Waterfowl hunters have long had to deal with the shortcomings of steel shot—it doesn’t carry as well as lead, it doesn’t pattern as well as lead and it doesn’t hit as hard as lead. However, the toxicity of lead submerged in bodies of water is a reality, and is therefore off the menu. However, there are alternatives, which give good performance without endangering the ecosystem.
For 2018, Winchester has announced the release of their Xtended Range Bismuth shotshells, in 3-inch 12-gauge, loaded with 1 5/8 ounce of No. 5 Bismuth shot, at a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps. Winchester has once again employed their Shot-Lok technology—which essentially uses an epoxy resin to hold the shot column in place, breaking apart during flight—to keep the pattern as tight as possible. It also prevents the bismuth shot from fracturing during the violent passage from chamber to barrel.
However, the Winchester Xtended Range Bismuth is not just a waterfowl load, it works perfectly as a turkey load, and even as an upland bird load in those areas where the use of lead shot is prohibited. It definitely seems that the need for lead-alternative ammunition is only going to rise, and it’s good to see companies like Winchester answering the call.