High-Speed Video: Shooting Federal Shotgun Loads

During my recent visit to the Federal factory we got to film quite a bit of what we were doing (more about that in a future column in the magazine) with high-speed cameras. We took video of me shooting two loads designed for completely different purposes. It's fascinating how shotshell engineers can make pellets do what they want them to by switching components. The video may appear slightly squished to you viewers at home.

The first shell I'm firing is a buckshot load intended for home defense. Most HD encounters take place at very close range, and while a shotgun is devastating at close quarters, its pattern is overly tight. Federal engineers wanted a pattern that would open up quickly to make it easier to hit with at close range under stress. They eliminated the plastic shot cup found in most shells and instead just used a basewad over the powder. They also used softer lead 4 buckshot with a lower antimony content -- antimony being the element alloyed with lead pellets to make them harder. With no shot cup to protect them, the pellets deform against the bore and the pattern opens up very quickly. I shot this target at five yards and the pattern spread out to an eight-inch circle at that distance, which is remarkable. Most buckshot loads spread about three inches at that range.

The second shot is a Heavyweight turkey load which, like all turkey loads, is made to shoot the tightest pattern possible. It uses the densest commercially made tungsten-iron pellets, which are very hard and resist deformation. They are loaded into the Flitecontrol wad, which holds the shot together for several feet out of the muzzle and then releases it cleanly as little vanes on the back of the wad act as brakes. The result is some very tight patterns.

I shot this target at 40 yards. By my count it put 27 pellets into the pink vital area indicating the brain and neck vertebrae of the bird, which is quite a bit more than enough to kill a turkey.