This is why you should pattern your shotguns.
Last week, I tested a selection of popular turkey hunting loads, including two flavors of Winchester's popular Long Beard XR 12-gauge loads.
The advertising on the shell boxes claims that the Long Beard XR increases the traditional standard for turkey load lethality from 40 yards to 60. I tested two 3-inch loads containing 1¾-ounce and 17/8-ounce, respectively, at 40 and 50 yards in a Remington V3 12-gauge. I also used a Carlson's Long Beard XR choke tube, which is said to be engineered for the LBXR loads. The tube constriction is .660 inch.
The inscription on the choke tube package claims an average of 182 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards using 3-inch No. 6 shot.
The Remington exceeded that, but it showed a definite preference for the slower 17/8-ounce load, placing 226 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards.
Since few people use a Remington V3, I resumed testing Thursday with a much more popular shotgun, a Winchester SX3. I've killed some great gobblers with that gun, but all were within 15-30 yards with 3-inch loads of blended Nos. 5-6-7 Hevi-Shot through the factory Invector Plus full-choke tube.
For consistency, I also used a Carlson's Long Beard XR choke (.665-inch constriction) for these tests. The results were mixed and were not on par with the Remington, but they were still more than adequate to cleanly dispatch gobblers at 50 yards, and especially at 40 yards.
Like the V3, the SX3 did better with the 17/8-ounce loads.
Unlike with the Remington, which I shot from a kneeling position, I fired the SX3 from a sitting position with a rest. The ranges were laser verified.
To my great surprise and greater dismay, it took four shots at four clean targets to center the load. Holding dead on the neck/head junction of a Champion Turkey Life-Size Sight-In Target, the bulk of the pattern began 6 inches to the left, which meant I had to hold 6 inches to the right to center the pattern inside the 10-inch circle.
Properly centered, the SX3 with the 17/8-ounce loads placed 188 pellets in the circle. That's six better than the choke tube label, and 23 hit the vital brain and spine area. It would have done even better if I had held 3 inches low.
That's too much trigonometry to process when looking at a gobbler in the field. On the other hand, the initial loads that clustered far to the left still placed 10-12 pellets in the kill zone, so maybe it doesn't matter.
The 1 3/4-ounce loads performed almost identically. Holding 6 inches to the right, 182 hit the 10-inch circle, and 17 hit the kill zone. Another six hit the unmarked continuation of the spine farther down the neck.
At 50 yards, the SX3 was consistent with both loads. The V3, in comparison, was good with the 17/8-ounce loads, but not so much with the lighter load.
With the heavier load, the SX3 punched 121 holes in a 10-inch circle, and eight in the designated kill zone. However, an additional seven pellets punched the spinal continuation. It also punched 60 of 81 squares that comprise the 10-inch circle.
The lighter load punched 122 holes (compared to 76 with the V3) in the 10-inch circle and 19 in the designated kill zone. An additional six hit the spinal continuation. It punched 61 of 81 squares.
Again, I held 6 inches right, but at 50 yards, the sight picture was more compressed, so it felt and looked more natural.
Out of curiosity, I also tested a 20-gauge SX3 at 40 yards with 3-inch, 1-ounce and 1¼-ounce loads of No. 5 Hevi-Shot. I used an Invector Plus full tube.
The 1-ounce load did not perform well enough to mention, but the heavier load punched 50 holes in a 10-inch circle, six in the kill zone and an additional four in the spinal continuation. It punched 38 of 81 squares.
I have read phenomenal reviews about Federal's Heavyweight No. 7 turkey load, which is said to be the best 20-gauge turkey load ever produced. Its best results were in concert with a Trulock Precision Hunter EF or Trulock Federal Heavyweight No. 7 tube.
I'm looking forward to trying it in the near future.
Sports on 02/05/2017