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September 09, 2011

Guns, Doves and Steel

By Phil Bourjaily

Almost as heated as the debate over legalizing dove hunting in Iowa was the fracas over what type of shot Iowans would shoot at doves. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad originally signed off on the Natural Resources Commission’s decision to mandate non-toxic shot for doves statewide. Hunters, gun owners and the governor’s son threw a fit until he reversed the decision to permit lead shot. Rather than rehash the political and environmental arguments for and against steel, out of curiosity I thought I would shoot it at doves this year to see how it works. Here’s what I found so far:

Cost
Nearly every angry post and letter I read online complained about the high price of non-toxic shot, with many claiming steel costs $20 per box and more. I don’t know where those people are shopping because at local stores lead and steel dove loads cost exactly the same: $5.99 a box.

Patterns
Despite what you hear, steel does not always pattern more tightly than lead, especially in the smaller shot sizes. My Beretta 391 with a Cylinder choke tube throws 40% Cylinder patterns at 40 yards with 1 ounce, 1300 fps loads of Winchester Xpert Steel 7s. Steel also enjoys a slight edge in pellet count over its lead equivalent (422 steel 7s per ounce vs 410 lead 8s/oz.) and it often patterns more efficiently than lead, with fewer pellets lost from the pattern through deformation.

Ballistics
No question steel is less dense and therefore ballistically inferior to lead. 1250 fps lead 8s hit with much more energy than equivalent 1300 fps steel 7s (.91 foot pounds per lead 8 pellet vs. .63 ft/lbs for steel 7s at 40 yards). Lead has a faster time of flight, too (.1398 seconds to 40 yards for lead 8s vs. .1561 seconds for steel 7s).

Some people think you have to relearn how to shoot steel because it has a different “feel,” starting out fast and slowing quickly. I think the “feel” you need is a feeling of confidence in your ammunition. A round of sporting clays with my dove gun and loads before the season convinced me that if I point my gun at targets the same way I do with lead, they break solidly.

In the Field

While lead beats steel on paper, I can’t complain about steel’s performance in the dove field, and neither can my friends who stocked up on steel dove loads before the non-toxic restriction was lifted. I have hit more than I missed and killed a few at longish range. I have seen only one bird hit hard that kept flying, and that one I marked and found dead where it landed. There is even one added benefit to steel: when I do miss, I get to blame my ammunition instead of myself.

Comments (36)

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from rob wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I have been singing steels praises for years. It patterns well, it kills birds well, it is priced very comparably to lead, especially the premium stuff. If you're still whining about steel, you're just making excuses for being a poor shot.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Sort of takes the wind out of the sail of, "that steel stuff doesn't shoot right" argument.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jjas wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

As a person who has never used steel I have a question...

Does steel create wear in shotgun barrels (especially the inexpensive loads you referenced)?

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

There is no doubt in my mind that steel is effective with doves. My experience with steel to date has been pheasants. I didn't think it was as effective as lead at dropping a bird and anchoring it. Phil, what has your experience been with ringnecks? Is it all in my head?

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from OutdoorEnvy wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I hunt a WMA that is non-toxic only. I kill dove and pheasant with steel and it does work. I would still argue that the lead hits harder at longer ranges though. I've had a couple pheasants fly off after being hit with steel(3in 4 shot). I have never watched a lead hit bird fly off using a 2 3/4 6 shot. Just my experience.

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from Beekeeper wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

No doubt steel continues to improve. Steel dove loads are selling at $7.99 - $8.99 in my neck of woods. Lead "Dove Loads" come in at around $5.79.

I load my lead shells and I can still save money doing that. Loading steel shot is another matter entirely and If forced to go to steel for upland loads I'll no doubt get grouchy in a hurry.

We are still so dry down here that the bords are passing through my area at altitude so it is a moot point this year.

I may try some steel on our fully feathered late season (winter) dove here to see how they do.

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from springerman3 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I huntrd with Phil for a couple of hours on opening day. He had already shot 10 doves by the time I got there. While i still have my doubts about using steel I can't dispute his findings. I was using a 28 gauge so I went with lead shot. I hit half my shots so I felt fairly competent that day :)
He is right on about the whiners that complained about the cost of steel, 20 or 12 gauge the cost is the same as lead in our area !
It was a hoot to set up and shoot at doves here in Iowa vs going out of stste !!

