By Layne Simpson
East Alton, IL – -(Ammoland.com)- After years of research and testing during the 1970s, it was decided by the u.s. government that an unacceptable number of ducks and geese were being lost each year due to lead poisoning.
Many members of the waterfowl family are bottom-feeders, and it was thought that as the birds foraged along the bottoms of lakes and streams, they ingested lead shot that had been fired over the water by hunters.
Therefore, it came to pass that only shot made of a lead-free material could be legally used while waterfowl hunting.
Winchester, along with other shotshell manufacturers, tried a number of materials, and iron (or steel, as it is com- monly called) won out, mainly because its lower production cost made it more affordable to the thousands of waterfowl hunters across America. Compared to the lead shot generations of waterfowlers had been accustomed to using, those early steel shot loads were performance disasters, mainly because shotshell makers had to begin at the bottom of a very challenging learning curve, but also because it took hunters a while to learn how to use steel shot effectively.
The simple passage of time solves many problems, and today’s waterfowl hunter is much more educated in the effective use of steel shot. Equally important, the performance gap between lead and steel is nowhere near as wide as it was years ago, and there is no better proof of advancements in downrange effectiveness than the waterfowl loads from Winchester. Equally important is a packaging redesign that Winchester just completed, which affects all its ammunition products as well as its complete lineup of waterfowl offerings.
In short, Winchester waterfowl loads have not changed in quality or performance, but keep on reading to understand how the company has tiered its product line before you begin filling up your cart with waterfowl loads.
Xpert High-Velocity Joins Super-X
Xpert High Velocity steel waterfowl loads have joined the Super-X lineup. For the value-minded hunter, these loads deliver it all and offer time-proven performance at an entirely affordable price. These loads are available in 12 and 20 gauge and waterfowl hunters can expect more energy per pellet for increased range and shorter leads, which results in greater terminal performance. Winchester even expanded this popular line in 2011, offering a three-inch load in both No. 2 and 3 shot, both loads traveling a 1,650 fps. Waterfowl hunters across North America have come to rely on this value-priced, quality load, and now these same hunters will start seeing and buying the Xpert load in a Super-X package.
Drylok Super Steel
While the Super-X Xpert High Velocity Steel waterfowl load is Winchester’s workhorse round, a move up to Drylok Super Steel brings with it several advantages. The entry of the slightest amount of moisture into the powder charge can lower velocity for a reduction in downrange residual energy and play havoc with leads, increasing aim error.
The use of a special double-seal wad in Drylok Super Steel prevents that from happening. The Drylok line also does a good job shedding moisture, and while the additional waterproofing is not an absolute necessity for all duck and goose hunters, it is nice to have when it rains so hard the frogs head for cover while you are bailing water from the boat between flights. Foul weather is further foiled by the application of a special lacquer sealant to the primer.
What we have here is a shotshell that will deliver uniform velocities even after being totally submerged in water from one hunt to the next.
The good news does not end there. The more uniformly round a pellet is, the better its pattern quality. Drylok Super Steel pellets are cut from wire and then precision-ground to a perfectly round shape. Shot size is also true in diameter. As an example, every single No. 2 pellet I have measured from Drylok Super Steel shells measures exactly .150 inch, precisely what it is supposed to be for that size. In comparison, some pellets in Super-X ammo are a bit misshapen, and they vary a bit in actual diameter. Drylok Super Steel offers downrange performance in a steel shot load that hunters of a few years back could only dream about. All Drylock shot is plated to prevent corrosion and improve patterns even more. Last but not least, I am still a big fan of the mighty 10- gauge shell for shooting steel shot. If anything out there is more deadly on big geese than Drylok Super Steel loaded with 1 5 ounces of BBs at 1,350 fps, I have yet to discover it.
