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Top Bird Hunting Shotshells of 2021

An overview of the top selection of field loads for this season.

Top Bird Hunting Shotshells of 2021

Our preferred picks for packing a punch on upland birds and waterfowl this year. (Photo By: Tess Rousey)

BOSS Shotshells – Copper-Plated

Boss Shotshells

BOSS Shotshells burst onto the scene in 2018 and the popularity of this ammo among waterfowlers and upland hunters only continues to grow. The company offers copper-plated  non-toxic shot, and by extensively testing on each individual load in varying temperature conditions and examining pressure curves and patterns, BOSS has developed some of the most lethal non-toxic loads ever introduced. They offer a wide variety of loads for 12, 16, 20, 28 and .410 shotguns that are designed for the marshes but equally as suitable for the uplands. You can also purchase bulk shells (200), and that includes a BOSS Moneybag—a waxed canvas bag to carry up to three boxes of shells to the blind.

$30-$45 per 20|

Browning – Wicked Wing

Browning Ammunition Wicked Blend & Wicked XD

Browning has updated their waterfowl ammunition line and now offers non-toxic shot for any budget or hunting application. Wicked Wing shotshells are an outstanding value and include Browning’s new Wicked Wad, which features rear-stabilizing pellets and slotted sidewalls that help improve performance. New Wicked Wing XD ammunition utilizes the same wad but comes loaded with premium plated steel pellets, and the new line-topping Wicked Blend ammunition combines 30% bismuth with 70% plated steel pellets with the Wicked Wad to create an outstanding blended waterfowl load that results in more lethal performance.

Wicked Blend: $26 per 25, Wicked Wing XD: $18-$22 per 25|


Hevi-Shot XII

HEVI-Shot’s big news for 2021 (aside from their recent purchase by Federal) is the release of their new HEVI-XII, which has a density of 12 g/cc, which is higher than either lead or steel. This tungsten alloy shot is available in #2, #4, and #6 shot in 12-, 20-, and 28-gauge. Because the shot is smaller and has less surface area, it penetrates better, and when you combine this with higher density and more velocity (1,350 to 1,500 fps, depending on load) it’s plain to see why HEVI-Shot is so lethal. The 28-gauge 3-inch load offering a 1-ounce load of either #4 or #6 shot at 1,350 fps is particularly interesting, and it has the potential to turn your sub-gauge shotgun into a duck killing machine.

$61-$73 per 25 |

Kent – Bismuth Waterfowl

Kent Bismuth Waterfowl

Kent is now offering #5 shot of their popular Bismuth Waterfowl load. Since it's 24% denser than lead, Bismuth offers superb penetration and lethality, making it an ideal choice for all types of waterfowl hunting. The added pellet count of #5 loads (272 pellets in a 1 3⁄8-ounce 12-gauge load, 198 pellets in the 1 ounce 20-gauge load) fills out patterns for more consistent performance in the field, making these a great choice for the waterfowl afflicted.

$49-$60 |

Federal – Premium Category

Federal Premium Ammunition

Federal is offering a wide range of new loads for upland hunters this year. Late in 2020, the company announced that their Prairie Storm load would be available in both 16- and 28-gauges, and for 2021 the company updated the Prairie Storm line by adding their updated FLITECONTROL FLEX wad and mixed payload of standard and FLITESTOPPER pellets. The results are even patterns and lethal performance in 12- and 20-gauge. If you’re searching for an affordable non-toxic upland load look no further than Federal’s new Upland steel one-ounce 12-gauge loads, which perform well on birds but don’t cost a fortune. Additionally, Federal’s Custom Shop can now build specific loads for each customer, so you can have upland and waterfowl loads tailor made to your specific needs—including an option for TSS pellets, which offer the highest density (18 g/cc) that translates to outstanding performance in the field.

Prairie Storm: $27-$31 per 25, Upland Steel: $13 per 25, Custom Shop Loads: Prices vary |

Fiocchi – Golden Waterfowl

Fiocchi Golden Waterfowl

Fiocchi is manufacturing ammunition in their new facility in Ozark, Missouri, and while most shooters associate the Fiocchi name with sporting and upland loads, the company’s new Golden Waterfowl ammunition is ideal for waterfowlers. They utilize steel pellets with a hard zinc coating, and a 1¼-ounce 12-gauge load achieves 1,350 feet per second at the muzzle. Currently the company offers seven 12-gauge 3-inch Golden Waterfowl loads which fire 1¼-ounces of shot in sizes ranging from T to 4, and that covers a full range of duck and goose hunting applications. Not only are these shotshells effective but they’re also affordable: MSRP is around a dollar per shot, which is good for premium non-toxic waterfowl ammo.

$27 per 25 |

Winchester – Xpert Steel

Winchester Xpert Steel ammo

Winchester now offers their Xpert Steel load in a 15⁄16-ounce 16-gauge load. This is a versatile, fast load that will make 16-gauge fans living in areas that require non-toxic shot very happy. Even if you don’t live in a part of the country that requires lead-free shot, Xpert Steel 16-gauge loads will work well for early-season teal and upland birds.

$17 per 25 |

Remington – Wingmaster HD

Remington Wingmaster HD

This iconic ammunition brand is once again in production under the direction of new owner Federal, which is good news for hunters and shooters. The company’s Wingmaster HD waterfowl loads utilize a tungsten blend shot that has a density of 11.6 g/cc, which is higher than lead, and they’re lethal on waterfowl. The load is designed to react to chokes like lead shot, which means better uniformity and more consistent patterns, but since it’s almost as soft as steel, the Remington load is easier on the bore of your shotgun than other tungsten blends. It’s available in 12-gauge loads up to 1 ¾-ounces, and there’s also a 1 1⁄8-ounce 20-gauge load available, too.

$50-$73 per 25|

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