By J. Wayne Fears
New shotshell solves the problem of taking “surprise” gobblers that show up unannounced and ultra-close.
It has happened to most spring gobbler hunters at one time or another: You are set up, and from out of nowhere a gobbler steps into view at 15 yards. It’s now or never, so you take aim and pull the trigger. At the sound of the blast, though, instead of seeing the big bird flapping on the ground, you watch it running or flying away. A clean miss!
At close range, the tight column of shot squeezed by an extra-full choke can easily pass right by a tom’s neck and head.
Most shotgun chokes made for turkey hunting are so tightly constricted that shots out to 20 yards must be aimed like firing a .22 rifle. Problems arise with shotguns not properly sighted-in, or by moving the gun the instant it is fired.
Last year, engineers at Federal began working on a solution to this common problem. Using technology developed for other game bird loads, they developed the 3rd Degree shotshell. It's named for its three-stage payload that delivers lethal patterns at close, medium and long ranges -- out to 40-plus yards.
The Three Stages
Available in 3- and 3 1/2-inch lengths in 12 gauge, the 3rd Degree load incorporates Federal's patented FliteControl wad as well as the proprietary FliteStopper shot. Featuring a unique cutting ring, the No. 6 nickel-plated FliteStopper pellets create large wound cavities and smash bone. Their shape also causes them to disperse quickly, creating a broader pattern inside 20 yards.
The first stage expends 20 percent of the shot, says the manufacturer. Behind it and incorporating half of the remaining shot is a swarm of copper-plated lead No. 5 pellets. Most effective at midrange (30-35 yards), these are the same pellets loaded in Federal’s Mag-Shok turkey shells.
No. 7 Federal Heavyweight shot comprise the final 40 percent of the pellets used. Made of tungsten iron and 35 percent denser than lead, this shot increases penetration. The rear-opening FliteControl wad stays with the shot longer, holding the pattern together for more consistency and greater punch at long range.
The 1 3/4-ounce 3rd Degree load contains 339 pellets compared to 297 pellets in an equivalent No. 5 Mag Shok shell according to the manufacturer. The 2-ounce load contains 402 pellets versus 340 in the comparable Mag Shok, resulting in about 15 percent more pellets reaching the target.
Pattern Board Test
Federal recently provided me enough 3rd Degree samples to evaluate the load at my pattern board range. For the test, I selected a 12-gauge semiauto Benelli M1 Super 90 shotgun with Ghost Ring sights. The smoothbore has an 18-inch barrel and an extra-full turkey choke.
My first test was to compare pattern spreads of the 3rd Degree shells and the equivalent Mag-Shok load at 20 yards. Average spread of 3rd Degree was 19 inches. The Mag Shok’s average was 13 1/8 inches.
The biggest difference between the two loads was in the size of their effective killing patterns at 20 yards. The 3rd Degree’s measured 12 1/2 inches; the Mag Shok’s 8 inches.
Next, I shot the 3rd Degree at 10 yards to evaluate the load’s close-range effectiveness. The pattern was 6 inches in diameter.. At 15 yards, the pattern measured 7 1/2 inches across.
My final test resulted in a fairly dense pattern at 40 yards. I counted 87 pellets in a 10-inch circle around the head/neck area of the target, with 13 holes in the central nervous system.
Bottom line: Dead turkey at all ranges tested.
This article is a 2015 GunHunter Magazine Sneak Preview! Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.