By: Joe Arterburn

There’s a smaller-is-better trend in turkey shotshells, thanks to technological advancements that are making them more deadly.

Photo Credit: Federal Ammunition

Photo Credit: Federal Ammunition

“The largest advancement has been shot type, the material used to make the shot, and that would be TSS. It has been a gamechanger,” said J.J. Reich, Federal Ammunition communication manager.

Federal has been at the forefront of the small-but-deadly revolution, making shot with TSS, a tungsten alloy, that is more dense and heavier than lead so TSS shot pellets can be made smaller, and smaller size has many advantages over larger shot.

A smaller pellet “is going to travel farther because there’s less air resistance and it’s also going to penetrate better because it’s a smaller, sharper type of pellet,” Reich said. He said an engineer explained to him: “If you stab a piece of paper with a dull knife with a large point and a sharp knife with a smaller point, you’re going to get better penetration with the small point and that’s the same with pellets,” he said.

Where standard turkey lead shot sizes were 4, 5, and 6, TSS shot is “crazy small,” he said. Last year Federal introduced TSS shotshells with size 7 shot and even smaller 9 shot. This year they are going even smaller with size 10 shot blended with size 8. In a 3 ½-inch shotshell, the new blended load will have more than 1,000 pellets. “So you’re not only getting longer distances, you’re also getting better patterns, more pellets downrange and more pellets means more chances of hitting the turkey’s brain and spinal column,” Reich said.

Hunters are reporting turkey kills out to 60 and 70 yards, sometimes more, but Reich shies away from recommending extreme-range shots, if for no other reason than it cuts down on the fun of calling a gobbler in close.

He knows the TSS shells can be effective at longer yards but he says, “50 yards and beyond is the kill range.” And beyond? He said they know it will shoot farther and be effective, but they are not going to recommend specific ranges in the high end of the spectrum.

The best way to know what any shotshell can do is to pattern it at different ranges, from 20 to 50, 60, 70 yards, theoretically, as far as you want to test it. That will show you what the shotshell combined with your shotgun and choke tube can do or, more accurately, what you can do with them.

“I've always stressed practice and knowing your equipment,” Reich said.

And the latest smaller-is-better trend is TSS shot in 410 shells. Federal introduced a 410 load with size 9 shot last year “and it works awesome at 40-plus yards,” Reich said. It packs knockdown power without the recoil associated with large-gauge shotguns.

Photo Credit: Federal Ammunition

Photo Credit: Federal Ammunition