At 25 yards, the whole thing just seemed unfair. Even if I pulled a shot somewhat, the tom turkey was going down, his neck and head spattered hard with tungsten shotgun pellets from HEVI-Shot’s HEVI-18.
So, I backed up to 50 yards and let fly with my two test turkey loads from HEVI-Shot: HEVI-18 Turkey, a 3” shell packed with a two-ounce load of #9 pellets; and, Magnum Blend, also a 3” shell but inside holding a two-ounce mixture of #5, #6 and #7 pellets.
But even at half a football field away, the result was the same: turkey dinner! Pretty amazing, really.
When I started hunting turkey in the late 1990’s, me, my Winchester 12-gauge pump, and the available turkey hunting loads had me limited to a 25-yard shot. At that distance, a decent number of pellets still connected with the vital zones on my turkey targets. But out to 30 yards and my patterns got too wide and unpredictable.
Actually, I was more confident at 20 yards and under given the smallish head of a tom turkey—plus their frustrating habit of rarely keeping that head still for more than two seconds.
But ethical turkey hunting distances have definitely lengthened, thanks to a new generation of optics-equipped shotguns and, especially, the heavy metal turkey loads like the above being produced by HEVI-Shot.
I tested the Hevi-18 and Magnum Blend loads using the 940-PRO turkey hunting shotgun from Mossberg, a semi-automatic 12-gauge sporting a 24-inch barrel and a Mossy Oak Greenleaf finish. My 940-PRO arrived with a Holosun HE507K-GR X2 open reflex optic that featured a green reticle and easy to use controls.
Initially, I zeroed the shotgun and HEVI-Shot loads at 25 yards, using life-sized Turkey Targets from Champion. As noted, once the shotgun was zeroed, real toms would’ve been history given the dozens of tightly patterned pellets both the Hevi-18 and Magnum Blend loads slammed into the head and neck areas.
At 50 yards, the pattern widened. But each load still put more than enough pellets into the right places to get the job done. The Hevi-18’s I shot, for example, put between 20 and 24 pellets into target vitals areas, with the Magnum Blend averaging 15 pellets.
And this was with a new shotgun which I shot less than 30 times. My shooting was done from both a table and, to better mimic field conditions, from a low folding seat and using a two-legged Primos Trigger Stick for support.
Established in 2000, HEVI-Shot’s original goal was to manufacture waterfowl ammo that outperformed steel shotshells. The impetus for replacing steel began several years earlier with 1991’s national ban on lead shotshells for waterfowl hunting.
For decades, lead was the go-to-metal for most shotgun hunting applications. Relatively dense and therefore heavier than many metals, lead-based pellets retain velocity and hitting power better at distances than pellets made from lighter materials.
But with the lead shotshell ban for waterfowling, ammunition manufacturers turned to other metals. Plentiful and relatively cheap, steel was the obvious choice, and many steel payload variations hit the market. But steel has a much lighter density than lead, at 7.8 grams-per-cubic-centimeter (g/cc) versus lead at 11.2 g/cc. The resulting steel alternatives had many hunters complaining that the payloads just didn’t hit hard enough or pattern well enough at waterfowling distances to ensure clean kills.
Bismuth, at 9.6 g/cc, was then used with better success. Bismuth is still employed today for both waterfowl and turkey shells. HEVI-Shot, for example, uses the metal in its HEVI-Metal Turkey loads which combine 30-percent of bismuth #4 pellets with 70-percent of steel #4’s in the same shell.
Then HEVI-Shot created their tungsten alloy pellets at 12 g/cc, known as Tungsten Super Shot or TSS, and everything changed. These pellets were denser than lead, hit harder at similar distances and actually extended a hunter’s range.
The lethality of the various pellets is considered to be the same order as the density of the metals used: steel, bismuth, lead and then tungsten.
Today, the HEVI-Shot line up of products is strictly non-toxic shotshell hunting loads for upland and waterfowl, predator and turkey hunting. The company produces zero centerfire or rimfire ammunition and nothing loaded with lead.
HEVI-18 Turkey actually goes a step further, using tungsten alloy pellets crafted to an ultra-density of 18 g/cc to provide even greater energy and higher velocities at longer ranges. HEVI-18 payloads of #7 or #9 TSS shot also pack high pellet counts—in many cases, more than double the pellets compared to lead loads of the same weight.
Magnum Blend is offered in five different options, from 10-gauge through 28-gauge shells, the later as a new-for-2023 entry. The Magnum Blends combine #5, #6, and #7 shot made from 12 g/cc tungsten. The heavier tungsten pellets are comparable in lethality to the larger lead #4, #5, and #6 pellets; HEVI-Shot rates the Magnum Blend as capable of 28-percent more hits on target than comparable lead options.
For the 2023 turkey season, HEVI-Shot is also introducing several new loads for turkey hunters, including HEVI-18 shotshells in 28 gauge. Offered in both #7 and #9 shot, both loads are packed with 1 ¼ ounces of 18 g/cc pellets.
The HEVI-18 line also sees the addition of Reduced Recoil options, and these 2 ¾” loads are available in 12 and 20 gauge.
Turkey hunters unfamiliar with such heavy metal loads are likely to experience some sticker shock. No two ways about it: these high-density, high-tech loads are very pricey.
Of course, a number of turkey hunters simply aren’t interested in making longer shots. They want to get their birds in as close as possible with calling, quality camouflage and maybe a hot hen decoy.
But for those of us who want denser patterns and the ability to reach out longer distances should the opportunities arise, HEVI-Shot has us, and the big toms, covered.