Bourjaily Tests Winchester's Blind Side Shells

This week I went to Winchester's Nilo Farms in Alton, Illinois, to learn about and shoot a new steel load they are calling "Blind Side"* which will be available next year. As you can see in the picture, Blind Side pellets are not round but hexahedronal - that is, rounded, but with six flat sides, like dice. The advantage to the shape is two-fold: the pellets pack more compactly into a hull, allowing higher payloads (1 3/8 ounces in a 3-inch hull, 1 5/8 in a 3 1/2-inch), and the shape increases shock trauma on tissue when it hits.

Because squared pellets are a poorer aerodynamic shape than round pellets, this new shot has to be contained in a solid, unsplit shotcup to prevent the shot charge from behaving like a spreader load and opening up into very wide patterns. The cup has diamond-shaped cutout petals that deploy as the load exits the muzzle. They hold the shot together for a very short distance before the petals act like brakes and separate the wad from the shot. The combination works well and it seems to pattern like lead: the
1 3/8 ounce loads of 2s we shot printed about 50% patterns at 40 yards through an IC and tightened to just over 70% with Full. While we patterned guns Winchester engineers filmed us on high speed video and the footage of pellets hitting a pattern board at 40 yards showed a very compact shot string.

I shot flighted ducks at ranges from 30-50 yards through a Modified choke and if I hit a duck squarely, it fell out of the sky. The difference between Blind Side and regular round pellets was this: we did not see ducks fly off as if unhit, only to bleed out and fall later as you sometimes see with regular steel. Solidly hit birds came down and most of them were dead in the air. Birds that weren't solidly hit didn't fall, but that happened with lead, too, a fact that steel-haters conveniently forget.

Blind Side will sell for $17-$22 a box of 25 and will be available in June, 2011.

*I'm trying to decide if I like the name. My son, who plays on his high school football team, loves it and points out that a "Blind Side" is a devastating hit. Other names Winchester considered included "Ice" and "Havoc."