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Saturday, September 22. 2012
Since lead shot was (rightly) outlawed for waterfowl hunting in North America in 1991, the varieties of alternatives have been growing.
Steel shot was the first to appear but steel has low density (hits softer, travels shorter, and thus requires larger shot size than lead). Many folks were reluctant to put magnum steel loads through older or valuable shotguns, it altered choke functioning, and many felt that steel produced too many crippled birds. (I thought so, but I am usually not a very good shot with waterfowl unless I am in the groove.)
Then came Bismuth, and Bismuth-Tungsten - all much more expensive than steel, but with densities closer to those of lead, and presumably gentler on the barrel than steel. Plus you use the same shot sizes as with lead, say, #4 for decoying ducks and BB for geese.
Here's a good brief summary: Shot-Buyer's Guide.
The non-toxic shot I've been hearing about lately i Hevi-Steel, an iron-tungsten shot which is as cheap as regular steel but with a density approaching that of lead. There's a good, detailed review of Hevi-steel here. Given the price, it sounds like an excellent choice for those giant flocks of Snow Geese.
You can compare non-toxic shot here at the Cabela's site.
I think Bismuth is my first choice for ducks, especially since I can do everything the same way I used to do with lead, but I wonder what our readers like to use for ducks and geese because I am no expert on this.
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Seems like depleted uranium shot would take care of the density problem quite nicely.
I believe that tungsten is only mined in Congo, where murder, warfare, rape, pillage are all the rage and are all directed at controlling the mineral wealth of the country.
So, if you but tungsten - you're guilty!
Red China is THE dominant supplier of Tungsten.
Africa is not even in the equation.
Gwynnie is a big advocate of avoidance of steel shot, dating back to a bluebird day on her favorite lake in Manitoba where, comin home from a decent duck shoot, she spied a large raft of divers and turned the boat in that direction to get a better look - which sometimes gives others on the lake a brief, furious moment of shooting. This time, not all the divers flew away - probably 50, crippled by steel shot, were no longer able to fly and were therefore doomed to die in the following month when the lake froze.
Afyter that, Gwynnie started using Bismuth, then Hevi Shot. All her friends commented that she was shooting much better. In reality, the few shot pellets that made contact did the job, whereas a bird with a couple of steel will just continue on a few miles more.
Interesting to read of Hevi Steel, because the cost of Hevi Shot in Canada is ludicrous - about $3 per shell. However, if a reasonable hunter gets a bird with every 4th shot, a limit comes in at around $100 - compared to airfare or lodging (or guns) one of the cheaper aspects of a hunt.
Looking at Gwynnie's comment, perhaps the manufacturers might realize that at $3 per shell, they are selling paltry amounts of ammunition. This isn't a great economy, and one could make the air look like flak over the Ruhr for $100 of steel. A price reduction to $1 - $1.50 would lead to greatly increased sales (note to Federal, Winchester and Remington: look up "price elasticity". People prefer to be humanitarian and increase their yield as well, but do not like feeling "ripped off"!
Gwynnie is spot on! I have shot Hevishot almost exclusively for the past several years, and find it superior to any steel shot. I also like it better than bismuth, which I found did not pattern well. I have saved some by buying it by the case (on sale when possible) and by using 2 3/4" instead of 3". Number 6 shot in 2 3/4" for ducks and number 4's for geese. It has been running about $22/box of ten; $209 for a case of 100. I have too much respect for our waterfowl resouce to put up with the crippling losses to steel. If forced to use steel (as sometimes in Canada you can't find the good stuff and have to buy steel cartouches) by all means use the high quality, fast stuff. I'm also hearing good things about Black CLoud, and witnessed some pretty impressive work on geese. I may have to give it a try.
It is a bit of a muddle. The premium non-toxics have really gotten expensive due to metals prices being way up (but I bet you've noticed that all ammo has gone up a bunch in the last two years).
One thing about Hevi-Steel: you have to treat it just like steel in terms of choke and barrels. It's hard stuff. Same thing with the old tungsten iron and most Hevi-Shot. I've used one box of Hevi-Steel on decoying ducks out here in NM (yes, we have waterfowl, mostly along the Rio Grande). It worked really well, giving quicker kills than steel.
For steel shot, I really like Kent's "Fasteel", the extra velocity seems to help and I shoot #3 on ducks. That said, every so often I'll hit a bird, have it set its wings and glide for a couple hundred yards, only to be dead when I get to it. I think the hard steel shot passes through and it takes a while for blood loss to kill. Don't know why that doesn't happen with the other hard non-toxics.
In any event, if you can find Hevi-Steel at the same price as regular steel shells, I would definitely use it as it seems quite a bit more effective to me. Personally, I'm hoping for some weather to push some more birds down my way and I'm going to try out some of that new "Classic Doubles" Hevi-Shot in my LC Smith.
Kent Fasteel (3 inch, BBB shot) is a good load for snows up here in western WA, but I rarely see one drop cleanly. The ones that can glide over to an out of bounds no-hunting area where they can be seen walking around in groups dragging their wings and limping along. Coyotes eat well during goose season.
I have not tried bismuth. For what it is worth, here is my experience with steel and hevishot. I gave up shooting waterfowl soon after steel came in. We would hit a bird and it would keep keep flying made me sick so I stopped. Since then steel loads have really improved. They found that unlike lead you have to increase the velocity to improve performance. But once burned I tend to be very wary.
About 6-7 years ago friend gave me some Hevishot to shoot at pheasants (wild birds shot over flushers) and I could not believe the results.
After this I started shooting the hevishot for geese (2s) and ducks (4s). It is definately as good as lead. It is expensive but I shoot here in the states and do not shoot the white geese. If I were shooting north or south of our borders I would be test driving some of the hevisteel.
Last year I shot #2 kent faststeel (1 1/8 oz @1500fps) for decoyed ducks and had no trouble killing ducks within about 35 yrds. Also shot the #2 faststeel for pointed SD roosters (mandated for state lands) we were happy with the results. The Kent was good as long as you kept shots under 30 - 35 yrds. As long as I can afford it I will keep shooting the Hevishot.
Some proper instruction and practice is also a very efficient means of reducing ammo costs.
Bismuth is the next heavier element than lead -- in fact it's the heaviest one that isn't radioactive. I'd be very surprised if it's any less toxic.
But that isn't surprising: on everything from styrofoam to nuclear power, the environmental movement has a long history of forcing changes in behavior that defeat their own stated aims. For most of their followers this can be explained by ignorance, but for the leaders, the only way I can explain it is that they're really out for the goals they admit to on green-agenda.com.
I hand-load my own 3" 12g shells with steel. For decoying geese I prefer #1 shot. For ducks I do a duplex of 4s and 6s. Unless the price of the other non-toxic shot comes down considerably, I will keep shooting steel. Rem870 fitted with an old Patternmaster choke tube.