Your upland game shooting system consists of three components: guns, loads and chokes. You'll find a comprehensive look at the guns in this article. Below we cover the remaining two.
Looking over our list you'll find the latest in lead loads as well as a trend toward more non-toxic upland loads. Part of this is due to the expansion of areas where hunters are forced by regulation to use non-toxic shot. However, it's not all due to requirements. In many cases, advancements in non-tox technology on the waterfowl side have led to superior loads for both the wet- and dry-booted wingshooters.
Speaking of forcing, choke tube makers continue to keep pace with, and in some cases set the pace for, the latest lead and newest non-toxic loads, for an ever increasing range of gun models.
Federal Premium Hi-Bird
To create more effective long-range loads, Federal combined lead shot — engineered to the optimum blend of hardness and density for even patterns and more downrange energy — with a two-piece wad featuring SoftCell technology to decrease perceived recoil and produce better, more consistent patterns. New shot sizes include 12-gauge, 2¾" shells available in 1¼-ounce loads in 4, 5, 6, 7½ and 8 shot and 1â…›-ounce loads in 6 and 7-1/2 shot.
$11-$13 (25 shells) | federalpremium.com
Kent Bismuth Upland
Kent upped their game this year with a new High-Performance version of their popular bismuth loads. With 24 percent greater density than steel and more knockdown power, these cartridges feature a new high-performance hull assembled with a thicker metal head and a new basewad, developed to produce more reliability. Available in a variety of 12-, 16-, 20- and 28-gauge loads.
$32-$45 (25 shells) | kentgamebore.com
Baschieri & Pellagri Upland
This new offering features an exclusive Gordon case that works in synergy with their wads to minimize felt recoil. Pellets maintain roundness, resulting in a more compact and uniform shot pattern. Selected propellants provide consistent results during all the times of the year while nickel-plated lead shot provides a superior surface hardness.
$20 (25 shells) | baschieri-pellagriusa.com
Winchester XR Bismuth
Winchester paired their patented Shot-Lok Technology with bismuth shot to produce a non-toxic, hard-hitting load with improved pellet and pattern density and increased downrange energy and penetration. XR Bismuth purportedly puts two times the pellets in a 20" circle at 60 yards compared to standard lead loads. Available in a range of loads.
$35 (10 shells) | winchester.com
HEVI-Shot found a way to bring back shotshell performance of the good old days in a non-toxic alternative at a price you can afford. HEVI-X is a tungsten-based load that boasts 40 percent more knockdown power at 40 yards and 50 percent more knockdown power at 60 yards, higher pellet count on target, higher down range velocity and more consistent patterns than steel shotshells. Available in 12-gauge 3½-, 3- and 2¾-inch BB, 2, and 4.
$33-$42 (25 shells) | hevishot.com
Browning BXD Extra Distance
Browning asked us to remind you about the high-velocity of their BXD line, which allows for maximum downrange energy; and the nickel plating keeps pellets round for improved velocity retention and energy transfer, tighter downrange patterns and deeper penetration. Available in 12-gauge: 3-inch, 1 5/8 oz. 5 and 2¾-inch, 1-3/8 oz. 5, 6; and 20-gauge 3-inch, 1¼ oz. 5, 6 and 2¾-inch, 1 oz. 5.
$18 (25 shells) | browningammo.com
Rio Royal Pheasant
The consistent and quick clean-burning single base powder in Rio's new Royal Pheasant loads leaves less residue and produces a consistent recoil impulse to the shooters shoulder. Additionally, the copper-plated extra-hard lead and special wad design produces a hard-hitting shell with consistent patterns and less recoil at a reasonable price.
$15-$17 (25 shells) | rioammo.com
Remington American Clay & Field
Made in America with high antimony lead shot for hard-hitting, even, tight patterns at all ranges, A&C features STS primers for consistent muzzle velocities; Power Piston wads that cushion the shot for less deformation and uni-body hulls with premium brass-plated steel caps for reliable, reloadable performance.
$10-$12 | remington.com
Patternmaster Code Black
Patternmaster's Code Black Upland tubes pattern similar to an IC constriction on paper, but the patented internal "stud ring" inside the tube produces a much shorter shot string. The end result is more shot on target all at once so your down range energy is sure to kill instead of cripple. They're effective with lead, steel or other non-toxic shot of any size, are made of Carpenter Custom 630 (aircraft quality) 17-4 ph stainless steel, heat-treated to the optimum level for best performance and feature a non-reflective bronze titanium coating.
$90 | patternmaster.com
Carlson's Rooster XR
Rooster XRs feature Carlson's Exclusive TST (Triple Shot Technology), which results in reduced pellet deformation, denser patterns and fewer flyers. They're manufactured from 17-4 heat-treated stainless steel and are specifically designed to produce the best patterns when shooting Winchester's Rooster XR ammunition, featuring the new Shot-Lok technology that produces the tightest patterns and highest down range energy when compared to other game loads on the market (though they'll work just fine with other loads). They come in either Early Season (LM) or Late Season (IM) constrictions to accommodate nearly all hunting situations. And they're designed to handle lead, steel or Hevi-Shot so they can be used for either upland game or waterfowl hunting with great results.
$54 | choketube.com
Trulock Stevens 555
Trulock has developed a new line of 12-gauge chokes from cylinder through turkey constrictions for the Stevens 555 O/U shotgun in three styles. The first is a flush-style choke tube. The second is an extended-tube style with a black oxide finish (like other chokes in Trulock's industry-leading Precision Hunter lines). The third is an extended "bright" choke designed for sporting clays. They're manufactured from 17-4 ph grade stainless steel, CNC machined from solid bar stock and heat-treated to a high stre-gth level (200,000 PSI) so they resist wear.
$45-$58 | trulockchokes.com
Mojo Fatal Shot
The Fatal Shot is the result of a partnership between MOJO Outdoors and Rob Roberts. They were computer designed and field-tested to achieve optimum performance, holding patterns longer and producing a more consistent point of impact with modern shotguns and ammo. A convenient grip allows for tool-less interchanging between a complete set of SHORT/MID/LONG range chokes.
$80 | mojooutdoors.com
Kick's High Flyer
Kick's extended and angle ported High Flyer choke tubes are designed for waterfowl hunters but work equally well for upland hunters looking for long-range patterns. Their conical parallel design improves the pattern and diagonal ports reduce felt recoil and muzzle jump for faster, more accurate follow-up shots. They're manufactured from 17-4 ph stainless steel with a black finish, are both externally marked and laser marked for quick identification and do not require a wrench for installation or removal. High Flyer chokes are offered in four sizes, IC, M, F and XF and are available in 10, 12, and 20 gauge to fit virtually any factory shotgun on the market.
$70 | kicks-ind.com