Diehard turkey hunters are a fickle crowd; constantly changing equipment (shotgun, choke, and shotshells) in an effort to improve external and terminal ballistics, and willing to pay premiums for even modest performance gains-typically calculated in yards. Such actions are understandable given that: seldom does one get a redemption shot; shot distances can vary greatly, especially for those birds that “hang up”; and the turkey’s head and neck represent a relatively small target. That being said, a hunter doesn’t necessarily have to pay exorbitant prices to get top-notch performance; case in point, Winchester’s new Elite Long Beard XR turkey loads, which sell at MidwayUSA for about $1.60 per shell.
Elite Long Beard XR differs from its counterparts in its use of what Winchester calls “Shot-Lok” technology; essentially, the premium, copper-plated shot are encapsulated (i.e. fully surrounded) by a hard resin that, upon setback/acceleration, fractures and creates buffer that cushions the pellets, thereby preventing deformation. Misshapen pellets migrate to a pattern’s fringe, so maintaining pellet roundness is key to extending a load’s effective range. That’s exactly what Shot-Lok does.
According to Winchester, when compared to traditional-type loads, Elite Long Beard XR offers “twice the pellets in a 10” circle out to 60 yds.” Limited to 50 yds., I tested the 3”, 1¾-oz. No.4 Long Beard XR (and a similar competitor’s load) in a Savage Model 24 fitted with an extended, extra-full turkey-specific choke and topped with Burris 3-9X ShortMag riflescope at that distance. Whereas the competitor’s load scored 23 hits in a 10” circle, Long Beard XR tallied an amazing 82 impacts-incredible, to say the least. In addition to improved patterns, one can expect increased penetration due to the minimally- or non-deformed, copper-plated shot. For 2014, Winchester Elite Long Beard XR is available in 12-ga. 3” and 3½” lengths, featuring 1 ¾ ozs. or 2 ozs., respectively, of No. 4, 5, or 6 shot. Look for additional testing in a future issue of American Rifleman magazine.