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from henson270 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Mr. Bourjaily,
Would you have any problems using steel Xpert 7's for grouse? Or do you think they would perform the same as lead at the usual ranges at which grouse are shot?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnR wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I have never had issues with steel shot performance and I use it on waterfowl and geese. Most birds I hit fold up immediately and drop. I use my Browning 10 gauge BPS Stalker, the 31/2" shells of which do hold quite a bit of shot.
About older guns and steel shot; it used to be the conventional wisdom when steel was first introduced, not to use steel shot in older firearms (older, not ancient). I imagine readers here remember all the ads for the name brand shotguns advertising their barrels as OK for steel shot. Steel shotshells have evolved to the point where it is my opinion that they are OK to use in any modern shotgun. The shells utilize special wads or shotcups and the steel shot never really touches the inside of the shotgun barrel.
Currently my biggest fear about steel shot is biting into a steel shot pellet when I'm enjoying the fruits of my labors,so to speak. :-)

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Somebody say it "Kills well?" a $5.99 dollar box? More than likely like 22 bird shot kills. Lots of doves get fired on at 40 yds, or slightly better. Few are not going to shoot at that range. Steel has been known, studied, to cost 3million ducks/geese lives in Canada/USA during the season. That was the last account I read. I'd say a lot of doves will fly off and die as well. Does your state have a lot of dove hunters? Here in Idaho I have seen ONE other dove hunter. Let the cost of lead reduce the lead shot hunters, not a bunch of liberals wanting hunting reduced.

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from wingshooter54 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Hey Phil, why don't you shoot steel loads in that fine old Parker you had on the Gun Nuts show? Probably because the owner would shoot you if you did so. The number of hunters that like to shoot and hunt with fine old vintage sxs or o/u shotguns is more than most people realize. I wouldn't use steel in any gun I had respect for or cared about. Besides, reloading low pressure highly efficient light loads in 12 or 16 is also a pleasure.

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from Zermoid wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

"Cost
Nearly every angry post and letter I read online complained about the high price of non-toxic shot"

Are you sure they meant "steel" and not the more expensive non-tox steel alternatives? Of course there's the stupidity factor of someone seeing a box labeled Non-Toxic and assuming it's steel when it's bismuth or some other lead alternative.

Start shooting at 50 yds and see how well steel works, my 1 1/8 oz load of #6 lead routinely drops squirrels at that range, same for 2 oz of #4s on turkeys. Highly doubt steel would do as well at that distance.

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from NorCal Cazadora wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Phil, I think if you price the 20 gauge version, you'll see the difference. Yet another reason I'm so glad I switched to a 12 gauge.

This is my second dove season shooting Hevi-Steel 6s (discontinued, but my hook-n-bullet shop had a couple cases) and I've been REALLY happy with the performance. Now I just wish we had a few more doves in the air here.

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from JohnR wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

BTW for the record on my previous post, I in no way was attempting to state that steel performs as well as lead shot. I was simply stating that I have not had any issues using steel shot for waterfowl over decoys (I probably should have included over decoys).
We still use lead for Cowboy Action Shooting for obvious safety reasons so I will hold on to my two MEC loaders.

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

John R...you use a 10 ga for ducks over decoys?...hit'um in the arse and break their necks do you?

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from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Sayfu,
cool down buddy, in Mo. steel is more expensive too, especially the good stuff.

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from FirstBubba wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

from rob wrote 1 day 6 hours ago
I have been singing steels praises for years. It patterns well, it kills birds well, it is priced very comparably to lead, especially the premium stuff. If you're still whining about steel, you're just making excuses for being a poor shot.

I'm not whining, I'm just a "poor shot"! LOL!!! I prefer lead, it gives me the "edge" that "I" need!
I quit waterfowl hunting long ago.
First off, I don't like to eat duck.
Second, though the "shooting" was fun, then I'd have to go home and clean those stinking things!
Better to just quit hunting them!
I'll shoot lead as long as it's legal.

"...for 2 oz of #4s on turkeys..."

