The evolution of steel shot has been impressive and today's offerings are light years beyond those of just a decade ago. Highly specialized shells that are designed for specific situations are the norm now, and not only do they give us a better chance of rounding out a limit, but they also greatly cut down on cripples. These next-generation shells help us become more effective waterfowlers. But it takes more than sliding a few rounds into your scattergun.
To gain the utmost confidence you're hitting birds with the most lethal options available, it's advisable to research chokes. Specific loads demand certain tubes, and if you're employing top-dollar fodder without an appropriate choke, you're only harnessing a portion of the knockdown power available.
Check out the top loads and chokes for 2014:
Winchester | Blind Side High Velocity
If you want to shoot one load all season, we recommend No. 1s. It's hell on honkers and kills greenheads without too much carnage. Blind Side High Velocity
is available in this 12-gauge offering, and with its havoc-wreaking Hex Shot, the birds (even at longer distances) are in big trouble. The Diamond-Cut wad holds patterns true, and the shot leaves the muzzle at an impressive 1675 fps.
Mag-Na-Port | Pro-Porting
The folks at Mag-na-port have been at the firearm porting business for well over four decades and they've developed Pro-Porting
, which is achieved through Electrical Discharge Machining. This surgically precise method of removing metal creates eleven ellipsoidal ports in a shotgun barrel right behind the choke tube. Sound complicated? It is, but the end result is shot energy is greatly redirected, which reduces muzzle rise and recoil, allowing you to enjoy shooting more while staying on-target.
Kicks | High Flyer
Few companies offer as comprehensive lineups of choke tubes as Kicks
. The High Flyer
is perfect for anyone looking to up their duck game. Designed to shoot non-toxics and lead (you upland bird hunters will appreciate that), these chokes are available for 20, 12 and 10 gauges in a variety of offerings.
Starting at $67.00
Kent | TealSteel
Last year the folks at Kent
released a limited amount of TealSteel
to test the market. The response was huge and with such high demand, the shells are now readily available to hunters everywhere. TealSteel is a 3-inch offering, available in Nos. 5 and 6 shot that will exit the barrel at 1,350 fps — perfect for diminutive fowl.
129.99 (per case)
Flambeau | Fowl Max Waterfowl
Nestled inside outdoor powerhouse Flambeau
is their MAD lineup, which contains the Fowl Max Waterfowl
choke, designed to increase your effective range by holding 91 percent patterns in a 30-inch circle at 30 yards and maintaining lethal patterns out to 60 yards.
This is achieved through a patented vertical porting design that strategically separates the wad from the shot string. Whether you opt for steel or another non-toxic, this choke will handle everything from T-shot to 6s.
Hevi-Shot | Hevi-Steel
is wicked on gamebirds; however, tungsten can be cost prohibitive for some shooters. New Hevi-Steel
is much more affordable yet still delivers a serious amount of shot on-target. Current offerings include 12-gauge 2¾- to 3½-inch shells, containing shot sizes from BBB to 4s. To further enhance knockdown power, Hevi-Steel leaves your barrel at up to 1,550 fps.
Hevi-Shot | Hevi-Choke Extended Range
If you're looking to get the most duck-crumpling power out of Hevi-Shot
loads, consider fitting a Hevi-Choke Extended Range
tube into your shotgun. Hevi-Choke, which fits most Beretta
shotguns, is designed to extend your effective range on all fowl and is perfect for those wary late-season birds.
Carlson's | Waterfowl 2-Pack
Designed with a 25 percent longer parallel section than conventional chokes to produce tighter and denser patterns, the Mid- and Long-Range tubes are backed by Carlson's
lifetime warranty. The Waterfowl 2-Pack
gives you options whether you plan to crumple a few flooded-timber mallards or reach out and scratch down passing honkers. Both chokes feature a knurled end for quick removal, so switching between the two is easy.
