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A buddy and I headed out for the opener yesterday evening. We were headed to spot to try to roost some birds before dark, but took a wrong turn and ended up heading toward some cabin lots. On the way, I showed him my TSS load and told him I was shooting #8s and he doubted they would have enough penetration. I tried to explain the ballistics and tell him they were like shooting lead #3 with 4 times the number of pellets, but he was skeptical.

At the end of the road I spotted a couple birds out in a sagebrush meadow which is very unusual on public land in Utah during the hunt, but I've always heard they like open areas when it is raining. We pull past them and worked our way down a ravine in the direction we thought they were going. We didn't have a visual so split up in 2 directions at the end of the ravine and waited. I picked the right direction one and it wasn't long until they came by to check things out. As they darted in and out of the tall sagebrush, lifted my 20ga montefeltro, but the red dot on the big red head and dropped the turkey in it tracks at about 30 yards. Amazingly, the other birds were more curious than scared. So I stayed low and worked back to my buddy. We sneaked back into them and as we approached the spot I shot from, we could see another nice tom about 40 yards away and he pulled up with a 12ga lead load and wounded the turkey. We ran after him to finish him off, but his 870 jammed, so I gave him my ever reliably benelli semi auto and he put it down with another load of 1 5/8oz TSS #8s. He shot a little low and had complete penetration of 3" through the top of the neck so much so that feathers shot of the back of his neck leaving a balk spot where the pellets exited on the other side of the turkey. I asked him if he was worried about penetration wtih the #8s and he said not anymore.

It was raining and the feather were hard to move around, but we got a decent pick of the double. My bird was 20.5lbs (my biggest bird to date) 3/4" and 7/8" spurs that were huge diameter, but not sharp and a 7.5" beard that was a little rough. The other bird was 15.5lbs, 5/8" and 3/4" spurs and a 8.5" beard. These are rio/merriam hybrids. My bird had a lot of black, not a ton of white, his bird was almost all white, very little black.

 

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What exactly is a TSS load and what makes them more deadly than a regular lead shot load of the same size? Congrats on the birds!
Tungsten Super Shot. It has a density of 18+ g/cc3 where lead shot at best has a density of 12 g/cc3. TSS is a very hard shot as well (like steel shot). With the combination of weight and hardness it allows you to go with much smaller pellets to get the same penetration as you could with larger lead pellets and due to its hardness and weight it patterns far better/tighter then lead shot.

This stuff is the ultimate shot material;-)
 

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Gunner, Here's the thing about shot density. When it comes to shotgun pellets and fowl, what determines a pellet's lethality is penetration. And penetration depth is determined by the energy per surface area of the pellet. Weight does not determine this - it's weight per area. If two pellets weigh the same, but one is smaller, the smaller one will penetrate deeper because the energy is focused on a smaller surface area on contact and is not dissipated over as wide an area.

As for comparing TSS (18g/cc) pellets vs lead (11g/cc) a TSS pellet will have about the same penetration energy as a lead pellet 5 sizes larger. So, a TSS #9 pellet will penetrate into soft matter at approx the same depth as a Lead #4 pellet. However, in real life scenarios, on real birds, the TSS will actually do better vs lead, because of hardness. TSS will break bones better, or any other hard material, because of it's hardness and lack of flattening out when it comes into contact with any surface.
For illustration, here's a comparison of pellets of various shot material. Let's say that each pellet is going 1100 fps (muzzle velocity), at sea level and at 70 deg F. Here's the distance each type pellet will give you 1.25" of ballistics gel penetration, as well as showing the number of pellets per ounce. When you think about the penetration per pellet along with the number of pellets available to penetrate the target, these numbers will illustrate why density makes such a huge difference in a shotshell's performance on fowl.

(per Toasty's KPY Shotshell Ballistics software)
8g/cc Steel #2 (123/oz) – 45.7 yds
11g/cc Nickel Plated lead #5 (174/oz) – 60.4 yds
12g/cc Hevi-13 #6 (208/oz) – 60.4 yds
15g/cc Fed HWT #7 (220/oz) – 81 yds
18g/cc TSS #8-1/2 (300/oz) – 84.5 yds

In addition to penetration energy and pellet count, there is a 3rd factor that doesn't show up in the math - patterning characteristics. In a nutshell, the denser and harder the shot material, the better the pellets will hold together in a pattern.

If you consider those numbers above, you will understand why my shotgun of choice to turkey hunt with is a light to carry 28 gauge loaded with 1-5/16 oz of TSS 9-1/2s going 1000 fps MV.
 
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