Jeeminey cat whiskers, Zermoid! If you're shooting lead out of a 12 bore, drop down to a 1 1/8 or 1 1/4 oz load of 7 1/2 or 8's in a 2 3/4 in "Hi-Velocity" shell!
I shoot Winchester's "Hi-Velocity", 2 3/4 in No. 7 1/2 shot and cleanly kill turkeys out to 35. I also use a "Extra" full choke tube!
You shoot what you like! THAT is the name of the game.
I just don't like recoil and find the 2 3/4 inch ammo serves me well.

Bubba

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from deerdawg wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

What about the cost of a new shotgun barrel that accepts steel shot. My old Remington 1100 12ga. date 1970 ,I believe, cannot shoot steel shot. It has the original 30" full choke barrel. I did buy a long time ago, perhaps 1980, a hastings barrel with the 3 basic screw in chokes. This barrel also will not accept steel. So for some converting to steel could be quite expensive.

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from Ferber wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Phil--Yes, commercial steel shot has come a long way since its beginnings. I remember Bob Brister's early analysis which wasn't a particularly happy one. I live in a state surrounded by states having dove seasons: we do not. Several years ago I chaired a committee with the support of the NJ Fish and Game Council to add a dove season to our hunting season. Incredibly, after considerable effort of editorializing by newspaper writer members of our NY Metropolitan Outdoor Press Association and individuals having a reach to NJ sportsmen...we couldn't get enough grass roots support to make a case for legislators. the anti-hunting, Disneyized factions pleaded their case in Trenton and that was the end of it. Unlike quail and pheasants which in New Jersey we are hard-pressed to find natural populations of wild birds, the mourning dove--even with its flimsy nests and high natural mortality rate--exists in huge numbers year after year throughout the northeast: the perfect gamebird.

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from amsteele wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Phil,

I've had good luck with the Winchester Xpert dove loads (on State of Iowa areas that prohibit lead), so I agree with much of your analysis. But, I can't agree with a few points:

-Implying that the steel loads have an "edge" over lead loads because they have more pellets per ounce of the same shot size is misleading. Of course it has more pellets per ounce because it is much less dense than lead, the very thing that makes steel ballistically inferior. I could load #7 popcorn seeds and end up with many more pellets per ounce, but that won't give my popcorn load an advantage. Most of us only choose #7 shot for doves in steel because it's the only option, and because one must increase shot size in steel to even approach the effectiveness of lead shot. So, a better comparison would be the number of pellets in one ounce of lead 8's or 9's vs. one ounce of steel 7's. In that match-up lead wins hands down.

- Yes, I was pleased and surprised to find steel dove loads at about $6.50 per box -- similar in price to Wincester AA's. But it shouldn't have surprised me. The relationship in price between steel and lead really hasn't changed that much -- the lowest quality steel is about the same price as the highest quality lead, same as it has been for several years. When you extend that equation to bigger loads for bigger and tougher birds, however, (i.e. in situations where you don't want to rely on the lowest quality stuff on the shelf), steel is still significantly more expensive and so I continue to whine. If the Iowa Natural Resources Commission is allowed to unilaterally and bluntly prohibit lead shot for doves, it won't be long before it does it for everything else, justified or not. That's when the real cost difference will begin to hit my wallet.

- Finally, the costs aren't limited to just the couple of bucks difference per box. As others here have pointed out, steel negatively impacts hunting's heritage by obsolescing older guns. But that's not all. Small gauge guns and doves have long been the recipe for positive introductions of kids and newcomers to hunting. Because of steel's shortcomings, total shot mass (and pellet count) must decrease or velocity must increase, or both. So now a 20 gauge (with which many newcomers have learned to shoot) potentially has the effective pattern of a 28 gauge but the kick of a 12. The 28 gauge - a great starter dove gun in the past - is now useless. Not a great way to encourage youth to pick up the sport, which is the far greater cost over the long run.

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from Oryx wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Amsteele, you points are valid and I agree with one exception...I think the pellet count is an advantage when hunting doves because they are not a hard bird to kill. More pellets means higher percentage of hits, and even those on the fringe are usually effectively killed with just a couple of hits from even the ballistically inferior steel.

Noe, where the hairs are really split, is deciding if there are more pellets in a ounce-load of #7 steel vs an ounce-load of #8 lead.

As for the higher price of steel loads, this too irks me. They are more expensive not because they are harder to load (only different to load) for the manufacturers, but because they were NEW™ a few years ago, and therefore cost more. When was the last time you saw a corporate entity lower the prices and state, "you know, we're charging you guys too much..." If anything, given today's metal prices, steel should be less expensive than lead; funky wads be damned.

