Blindsided by the Dark Cloud of Hevi-Metal



I want to share an observation regarding Hevi Metal. Bottom line—the smaller, #5 pellets (72 pellet count) are only 60% the weight of the #2 steel (110 pellet count) on a per-pellet basis. I used an analytical balance in my lab to check. They marketed the ammo to be where the smaller pellets are supposed to weigh as much as the larger steel, correct? Thus, resulting in 20% increase in total pellet count? Anyway, I though this was hinky.

Part of my job is conducting research, so we run replicates. That said, I guess I could cut open and count 3 more shells, or sample 1 shell from 4-5 different boxes, but because I remember technical issues with the original HeviShot, I do not doubt that these are technically sloppy. Also, I didn't want to waste any more shells-- even these.

Here it is:
Steel = 104 pellets at 23.85 grams total
"mystery metal" = 79 pellets at 10.9 grams total

Feel free to double-check my math, but the smaller pellets don't seem dense enough for being so small. Not for greenheads anyway... Might be nice for shooting at smaller ducks (?)

Another interesting observation is that Winchester is claiming in their new "Blind Side" steel is hexagonal in shape because:

"Stacked pellets in the same space means 15% more pellets". I was skeptical, so I weighed the 169 pellets in the 1 3/8 oz load-- 39.08 grams. Same pellet count and weight as standard, spherical steel. What the ****-- all this marketing crap insults my intelligence and makes me want to get into reloading....


Hello Scott,

No one ever accused ammunition companies of being too just too darn honest, that I recall. Few have accused waterfowl hunters of being any more intelligent than the general population, either. Not even waterfowl hunters. There are no industry standards for any of this, no more than for fishing lures, so it doesn't matter a great deal what is claimed or asserted-- enough folks will always bite into it as long as you make it sound tasty enough.

There is a science to external ballistics and wounding ballistics, known factors that we like to ignore whenever we buy something that “kills ducks dead.” There isn't any way other way to kill them, that I know of, other than dead. There have been extensive studies well-documented in times past, studies that are almost universally ignored. The Belrose study is reported in the readily available “The Mysteries of Shotgun Patterns” by George Oberfell and Charles Thompson. There is very good coverage in “Shotgunning: The Art and Science” by Bob Brister as well. Another very good, reputable source is Firearms, The Law, and Forensic Ballistics, 2nd. Ed., by Tom Warlow.

At just 35 yards and beyond, lead #4 is more lethal on ducks than lead #6 as shown by Belrose and others. Without exception, a settled matter of wounding ballistics, spherical shot is superior to odd-shaped, malformed, or out of round pellets. It is a well-known, well-shown matter that when a larger frontal area is presented to live tissue or a consistent test medium (10% calibrated ballistic gelatin) it retards penetration. Dr. Martin Fackler, the foremost wounding ballistics expert of today, has shown the same thing both scientifically and redundantly.

That's why steel is so poor compared to lead: poor sectional density. To get the mass of steel up to the mass of a lead pellet, it requires a larger diameter sphere. A larger diameter sphere of the same mass as a smaller diameter sphere loses velocity rapidly by comparison, the increased velocity erosion due to the increased area of atmosphere it is forced to work against.

Even assuming the same impact velocity (that it often fails to have at range), steel fails compared to denser materials. It must displace a larger volume of tissue due to its larger size. This inhibits penetration. Whether a brick-shaped pellet, out of round, or a ringed pellet: penetration invariably suffers. Penetration comparisons are not difficult. While many tissue simulants are inconsistent, calibrated ballistic gelatin is consistent. Rather than show the effectiveness of loads by goofy but expensive ad-brags, comparison by firing into blocks of ballistic gelatin at range is more representative. It is far too representative and far too honest to be used in ad campaigns for shotshells, of course, the reason you don't see them.

You also won't see 3-1/2 inch shells compared to 3 inch shells in a scientific way, either. They aren't at all that much better. The reason is clear: you cannot stray too far from the basics of payload mass. All you have to do is check it out. The “super” 3-1/2 inch shells aren't at all super. The 1-1/2 oz. payload they often contain is the same as the ancient 2-3/4 in. “Baby Magnum” 12 ga. lead load. The idea that unfolded hull length means anything specifically is both silly and without basis. The standard high velocity 3 inch lead load has a 1-7/8 oz. payload, putting 3-1/2 in. super magnum steel loads to shame with magnificent ease. Does it really surprise anyone that a 1-7/8 oz. payload of a higher density pellet material outperforms a lower density shot material payload that is 1-1/2 oz.? If this isn't common knowledge, it should be. In any case, Scott, I'm glad you're paying attention.

