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Harding hitting reloads for turkey hunting.

Hard Hitting Reloads For Turkey Hunting

If any type of hunting has caught the public's attention lately, it is turkey hunting. The fact is that I'm actually getting a little tired of seeing outdoor magazines with covers continually showing some camouflaged gink with a gobbler slung over his shoulder. It's a mite on the macho side, I'd say. But it sells magazines.

And it can also sell reloading components and other equipment, for a lot of typical chaps out there fantasize about lugging their own gobblers around, slung over their backs, too. The vital thing to realize is that turkey tactics and equipment are on the specialized side of the shotgunning spectrum. There are some different concepts than those normally employed for upland bird hunting. Turkey hunting, in fact, isn't thought of in terms of traditional wing shooting. Few hunters take the Tom a-wing. Turkeys are called up into very close range, and the shot is made with a tightly choked gun held for a head/neck shot. Thus, in most respects, it's using a shotgun like a rifle on a stationary target while utilizing the minor spread of a full- or extra-full-choked gun to compensate for slight human imprecision. It is one phase of shotgunning, perhaps the only phase, in which potting a bird on the ground is considered totally ethical today.

The demands of an effective head/neck shot are what make the load's composition and performance interesting, and they are what set the turkey load apart from the rest. In theory, they should be (A) tight-patterning rounds which (B) saturate the target with multiple hits for certainty in finding the vital areas and (C) inducing shock by means of heavy charges of relatively fine shot. In other words, it should be a tremendously heavy magnum load with pellets somewhat finer than those we'd use to snipe at geese passing 60 yards overhead.

Much writing on this subject has set down the NO. 6 pellet as traditional, because it enhances pattern density and has pretty good energy at close range to provide adequate penetration as well as optimum density. Many gobblers have been taken cleanly by 6s.

However in recent years, there has been a trend toward slightly heavier pellets. The No. 5 and 4 have been mentioned for their more positive penetration. Handloaders who cock a skeptical eye brow at 6s may well try 5s in hard, high-antimony persuasion as a split-the-difference pellet; they give greater on-target energy than 6s but provide more pattern density than 4s. I have long thought that the No. 5 was wrongly snubbed by waterfowl hunters, and now turkey hunters may be making the same mistake by jumping automatically from 6s to 4s. Number 5s are surprisingly potent, and their added density comes in handy when trying to hit the relatively small vital area presented by a turkey's head-neck region. Most turkey guns are 10 or 12-gauge, and the hunter leans toward all the shot they can get. Sometimes this instance on ultra-obese shot charges is carried to a ridiculous extreme, but American hunters always seem to think that more is always better. However, matching a reload to a tightly-choked barrel can often produce a better pattern than can the simple expedient of stuffing more shot into any old recipe and assuming the best.

I have done a certain amount of patterning with various published reloads of the massive sort using Lawrence "Magnum" No. 5s to determine pattern performance through full-choked guns. Since the 10 gauge has some following in this sport, I ran a few trials with the now-defunct Ithaca MAG-10 (which has been revamped by Remington and is now available as the SP-10 Magnum). One of the massive reloads that responded beautifully to the MAG-10's choke taper was:

Federal 3-1/2" field case

(Paper base wad)

Federal 209 primers

38.0/SR-4756

Remington SP-10 wad

2-3/8 ounces of lead shot

Published pressure: 10,000 l.u.p.

Published velocity: 1,125 fps

Its pattern at 20 yards looked like somebody had hit the patterning shed with a big fist. There were a few flyers, as always from a lead shot cluster, but the hard 5s tore out a hole that indicated extreme density. Although the velocity level seems to be a bit low, I'd still bet on its effectiveness at close range with 4s and 5s, which are heavy enough to retain their velocity/energy values quite well.

Hunters who might want a little more velocity without sacrificing shot charge weight can get it with:

Federal 3-1/2" plastic hull

(paper base wad)

Federal 209 primer

41.0/IMR 4756

Remington SP-10 wad

2-1/4 ounces lead shot

Published pressure: 9,700 l.u.p.