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from Oryx wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

As for my middle statement, I guess I didn't read your post very well, did I?

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from aferraro wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Aren't the political and environmental arguments for steel the ONLY reason to use it. Lead is cheaper (everywhere I've ever shopped) and shoots better. Also, new barrels aren't cheap. Take a look at your choke after a day of blasting #2 steel shot if you have questions about wear and tear. I only use non-toxic over water and I wouldn't shot steel in my O/U if they gave it away.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

When you all speak of paying six or seven dollars for a box of steel shotshells, is that a box of 25 shells?

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from SoCal Hunter wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

As long as they can shoot a gun better than Jared Diamond who cares. (referring to his sad attempt in guns, germs and steel.. video version)

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from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Amsteele -- you are right about lead vs. steel comparisons. Steel will never outperform or even equal lead, but it works well enough and costs little enough that using steel hasn't hampered my enjoyment of Iowa's new season. As for starting kids, I started my sons with 20 gauge semiautos and one shell at a time, which is more cost-effective than a 28 and just as soft-shooting.
Wingshooter54 -- I bit the bullet and had my father's Beretta O/U and my Fox Sterlingworth fitted with Briley thin wall chokes that can handle smaller steel shot. I may never have to shoot steel out of those guns but I bet my sons will and I don't want those guns to become wallhangers any more than you want to retire your old guns.
Mike Diehl -- steel doves loads are $5.99 per box of 25 around here.

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from amsteele wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Phil,

Despite my frustrations with the postponed-but-still-looming Iowa lead ban, I am preparing for an Iowa where lead is no longer an option. I'm also trying to decide what gun to start my 11 years-old son with and have thought about the 20 gauge auto-loader/one-shell-at-a-time approach you mentioned. Any suggestions for inexpensive youth models? Rem. 1100? Something from CZ or Baikal?

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from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Amsteele --I started my kids around 11 or 12 years old with youth 1100s, which are very soft shooting but fairly heavy.Remington has replaced that model with a youth 11-87, giving you 3-inch capability. For doves and ducks where you don't have to carry it, it would be a great choice.
My favorite youth gun would be the Browning Silver micro which is not cheap but is light, almost as soft-kicking as a Remington and is very reliable.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Another bi#ch among duck hunters here on the flyway is you really can't reload, how you gonna prove your ammo is steel or bismuth, etc., let the wardens tear your shells apart? Same goes for dove hunters on state land.

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from RES1956 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

It is my belief that steel 7's will kill doves as far as the average joe can hit them, which is probably 35 yards max (don't scoff, an honest 35 yard shot is a good one and most would boast that it was 50) in the early season when the birds are not well feathered. However, since doves are the last venue where relatively high volume shooting will allow you to develop Buckingham like skills to deliver a short shot string to a tall target, I will opt for lead that can deliver a lethal punch at 45 or 50 yards. For December birds, I suggest the shots be kept short and steel 6's be employed in that they are more heavily feathered and are a suitable challenge for 3 3/4 dram eq/ 1 1/4 oz of lead 7 1/2's.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Six bucks a box is a reasonable price to pay for shotgun shells. So I think it would be very interesting if someone were to develop a little ballistics data for steel shot to compare it to lead shot. How far does a certain steel shot size carry down range? How well does it penetrate a ballistic gel at, say, 20 yards?

It's not that I have any real concerns about the toxicity of elemental lead. It's not aerosolized, so I doubt that it's going to hurt anything by merely lying around. But because there are concerns, if I can cheaply use a good steel substitute, I might do that.

The thing is, I want to know for example what to use for hunting cottontail rabbit too. In lead shot I use #5 high brass. What would I use to get equivalent stopping power in steel? And I am sure that my old yankee acquaintances would like to know what the proper steel shot is for snowshoe hare.

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from Oryx wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Mike,

This would be the most across-the-board replacement for your lead load for cottontails. (Rule of thumb for steel is 2 sizes higher than lead)

As they are the next "step up" in power over the #7's that Phil was pricing, they are going to be more expensive per box as well. I don't think yo need more power for rabbits, but that's the only variation in which you can find this size shot Most places have them at about $10/25

Regards,

http://www.winchester.com/Products/shotshell-ammunition/xpert/xpert-hi-v...