Briley | Buck Gardner Signature Series Extreme Range EXR
The Buck Gardner Signature Series Extreme Range EXR
is designed with straight rifling, reverse porting and an internal geometry that promotes superior patterning at farther distances. If you routinely hunt pressured birds or find yourself in a situation that requires taking a longer poke, this is the choke for you. Compatible with several different shotgun makes and models.
Federal Premium | Black Cloud Close range
There are rare but magical times when you're in the blind and the ducks are absolutely suicidal in their commitment to your spread. During those memory-making days, one of the best shells to have in your shotgun is Black Cloud Close Range
, containing 100 percent FLITESTOPPER Steel, destined to reach full pattern size at reduced distances. Available in a litany of 3-inch offerings for both 12- (1,350 fps) and 20-gauge (1,450 fps).
Patternmaster | Anaconda
Just like its slithery namesake, the Anaconda
uses constriction to achieve its goals, producing tight duck-whacking patterns via its gas-over-constriction design as well as the 'Coil Zone, ' winding gases around the wad to further assist in constriction and pattern uniformity. Short-, Mid-, and Long-Range options are available for a litany of 12-gauge models.
Remington | HyperSonic
has garnered a loyal following because of its blistering speeds of up to 1,700 fps, delivering 16 percent greater energy on-target (compared to traditional steel loads). Recently, Remington has expanded the line to include 3.5-inch, 10-gauge and 3-inch, 20-gauge shells in several shot sizes.
Rio | Bismuth
Vintage shotgun owners have been left out in the cold when it comes to many steel loads. This is one of the reasons Rio
came out with Bismuth
loads, a non-toxic alternative that is softer than steel, which can damage the barrels of older guns. Besides conventional offerings in 20- and 12-gauge, Bismuth is also available in 16-gauge, 28-gauge and .410. Shot sizes range from 3 to 7 with muzzle velocities as high as 1,350 fps.
Who killed the banded bird? Until now, the answer has always been somewhat suspect, but thanks to Spectra Shot
, there's no mystery. Spectra contains colored shot so that each shooter can use a different color and clearly identify, during the cleaning process, which birds he downed. The shells are see-through, and now available in 3-inch, Nos. 2 and 4 shot for 12 gauges and 4s in 20.
Trulock | Waterfowl 3-Pack
Birds might work into the decoys as planned one morning and flare wildly of your decoys the next. Be prepared with Trulock's Waterfowl 3-Pack
. The 3-Pack consists of a Close-, Mid- and Long-range choke. Each boasts a knurled end for quick removal and all are rated for steel, tungsten alloy and other non-toxics.
Angle Porting | Xtreme Range Choke Tubes
Engineered for compatibility with Hevi-Shot
, steel shot and a host of other modern duck loads, the Xtreme Range Choke Tubes from Angle Porting
give you the chance to reach out and touch feathered passers-by. The Xtreme Range is CNC-machined from 17-4ph stainless steel, heat-treated to ensure longevity, and features a fluted grip for easy installation and removal. Available for several makes and models of popular 12-gauges.
Fiocchi | Tundra
Developed as an alternative to steel, Tundra's
shot is comprised of a tungsten compound. Unlike steel, bismuth or lead, it will not get brittle over time, retaining its softness. Two densities of Tundra are available (one denser than bismuth, the other denser than lead). Choose from multiple shot sizes and lengths for both 20- and 12-gauge.
Foiles | Strait Heat
The first prototypes of the Foiles Strait Heat
grouped a 36-inch circle at 40 yards. That wasn't good enough for the Foiles team, so they refined it down to shooting a 30-32-inch circle at that range. Strait Heat chokes feature heat-treated, alloy-steel construction and an innovative ported, wad-catching design. Available for 20, 12 and 10 gauges.
Tru-Glo | Titan
Screw in the Titan
, then Tru-Glo's patented technology lets you twist and click to quickly change settings from cylinder to XX full. Choke settings are laser engraved so there's no mistaking your selection. The Titan accepts all waterfowl loads, including steel and Hevi-Shot, and is available in 12-gauge for most models and 20-gauge for Remington guns.