I'm not sure exactly who deserves the credit for opting for comedy over known wounding ballistics? There is enough applause to go around, to be sure. In the case of the 3-1/2 inch 12 gauge, you now have the opportunity to overpay for the same gun. You also have a tiny bit better chance to develop the flinch you've always wanted, so it is fun for all ages.

Shotshell types can be amusing and a good source of entertainment. People laughed about the Pet Rock as well. Call it a good night at the bar for Gary Dahl, Pet Rock inventor, though. Though the rocks cost a penny each (Rosarita Beach Stone), over one million sold in a few months for $3.95 each. Ken Hakuta, the fellow that launched the Wacky Wallwalker, made over $20 million for his useless, but entertaining innovation. One can presume that Dark Hot Nasty Clouds, Brick-type shot, and of course the eternally comedic efforts of Hevi (or not?) shot aspire to assume the prior greatness of the Pet Rock.

Whether it is the comedians at not so Hevi Hevi-Shot, the cloud makers at Federal, or now the brick-throwers of Winchester, there is certainly enough credit to go around. Everyone seems to want to get in on the act. Perhaps one day they will tell you that they were just kidding? I'm not exactly holding my breath, but it is good to have a well-tuned sense of humor about this. Remember, "Everyone has a Hevi-Shot story!" Just not always a very good one, but fisherman aren't alone with the campfire tales. A lot of us bought "Pet Rocks" at one time as well. If we expect gravel to have a personality, then why not hope for the same from some happy fun-time goofy-shaped pellets? A properly unleashed Pet Rock can kill a duck dead as well, within range. It is likely somewhere in the Pet Rock care and training manual.

Yes, your read of the Winchester "Blind Side" marketing material is correct. Here are a couple of direct quotes: "Stacked. Our engineers call it ‘packing density'. Tightly packed and stacked Hex™ Shot gives you 15% more shot pellets per shell, increasing your kill zone by 25%. And it’s 100% Hex Shot." Winchester goes on to say that #2 Hex Shot weighs the same as #2 spherical steel. A clever third grader would understand that 1-3/8 oz. of #2 Hex Shot and #2 steel have the same number of pellets. Problem is, those clever third graders are never around when you really need them. They would come in handy when proof-reading marketing drivel. Also, aside from reducing felt recoil without any basis, "You’re dealing out 250% more bird-blistering trauma with Blind Side ammunition."

After reading that, you might wonder how they measured the trama, whether bird-blistering, rabbit-ripping, opossum-pulverizing, or some other type. It sounds impressive, something like photon-torpedo fire. As it turns out, there is no basis for the claim at all. The folks at Winchester just decided that since Blind Side has about two and half times more goofy shaped pellets than Federal Black Cloud, so that must mean 250% more trauma. With that peculiar brand of illogic, it just might have 10,000% more bird-blistering trauma than all those lead pellets that have been dropping birds for the last several hundred years. Don't you wonder how Fred Kimble managed to whack all those birds, 150 years ago, without the trauma? "The innovative, choke responsive Diamond Cut Wad delivers tight, consistent patterns at higher velocities." You might wonder how the Blind Side ammo, all 1400 fps loads, can be considered a "higher velocity" than all the other 1400 fps steel loads? Some questions are best left to the internment of merciful time.

I'm sorry you had to waste your time in your lab cutting up and weighing shells, though. At least now you know what a shame it all is. If folks like Nice Shot, Kent, and so forth ramped it up with more hyperbole, perhaps more folks would wise up. Federal has an outstanding shot material in Federal Heavyweight as well, but clouds must be more entertaining to talk about, at least the dark and menancing type. A lighter payload of smaller, denser shot may far more effective than the weird-shaped, large, fluffy stuff along with a lot less recoil. Maybe its just more fun to think we are hurling dark, black, stinky clouds of bricks at things along with mystery hevi-metals that in reality, are not? It must be.


Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.

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