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from combat.medic wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Mike Diehl-I would drop the "high brass" part of that round for cottontails. I have successfully bagged rabbit with my 20ga using 8s target loads. They're rather fragile animals, after all... Snowshoe hare might be a different story. I wouldn't know, bagging one in Ohio is borderline felony, and in Kansas, I don't believe they exist. It seems to me that perhaps a 4s High Velocity steel round would probably be a good steel alternative to the 5s high-brass.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Thanks to both of you for the suggestions. @CombatMed -- Snowshoe hare have a regular season in Maine. Just FYI.
My shot choice for cottontails here in AZ reflects the fact that they're usually moving and usually at least partly obscured by cactus pads or shindaggers here in AZ.

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from Anhinga wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

oryx: I believe for better understanding your statement on lead to steel shot comparisons should be "two sizes larger for comparable steel shot". That takes into consideration downrange energy equalivalency, and power of penetration.

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from ableskeever wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I can't use steel in the tighter chokes of my gun which is limiting.

I got some dove last year using the full choke and lead shot, so I think that there would be a difference in the range of shots for people like me.

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from jjas wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

As a person who has never used steel I have a question...

Does steel create wear in shotgun barrels (especially the inexpensive loads you referenced)?

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from Beekeeper wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

No doubt steel continues to improve. Steel dove loads are selling at $7.99 - $8.99 in my neck of woods. Lead "Dove Loads" come in at around $5.79.

I load my lead shells and I can still save money doing that. Loading steel shot is another matter entirely and If forced to go to steel for upland loads I'll no doubt get grouchy in a hurry.

We are still so dry down here that the bords are passing through my area at altitude so it is a moot point this year.

I may try some steel on our fully feathered late season (winter) dove here to see how they do.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from wingshooter54 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Hey Phil, why don't you shoot steel loads in that fine old Parker you had on the Gun Nuts show? Probably because the owner would shoot you if you did so. The number of hunters that like to shoot and hunt with fine old vintage sxs or o/u shotguns is more than most people realize. I wouldn't use steel in any gun I had respect for or cared about. Besides, reloading low pressure highly efficient light loads in 12 or 16 is also a pleasure.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from deerdawg wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

What about the cost of a new shotgun barrel that accepts steel shot. My old Remington 1100 12ga. date 1970 ,I believe, cannot shoot steel shot. It has the original 30" full choke barrel. I did buy a long time ago, perhaps 1980, a hastings barrel with the 3 basic screw in chokes. This barrel also will not accept steel. So for some converting to steel could be quite expensive.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from amsteele wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Phil,

I've had good luck with the Winchester Xpert dove loads (on State of Iowa areas that prohibit lead), so I agree with much of your analysis. But, I can't agree with a few points:

-Implying that the steel loads have an "edge" over lead loads because they have more pellets per ounce of the same shot size is misleading. Of course it has more pellets per ounce because it is much less dense than lead, the very thing that makes steel ballistically inferior. I could load #7 popcorn seeds and end up with many more pellets per ounce, but that won't give my popcorn load an advantage. Most of us only choose #7 shot for doves in steel because it's the only option, and because one must increase shot size in steel to even approach the effectiveness of lead shot. So, a better comparison would be the number of pellets in one ounce of lead 8's or 9's vs. one ounce of steel 7's. In that match-up lead wins hands down.

- Yes, I was pleased and surprised to find steel dove loads at about $6.50 per box -- similar in price to Wincester AA's. But it shouldn't have surprised me. The relationship in price between steel and lead really hasn't changed that much -- the lowest quality steel is about the same price as the highest quality lead, same as it has been for several years. When you extend that equation to bigger loads for bigger and tougher birds, however, (i.e. in situations where you don't want to rely on the lowest quality stuff on the shelf), steel is still significantly more expensive and so I continue to whine. If the Iowa Natural Resources Commission is allowed to unilaterally and bluntly prohibit lead shot for doves, it won't be long before it does it for everything else, justified or not. That's when the real cost difference will begin to hit my wallet.

