Why would any turkey hunter want to use steel shot? That may be a question you've asked if the subject has ever come up in conversation with your hunting buddies. It may have been prompted by the introduction of “Hevi-Metal Turkey” by Environ-Metal a while back. I'd have to confess that I had the same question.
Steel shot for turkeys was not a new idea for me. I knew from waterfowl hunting that steel threw tighter patterns than lead. So, several years ago, I bought some shells with small steel shot and put a few through some turkey chokes just to see how they worked. The results were not impressive and with the excellent turkey loads that had become available, I put those shells aside and decided steel was just not for turkeys.
I was a little less than enthusiastic when I first heard about the Hevi-Metal Turkey loads but when Environ-Metal puts their name on the line with a new product, it does get my attention. After all, this is the company that started the “non-toxic turkey shot” revolution.
It turns out that the Hevi-Metal Turkey shells are not totally composed of steel shot. They have both #4 steel (the largest size shot allowed for turkey hunting in some states) and #6 Hevi-Shot as well. Maybe the first question is why? Why introduce a steel-Hevi-Shot combination at all. After all isn't it generally acknowledged that Hevi-Shot is the premier turkey load on the market today? They started this thing, convinced many turkey hunters to abandon traditional lead shot shells and pay a few dollars more for a much more effective turkey load, right?
While the folks at Environ-Metal haven't taken me into their confidence, I suspect that one reason to introduce a combination steel-Hevi-Shot turkey load is that a “few dollars more” has turned into several dollars more and a lighter load of Hevi-Shot supplemented with steel shot could help keep cost down. Another reason however could be that innovators like to innovate and introduce us to new and sometimes even better products than the ones we've been using.
I took a few boxes of the 3” Hevi-Metal Turkey loads to my range, along with some “big paper” and a variety of turkey chokes that I knew turned in excellent results with Hevi-13 turkey shells. I know exactly what 2 oz. of #6 Hevi-13 pellets will do at the range and to any turkey who's in front of my gun. Could this new load with only 1.25 oz. of #4 steel and #6 Hevi-Shot be even close to that performance?
My first shots at 40 yards were not at first examination all that impressive. Patterns were a good bit larger than what I normally see from Hevi-13 turkey loads. They were pretty even however and I could see where both the #4 and #6 pellets had hit. Following my usual procedure, I did not clean the bore of my gun or the choke tube between shots and at shot #3 I noticed that patterns were really beginning to tighten. They began to look more and more like those that I see with Hevi-13 loads, with of course some larger holes from the #4 shot and not as many total pellet hits.
To determine if what I was seeing was just a fluke, I cleaned both the bore of the gun and the choke tube and repeated the procedure. Just as before, the initial shot was even but covered a larger area than I'm accustomed to seeing but shots #2 and #3 tightened up and became really impressive in density and evenness. I tried the cleaning and shooting process several times, just to satisfy myself that this was repeatable and to see if I'd see the similar results time after time. I did.
A shell that allows the shooter to control the pattern, not by changing chokes but by fouling the barrel could have some real advantages.
I wanted to take another look at the first shots I'd fired from a clean bore to determine if the expectations that I'd taken to the range with me based upon my past experience with Hevi-13 shotshells, were realistic for this shell. What I found were good even patterns, probably what I would have expected from a good lead load a few years ago. They were not as tight and dense as the ones I'm accustomed to seeing but in all fairness, these shells do not contain 2 oz. of #6 shot! They were perfectly acceptable turkey killing patterns.
When I looked closely at the #2 and #3 shot patterns, they had really tightened and concentrated the shot in good even 10” patterns, not as dense as those with 2 oz. of #6 shot but no turkey was going to walk through them.
If the patterns from these shells can be influenced by a clean bore and a fouled bore, what's the practical application?
First of all, the shots fired from a clean bore are turkey killers at 40 yards, my maximum range, and at anything less than that. Secondly, if I need or just want a tighter pattern, I can fire a fouling shot before going hunting and have one. There are probably other possibilities as well and some experimentation with your gun and some of these shells may reveal them to you.
As I said before, the folks at Environ-Metal have not revealed to me their reasons for developing the Hevi-Metal Turkey shell. It may have been price, it may have been performance or some combination of both of those factors. I do know that it works and it works in an unexpected and really intriguing way.
By the way, the Hevi-Metal Turkey is available in 12 gauge 3.5” loads with 1.5 oz. of shot, 3” loads with 1.25 oz. of shot, both at 1450 f.p.s. and 20 gauge loads with 1 oz. of shot at 1250 f.p.s. That is really putting those loads down range very quickly but the lighter load keeps the recoil in the comfortable range.
If you'd like to learn more about Hevi-Metal Turkey or any other Hevi-Shot products, please visit https://www.hevishot.com/ and to read more “Product Test” articles, please visit http://www.allaboutshooting.com