Lead Free Shotgun Patterning @ McMiller Sports Center

During winter I applied & was successfully awarded a tag for spring turkey hunting in Wisconsin. Now that spring was knocking on the door it was time to sort out my gear. I’ve never hunted turkey before so this was all new but an exciting challenge to embark on. The more daunting task was trying to do it using only non-toxic lead-free shot shells which are still relatively difficult to find at local stores. Why non-toxic instead of typical lead shot? As a steward of outdoor sports I want to be responsible for preserving & bettering the environment whenever I can.

After scouring the local area within a 50 mile radius I came up with 4 contenders: Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS and Hevi-Shot. Federal products were both 3″ shells with one using 7 shot and the other 9. Hevi-Shot was in two different versions – one being Hevi-X Strut and came in a 3.5″ shell with a blend of 5/6 shot; the other was Hevi-Shot Magnum Blend in a 3″ shell with a blend of 5/6/7 shot. Both come with very positive reviews online and high price tags (some around $8 per shot, yikes).

Today (3/1/2020) was unseasonably warm around 50 degrees so I packed up for a last-minute trip to McMiller Sports Center in Eagle, Wisconsin. Everyone else had the same idea and the ranges were packed. Thankfully I was the only one preparing for turkeys and had the separate patterning range to myself. Shotgun is a used Stoeger M3500 using factory full choke that I got from the local Gander Outdoors in Kenosha for a great deal. Patterns taken at 20 and 40 yards for each round.

This small patterning range is quite nice but conditions today weren’t ideal. Snow that was rapidly melting with ice underneath, fading sunlight before 5pm, and temperatures falling fast. One small shooting bench sat around 30 yards but was cockeyed and stuck in the snow so I was shooting offhand only on the slippery sloping hillside. I made due but would have liked to use a rest for the magnums at least.

Not many high-quality photos today but I did grab one “fancy” shot for the Instagram and think it turned out well. Will let you be the judge.


First up was the Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS 3″ in #7 shot. At 20 yards it is extremely tight and blew a hole through the paper. Frankly I thought it was too tight and could lead to a possible miss. At 40 yards it opened nicely and I was satisfied with the pattern. Overall this was my 2nd favorite choice and I have no doubt it would do the job.

Next up was the Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS 3″ in #9 shot. Normally with lead the #9 wouldn’t be good enough for turkey, but with the heavyweight tungsten-alloy it should do the trick. Pattern at 20 yards and 40 yards were both perfect. Looks like a winning combination with this gun and choke. Luckily it was also the least expensive ($34 at a local Fleet Farm with a NWTF rebate too).

Rounding out the 3″ shells was the Hevi-Shot Magnum Blend 5/6/7. Pattern at 20 yards is pefect. Pattern at 40 yards looks like I missed low-left but in actuality I think there was an ammo malfunction. It didn’t sound right on firing and the shell didn’t eject well. Possibly a defect? Not sure and I really wanted to like this round but I couldn’t trust it with my limited tests. Still have 3 shells left as backups for the future.

Last but not least was the Hevi-Shot Hevi-Strut 3.5″ magnum 5/6 blend. Pattern at 20 yards was great and blew a nickel sized hole in the target. Also nearly blew my shoulder out. Pattern at 40 yards was a shooter malfunction as my shoulder was now proper tenderized and I got trigger shy. From the pellets that did hit paper it looks like this blend opens much wider and that’s what I would expect from the larger shot size. Probably not a bad pattern but I think my other choices are better (but this still isn’t a bad choice).


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1 thought on “Lead Free Shotgun Patterning @ McMiller Sports Center”

  1. Pingback: Wisconsin Spring Turkey Hunt 2020 – AdamMartin.SPACE

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