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Patterns on paper don’t always tell the whole story of a shotshell’s effectiveness. In fact, shoot enough patterns with any shell and you’ll start to wonder how we kill birds consistently.

Environmetal’s HeviMetal is a perfect example. I had shot some of it over the years, but whenever I shot it at paper I was underwhelmed. HeviMetal loads consist of a mix of regular steel and smaller, denser HeviShot pellets. There have been Duplex loads that mixed two sizes of shot before, but HeviMetal is the first one to mix two different kinds and sizes of shot. The idea behind it is that you get more energy in a pattern without paying the full price for HeviShot (HeviShot is like $3 a shell, HeviMetal is $25 or so a box, and there’s a rebate). Every time I patterned it, though, it seemed to me that the HeviShot pellets either flew to the pattern fringes or were simply missing from the pattern at 30 and 40 yards. I didn’t see how it was better than all steel. Hunters raved about the stuff. I could never figure out why.

Then, last week, as I mentioned in a previous post, I went to Canada as a guest of Sure Shot Game Calls. I had a chance to shoot a fair amount of HeviMetal over the course of the hunt. Every duck and goose I shot with 3-inch HeviMetal 2s was dead when it hit the ground, even though many of the birds didn’t decoy well and were shot at slightly longer ranges. Then, this weekend I shot it for our early duck opener and once again, everything fell dead.

I still don’t know why HeviMetal works. The only theory I have is that maybe the HeviShot pellets in the pattern fringe help us when we mispoint our guns and don’t hit birds with the center of the pattern. Presumably, there are enough steel pellets in the pattern’s center to make a sure kill without the aid of HeviShot pellets. Of course, your patterns with it may be different or better than mine. HeviMetal also contains a higher pellet count than a comparable all-steel load. For instance, 1 ¼ ounces of steel BBs contains 99 pellets but 1 ¼ ounces of HeviMetal BBs holds about 120 pellets. Other than that, who know why it’s deadly. But, the point is, the stuff kills much better than its patterns suggest it would. Pattern testing blinded me, but I now am beginning to see what the fuss is about.

On a tangential note, on opening morning of our duck and goose seasons this past Saturday I shot a green winged teal, a widgeon, a greenhead and a 10-pound Canada goose, a mixed bag that pretty much encompassed full range of waterfowl sizes. I used HeviMetal 2s for all of them and it reminded me once again that if I had to pick a single shot size for all my waterfowling, it would be 2 shot.