- Finally, the costs aren't limited to just the couple of bucks difference per box. As others here have pointed out, steel negatively impacts hunting's heritage by obsolescing older guns. But that's not all. Small gauge guns and doves have long been the recipe for positive introductions of kids and newcomers to hunting. Because of steel's shortcomings, total shot mass (and pellet count) must decrease or velocity must increase, or both. So now a 20 gauge (with which many newcomers have learned to shoot) potentially has the effective pattern of a 28 gauge but the kick of a 12. The 28 gauge - a great starter dove gun in the past - is now useless. Not a great way to encourage youth to pick up the sport, which is the far greater cost over the long run.

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from rob wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I have been singing steels praises for years. It patterns well, it kills birds well, it is priced very comparably to lead, especially the premium stuff. If you're still whining about steel, you're just making excuses for being a poor shot.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Sort of takes the wind out of the sail of, "that steel stuff doesn't shoot right" argument.

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from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

There is no doubt in my mind that steel is effective with doves. My experience with steel to date has been pheasants. I didn't think it was as effective as lead at dropping a bird and anchoring it. Phil, what has your experience been with ringnecks? Is it all in my head?

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from OutdoorEnvy wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I hunt a WMA that is non-toxic only. I kill dove and pheasant with steel and it does work. I would still argue that the lead hits harder at longer ranges though. I've had a couple pheasants fly off after being hit with steel(3in 4 shot). I have never watched a lead hit bird fly off using a 2 3/4 6 shot. Just my experience.

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from aferraro wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Aren't the political and environmental arguments for steel the ONLY reason to use it. Lead is cheaper (everywhere I've ever shopped) and shoots better. Also, new barrels aren't cheap. Take a look at your choke after a day of blasting #2 steel shot if you have questions about wear and tear. I only use non-toxic over water and I wouldn't shot steel in my O/U if they gave it away.

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from springerman3 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I huntrd with Phil for a couple of hours on opening day. He had already shot 10 doves by the time I got there. While i still have my doubts about using steel I can't dispute his findings. I was using a 28 gauge so I went with lead shot. I hit half my shots so I felt fairly competent that day :)
He is right on about the whiners that complained about the cost of steel, 20 or 12 gauge the cost is the same as lead in our area !
It was a hoot to set up and shoot at doves here in Iowa vs going out of stste !!

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from henson270 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Mr. Bourjaily,
Would you have any problems using steel Xpert 7's for grouse? Or do you think they would perform the same as lead at the usual ranges at which grouse are shot?

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from JohnR wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

I have never had issues with steel shot performance and I use it on waterfowl and geese. Most birds I hit fold up immediately and drop. I use my Browning 10 gauge BPS Stalker, the 31/2" shells of which do hold quite a bit of shot.
About older guns and steel shot; it used to be the conventional wisdom when steel was first introduced, not to use steel shot in older firearms (older, not ancient). I imagine readers here remember all the ads for the name brand shotguns advertising their barrels as OK for steel shot. Steel shotshells have evolved to the point where it is my opinion that they are OK to use in any modern shotgun. The shells utilize special wads or shotcups and the steel shot never really touches the inside of the shotgun barrel.
Currently my biggest fear about steel shot is biting into a steel shot pellet when I'm enjoying the fruits of my labors,so to speak. :-)

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Somebody say it "Kills well?" a $5.99 dollar box? More than likely like 22 bird shot kills. Lots of doves get fired on at 40 yds, or slightly better. Few are not going to shoot at that range. Steel has been known, studied, to cost 3million ducks/geese lives in Canada/USA during the season. That was the last account I read. I'd say a lot of doves will fly off and die as well. Does your state have a lot of dove hunters? Here in Idaho I have seen ONE other dove hunter. Let the cost of lead reduce the lead shot hunters, not a bunch of liberals wanting hunting reduced.

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from Zermoid wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

"Cost
Nearly every angry post and letter I read online complained about the high price of non-toxic shot"

Are you sure they meant "steel" and not the more expensive non-tox steel alternatives? Of course there's the stupidity factor of someone seeing a box labeled Non-Toxic and assuming it's steel when it's bismuth or some other lead alternative.

Start shooting at 50 yds and see how well steel works, my 1 1/8 oz load of #6 lead routinely drops squirrels at that range, same for 2 oz of #4s on turkeys. Highly doubt steel would do as well at that distance.

