Yes, once again we reach that annual point in the shotgunning world where shotshell manufacturers announce new loads. But before looking at the notable ones for 2023, let’s review where we’re at in the US regarding the availability of shotshell factory loads and reloading components.
This year shotshell-product-availability issues, especially with hunting loads, will continue largely unabated and unmitigated. So despite any new shotshell-load announcements, expect 2023 to be pretty much like the past several, wherein announced new loads and many old ones likely will not be readily available on dealer shelves. They’ll show up, if at all, in dribs and drabs at unpredictable times throughout the year, and they’ll be high-priced. I think a telling development related to nontoxic-load unavailability occurred in Minnesota this past season. According to an article in the January/February 2023 issue of Big River Magazine, on November 14, 2022, Minnesota Public Radio announced that the DNR had temporarily repealed the ban on lead shot for hunting in state parks, due to the shortage of shotshell ammunition. And this in Minnesota, where Federal, Remington and HEVI-Shot shotshell production had been bought out and consolidated by Vista Outdoor, making the state the epicenter of shotshell production in the US!
The same shortage issues can be predicted for shotshell reloading components this year. Shotshell powders, primers, hulls and many wads continue to be in short supply. And if they show up at mail-order distributors like Ballistic Products or Precision Reloading, they will continue to do so unpredictably and sporadically and will generally be bought out within a few days. Most of the shotshell primers, hulls and wads that have come into stock over the last several years have been and will continue to be Euro-sourced. This is due to the fact that US manufacturers continue to devote their production capabilities primarily to centerfire rifle and pistol ammunition and components rather than shotshells.
For 2023 Apex Ammunition again leads the way in factory TSS shotshell offerings. Apex is headlining this year with its new 3" 12-gauge 2¼-oz and 3" 20-gauge 1⅝-oz loads of No. 9 and 10, 18 g/cc TSS pellets. The loads contain 1,096 and 774 pellets, respectively, and are aimed at turkey hunters. Apex has also restocked its 3" 12-gauge turkey load containing 2¼ oz of TSS No. 9s with 900 pellets in the shell.
For sub-gauge shooters Apex has a 3" 20-gauge 15/8-oz load of TSS No. 8½s (504 pellets, 1,175 fps); a 2¾" 28-gauge, 1⅜ -oz load of TSS No. 8½s (411 pellets, 1,040 fps); and a 3" .410-bore 7/8-oz load of TSS No. 9½s (403 pellets, 1,060 fps). No need for high velocity with TSS. Apex also continues many of its blended steel and TSS loads.
For more information, contact Apex Ammunition, apexmunition.com.
Baschieri & Pellagri USA
Baschieri & Pellagri USA, better known as B&P USA, has introduced two nontoxic duplex loads. One is called Dual Steel, and it combines two layers of steel pellets in shot sizes No. 2 and 3 in 1⅛- and 1¼-oz 3" 12-gauge loads. Both loads travel at 1,425 fps. The other is called Dual Bismuth, and it comes in 2¾" and 3" 12-gauge loads with one layer each of
No. 3 and 4 bismuth pellets. The 2¾" bismuth load has a 11⁄5-oz payload, and the 3" load has a 1¼-oz payload. Both have velocities of 1,350 fps.
Both Dual Steel and Dual Bismuth will be assembled with B&P’s proven GreenCore wad, designed to protect the barrel from hard shot. In addition the GreenCore wad is 100 percent biodegradable, leaving behind no particles or toxic residue.
In my testing over the years I have shot many hundreds of rounds of B&P 2¾" and 3" 12-gauge single-pellet-size steel loads and have found them to be consistently great performers. So I would expect the same of the new Dual lines.
For more information, contact B&P USA, baschieri-pellagriusa.com.
Fiocchi has announced entry into the steel upland field market with two new 2¾" 12-gauge steel loads of No. 4s and 6s at 1,400 fps. The company is also expanding its Golden Waterfowl Bismuth line with a 3" 28-gauge 1⅝-oz offering of No. 4s at 1,350 fps. The line also includes a 3" 12-gauge 13/8-oz load of bismuth No. 2, 4 and 6 shot at 1,450 fps plus a 3" 20-gauge 11⁄16-oz load of bismuth 4s at 1,250 fps.
For more information, contact
HEVI-Shot, the Sweet Home, Oregon, manufacturer that pioneered and has led the industry in heavier-than-lead tungsten-composite shotshell pellets and ammo, was recently bought by Vista Outdoor. And its product line has undergone many changes.
For 2023 HEVI-Shot has announced its new HEVI-Metal Xtreme load, which is 30 percent 12-density HEVI-Shot on top of steel shot. While it’s got a new name, it’s essentially the old HEVI-Metal load that was popular for years but then was discontinued. Initially, HEVI-Metal Xtreme is being offered in 12 and 20 gauge.
Be aware also that for a couple of years after dropping the “HEVI-Metal” name, this load actually continued but contained 30 percent bismuth pellets layered above steel pellets. But many hunters (including me) found it less effective than the original load containing HEVI-Shot layered above the steel pellets.
Also for 2023 the original 12-density HEVI-Shot load is back and now called HEVI-XII. It’s available in a full line of loads, including new shot sizes No. 2, 4 and 6 in 12 and 20 gauge.
If you’re a bismuth shooter, HEVI-Shot has been making and loading bismuth shot for three seasons. Called HEVI-Bismuth, these loads are designed primarily for upland hunters and contain standard 9.6-g/cc bismuth pellets but with a 6 percent tin content. They are available in 10, 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauge as well as .410, and there are two new 28-gauge loads this year. HEVI-Bismuth pelletsare now also being loaded into certain Remington Premier and Federal Premium waterfowl loads. For those who like the idea of a bismuth-pellet layer on top of steel shot, HEVI-Hammer is available with 15 percent bismuth shot on top of steel. New 2¾" loads are now available in shot sizes No. 3, 5 and 7 in 12 and 20 gauge.
For more information, contact HEVI-Shot, hevishot.com.
This year Remington has introduced a new bismuth line called Premier Bismuth in 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauge as well as .410 bore. Popular No. 5s are available in all loads.
For more information, contact Remington, remington.com.
Last but far from least, Winchester continues its dominance in long-range bismuth loads by adding a 3" 20-gauge 1-oz load of buffered No. 4s to its existing Winchester Bismuth 12-gauge line. As I’ve found from my testing, buffering is absolutely necessary for long-range patterns with soft, frangible bismuth shot. And by virtue of buffering, currently only Winchester offers bismuth factory loads that pattern effectively to 60 yards.
For more information, contact Winchester, winchester.com.