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About two years in the past, Federal Ammunition’s father or mother firm bought Hevi-Shot, a mid-sized shotgun ammo maker out of Candy Residence, Oregon, that has earned a cult-like following within the waterfowl searching world. These of us who comply with the shotshell business puzzled what new merchandise may crop up with Federal and Hevi-Shot residing below the identical roof. Now we’ve got a solution. This yr Federal is introducing Hevi Bismuth, a load that makes use of bismuth alloy pellets created by Hevi-Shot together with Federal’s Flitecontrol Flex wad. The consequence is likely one of the extra spectacular duck hundreds I’ve ever hunted with. 

Hevi-Shot’s rise got here from its experience in metallurgy. The model is understood for making a tungsten–iron-nickel pellet that was denser and deadlier than metal. However Hevi-Shot mixes a bismuth alloy as nicely (which incorporates tin, nickel, and another proprietary supplies). Federal says its new bismuth hundreds, which use these Hevi Bismuth pellets, will fracture lower than rivals’ hundreds (extra on this later), sample higher on the vary, and kill birds extra successfully within the discipline. I received the possibility to hunt with two completely different Hevi Bismuth hundreds for pheasants and geese this fall, and I patterned each over the winter. Right here’s how Hevi Bismuth carried out. 

Federal Hevi Bismuth Specs

  • Gauge: 12 and 20
  • Size: 3-inch and a couple of ¾-Inch
  • Shot Dimension: 3, 4, 5
  • Payload: 1 ⅛, 1 ¼, 1 ⅜ ounces     
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1350 to 1450 fps
  • Pellet Density: 9.6 g/cc
  • MSRP: $66.99, $70.99, and $76.99 per field of 25

Why Bismuth Works

Federal hevi bismuth
Bismuth is denser than metal. Alex Robinson

Bismuth pellets have a density of 9.6 g/cc whereas metal pellets have a density of seven.8 g/cc. When pace is equal, a denser pellet will carry extra vitality for penetrating a goal and retain extra vitality farther down vary. That’s actually all that you must know. However if you wish to geek out just a little and don’t thoughts some physics, right here’s a deeper rationalization of why bismuth is extra deadly than metal. 

As a result of bismuth is extra dense, you possibly can go for a smaller pellet measurement whereas sustaining the identical quantity of pellet vitality. 

“Pellet vitality can be the identical as kinetic vitality, or ½ MV²,” says Adam Moser, a director of product engineering for Federal. “That is measured in foot-pounds and is analogous to knowledge printed for rifle bullets. However for small shotshell projectiles touring at comparatively low velocities, it doesn’t inform the entire story.”

The entire story comes right down to “penetration vitality,” which is the measure of pellet vitality per cross sectional space, Moser says. In different phrases, it’s the kinetic vitality of the pellet divided by its floor space, additionally known as the 2D space of the pellet. Put extra merely, it’s a measure of how nicely a pellet will penetrate a medium. 

Smaller, denser pellets have considerably extra penetration vitality. A No. 3 bismuth pellet has barely extra penetration vitality (313 ft/lb-in2) than a No. 1 metal pellet (301 ft/lb-in2) and far more penetration vitality than a No. 2 metal pellet (265). Once you go down in shot measurement with bismuth, you’re getting extra pellets and deadlier pellets to doubtlessly placed on goal.

Hold this in thoughts while you have a look at the sample pictures under. Hunters who’re used to searching with metal hundreds ought to think about the hits are made by No. 1 metal pellets to get a grasp on the true lethality of the sample. 

Flitecontrol Flex Wad

For Federal’s half, it’s contributing the Flitecontrol Flex wad. The wad is designed to include the pellets for the optimum distance past the muzzle (about 15 ft) earlier than letting the sample broaden. The Flex model of the wad accomplishes this via little slits in its aspect, which let air in (you possibly can shoot Flitecontrol Flex wads via any choke type with out concern). For Hevi Bismuth, Federal is utilizing the identical wads it makes use of in its lead Prairie Storm pheasant hundreds, that are identified to sample very nicely.  

