First Look: Winchester's Varmint X Shotshell

posted on February 5, 2016

When Winchester first released its popular Varmint X line of ammunition, the engineers were going for something fast and flat with minimal recoil. All the things that dedicated varmint hunters are looking for. And on those counts, the company succeeded. What wasn't offered in the original Varmint X line, though, was ammunition for those who prefer to deploy their favorite scattergun against feral hogs, coyotes and other predators. That's changing in 2016, with the introduction of the 12-gauge Varmint X shotshell. Here are four things you need to know.

1. It utilizes the company's Shot-Lok technology.
There's no doubt about it, Winchester's Shot-Lok technology (winner of a 2016 Golden Bullseye Award, mind you) has been a full-fledged revolution. Though originally designed with turkeys in mind, the concept has expanded to upland loads and, for 2016, will enter a not-so-feathered market. The new Varmint X shotshells feature the same Shot-Lok resin that has made Long Beard XR a devastating turkey load. Not familiar with Shot-Lok? The gist is that it utilizes a proprietary resin, which eliminates air space between the lead pellets. As such, they don't smash into one another as the powder ignites, preserving integrity and largely eliminating fliers. It does wonder for preserving tight patterns at longer ranges. Here's the full rundown.

2. It's loaded with BB.
Varmint shotshells loaded in BB aren't uncommon, but historically a lot of diehard predator hunters have favored #00 Buck or better. The new Varmint X shotshell trades in that size for pattern density—and it does so in spades. With Shot-Lok in tow, the Varmint X loads should produce eye-popping patterns at long range. See that coyote target embedded in this story? The shot that produced that pattern was taken from 60 yards. Find another varmint shotshell that can do that.

3. It penetrates.
Part of the reason some of those aforementioned predator hunters prefer #00 Buck is the penetration it provides. That said, Winchester's seeing more than enough power to kill a coyote from Varmint X. The company's tests show six to 10 inches penetration on gel blocks, which is more than enough to knock down a song dog. Plus, with the tradeoff to BB, combined with Shot-Lok, you're looking at putting 75 pellets on the target, at extended range. Can't argue with that.

4. It works.
I had the opportunity to join the folks from Winchester on a predator hunt in Texas this winter, and got to see Varmint X do its work firsthand. Though I didn't have a chance to knock down a coyote with the shotgun myself, another writer on the trip did. And his jaw dropped when I came over and ranged the now dead 'yote at 55 yards. Our guide, legendary predator caller Wyman Meinzer, took one look and said "I'm in awe of this load." I don't know if you can get a more ringing endorsement—Wyman wrote the book on coyotes. No, seriously, he's a got a book that's simply titled "Coyote."

If you're still not convinced, never fear. The Varmint X shotshell is due for a full review in an upcoming print edition of American Hunter. Stay tuned.


Anaconda 4 Inch
Anaconda 4 Inch

#SundayGunday: Colt Anaconda 4"

American Hunter Editor in Chief Scott Olmsted was on hand in December at Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Ariz., when Colt introduced its four-inch-barreled Anaconda.

New for 2023: Remington Premier Long Range in PRC Chamberings

Featuring Speer’s revolutionary Impact bullet, Remington has now announced three new PRC loads that will be available in late 2023.

Beretta Launches A300 Ultima Turkey Shotgun

Beretta has announced the launch of a new turkey-hunting shotgun—the A300 Ultima Turkey.

Winchester Awarded U.S. Army NGSW Ammunition Production Contract

Winchester, the largest manufacturer of small caliber ammunition for the U.S. military, has announced that the U.S. Army has awarded the company a contract to manufacture, test, and deliver 5 million 6.8mm Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) cartridges.

How to Build a Home Butcher Shop

Any space including a garage, shop or storage shed can be turned into a game-processing center. Learn about hoists, knives, vacuum sealers, grinders and dehydrators you need to build your own butcher shop.

Head to Head: .348 Winchester vs. .358 Winchester

Between the .348 Winchester and .358 Winchester, which cartridge is the better all-around choice for the hunter? Contributor Philip Massaro examines the pros and cons of each.


Get the best of American Hunter delivered to your inbox.