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from JohnR wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

BTW for the record on my previous post, I in no way was attempting to state that steel performs as well as lead shot. I was simply stating that I have not had any issues using steel shot for waterfowl over decoys (I probably should have included over decoys).
We still use lead for Cowboy Action Shooting for obvious safety reasons so I will hold on to my two MEC loaders.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Sayfu,
cool down buddy, in Mo. steel is more expensive too, especially the good stuff.

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from FirstBubba wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

from rob wrote 1 day 6 hours ago
I have been singing steels praises for years. It patterns well, it kills birds well, it is priced very comparably to lead, especially the premium stuff. If you're still whining about steel, you're just making excuses for being a poor shot.

I'm not whining, I'm just a "poor shot"! LOL!!! I prefer lead, it gives me the "edge" that "I" need!
I quit waterfowl hunting long ago.
First off, I don't like to eat duck.
Second, though the "shooting" was fun, then I'd have to go home and clean those stinking things!
Better to just quit hunting them!
I'll shoot lead as long as it's legal.

"...for 2 oz of #4s on turkeys..."

Jeeminey cat whiskers, Zermoid! If you're shooting lead out of a 12 bore, drop down to a 1 1/8 or 1 1/4 oz load of 7 1/2 or 8's in a 2 3/4 in "Hi-Velocity" shell!
I shoot Winchester's "Hi-Velocity", 2 3/4 in No. 7 1/2 shot and cleanly kill turkeys out to 35. I also use a "Extra" full choke tube!
You shoot what you like! THAT is the name of the game.
I just don't like recoil and find the 2 3/4 inch ammo serves me well.

Bubba

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from Ferber wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Phil--Yes, commercial steel shot has come a long way since its beginnings. I remember Bob Brister's early analysis which wasn't a particularly happy one. I live in a state surrounded by states having dove seasons: we do not. Several years ago I chaired a committee with the support of the NJ Fish and Game Council to add a dove season to our hunting season. Incredibly, after considerable effort of editorializing by newspaper writer members of our NY Metropolitan Outdoor Press Association and individuals having a reach to NJ sportsmen...we couldn't get enough grass roots support to make a case for legislators. the anti-hunting, Disneyized factions pleaded their case in Trenton and that was the end of it. Unlike quail and pheasants which in New Jersey we are hard-pressed to find natural populations of wild birds, the mourning dove--even with its flimsy nests and high natural mortality rate--exists in huge numbers year after year throughout the northeast: the perfect gamebird.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

When you all speak of paying six or seven dollars for a box of steel shotshells, is that a box of 25 shells?

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from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Amsteele -- you are right about lead vs. steel comparisons. Steel will never outperform or even equal lead, but it works well enough and costs little enough that using steel hasn't hampered my enjoyment of Iowa's new season. As for starting kids, I started my sons with 20 gauge semiautos and one shell at a time, which is more cost-effective than a 28 and just as soft-shooting.
Wingshooter54 -- I bit the bullet and had my father's Beretta O/U and my Fox Sterlingworth fitted with Briley thin wall chokes that can handle smaller steel shot. I may never have to shoot steel out of those guns but I bet my sons will and I don't want those guns to become wallhangers any more than you want to retire your old guns.
Mike Diehl -- steel doves loads are $5.99 per box of 25 around here.

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from amsteele wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Phil,

Despite my frustrations with the postponed-but-still-looming Iowa lead ban, I am preparing for an Iowa where lead is no longer an option. I'm also trying to decide what gun to start my 11 years-old son with and have thought about the 20 gauge auto-loader/one-shell-at-a-time approach you mentioned. Any suggestions for inexpensive youth models? Rem. 1100? Something from CZ or Baikal?

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from philbourjaily wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Amsteele --I started my kids around 11 or 12 years old with youth 1100s, which are very soft shooting but fairly heavy.Remington has replaced that model with a youth 11-87, giving you 3-inch capability. For doves and ducks where you don't have to carry it, it would be a great choice.
My favorite youth gun would be the Browning Silver micro which is not cheap but is light, almost as soft-kicking as a Remington and is very reliable.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Another bi#ch among duck hunters here on the flyway is you really can't reload, how you gonna prove your ammo is steel or bismuth, etc., let the wardens tear your shells apart? Same goes for dove hunters on state land.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Six bucks a box is a reasonable price to pay for shotgun shells. So I think it would be very interesting if someone were to develop a little ballistics data for steel shot to compare it to lead shot. How far does a certain steel shot size carry down range? How well does it penetrate a ballistic gel at, say, 20 yards?

