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hevi-metal xtreme review

Hevi-Metal Xtreme takes waterfowl loads to a new level, building on the foundation of Hevi-Shot.

Environ-Metal revolutionized the non-toxic waterfowl shotshell in the late 1990s with the advancement of Hevi-Shot, a 12-gram per cubic centimeter (g/cc) tungsten-iron alloy that was slightly denser than bismuth (9.8 g/cc) and lead (11.2 g/cc), far more than steel (7.8 g/cc), but less than tungsten super shot (18 g/cc).

Hevi-Shot was — and still is — pricey, costing nearly three times more than some of today’s steel shotshell offerings. To make their duck ammo more affordable to waterfowlers, Environ-Metal (now owned by Federal Ammunition) created Hevi-Metal, a stacked load that layered Hevi-Shot pellets on top of steel.

Hevi-Metal Xtreme Review

Hevi-Metal became one of the most devastating shotshells for the money when it debuted in 2010. It gave duck hunters a more lethal option than steel without paying Hevi-Shot prices. But a recall in 2014 due to wad performance—the wads were getting lodged in shotgun barrels after the shooter pulled the trigger—made some hunters leery of Hevi-Metal. And so, the shotshell faded into obscurity.

However, Hevi-Shot brought the original load back this year, rebranding it as Hevi-Metal Xtreme. It’s essentially the same shotshell with two massive improvements— it uses the Original 12-density HEVI-Shot tungsten pellets and Federal’s superior Flitecontrol Flex wad for improved pattern density. After pattern-testing the new 12- and 20-gauge offerings, it’s clear that Hevi-Metal Xtreme is deadly, and every bit as capable of producing clean kills as the first-generation load.

Option: 12- and 20-Gauge

hevi-metal xtreme

Hevi-Metal Xtreme is loaded in three-inch shells for 12 and 20-gauge. The 12-gauge loads have a rated muzzle velocity of 1,450 feet-per-second (fps) and charge weight of 11⁄4 ounces. For 20-gauge loads, muzzle velocity rates at 1,350 fps, and charge weight hits 1 1/16 ounces. Both gauges are offered in 6- and 3- or 4- and 1-shot sizes, and Hevi-Shot has added another option in 12-Gauge, combining #2 Tungsten and BB Steel. The larger shot size is steel, which sits below the smaller Hevi-Shot pellets.

The ratio of steel to Hevi-Shot pellets ranks about 70 to 30 percent, and the 12-gauge shells are topped with flax seed. Flax doesn’t affect performance; it only fills up the remaining space in the hull before the shotshell crimps. Federal also engineered the shotshell primer to burn hotter so that the propellant burns at the proper rate in very cold waterfowling conditions.

Pattern Testing Hevi-Metal Xtreme

To determine the ballistic capability of Hevi-Metal Xtreme, I patterned the 12- and 20-gauge (each loaded with 4 and 1 pellet sizes) offerings at 40 yards on 35×35-inch pieces of butcher paper. I shot each load five times from a standing position, replacing the butcher paper after every shot.

For the 12-gauge shells, I used a Benelli Super Black Eagle III coupled with a Rob Roberts T2 Triple Threat choke (Light Modified). A Beretta A400 Xplor outfitted with a Patternmaster Anaconda Long Range choke (Improved Modified) was used for the 20-gauge test.

Once the pattern work was complete, I found the core of each pattern on the butcher paper and drew a 30-inch circle around it, tabulated the pellet strikes inside that circle, and averaged them against the total number of pellets in each shotshell (140 in all for 12 gauge, 116 for 20 gauge). I also tested the loads for average muzzle velocity, shooting five times through a chronograph placed two feet in front of the muzzle.

The 12-gauge loads produced a five-shot average of 79 percent of the pellets inside the 30-inch circle, certainly capable of dispatching any waterfowl species at 40 yards. The best pattern placed 122 pellets inside the 30-inch circle. Muzzle velocity averaged 1,419 fps.

Surprisingly, the 20-gauge loads (84-percent pattern average) were slightly better on paper. My last two shots with the Beretta placed an incredible 107 and 110 pellets inside the circle after the first three shots were in the high 80s and low 90s. Muzzle velocity averaged 1,320 fps.

The Hevi-Shot Advantage

During the pattern test, the smaller Hevi-Shot 4s struck near the core of the pattern while the larger steel 1s littered the periphery of the 30-inch circle. While the entire payload will leave the muzzle at about the same velocity, the larger, lighter pellets slow down faster than a smaller, heavier one. Of course, the Hevi-Shot pellets are smaller and denser than their steel counterparts.

And therein lies the advantage of shooting Hevi-Metal Xtreme. As the steel pellet performance drops off, Hevi-Shot pellets continue on, delivering enough energy to kill your intended target (at reasonable distances).


When the original Hevi-Metal debuted 13 years ago, it cost under $30 for a box of 25. The MSRP for the new version is $59.99. That’s quite a jump, but material costs have greatly increased since 2010. Plus, COVID-19 caused supply chain shortages still affecting the ammunition industry.

Final Thoughts

Hevi-Metal Xtreme is an expensive but proven shotshell. And the decision on whether or not to spend your hard-earned dollar on such a pricey load is up to the individual. However, Hevi-Metal Xtreme is the most affordable way to take advantage of the performance that Hevi-Shot pellets provide.

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