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Waterfowl Hunting: Don't Worry About Shotshell Velocity

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October 29, 2013

Waterfowl Hunting: Don't Worry About Shotshell Velocity

By Phil Bourjaily

It’s pretty common advice that you should practice with steel shotshells of the same velocity as your hunting loads to get a “feel” for shooting steel shot before waterfowl season. That way you learn to lead birds less at close range and more at long range to make up for the fact that steel starts out fast and sheds velocity quickly. If it makes you feel more prepared to practice with your steel hunting loads, go ahead and do it. You probably should.

I never do. I practice almost exclusively with 7/8-ounce lead reloads at 1,150-1,200 fps, then load my gun with whatever and go hunting. Yes, I pattern my gun first, but honestly, when it comes to velocity I can’t tell the difference in how I lead a target, whether the pellets leave my gun at 1,150 fps or 1,550 fps, or whether they are made of lead, steel, tungsten or bismuth. If I had to think about how much forward allowance to put on a bird every time I switched shells, I would never hit a thing with any ammunition.

When you break it down, the difference in lead actually isn’t that much when you switch velocities, especially at normal hunting ranges and angles. For instance, Remington points out that their 1,700 fps Hypersonic steel loads reduce the lead by eight inches on a 40-yard crosser over 1,450 fps steel. No doubt that’s true. How many people take true 40-yard crossers regularly, or, frankly, how many can even make that shot? Meanwhile, for every yard closer and every degree more or less than 90, the need for lead diminishes. Most shots at game are taken at closer range and gentler angles where the difference in lead between a very fast load and a slower one might be a couple of inches at most. That’s why I don’t worry about velocity. I just shoot.

High velocity loads do hit birds and targets harder. You can see that. And I would even concede that fast loads do help shooters hit birds in the front end. But, I also believe the only “feel” you need to get for steel or any shotshell of any speed is a feeling of confidence, whether you practice with it before the season or not.

Comments (7)

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from Mark-1 wrote 24 weeks 23 hours ago

I also can say I've noticed no difference is how I lead at practical shotgun ranges between *high velocity* shells and plain, old standard trap loads. IMHO the recent fad of high velocity shells attempts to overcome:

Waterfowlers nowadays can't judge distance.

If autos are used on ducks and geese big, heavy recoil shells are used to overcome too much oil and/or too little cleaning, and cold to make them operate.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 24 weeks 18 hours ago

It doesn't do a helluva lot of good to hit a bird if you don't have enough gas behind the steel shot to bring them down. Shooting big honkers with steel loads any slower than 1500 fps is throwing money out the window ... and letting a lot of birds fly away banged up. The reasoning behind shooting fast steel loads has nothing to do with cutting down the lead on birds. It's about bringing them down.

I have found that shooting high velocity lead loads at pheasants is also deadly ... for a little while. Those shells hammer me so hard, especially with light clothing, that I soon get jumpy and start pulling the shots. So I have learned to slow it down and not take the longer shots (which high velocity does help with). But I can get away with that when using lead shot. Doesn't work with steel on waterfowl unless you feel you can wait for twenty yard shots. And I only get about a half dozen of those a year.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 24 weeks 6 hours ago

Ducks and geese over decoys at 30-35 yds are dead meat with any steel loads. If you can't stop yourself from shooting at geese at longer ranges you are not under control and are wasting birds.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 24 weeks 2 hours ago

For this gunner I factor in mass, and velocity to make a comfortable for me load to shoot that doesn't punish me with excessive recoil. These steel loads that have a muzzle velocity in excess of 1550 you know produce brutal recoil.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 23 weeks 6 days ago

Those old days of high pass-shooting are a memory, thanks to steel shot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 23 weeks 6 days ago

Labrador hit the head right on the nail. Know your distances, and shoot within the effective range. Steel doesn't have the knockdown power of the more dense pellets, but it does penetrate. Going BANG-BANG-BANG out beyond the ranges he posted creates a lot of waterfowl that fly off, and die....3,000,000 a year by one estimate in Canada, and the USA due to steel shot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 23 weeks 4 days ago

I JUST SHOOT, that says it all.

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from labrador12 wrote 24 weeks 6 hours ago

Ducks and geese over decoys at 30-35 yds are dead meat with any steel loads. If you can't stop yourself from shooting at geese at longer ranges you are not under control and are wasting birds.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 24 weeks 18 hours ago

It doesn't do a helluva lot of good to hit a bird if you don't have enough gas behind the steel shot to bring them down. Shooting big honkers with steel loads any slower than 1500 fps is throwing money out the window ... and letting a lot of birds fly away banged up. The reasoning behind shooting fast steel loads has nothing to do with cutting down the lead on birds. It's about bringing them down.

I have found that shooting high velocity lead loads at pheasants is also deadly ... for a little while. Those shells hammer me so hard, especially with light clothing, that I soon get jumpy and start pulling the shots. So I have learned to slow it down and not take the longer shots (which high velocity does help with). But I can get away with that when using lead shot. Doesn't work with steel on waterfowl unless you feel you can wait for twenty yard shots. And I only get about a half dozen of those a year.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 24 weeks 23 hours ago

I also can say I've noticed no difference is how I lead at practical shotgun ranges between *high velocity* shells and plain, old standard trap loads. IMHO the recent fad of high velocity shells attempts to overcome:

Waterfowlers nowadays can't judge distance.

If autos are used on ducks and geese big, heavy recoil shells are used to overcome too much oil and/or too little cleaning, and cold to make them operate.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 24 weeks 2 hours ago

For this gunner I factor in mass, and velocity to make a comfortable for me load to shoot that doesn't punish me with excessive recoil. These steel loads that have a muzzle velocity in excess of 1550 you know produce brutal recoil.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 23 weeks 6 days ago

Those old days of high pass-shooting are a memory, thanks to steel shot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 23 weeks 6 days ago

Labrador hit the head right on the nail. Know your distances, and shoot within the effective range. Steel doesn't have the knockdown power of the more dense pellets, but it does penetrate. Going BANG-BANG-BANG out beyond the ranges he posted creates a lot of waterfowl that fly off, and die....3,000,000 a year by one estimate in Canada, and the USA due to steel shot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 23 weeks 4 days ago

I JUST SHOOT, that says it all.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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