It's not that I have any real concerns about the toxicity of elemental lead. It's not aerosolized, so I doubt that it's going to hurt anything by merely lying around. But because there are concerns, if I can cheaply use a good steel substitute, I might do that.

The thing is, I want to know for example what to use for hunting cottontail rabbit too. In lead shot I use #5 high brass. What would I use to get equivalent stopping power in steel? And I am sure that my old yankee acquaintances would like to know what the proper steel shot is for snowshoe hare.

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from Oryx wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Mike,

This would be the most across-the-board replacement for your lead load for cottontails. (Rule of thumb for steel is 2 sizes higher than lead)

As they are the next "step up" in power over the #7's that Phil was pricing, they are going to be more expensive per box as well. I don't think yo need more power for rabbits, but that's the only variation in which you can find this size shot Most places have them at about $10/25

Regards,

http://www.winchester.com/Products/shotshell-ammunition/xpert/xpert-hi-v...

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from combat.medic wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Mike Diehl-I would drop the "high brass" part of that round for cottontails. I have successfully bagged rabbit with my 20ga using 8s target loads. They're rather fragile animals, after all... Snowshoe hare might be a different story. I wouldn't know, bagging one in Ohio is borderline felony, and in Kansas, I don't believe they exist. It seems to me that perhaps a 4s High Velocity steel round would probably be a good steel alternative to the 5s high-brass.

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from Mike Diehl wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Thanks to both of you for the suggestions. @CombatMed -- Snowshoe hare have a regular season in Maine. Just FYI.
My shot choice for cottontails here in AZ reflects the fact that they're usually moving and usually at least partly obscured by cactus pads or shindaggers here in AZ.

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from NorCal Cazadora wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Phil, I think if you price the 20 gauge version, you'll see the difference. Yet another reason I'm so glad I switched to a 12 gauge.

This is my second dove season shooting Hevi-Steel 6s (discontinued, but my hook-n-bullet shop had a couple cases) and I've been REALLY happy with the performance. Now I just wish we had a few more doves in the air here.

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from Sayfu wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

John R...you use a 10 ga for ducks over decoys?...hit'um in the arse and break their necks do you?

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from Oryx wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

Amsteele, you points are valid and I agree with one exception...I think the pellet count is an advantage when hunting doves because they are not a hard bird to kill. More pellets means higher percentage of hits, and even those on the fringe are usually effectively killed with just a couple of hits from even the ballistically inferior steel.

Noe, where the hairs are really split, is deciding if there are more pellets in a ounce-load of #7 steel vs an ounce-load of #8 lead.

As for the higher price of steel loads, this too irks me. They are more expensive not because they are harder to load (only different to load) for the manufacturers, but because they were NEW™ a few years ago, and therefore cost more. When was the last time you saw a corporate entity lower the prices and state, "you know, we're charging you guys too much..." If anything, given today's metal prices, steel should be less expensive than lead; funky wads be damned.

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from Oryx wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

As for my middle statement, I guess I didn't read your post very well, did I?

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from SoCal Hunter wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

As long as they can shoot a gun better than Jared Diamond who cares. (referring to his sad attempt in guns, germs and steel.. video version)

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from RES1956 wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

It is my belief that steel 7's will kill doves as far as the average joe can hit them, which is probably 35 yards max (don't scoff, an honest 35 yard shot is a good one and most would boast that it was 50) in the early season when the birds are not well feathered. However, since doves are the last venue where relatively high volume shooting will allow you to develop Buckingham like skills to deliver a short shot string to a tall target, I will opt for lead that can deliver a lethal punch at 45 or 50 yards. For December birds, I suggest the shots be kept short and steel 6's be employed in that they are more heavily feathered and are a suitable challenge for 3 3/4 dram eq/ 1 1/4 oz of lead 7 1/2's.

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from Anhinga wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

oryx: I believe for better understanding your statement on lead to steel shot comparisons should be "two sizes larger for comparable steel shot". That takes into consideration downrange energy equalivalency, and power of penetration.

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from ableskeever wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

I can't use steel in the tighter chokes of my gun which is limiting.

I got some dove last year using the full choke and lead shot, so I think that there would be a difference in the range of shots for people like me.

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