It’s important to note that the Drylok line is divided in to high-velocity and Magnum loads. As examples, the Magnum loading of the 12-gauge, 3½-inch shell pushes 1 3\8 ounces of shot out the muzzle at 1,550 fps compared with 1¼ ounces at 1,625 fps for the High Velocity load. The wise hunter will let his gun decide between the two by shooting patterns on paper with both. It has been my experience that a few more guns shoot more uniform patterns with the Magnum loading, although a Brown ing BPS I hunted with not long ago showed a strong preference for High Velocity. Through the years, I have taken enough ducks and geese with both recipes to become convinced that for the majority of shooting that most hunters do, they offer all the reliability and performance needed.
Then we have Blind Side, which is considered the biggest single step for ward in steel shot performance during the past three decades. For starters, stacking the six-sided Hex Shot pellets neatly inside a shell just about eliminates unused space between pellets, allowing up to 15 percent increase in pellet count inside the newly designed Diamond Cut Wad.
Even more important, those flat surfaces increase wound-channel size considerably over round shot of the same size. I first observed this while watching high-speed video footage of round and Hex shot of the same size being fired into ballistic gelatin. I later experienced it first-hand by shooting mallards stone-dead in the air out to 45 yards. It was a level of performance I had not previously experienced with steel shot. In addition to punching a larger wound channel, Hex Shot penetrates about the same as round shot of the same size.
Since we have been taught that perfectly round shot travels through the air on a straighter course than shot that suffers from deformation during firing, there seems to be a bit of confusion among shooters as to why Winchester Hex Shot flies as true as perfectly round shot. I can’t emphasize enough the innovative, choke-responsive Diamond Cut Wad. It delivers tight, consistent patterns at higher velocities and the re engineered Drylok Super Steel system, with hinged wad, keeps your powder dry and increases velocity.
The biggest thing Blind Side has going for it over other steel shot loads is that it greatly reduces the percentage of cripples. This is an especially good thing when hunting without a retriever or when the shooting is over thick brush where a wounded bird can be difficult for a dog to chase down.
Top-quality steel shot loads are all we need when shooting over decoys and even for shots as far out as most of us should attempt, but there are some applications where Xtended Range Hi Density is well worth its additional cost. I am reminded of a hunt for sea ducks. One of the world’s most bullet proof ducks, the Common Eider, was in great abundance during our hunt, and we had no choice but to take them at what I consider to be extreme distances for any shotgun. On top of that, we were shooting in strong winds. As luck would have it, someone in our group had brought along a couple of boxes of Xtended Range Hi-Density loaded with 1 5/8 ounces of No. 2 shot, and that saved our day.
Suddenly, ducks that had previously flown through our patterns seemingly untouched or were merely crippled were cannonballing into the water stone dead. Like I said, there are times when and places where the higher price of Winchester’s top-of- the-line waterfowl load ends up being money wisely spent.
The Ideal Shot
The first step in choosing the most ef fective load for a particular waterfowl gun is to settle on shot size. Then round up several different chokes and loads, and compare the patterns they deliver on paper out to the maximum range at which you usually shoot.
When shooting steel on ducks I prefer No. 2, although No. 1 is a great choice as well. For geese I stick with BB more often than anything else, but I switch to BBB if the gun I’m shooting delivers uniform patterns with the larger shot.
As chokes go, I most often use Skeet or Improved Cylinder on decoyed birds and will not argue with anyone who describes Modified as best for all- around shooting. I find that Full choke works fine with steel as long as pellet size does not exceed No. 1. Full choke is also a great choice for distant passing shots on ducks with Blind Side loaded with No. 2 shot.
The name “Winchester” is as synonymous with duck and goose hung ing as “camouflage” is to clothing, “hot” is to coffee and “four legs and a wagging tail” are to the best friend a waterfowler can have.
Be sure to visit Winchester.com and visit the `Live the Legends’ blog to keep up with all things Winchester – including new product information, events, hunting stories, images, videos and more.
About Winchester Ammunition:
With a company heritage dating back to 1866, Winchester Ammunition was there for the taming of the American West, the Allied Forces’ victory in World War II and through the years, millions of fond memories made in the great outdoors. Known as The American Legend, Winchester is a global leader in sporting, law enforcement, military and personal defense ammunition production. Winchester continues to raise the bar with new products like Blind Sider waterfowl and PDX1 Defender personal defense ammunition.