Yes, Steel Shot is a Lot Worse than You Think!

For many years, manufacturers have touted and spouted that “steel patterns tighter than lead.” All you have to do is shoot a steel load through a “Modified” factory choke, and instantly you get “Full Choke” patterns. It isn't true and it never was true.

Fired through my 3 inch Benelli Vinci with a factory “Modified” choke, 3 inch unfolded length 1-1/4 oz. #2 steel loads (Black Cloud) yielded no better than 66% 40 yard patterns. Through a Browning Maxus Invector Plus “Modified” tube (called “Full for Steel” by Browning) the Black Cloud loads did worse, averaging 58% 40 yard patterns. Winchester Blind Side steel loads did worse still, through both guns.

Yet, with the factory “Modified” choke out of a Fabarm L4S shooting 1-1/4 oz. lead loads, you can get 84% patterns with good ammo: .

Even 1-1/4 oz. buffered #5 lead loads out of a 20 gauge yield close to 69% pattern efficiencies, better than most 12 gauge steel loads. If you are hunting pheasants with #2 steel, for example, you're at a significant disadvantage with steel.

#2 steel, even launched at 1550 fps, is less lethal than #5 lead at all ranges. A common 1330 fps #5 lead load has 2.11 inches of penetration at 40 yards. #2 steel compares poorly, with 1.72 inches @ 40 yards with a 1400 fps muzzle velocity, 1.86 inches with 1550 fps muzzle velocity.

Steel often gives similar or lesser pattern percentages at 40 yards. Even if we assume the same pattern percentage, steel sucks and sucks badly. Assuming a 65% 40 yard pattern percentage for #2 steel and #5 lead, it is a percentage of "what" that matters. Lead #5 putting 65% of its 1-1/4 oz. pattern in a 30 inch circle at 40 yards is 65% of about 214 pellets. With 1-1/4 oz. of #2 steel, you only have 155 pellets to start with.

Steel #2 @ 65% = 100 pellets on target. Lead #5 @ 65% = 139 pellets on target. To say lead is at least 40% more lethal than steel is the best available version of the truth, for you have about 40% more pellets on target and those pellets all have better penetration than steel. If you try larger than #2 steel, the pellet count suffers even more. If you go with #3 steel, the already poor comparative penetration of #2 steel gets even worse.

Steel is a miserable, horrible pheasant-crippler at longer ranges. How could anyone think differently?

Copyright 2015 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.



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