hunters carrying dead turkeys on their backs

Big Green Blog

Turkey Hunting Ammo. What’s in your shell?

9.19.2022 | By Remington Contributor

Wild turkeys are no oven-ready butterballs. Big tough birds with plenty of feathery protection, the vital zone for a turkey hunting shot is the relatively narrow area of the gobbler’s head and neck.

To maximize your chances to down a boss tom this spring, selecting the right turkey hunting shotshell is important. You need accurate ammo that’ll put the highest number of the hardest hitting pellets into the kill zone.

Before selecting your charge weight, shot size, or even your gauge, it helps to know the shot materials of modern turkey hunting ammunition.

  • Lead: The classic turkey shell shot, lead performs well on birds. Modern loads can be copper plated and blended with other materials. Most premier loads combine their lead shot with buffering material inside the payload, which helps reduce lead deformation as the pellets knock against each other down the barrel. The downside to lead, it is a soft material. Any changes to the pellet’s shape during loading or firing can affect accuracy as deformed pellets do not fly straight.
  • Tungsten Blends: The heaviest density material and therefore the most lethal option, tungsten blends like Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) have upwards of 60% more density than lead. Increased density leads to higher retained energy on target. Carrying more lethal energy further, tungsten or even bismuth shot increases your effective range well past traditional hunting distances common with lead.

    Harder and heavier than lead, bismuth or steel, smaller tungsten shot performs at the same level as larger lead shot, meaning #7 TSS hits like #5 lead. Smaller shot also means more pellets can be packed into the shell, so TSS put more pellets on your target and maximizes your success.

    Downside? TSS costs much more than lead or steel for manufacturers like Remington to purchase so these shells can be expensive.
  • Bismuth: An intermediate density material between lead and tungsten, Bismuth shares many of the upsides of TSS without tungsten’s biggest downside, which is cost. Bismuth or bismuth blends have 44% more downrange energy than lead and are 22% denser than steel.
  • Steel: A low density material, steel loses terminal velocity quickly and delivers less energy on target. It has about a third of the weight of similarly sized lead pellets and is ineffective at longer ranges. Blended steel shot can still be a viable option at close ranges.

Once you’ve selected your shot material, grab a few boxes, your selected choke, and don’t forget to pattern your load to see how it performs on paper before hunting season.

4 different turkey targets showing shot spray for 12 gauge lead, 12 gauge tss, 20 gauge lead, and 20 gauge tss

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