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Federal 3rd Degree Evaluation


The last year has seen the introduction of  2 new turkey loads from major companies. First it was Winchester with their Long Beard (WLB) shells that featured a lead shot charge encapsulated in a resin material. These shells have been marketed to hunters who have been interested in breaking the 40 yard barrier.

The latest new turkey load from Federal was developed to appeal to a different audience. The 3rd Degree shell has a “three-stage payload with the Flitecontrol Wad” to create effective patterns at close, medium and longer ranges. This new load includes both lead and Heavyweight (tungsten-based) shot of 3 different sizes.

I only know of one way to evaluate any new shell and that is to take it to the range and see how it performs. First however, I decided to dissect one of these new shells, look at the contents, including the Flitecontrol Wad and then count and weigh the pellets.

Here's what the box says:

Federal 3rd Degree
3” Turkey Loads
1250 f.p.s.

1.75 oz of shot
40% Premium #5 lead
20% Flitestopper #6 lead
40% Heavyweight #7

Here's what I found from my examination:

Actual                            % Count        % Weight    Number of Pellets

1.90 oz of shot
342 total pellets

#5 Premium lead            .3801            .4736        133
#6 Flitestopper lead         .2309            .2105        79
#7 Heavyweight              .3801            .3157       130

The percentages, based upon my observation and confirmed by Federal, are based on pellet count and not on the weight of the shot charge.

From my personal observation over the years, there have been different “versions” of the Flitecontrol Wad and I have some examples of all of them...somewhere but I've not located them since our move to South Carolina. This one more resembles the wad used with lead pellets than the one used with Heavyweight pellets, at least from my memory. It's quite pliable and not as thick as the early wads used with Heavyweight shot.

The copper-plated lead shot is up to Federal's usual standards, bright and shiny as well as very round in appearance. The Flitestopper lead, a new pellet to me, has the same Saturn looking shape as the steel Flitestopper pellets used in waterfowl loads and the #7 Heavyweight shot looks quite regular in appearance. No surprises in the load from my vantage point.

The weather and my schedule finally aligned and allowed me to take the 3rd Degree shells to the range and spend some quality time with them. For the evaluation I used a Remington 11-87 shotgun with a 28” barrel, one of the same guns that I've used in my recent evaluations of WLB and Hevi-13 shotshells.

Defining long-range, midrange and close-range is a bit arbitrary and I chose to evaluate these shells at what many, perhaps most long-time turkey hunters consider to be a maximum range, 40 yards and a range at which, if a turkey gets much closer he'll probably see you, 25 yards. I understand that others may consider ranges that differ from these in those classes but for my evaluation, those are the ones that I used.

Many times we hear that all Flitecontrol Wad shells should be shot through very open chokes, so I chose a “Modified” choke that measured .710 as my most open choke. Next I selected another favorite exit diameter of many shooters, a Wright's .675, then a Wright's .670 and finally the SSX with an exit diameter of .643. There could have been other choices in brands and exit diameters of course but this at least gives us a starting point with these shells.

I used the same range that I used for the evaluation of the WLB and Hevi-13 shells recently with an elevation of 676 feet above sea level, the air was dry with 39% humidity, barometric pressure was steady and the beginning temperature was about 60 degrees and rose to almost 68 by the time I had completed the evaluation.

When all shots were fired, I found the best 10” circle, pretty amazingly all were at or very near point of aim, circled it and counted all of the hits within that circle. I also observed all of the hits around that circle and within a 20” diameter of the core pattern.
This seemed to be important since the avowed purpose of this shell is to give a good pattern at close-range midrange and long-range.

You will note in observing the patterns that all have a slightly yellow hue. That was done to allow you to see the hits that are outside the 10” circle and form the halo pattern outside of it.

Since I know that people are always interested in the actual number of hits within the 10” circle, those are listed below.

25 Yards                10”

Factory Modified-140                             
Wright's .675-200                            
Wright's .670-198
SSX .643-224

40 Yards                10”

Factory Modified-75
Wright's .675-106
Wright's .670-107
SSX .643-98



Unlike many of previous shooting experiences with the Flitecontrol Wad shells, this time the wad did not always follow the shot to the 40 yard patterning board. Several times, the wad fell short about 15 yards.  It struck the patterning board at 25 yards with enough force to tear out a portion of the pattern using the modified choke and I was not able to retrieve it.

I also observed that the Flitecontol Wad functioned fully, even in the tight SSX turkey choke with a .643 exit diameter. I attribute that to a change in the material used in the wad and the “learning curve” that has taken place over the past few years with this wad. I did not see any real difference in the points of impact using 4 different chokes, another first with the Flitecontrol Wad.

So, you may take a look at the patterns and make your own decision if the 3rd Degree shell lives up to its billing and if it is a shell that might work for you.

To learn more about Federal 3rd Degree shells and other Federal products, please visit and to read more “Product Test” articles, please visit

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