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Best New Shotshells and Chokes for 2013

Best New Shotshells and Chokes for 2013

It is hard to understand how a manufacturer can improve upon a shotgun shell design every single year, but that's exactly what many of them manage to do. Part of this is due to the fact hunters have started to understand that pursuit-specific products greatly improve their odds throughout the fall. This can involve considering shotgun gauge, shot distance, and hunting environment, to name just a few of the variables. If that seems like overkill, then you've never barely clipped a dove and watched it sail an extra couple hundred yards, or worse, witnessed a seemingly solid-hit rooster fall and hit the ground running.

Of course, the efficacy of a shotgun load is largely dependent on pairing it up with the right choke tube. Again, the specifics of a hunting situation and the targeted game will dictate just which choke tube is best, but there is also a wave of load-specific choke tubes hitting the market. This kind of synergy between an individual shell design and a choke tube built to foster the best performance out of that shell results in the best of both worlds and far fewer cripples.

What's not to like about that?


If you're planning to head out to the prairies in search of gamebirds, consider fitting your shotgun with a Prairie Storm Early Season choke tube from Carlson's. Designed specifically to work in conjunction with Federal's Prairie Storm and its unique FLITECONTROL wad, Early Season chokes guarantee that you'll have a perfect pattern at rooster-flushing distances. If you opt for a different kind of shot but would still appreciate the benefits of these chokes, don't fret. They can handle all lead and steel shot. If you have the urge to chase December pheasants, you can swap out your Early Season for a Late Season choke tube and make sure those hard-hunted roosters don't make it out of sight.


If you're wondering where Environ-Metal came up with the name Speed Ball, look no further than the revolutionary make-up of these shells. A patent-pending 'speed ball ' seated in the base of the shell allows high-density pellets to leave the muzzle at 1,635 fps while maintaining safe chamber pressure. Each shell delivers serious knockdown power thanks to Pattern Density Technology and the layering of MV2 pellets and Hevi-Shot. Whether you occasionally take your 20-gauge out for teal and wood ducks or get a little more hardcore with a 3.5-inch, 12-gauge, you're covered with Speed Ball.

Federal Premium/ATK

Designed primarily for hunting flooded timber or when ducks are decoying well, Black Cloud Close Range utilizes Federal's rear-breaking FLITECONTROL wad to deliver more pellets on target between 20-30 yards. Close Range is offered in both 12- and 20-gauge shot sizes, ranging from Nos. 2-4. For offseason tune-ups, Federal has released an addition to their Top Gun Target loads, which consists of a 7/8-ounce offering that produces consistent ignition via Alliant Powder Extra-Lite Propellant.


When the folks at Flambeau team up with Indian Creek Shooting Systems to create a choke tube, you know the result will be deadly. Such is the case with the Fowl Max line, which utilize a .710 constriction to deliver deadly patterns on the shot distances commonly found in duck blinds or cut cornfields frequented by migrating honkers (91 percent patterns in a 30-inch circle at 30 yards).

Kent Cartridge

Demand for a teal load led Kent to produce TealSteel last year. To test out the new offering, they released a limited amount to lucky hunters in select areas. For 2013, they've made TealSteel available to the masses, and it's certain to become the go-to shell for teal and other small- to mid-sized ducks. TealSteel utilizes Kent's Fasteel technology and Precision Steel shot to deliver devastating patterns. Available in a 12-gauge, 3-inch load that delivers No. 5 shot on target at 1,350 fps.


The new Anaconda Constriction Series is another great addition to Patternmaster's product line, which has changed the way we shoot for over two decades. To deliver wicked wing-crunching patterns, each Anaconda choke tube is built with the pattern-controlling Coil Zone. Each Anaconda is coated with a military grade tactical finish, meaning it will hold up to the harshest environments, not to mention the aircraft grade 630 stainless steel used to produce these chokes.


Diehard rooster hunters would do well to look into Remington's Nitro Pheasant lineup. Designed specifically to knock down flushing ringnecks through its Power Piston wad and hard Copper-Lokt plated shot, Nitro Pheasant loads are available in a litany of options for 20 and 12 gauges.

Rio Ammunition

Rio Ammunition has been around for well over 100 years, meaning it knows a thing or two about producing top-quality shells. Exhibit A comes your way via Royal BlueSteel Super Magnums. Designed to balance speed and barrel pressure, Super Magnums are devastating on ducks and also work handily on roosters. BlueSteel Super Magnums are available for 12 gauges in lengths from 2.75-3.5 inches, each delivering patterns at anywhere from 1,350 to 1,550 fps. A pair of 20-gauge offerings are available as well.


Ever get in an argument over just who dropped that wood duck in the decoys? Now you can prove you're the top shot. Spectra Shot builds debate-ending waterfowl loads stoked with colored pellets. Your choice of orange, blue, yellow, or green pellets are coated with a non-toxic color coat that won't leave residue in the chamber or bore, or flake off on impact. Shotshells push 1ΒΌ ounces of shot at 1,400 fps.


Many of us take to hunting bigger birds for short stints in the spring, namely turkeys. In that case it's prudent to check out the Bone Collector Smackdown Choke Tube from TruGlo. The Smackdown delivers a tight, beak-busting pattern and is ported to reduce the recoil of heavy turkey loads that have a tendency to bite back when you touch them off. Each precision CNC-machined Smackdown is built for wrench-free installation. This choke is offered to fit a bevy of different 12 gauges and a limited amount of 20 gauges.


Anyone who has tried Winchester's Blind Side waterfowl loads can attest to the devastation wrought by the Hex Shot on ducks and geese. The popularity of these shells has led to the release of Blind Side Pheasant. Upland hunters can now enjoy the benefits of Blind Side while knowing that if they should happen to bump into a pair of wood ducks or greenheads tucked away in a cattail slough, they will not be loaded with lead shot and can legally fire away. Blind Side Pheasant is offered for 12 gauges in either 2 3/4- or 3-inch. True to its waterfowl-specific predecessors, Blind Side Pheasant employs the nasty Hex Shot, Diamond Cut wad, and Drylok hinged powder cup to reduce recoil while accurately delivering a deadly pattern on target.


Demand for a choke tube capable of delivering deadly patterns at farther-than-normal shot distances led the folks at Briley to create the Extreme Range EXR. The Extreme Range EXR utilizes straight rifling, reverse porting and a unique internal geometry to make it possible to ethically drop passing ducks at distances once thought too far. This .025 constricted choke tube is available for a wide variety of shotguns.

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