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  1. #1

    Pheasant loads again: Lead vs steel

    Was reading the Sept issue of Field & Stream while waiting in the dentist's office this afternoon. Phil Bourjaily tested a bunch of shotgun loads at Federal and provided the results. One of the tests was 1 1/8 oz steel 3's, 1600 fps, vs 1 1/8 oz lead 6's, 1500 fps. In terms of pattern %, the steel load outperformed the lead something like 60-50%. (This was through a mod choke.) However, because of the greater number of lead pellets, the lead load had 25% more hits in the 30" circle. The lead 6's also penetrated something like 20% deeper in gelatin than did the steel.

    If Phil had chosen a slower lead load, something in the 1300 fps range, I'm guessing the pattern % would have increased significantly, although perhaps at the expense of some loss of penetration. When I patterned very fast lead loads a few years ago, I found that the slower loads did deliver better patterns. And especially with lead, I don't think the extra speed is necessary. (Tom Roster will also tell you that 1600 fps isn't necessary even with steel.) But I found it interesting that lead 6's did so well when matched up with steel shot 3 sizes larger.

    The moral of the story is that while HS is certainly superior to steel and allows you to go to smaller pellets with equal or better results, the same thing is true of lead vs steel. And the results achieved with lead 6's would seem to indicate that if you're shooting lead, there's no need to shoot anything larger unless you're taking a lot of really long shots. Like maybe 45-50 yards plus.
    Last edited by Larry Brown; November 14th, 2013 at 08:28 AM.

  2. #2
    Larry,

    It still gets back to what works for an individual for how and where they hunt.

    For me personally, I have absolsutely no need nor have any desire to shoot 1500 or 1600 fps shotshells -- no matter what type of pellet they contain. I killed my first wild rooster of the season this afternoon using 1380 fps 1 1/8 oz. load of steel 2s at about 20 yards. Deader than a door nail.

    For lead, in a 1 ounce lead load in a 20 gauge, I like 6s. For a 12 gauge, I prefer 5s in the 1 1/4 ounce load, but I do carry 6s as well just to get Greggie's shorts in a twist.

    People need to just find out what works for them. It all works, especially when you have faith in it.

    With that said, no one is ever going to convince me that there's value in super fast shells. Environmetal sent me some of their "Speed Ball" 12 gauge loads to try. I think there were something like 1650 or 1700 fps. Remington gave me a case of the 1700 fps steel loads.

    All I said in my reports was "screw this".

    Yet, the three most important things for a successful steel load in terms of sales is:

    1). Speed -- the more the better.
    2). Price -- the cheaper the better.
    3). That the Duck Commander endorses it.

    The marketing department for the shotshell companies want speed, and the more the better.

  3. #3
    Eagle
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    I have had great luck with 12 ga Golden pheasant number 5's with longer shots some 40+ yds. Spooky birds this year so used mod and full with lead. What I can tell you for certain is that I patterned some of those hyper steel loads and besides the fact that they sound like a howitzer going off next to my ear, the pattern was horrible out of my waterfowl pump gun. 1400-1450 in steel seems to work very well with acceptable patterns in 2's. I like the winchester Cheap stuff 10.59 a box.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by 3 Shots are Better View Post
    Larry,

    It still gets back to what works for an individual for how and where they hunt.

    For me personally, I have absolsutely no need nor have any desire to shoot 1500 or 1600 fps shotshells -- no matter what type of pellet they contain. I killed my first wild rooster of the season this afternoon using 1380 fps 1 1/8 oz. load of steel 2s at about 20 yards. Deader than a door nail.

    For lead, in a 1 ounce lead load in a 20 gauge, I like 6s. For a 12 gauge, I prefer 5s in the 1 1/4 ounce load, but I do carry 6s as well just to get Greggie's shorts in a twist.

    People need to just find out what works for them. It all works, especially when you have faith in it.

    With that said, no one is ever going to convince me that there's value in super fast shells. Environmetal sent me some of their "Speed Ball" 12 gauge loads to try. I think there were something like 1650 or 1700 fps. Remington gave me a case of the 1700 fps steel loads.

    All I said in my reports was "screw this".

    Yet, the three most important things for a successful steel load in terms of sales is:

    1). Speed -- the more the better.
    2). Price -- the cheaper the better.
    3). That the Duck Commander endorses it.

    The marketing department for the shotshell companies want speed, and the more the better.
    Gary, unfortunately the "speed sells" thing is also true of lead loads. Try finding a "premium" pheasant load these days at less than 1400 fps. And this is one area where a lot of outdoor writers have tried their best to point out that the best load is one with quality components at a more moderate velocity. Nothing wrong with the old 1330 fps, 1 1/4 oz lead loads--although McIntosh, Hill, and Brister were even bigger fans of the 1220 fps loads. Wonderful patterns, plenty of punch. If I shot heavier loads a lot, Morris Baker at RST would probably want to hire me to promote their 1 1/4 oz loads. Much better patterns and a whole lot less recoil than the 14-1500 fps lead stuff. And they're even cheaper! How can you beat that??

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Brown View Post
    Gary, unfortunately the "speed sells" thing is also true of lead loads. Try finding a "premium" pheasant load these days at less than 1400 fps.
    Yes, I'm well aware of that as well. Fortunately, I got a great supply of the old Federal 1330 fps ones. Also, got plenty of B&P similar loads.

    If I shot heavier loads a lot, Morris Baker at RST would probably want to hire me to promote their 1 1/4 oz loads. Much better patterns and a whole lot less recoil than the 14-1500 fps lead stuff. And they're even cheaper! How can you beat that??
    They would probably want to have you let your hair grow out a lot more, grow a beard with some grey in it, wear some face paint, get a funky hat, and learn to talk like you were from Louisiana. Change your name to The Pheasant Conqueror.