Fracturing Points (or Non Points)

Federal hevi bismuth
The Hevi Bismuth payload and buffer materials.

Usually, the draw back of bismuth is that it’s brittle, which might result in pellets fracturing. In truth, points with fracturing plus the upper price of the fabric killed bismuth hundreds after they have been initially launched within the 90s. Fracturing occurs on ignition, largely with pellets behind the shell, that are below essentially the most stress. These fractured pellets turn into fliers and usually don’t find yourself on track.    

However Federal believes it has solved fracturing issues through the use of the bismuth alloy from Hevi-Shot. Moser stated that in testing they discovered solely 5 p.c pellet fragmentation in Hevi Bismuth versus as a lot as 23 p.c fragmentation in rivals’ bismuth hundreds.

Finally, fracturing is a non-issue if the load shoots sample. So, to the patterning board we go. 

Patterning Hevi Bismuth

Hevi Bismuth patterned extraordinarily nicely in my testing. I shot 3-inch No. 5s with 1 ¼ ounce payloads and a couple of ¾-inch No 3s. with 1 ⅜-ounce payloads from my 12-gauge Benelli SBE 3 utilizing a full choke. I shot from 40 yards on a typical day for duck searching—20 levels with a 15 mph crosswind. I shot 5 patterns with every load. Listed here are the outcomes (displaying the common variety of pellets strikes inside a 30-inch circle):

No. 5, 1 ¼ ounce payload

  • Common hits: 147
  • Complete pellets in payload: 243 
  • Sample Share: 60%

No. 3, 1 ⅜ ounce payload

  • Common hits: 128
  • Complete pellets in payload: 168
  • Sample Share: 76%
Hevi bismuth
Hevi Bismuth No. 5, patterned at 40 yards put a powerful 144 pellets inside a 30-inch circle. The small circles highlighted with yellow are tiny tears, doubtless made by fractured pellets. Alex Robinson
federal hevi bismuth
Hevi Bismuth No. 3 patterned at 40 yards delivered 137 pellets inside a 30-inch circle on this shot. Alex Robinson

Whereas the No. 5s shot denser patterns, the No. 3s have been particularly spectacular. The No. 3s put a really excessive share of pellets on track proving the Hevi Bismuth pellets paired with the Flitecontrol Flex wad delivered as marketed (really, higher than marketed, as Federal engineers stated they shot 70-percent patterns of their testing). 

To place this efficiency in context, we patterned a dozen duck weapons with normal No. 2 metal hundreds for a duck gun test last year. We shot at 35 yards, utilizing all modified chokes (it’s not really useful to shoot metal out of a full choke). The very best sample we shot via all the check was 124. And keep in mind, these bismuth No. 3s are far deadlier than metal No. 2s. 

So what concerning the pellet fracturing? I inspected my targets intently and did discover some tiny tears doubtless made by fragmented pellets, nevertheless it was minimal. With the No. 5 hundreds I observed lower than a dozen fragment tears per goal. With the No. 3 hundreds I counted fewer: lower than six per goal. Given the good patterning outcomes I received, I’d think about fracturing a non-issue with these hundreds. 

Looking with Hevi Bismuth

Federal Hevi Bismuth, Tested and Review
The creator and his canine, Otis, after a profitable mallard discipline hunt.

A shotshell can win on the drafting board and patterning board, but when it doesn’t win hunters’ hearts and minds within the discipline, it’ll absolutely fail. I believe Hevi Bismuth will win hunters over—in the event that they’re keen to spend the additional money per field to attempt it. 

