Seeing the need in a growing market, Winchester has developed a steel load for the budget-conscious, non-traditional shooter in its Xpert Steel Upland Game & Target shell. Available in 12, 20, 28 and .410, Winchester’s Xpert Steel delivers a payload of either No. 6 or No. 7 steel shot at speeds up to 1,400 fps, depending on the gauge. In addition to higher velocity, Xpert Steel has a wad designed specifically to protect barrels from the harder steel while producing consistent shot patterns. Xpert Steel also contains a higher pellet count than equivalent weight traditional loads, meaning more pellets in the air and more chances of hitting the target.
I recently had an opportunity to try out Xpert Steel No. 6s in a 20-gauge Zoli double-barrel on pheasant, chukar and clays at Rose Hill Game Preserve near Culpepper, Va. Considering it was the first time I had ever used the gun or the load, I was quite pleased when I dusted the first few clays before settling into my usual better-than-half hit percentage on small flying targets. I crushed the flushers, but the left-to-right crosser often got the better of me.
In the field, I completely missed the first cock pheasant, which shot up and over my shoulder, resulting in some choice words, but shortly afterward a chukar kicked straight out in front and the Xpert Steel No. 6s dropped it hard. While there were a few more misses, at no point would I attribute this to the shells, which performed admirably on every bird I hit, even a couple that were on the far end of the range of a 20 gauge.
During a morning hunt, we brought in four pheasants and eight chukars, including a couple that took some pretty hard hits, but were still edible. Overall, I was very impressed with the power of Winchester’s Xpert Steel. Every good hit resulted in a dead bird and even birds that were only hit by a few pellets dropped and were recovered.