And all these hex pellets are considered “trauma inducing” because they tumble and rip more than do round pellets. Criner compared them to tumbling bricks. The competing brand’s “trauma” shotshells use a few edged pellets to get this cutting and ripping action, but the bulk of those payloads consist of standard round pellets. Because Winchester’s hex shot stacks so efficiently, they get a maximum quantity in each shell, enough so that – even with increased fliers — they claim their kill zone increases by 25 percent over standard loads.
But, as they say in the late-night TV ads, that’s not all! The additional room saved by the hex pellets, combined with a new Drylock Hinged Wad that seals against moisture but reduces friction pressure, permits Blind Side 12 gauge shells to burn a bit more powder and zip along at about 1,450 fps in both the 3-inch, 1 3/8-ounce version and the 3.5-inch 1 5/8-ounce version.
It all sounded pretty fantastic the night before our first goose shoot, but the next morning’s adventure put things in perspective. “Everybody in!” John Vaca called out to the lollygaggers fine-tuning the spread of shell and full-body Canada decoys. “Close those flaps cause here they come. Off the lake from 10 o’clock.” I placed my camoflaged gun with the barrel poking safely forward out of the blind, resting on the padded frame that held the camo cover over my legs. Then I nestled my head into the padded, reclining backrest and swung the two lids together. Through the dark nylon screen I watched the wavering line of big, slowly flapping geese bore toward us. Vaca honked and groaned and pleaded. The birds honked back their approval and circled, losing altitude. When they hovered out front, seemingly as big as Alaskan bush planes, Vaca gave the permission we’d been itching for, every waterfowler’s three favorite words: “Take ‘em boys!”
It rained geese.
“Man, they were right in our laps. Right on top of us.”
“Actually, they were 42 yards,” a high, lilting voice announced. It was Jen Messelt from Bushnell. She’d been following the birds with a laser rangefinder.
“Forty-two yards?” someone said. “No way. More like 25, maybe 30.” Then Sully the labrador labored in with a huge goose, it’s head dragging on the ground. No wonder they’d looked close.
By the end of the morning we’d learned that the mixed flocks of greater, lesser and tiny Richardson’s Canada geese we were shooting could really mess with our range estimating skills. Jen’s Legend 1200 laser rangefinder indicated we’d shot birds from 20 yards clear out to 73 yards. She hadn’t been near enough to measure the big passing bird I scratched down as described at the start of this article, so I’m sticking with 75 yards for that one. But even if it was only 60 yards up, those hex-shot shells truly were blind-siding them and absolutely hammering them. So maybe there’s something to Criner’s claims.
“So let me get all this straight,” I said to him two nights later, after we’d enjoyed some of the best mixed-species goose shooting of our lives. “Because you can stack these hex pellets so efficiently, you get enough of them into a shell to make up for the fliers. Plus that flapping Diamond Wad keeps the whole pack corralled long enough to keep patterns tighter than normal anyway. Is that it?”
“Part of it,” Criner answered. “Another part is that that more efficient stacking leaves us room for a bit more powder, and a new Drylock overpowder wad we’ve designed is slicker so it not only seals out water but reduces friction and thus pressures. That’s how we get 1400 to 1450 fps velocity with these big loads.”
“And because all the pellets are what you call trauma inducing, they kill more efficiently?”
“That’s our experience. Wouldn’t you say?”
“Well, it sure seemed that way. So, you’ve got 100 percent trauma inducing pellets in the load, 10 percent more of them than regular round shot, and you’ve got them flying faster because you can burn a bit more powder without raising pressures, thanks to that new wad. And the shot cup, because it falls straight back, doesn’t fling the charge off center, so you get consistent pattern centers.”
“Consistent point of impact,” Criner corrected me.
“And even though you’ve got some fliers, as to be expected with those flat surfaces catching the air unpredictably, you’ve got so many pellets and the wad holds them together so far downrange that you end up with not only dense, even patterns in the center, but an effective additional 25 percent coverage beyond the 30-inch circle.”
“That’s what we’ve seen. A 25 percent larger kill zone.”
“And it’s not going to cost as much as tungsten shot shells?”
“Not even close. I think we’ll be able to sell these for about the same as our standard Supreme steel loads.”
Criner had to leave before our last hunt, but I thought of him, briefly, when I managed a right-left double on a mature snow and blue. And I thought of him again when I absolutely crushed another greater Canada. But after that I forgot all about him and only thought about the next flock of geese hovering over Vaca’s decoys.