I shot the No. 3 hundreds via a modified choke in my Benelli SBE 3 on a number of waterfowl hunts all through the autumn and had spectacular outcomes. On South Dakota discipline hunts Hevi Bismuth crushed mallards over the decoys and likewise successfully killed snows and specks at 40 yards and past. Later within the fall I shot them on large, late-season Canada geese and had equally good outcomes. In a single occasion I doubled on Canadas that have been hovering straight overhead at about 45 yards. On one other hunt I killed a greenhead that had made it via an preliminary volley of taking pictures from my searching companions. The duck rocketed skyward into the wind, despite the fact that he had taken just a few pellets from their earlier barrage. Simply as he received to the sting of cheap vary, I popped up and killed him with one shot. The opposite guys within the blind cheered (or no less than they need to have).

hunting with hevi bismuth
Federal Hevi Bismuth No. 3s carried out nicely on geese, specks and snows (pictured right here) and big Canada geese. Alex Robinson

The two ¾-inch No. 5s grew to become my go-to pheasant searching load. Only for curiosity I patterned them via a modified choke in my Browning Citori CXS and curiously they shot higher patterns than they’d via the total choke in my Benelli, recording 153 hits contained in the 30-inch circle. I killed a couple of dozen pheasants with these hundreds this fall and had minimal cripples. I additionally made the one finest shot on a rooster of my whole wingshooting profession. On the final day of the Wisconsin season my Lab, Otis, flushed a rooster behind some heavy brush. I might see the chicken flying away at an angle, however didn’t have a transparent shot. Understanding this might be my solely probability for the day, I swung to a gap within the brush and fired earlier than the chicken received there (like a quarterback throwing the ball earlier than the receiver turns for it) after which watched the rooster tumble down about 60 paces away. Otis was the one one round to understand that one. 

hevi bismuth
Otis brings again a rooster taken on an extended shot with Hevi Bismuth. Alex Robinson

These discipline anecdotes in the end don’t imply a lot, however when coupled with the info gathered on the patterning board they inform an intriguing story. There are plenty of hundreds (metal included) that can kill pheasants and waterfowl cleanly when paired with the fitting choke and good taking pictures. However confidence in your gun/choke/load mixture actually does matter. In case you head into the sector understanding you’ve received a lethal setup, you’ll shoot higher. Over the period of the autumn, I gained a ton of confidence taking pictures Hevi Bismuth.       

Bismuth Load Value

Bismuth is a costlier materials than metal or lead. Federal Hevi Bismuth is coming in towards the highest of the value bracket. With a MSRP of $77 per field, you’re spending about $3 per shell. Right here’s a breakdown of price and density of non-toxic hundreds within the Federal and Hevi-Shot lineup (all in 12 gauge) ranked by worth.

Is Bismuth Price It?

Hevi bismuth
Hevi Bismuth No. 5s are a killer pheasant load. Alex Robinson

Dearer bismuth hundreds don’t make sense for each hunt. Waterfowlers searching small and mid-sized geese throughout early season don’t want bismuth. Upland hunters taking pictures pen-raised roosters don’t want it both. 

However I believe this load makes good sense for pheasant hunters chasing wild birds on public lands (lots of which prohibit lead shot). Wild roosters are surprisingly robust to kill cleanly (as a result of shot angles are nearly at all times going away) and even the perfect canines have bother catching winged pheasants, which run like rabbits. A load that delivers high-penetration vitality and tight patterns is good right here. And with limits at only some birds per day, you’re not going to be burning via bins of the costly shells anyway. 

Then there are these waterfowlers who merely will need to have the perfect of every thing, worth be damned. I can see these guys shopping for Hevi Bismuth by the case. For the remainder of us, Federal Hevi Bismuth may not be an on a regular basis duck load, nevertheless it makes plenty of sense for those who’re planning a giant waterfowl journey for mallards, divers, or geese. You’ve already invested numerous {dollars} in your unfold, boat, weapons, and equipment, so why not improve your shells to make sure you put birds within the bag? Finally that’s what Federal is banking on with this dear, high-performance load: As soon as hunters attempt it, they’re going to like it.

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