By Tom Roster
HEVI-X is a new tungsten-composite pellet from Environ-Metal, the oldest tungsten-composite-pellet manufacturer in the US. The shot was introduced in late 2017, and here’s what you need to know about it.
First, HEVI-X is a mid-density pellet—about halfway between steel shot (approximately 7.86 g/cc) and HEVI-Shot (approximately 12.0 g/cc). HEVI-X is made with a lower tungsten content than high-density tungsten pellets like HEVI-Shot, and since tungsten is possibly the most-expensive metal ever offered in a shotshell pellet, significantly reducing the tungsten content significantly reduces the cost. That is why HEVI-X loads will sell at about half the price of high-density loads like HEVI-Shot.
When I wrote this, there were no waterfowl seasons open for me to do any field-testing, but I can report my observations of the physical product and the patterning performance of HEVI-X. Cutting into a HEVI-X shell, I found that both the shape and diversity of sizes of HEVI-X pellets are similar to those of HEVI-Shot. A hardness test revealed that HEVI-X pellets are hard like steel but softer than HEVI-Shot. That is why they are contained in a heavy-duty plastic, one-piece, steel-shot-type wad mechanically slit into four petals. The wads contained in HEVI-X loads are beefed up in both wall thickness and base design compared to previous HEVI-Shot and other steel-load wads.
The inherent hardness of HEVI-X pellets means that they cannot be fired in just any shotgun or choke system. They are compatible only with “steel shot proof” shotguns and chokes. But the hardness does greatly facilitate the high patterning performance I measured. I found HEVI-X patterns to be similar—with highly center-dense pattern counts—to the patterns produced by comparable steel-shot and HEVI-Shot loads through the same chokes. This means HEVI-X loads have long-range, 40-yards-plus potential. Conversely, it also means that those contemplating short- and medium-range shooting with HEVI-X will need to use open chokes like Improved Cylinder or at tightest Modified.
As to pellet effectiveness, the lower tungsten content and density of HEVI-X compared to HEVI-Shot means that HEVI-X pellets should not be expected to penetrate as deeply as same-size HEVI-Shot pellets. For any given steel pellet, a HEVI-X pellet one size smaller gives comparable per-pellet energy. Compared to a No. 2 steel pellet, one can use a No. 3 pellet in HEVI-X (as yet unavailable) or a No. 4 pellet if shooting lead or HEVI-Shot to obtain comparable per-pellet retained energy. The advantage, of course, of using pellets denser than steel is that smaller pellets can be used with equal lethality, which greatly enhances pattern density. This also greatly enhances the lethal potential of sub-gauges such as the 20 and 28.
In a nutshell, HEVI-X pellets join the existing mid-density array of nontoxic pellets that includes bismuth, Classic Doubles, Nice Shot and ITX-10. Pellets in this group are similar in density, though the others are “soft” enough for use in any shotgun or choke system. Provided you have a shotgun/choke system that can handle steel shot, the hardness of HEVI-X pellets will give you improved long-range patterning performance over the other mid-density nontoxic pellets.
For now Environ-Metal has introduced HEVI-X in all three 12-gauge lengths plus 3″ 20-gauge. Introductory shot sizes are BB, No. 2 and No. 4. The 3½” 12-gauge loads contain 13⁄8 oz of shot at 1,500 fps; the 3″ 12-gauge loads contain 1¼ oz at 1,450 fps; and the 2¾” 12-gauge loads contain 11⁄16 oz at 1,400 fps. The 3″ 20-gauge load contains 1 oz of shot at 1,400 fps.
As a passing thought, while high-density nontoxic pellets such as HEVI-Shot, HW-13 and ITX-13 have greater lethality potential, pellet size for pellet size, than lead and all other nontoxic pellets, there is only a small group of shotgunners willing to pay the high prices for such pellets, whether in factory loads or for reloading. That is why all of the world’s major shotshell manufacturers have discontinued producing the highest-density-pellet waterfowl loads. Other than for reloading, I predict that only mid-density and steel nontoxic pellets have a profitable future in high-volume factory waterfowl loads. High-density nontoxics in waterfowl-pellet sizes will be loaded only on a small-scale basis or offered for reloading. Small-pellet, high-density nontoxic turkey loads, however, will remain profitable in both factory loads and for reloading.