8 oz of shot in my loads. These have a published velocity of 1550 fps (considerably faster than Roster's 1375 fps loads. I am using #4 steel in these loads.

Back in lead shot days, a common pheasant load was 1 1/14 oz of #4 lead with a pellet count of about 169. 7/8 oz of #4 steel has a pellet count of about 167 pellets. I pattern my guns and loads. I know full well what they are capable of. With this load, I have had more consistent, clean kills (within 35 yards) than I had with larger shot sizes.

In my 12 gauge guns, I use #3 and #2 steel for pheasants.
 

quail hound

Moderator
I prefer kent bismuth myself. I'm glad they started making 28ga loads and hope they continue to expand their load offerings, I'd sure like some 7 or 7.5s loads.
 
John -- I'm glad you are having success with your load choice. I was just trying to provide the findings from the research and let all draw their own conclusions. I wish there were more 16ga nontoxic load choices out there since I have two M12 16ga guns that were my dad and grandfather's guns. I shot my first goose and some ducks back in the lead days with those guns but haven't used them much since nontoxic came mandatory.

Good luck!
 

benelli-banger

Active member
I've knocked down 12 birds so far this year...5 with Hevi shot out of a 16 gauge (#6)...and 7 out of a 12 gauge with #3 Hevi Metal...retrieved all 12 birds...no cripples to chase around, either...they were laying where they fell...now, my partner, who is a TERRIFIC competitive shooter, was shooting #3 steel, and lost 2 or 3 birds...he has good dogs, so do I...take from that what you will. Hevi metal is about a buck a shell...hevi shot is about $3-4 per shell...

about 15 years ago I was given about 70 rounds of 20 gauge Hevi shot...#6...I used it one trip...knocked down 20, retrieved 19...I was sold. I have stood in the field SO MANY times looking for a lost bird, shot with steel....I turn to my buddy, and say "I would pay 20 bucks to find this damn bird!"....therefore, $3 a shell for Hevi shot seems like a bargain! I bought 60 rounds for $150 about 2 years ago...16 gauge #6...glad I did!
 
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quail hound

Moderator
I used to use hevi shot and I know it sounds stupid but I quit because of all those spammers they sent to this site to push it in every comment. It definitely works though.
 

James O

Member
Just brought some hevi shot # 5 duck load from Cabelas it was 45.00 per box for 20 gauge .I thought that was pretty expensive but figured I would try it.Did not realize that it was a box of 10.I won't be able to blame the ammo any more.
 

Highvoltage

Member
Years ago after rebates you could get a box for $15. I kept thinking as I shot, buck and a half, buck and a half, as the bird flew away. Now that sounds cheap.
 

benelli-banger

Active member
Years ago after rebates you could get a box for $15. I kept thinking as I shot, buck and a half, buck and a half, as the bird flew away. Now that sounds cheap.

yes, that does! $4 a shell is kind of nuts...but again, when searching for a cripple, it sounds like a bargain!
 
I just returned from a 3 day hunt in NW Iowa. We hunted public land. I carried my 16 gauge SxS. I had #4 steel in my right barrel and #3 steel in my left. They are 7/8 oz reloads with a published velocity of 1550 fps. I also had along Kent Bismuth 1oz #5.

The first day, the only shooting opportunity that I had was a bird that was also targeted by two other hunters.

The second day, my first opportunity was a longer (30-35 yard crossing shot). I hit the bird with my right barrel (#4 steel) and it started to fall arse down, head up. I shot it again (#3 steel) with my left barrel and it was dead where it fell.

Second opportunity was an even longer quartering away shot. I hit it with one shot from my right barrel (#4 steel). The bird was alive when the dog got to it but it was unable to move.

My last opportunity was later in the day, it was raining and I decided to try the Kent bismuth. My dog worked a bird that flushed very close. The shot was probably about 20 yards, give or take. The bird was dead where it fell.

The next day, I had only one good opportunity. The bird flushed close and I shot it with a single shot of #4 steel. It was unable to move from where it fell.

One of the guys that I was hunting with was using Fiocchi Steel Max 3" 12 Gauge 1 1/5 oz #5 steel at 1550 fps. He had bought a box at Scheeles for $11.99. He shot 6 birds. 4 were dead or incapacitated. One was a running cripple that was caught by his dog and one was lost in phragmites.

I have shot 6 birds so far this season five with steel and one with bismuth. I cannot tell the difference at this point.
 
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