Published velocity: 1,160 fps

The 12-gauge is used more widely than the 10 gauge, of course, but hunters still like whopping shot charges. A tight-patterning buffered reload is around for those who would consider a little lower muzzle velocity, primarily with 4s or 5s, the following 2-ouncer will generally pattern well from full-choked guns. Its wad column is a built-up job necessitating components from Ballistic Products, Inc. (2105 Daniels St., P.O. Box 408, Long Lake, MN 55356):

Federal 3" plastic hull

(plastic base wad)

Federal 209 primer

32.0/Blue Dot powder

BPGS overpowder cup +

BP Teflon [R] shot wrapper around

1/4" felt filler atop BPGS cup

2 ounces lead shot

Buffer: fill space between pellets

with BPGS #47 buffer mix

Pressure: 10,500 l.u.p.

Velocity: 1,080 fps

Moving a big 2-ounce shot charge through the 12-gauge bore generates a lot of pressure, and, as seen above, the load reaches maximum pressure limits without generating very high velocity. For close-in shooting, I'd guess the above load would be fast enough with 4s and 5s while holding snug shot strings.

Is buffer absolutely necessary for tight-shooting turkey loads? If hard, high-antimony shot (not chilled shot) or copper or nickel-plated pellets are used, I gather that buffer isn't necessary. At least my trial patterns at the moderate distance don't argue so. My hard 5s bunched up pretty well without buffer. Of course, never add buffer unless you have a reliable, lab-tested data sheet before you.

If you can live without buffer in the 12-gauge magnum, a couple reloads assembled thus will give excellent patterns from many full-choked turkey rigs:

Winchester 3" C/F hull

Winchester 209 primer

33.0/Hodgdon HS-7

Winchester WAA12R wad

1-7/8 ounces lead shot

Published pressure: 10,500 l.u.p.

Published velocity: 1,174 fps

Federal 3" plastic hull

(paper base wad)

Federal 209 primer

33.0/SR-4756

Winchester WAA12R wad

1-7/8 ounces lead shot

Published pressure: 10,600 l.u.p.

Published velocity: 1,140 fps

When it comes to the standard-length (2-3/4") 12-gauge, most hunters opt for the 1-1/2-ounce shot load but wish they had more pellets. One of the best-patterning 1-1/2-ouncers I've found is this combo:

Winchester AA hull

Winchester 209 primer

36.5/Winchester 571 Ball

Winchester WAA12R wad

1-1/2 ounces lead shot

Published pressure: 10,300 l.u.p.

Published velocity: 1,260 fps

Those who might want a little added basatz from the standard 12 can try the following concept which is printed in the 25th Hodgdon Powder Data Manual.

It gives a 1-5/8-ounce shot charge, which may excite those who want more for the sake of having more:

Federal Gold Medal Hull

Winchester 209 primer

34.0/HS-7

Winchester WAA12R wad

1-5/8 ounces lead shot + 30 grains

Ballistic Products buffer

Published pressure: 10,200 l.u.p.

Published velocity: 1,166 fps

For those who might want to try the 1-5/8-ounce reload without the buffer, it's easily done by omitting the BP buffer from the above recipe and increasing the powder charge to 36.0/HS-7 for a pressure of 10,700 l.u.p. and a velocity of 1,188 fps, according to Hodgdon literature.

Another way to build a 1-5/8-ounce standard-length 12-gauge reload is:

ACTIV 12-gauge plastic hull

Winchester 209 primer

38.0/HS-7

ACTIV T-42 wad

1-5/8 ounces lead shot

Published pressure: 10,300 l.u.p.

Published velocity: 1,256 fps

The only cautionary point about these 1-5/8-ouncers for the standard 12 is that there is some potential for spherical powder migration due to fine powder particles and the cylindrical nature of the cases. From a ballistics point-of-view, however, the loads are safe and they patterned well for me. The recoil will be more pronounced, of course, but I seriously doubt that any hunter will notice it when he's pulling down on a strutting gobbler.
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Title Annotation:reloading of ammunition
Author:Zutz, Don
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:May 1, 1990
Words:1443
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