By Glen Wunderlich
Lansing, Michigan - -(Ammoland.com)- At the end of a day’s session at the firing range, a friend plopped down a 12 x 18-inch turkey target thoroughly covered with shot from Winchester’s new Long Beard XR 12-gauge load. “60 yards!” he exclaimed.
I knew right then that further review was necessary.
Winchester obliged by supplying some of its Long Beard XR copper plated, 3-inch loads of 4s and 6s and some test targets. It was time for the testing to begin.
With a “scant” 1 ¾-ounce load of shot, it’s almost incomprehensible how science could make it more effective than much heavier loads. A proprietary Shot-Lok compound insures the plated pellets’ roundness under impact in the barrel. The result: more pellets on target.
Since it doesn’t need as much costly shot to get the job done, the price of $23 for a box of 10 rounds is significantly less than other high-end shotshells. Plus, the felt recoil seemed to be a bit less punishing – even with the added weight of an additional ¼ ounce of shot buffer material. Winchester claims the load offers 10 percent greater penetration over standard loads beyond 50 yards and twice the number of pellets in a 10-inch circle out to 60 yards.
Here’s what I learned.
- At 40 yards, a charge of #4 shot put 39 pellets on target in the head and neck.
- No. 4 Shot, 50 Yards I backed up to 50 yards and 16 pellets resulted in the kill zone.
- At 60 yards, however, I found that the bead sight on my Browning Silver with its X-full turkey choke was inadequate and the pattern was not centered on the target. I tried again with the same results.
While sitting in a chair, I was using only a tall front bipod to steady the forearm but at such a distance, I couldn’t hold steady enough and failed to center the shot on target. Even though the hold was only about 6 inches off center, it weakened the pattern on the kill zone significantly.
I’ve always considered optics on turkey guns to be unnecessary, but not anymore. In fact, even though a well-placed shot would bag a bird at that range (based on the target), it was beyond my capability to be consistent.
And, that brings me to another point when patterning shotguns. Make sure to use a clean sheet of paper about 3-feet square to see the entire pattern results for each shot.
I also wanted to see how tight the pattern would be at a range of 15 yards. Once again, the results demonstrated an eye-opening pattern of 9 inches with loads of 4s and 6s from my extra-full choke.
The pattern was simply too tight and allowed for no margin of error.
Even at 25 yards, the pattern was so dense that accuracy was essential to avoid excessive damage below the neck of a bird.
Winchester’s new Long Beard XR ammo has the technology to get the job done but it’s incumbent on anyone preparing to head afield to actually do a bit of testing themselves. A good shoulder pad and cheek pad can ease the effects of recoil and I’d consider them to be essential gear when sighting in.
I’ve used #6 shot on turkeys for many years but no longer. Because more shot is actually on target with these loads, I’ll be using Winchester’s Long Beard #4 shot this season to maximize downrange energy, although I’ll still keep any shots to less than 50 yards, because of my personal limitations.
And, since my longest shot to date has been 36 yards, I’m good with that.
About Glen Wunderlich
Charter Member Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA). Outdoor writer and columnist for The Argus-Press (www.argus-press.com) and blog site at www.thinkingafield.org Member National Rifle Association (NRA), Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), member U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA), Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM). Adjutant of Perry, Michigan Sons of Amvets Post 4064 and Chairman Perry (MI) Youth Hunt Extravaganza, a sanctioned event of Perry Sons of Amvets held the third weekend of September each year.