    That oughta do it!

  6. #6
    Eagle
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    The arguments about lead verses steel are without warrant...IF... either load is used within the capability of it's user, with capability being defined most by range.

    I guided seven pay to play gents from Texas yesterday, along with the owner of the lodge at which they were clients.

    They wanted only wild birds, so no pen raised birds were released. Instead The owner and I drove strips of standing corn with five dogs, pushing the birds into marsh lands.

    Several birds fell to a flanker along side of the corn, who was quite good at dropping 30 to forty yard birds; four shoot at four bagged. two other flankers blazed away at birds at similar ranges and never turned a feather. They all were using similar loads. 3" 12with lead shot.

    Once in the marshes, birds fell to must guns, including mine. Now the little 2.5 inch B&Ps I shot killed them as dead as the small artillery loads, but render far more edible table fare.

    The long and short of it, was only one of the seven could hit his butt with both hands passed 30 yards and the others would have done better to shuck loads suitable for the range that they could score birds.

    Skill and range still dictate which ammo is "best", "best" being what range skill shows itself.
    B.C.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by sd/mt pga pro View Post
    The arguments about lead verses steel are without warrant...IF... either load is used within the capability of it's user, with capability being defined most by range.

    I guided seven pay to play gents from Texas yesterday, along with the owner of the lodge at which they were clients.

    They wanted only wild birds, so no pen raised birds were released. Instead The owner and I drove strips of standing corn with five dogs, pushing the birds into marsh lands.

    Several birds fell to a flanker along side of the corn, who was quite good at dropping 30 to forty yard birds; four shoot at four bagged. two other flankers blazed away at birds at similar ranges and never turned a feather. They all were using similar loads. 3" 12with lead shot.

    Once in the marshes, birds fell to must guns, including mine. Now the little 2.5 inch B&Ps I shot killed them as dead as the small artillery loads, but render far more edible table fare.

    The long and short of it, was only one of the seven could hit his butt with both hands passed 30 yards and the others would have done better to shuck loads suitable for the range that they could score birds.

    Skill and range still dictate which ammo is "best", "best" being what range skill shows itself.
    Bob,

    Some thots about being the flanker on a drive, and expecting to take longer pokes:

    1). Use enough choke. More than even is even better.
    2). Use the best quality loads you can get your hands on.
    3). Put the 6s back in your vest, and use 5s. Never mind that will make Greggie get froggie.
    4). When going to shoot, don't mount the gun until you have focused on the birds head (ring works well), then mount on that spot, and stretch to the lead, pulling the trigger when the gap feels right. That DOES NOT MEAN "MEASURE".

    The chap with the light weight gun, open chokes, and light loads isn't going to be your first choice to be the flanker.

  8. #8
    Eagle
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    Gary,

    We pretty much are saying the same thing.

    Flankers should be not be volunteers who can't honestly, consistently hit a flying target pass 30 yards. Whether one is gunning pheasant at 20 yards or past 30, shot size can be smaller as range decreases but should not be as range increases.

    Chokes should be more open in close and tighter for longer shots and the gunner should be realistic as to which range he will commit himself to shoot within.

    Quality of shells? Hell! Why would anyone foot the expense to hunt and skimp on quality munitions?
    B.C.

  9. #9
    Bob, the "skimp" question is a good one. But yet . . . I'll relate this experience from my very first hunt as a guide: I was the Iowa editor of Outdoor Life (impressive title, didn't mean all that much) and my editor asked me if I'd take out a group of ad guys. Sure, I say. So they show up, all toting 12's. Ammo? They relied on one guy for their supply. He'd bought a flat of the cheapest of the cheap: 1 oz promo loads of 6's. Between a combination of poor shooting and those loads, they were either missing or pulling feathers a lot. I was backing them up when I could. Toting a 16 back then.

    So one of the guys tells me I must be a pretty good shot, dropping roosters with my 16. Pointed out to him that I was using quality 1 1/8 oz loads--more punch than his 12's. But I also told him they shouldn't feel bad, because I did get to hunt pheasants a lot.

    Tom Roster made the same assumption--that guys would buy the cheapest ammo available--when he gave the shooters in his steel shot test 1 oz loads. Of course the world of steel has changed a lot since then, prices have come down a lot, and now you can get much better steel loads for less money.

    Me, I agree. You're going to spend big bucks on a trip, then skimping on ammo is penny wise and pound foolish. And not shooting some targets in the off season falls into the same category. But you've seen the same thing I've seen, which is that there are a lot of guys hunting pheasants who--unfortunately--do not shoot very well. They'd be better off, until they learn to become better shots, with very open chokes and something like 1 1/8 oz 7 1/2 in a good target shell. Shoot inside 30 yards, that'll put pheasants in the bag.

    I think I'd get REALLY frustrated guiding on a preserve. Not to mention worrying about someone shooting one of my dogs.

  10. #10
    Eagle
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    [QUOTE=Larry Brown;53248I think I'd get REALLY frustrated guiding on a preserve. Not to mention worrying about someone shooting one of my dogs.[/QUOTE]

    Me too. This outfit is rather unique and is not a "preserve" operation. Several owners of some 4,000 acres in mostly Clark county have joint ventured this business and have leased another 2,000 acres, all of which are farmed for profit and harvested to leave cover and food for the birds. It is really not a put and take operation on the vast majority of the properties, but rather guided hunts for wild birds on the vast majority of their holdings.

    Really pretty impressive and reminds me a lot of the historical SD family group hunts, just not with many relatives in the group.
    B.C.

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