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Big Green Blog

How to Pick Duck Hunting Ammo

9.19.2022 | By Remington Contributor

You got up early, froze your you-know-what off, and beat what feels like half the duck hunters in your state to that coveted spot on opening day. When the skies fill up and the ducks finally drop in, your shells better be up to the task.

Choosing waterfowl hunting ammo comes down to your hunting situation. Waterfowlers have been required to use non-lead shot since the late 80’s, meaning steel shot has ruled the roost since at least 1991. These days, tungsten, bismuth, zinc and steel alloys and blends give duck hunters more options than ever.

General rule of thumb, for bigger birds choose larger gauges, shot sizes and payloads. For further shot opportunities, use pick duck shells with faster velocities and higher density shot like Bismuth or Tungsten.

Selecting a gauge is step one.

  • 10GA: Written off by most waterfowlers as overkill or at least too heavy to lug into the boat, the 10GA is still a good call for big geese…or for your buddy who can’t hit the broad side of a barn and needs the extra shot. The 10GA allows hunting with a 3 ½” shell with the biggest payload/shot charges and with larger shot size options like BBB, BB, 2s or 4s.
  • 12GA: The most popular and most versatile shotshell option for duck hunting. Various 12GA guns can chamber 2 ¾, 3” or even 3 ½” shells, vary payload from a light 1 ⅛ oz. charge all the way up to a hefty 1 ¾ oz., run the gamut of shot size from T, BB, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or even smaller, and correspondingly vary in velocity from 1,300 feet per second all the way up to HyperSonic Steel’s blazing 1,700 FPS.
  • 16GA: The sweet sixteen offers duck hunting loads very comparable to the 20GA and shines in close-quarters situations on medium to small waterfowl. Don’t bring your new 16G on a snow goose hunt and be aware 16G ammo and shotguns are harder to find than the more common 12 and 20.
  • 20GA: From teal to geese, the 20GA can be just as effective as your 12GA standby. Like the 12, 20GA ammo has the variety you need to fit your situation – from puddle jumping, layout blinds, to close-quarters flooded timber. Found in 2 ¾” or 3”, charge weight varies but hovers around 1oz, with pellet size ranging from 1-9’s and velocities around 1300-1600fps.
  • 28GA: The 28GA has lately seen a resurgence with modern high-density ammunition like Premier Bismuth. Smaller bore shotguns can down ducks just as effectively with the right shell producing a dense pattern inside 40 yards. Look for more options in 28GA soon.
  • .410: Like the 28GA, the .410 is now a legitimate close-work duck killer with high-density Tungsten and Bismuth ammo. Expect shot sizes like #6’s and smaller with velocities around 1,400FPS.

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