Advances made in turkey ammo

One of the biggest thrills I have experienced in the outdoors is being at my daughter’s side when she bagged one of Nevada’s wild turkeys. Calli shot the gobbler as he walked out from behind a juniper tree where he had been strutting his stuff for the ladies. When he stepped into the open, the turkey was busy looking for the hen that was squawking sweet nothings. The hen turned out to be a box call.

When she bagged her long beard, Calli was shooting a 3-inch turkey load through a 12-gauge autoloader. I was concerned the gun and the load might be a little too much for Calli, but its semi-automatic action absorbed much of the gun’s recoil and she made a great shot. The turkey load also did its job and the turkey dropped right where she shot it.

As with any group of hunting enthusiasts, turkey hunters often disagree about which ammunition performs best when it comes to bagging a mature gobbler with a long beard. While personal preference and a host of other variables make the argument one that can never be won, the folks at Winchester Ammunition have created a load they think will stand turkey hunting on its waddle. It’s called the Long Beard XR.

Introduced at the 2014 SHOT (Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade) Show held last week in Las Vegas, Long Beard XR was designed to extend a turkey gun’s effective range beyond the old industry standard of 40 yards. To do that, Steven Meyer, the load’s creator and new products engineer for Winchester Ammunition, said he had to find a way to hold the shot string together longer and thus tighten up the shot pattern at the target end.

The search for tighter shot groups at longer distances is nothing new and has led to such developments as the shotgun choke and the 3.5-inch shotshell, but Meyer’s research led him to the shot itself. He thought that if he could find a way to keep the shot from becoming deformed in the shotshell that he could improve terminal performance and extend the effective range of the load.

Meyer figured that if he could find a way to fill in the gaps between the individual shot pellets inside of a shotshell, and then hold them in place, that he might be on to something.

Enter what Winchester has labeled Shot-Lok Technology. It is a resin-type substance that is injected into the shotshell where it flows into the gaps between shot pellets and eventually hardens. The idea is that the resin encapsulates the pellets and holds them in place, thus preventing deformation so the shot leaves the barrel in near perfect condition, flies straighter and forms a tighter pattern that holds together longer.

So how does this all work if the shot pellets are encased in resin? When the shotgun is fired, the increased pressure inside the shotshell causes the resin to fracture into particles so small that it becomes nothing more than a powder that falls away from the shot string as it leaves the barrel.

The result, said Todd Eberhart, also an ammunition engineer, is “twice the number of pellets in a 10-inch circle out to 60 yards and 10 percent greater penetration from standard lead loads beyond 50 yards. What we mean by that is you get more shot drafting with each other so it carries deeper into the target.”

I had the opportunity to take one shot with the Long Beard XR at a standard, life-size turkey target used when patterning a shotgun. I aimed at the point where the neck and shoulders meet and squeezed the trigger. At 40 yards, the bulk of the shot hit where I had aimed and we counted 13 pellets in the terminal areas of the head and neck. Had it been a real turkey, dinner was on the table.

For those of you who may be planning a hunting trip to pheasant country, a similar product is available for you. It is called Rooster XR.

Speaking of turkeys, the application process for Nevada’s 2014 spring turkey hunt has opened and regulations are available online and at license vendors. Applications will be accepted until Feb. 18.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at