When picking the best shotgun ammo for waterfowl hunting you’re looking for something that will perform well in a variety of weather conditions but also has the power to take down a large duck. The steel loads of yesteryear were weak, brittle, and would shatter when they hit the bone. Not to mention they’d rust easily and damage the barrels. This eventually led to a lot of people quitting waterfowl hunting because the steel rounds just didn’t do the trick.
Today, steel loads are much better. They’re made with improved powder, better primer, and they’re properly sealed to prevent water from getting in. In this article, we’re taking a look at some of the best shotgun ammo for waterfowl hunting.
Choosing the Right Load Based on Duck Size
One of the first things you’ll want to think about is your species and size when determining the right shotgun shells. Breaking it down into a few different categories should make things easier for you.
These ducks move quickly and have erratic flight patterns so you need small pellets that can cover a wider space. They’ll have a shorter range so you’ll need to get closer but doing so will allow you to fill a more obscure pattern.
Wood ducks and gadwalls meet the description of a medium-sized duck. A 12 gauge, 1,450 fps will do the trick here with a 3-inch load. You’ll need decent pattern density across a normal range with moderate density and power.
Hitting large ducks will require you to be pretty close range to get the impact you need to take them down. Mallards and canvasbacks require a high-velocity shot within a certain range if you expect to be able to kill them. Don’t try and stretch your barrel beyond its limit otherwise you’ll take a dramatic dip in accuracy.
To take down a big Canada or Sea Duck you’ll need tungsten-steel pellets because these pack a heavy punch. These cost more than your run-of-the-mill shells but they’re what you need to guarantee a clean kill.
Best Shotgun Ammo
Now that you understand some of the methodologies behind making these decisions, let’s take a look at some specific ammunition for duck hunting.
1. B&P Magnum Steel
The Italians make some great ammunition and these were created specifically for waterfowl hunting. The shells are used by the greatest hunters in the world and they’re engineered to handle a wide variety of weather conditions. You can hunt with these shells through damp marshlands and into blistering cold icy conditions. They’re fast, hard-hitting, and provide a wide variety of lengths and sizes to meet the needs of different hunters. The 3 ½ / 1 ½ ounce is great for large birds like geese and they also have non-toxic Tungsten rounds too.
These compressed-tungsten rounds are popular because of their density and power. One thing that gives these loads the advantage over many others is that they’re a mid-range tungsten-based load so they are affordable but still pack the punch necessary to take down waterfowl. The HeviX rounds are great at killing at long range and while they might look like rejects off the assembly line, they’re still blended with a density slightly less than lead at an affordable price that won’t make your eyes bug out of your head.
3. Kent Bismuth
These non-toxic rounds are 24 percent denser than steel and offer incredible wind resistance which is exactly what you need when firing into a tough crosswind. They burn clean and are safe in any choke so they won’t harm your barrel. Not to mention the fact that they have great knock-down power to take down any size fowl from medium-sized ducks to large geese. These are uniform pellets that are soft as lead but provide great patterns even at long distances. With a custom blend of powders that delivers optimal performance, you’ll get exactly what you want from this ammunition.
4. Black Cloud TSS
One of the greatest from Federal Premium would have to be the Black Cloud TSS. These are high-profile, expensive ammo so most people won’t go for them but if you’re looking for the cream of the crop when it comes to taking down geese, these are it. They come with a 60/40 steel tungsten blend with a flight control wad to help keep your shot pattern on point. They also feature a catalyst lead-free primer and a clean-burning propellant that won’t mess with your barrel. The most common offerings are the small 7 and 9s but they can increase to a 3-inch shell. When it all comes down, these are a great choice for stopping geese at long range.
5. Federal Speed Shok
When it comes to dropping ducks you need the right ammo for the job and everything from the Speed-Shok line is known to do just that. These waterfowl shotgun shells expand into new gauge sizes containing the best components to help you take down even the largest ducks. They provide your typical 12 and 20 gauge but they also have a 10, 16, and even a 28. This expansive number of offerings ensures that everyone has something they like.
6. Rio Blue Steel
The Rio 12 gauge ammo is one of the best options for duck and geese hunting because it packs a lethal punch while still being non-toxic so it’s a great choice for hunting in the wind and wetland conditions. The ammo has a high-velocity spherical shot with tight patterns up to 1,500 fps. It comes in multiple shot sizes from BBB to 7 which provides duck hunters a wide variety of choices to ensure you find the right ammo for your needs.
7. Remington Nitro Steel
We chose these as the best shotgun ammo for waterfowl hunting because they’re great in a diverse set of weather conditions be it intense wind or snow. They’re wet-pruf sealed to prevent corrosion and they come with high-velocity loadings and larger pellets to offer great downrange performance on geese. The Nitro Steel ammunition has more dense patterns than some of the other ammo in this review which results in a more lethal shot and higher payload.
8. Apex Handcrafted Waterfowl Ammunition
Apex specialized in the high-density tungsten super shot (TSS). They use an 18.1 g/cc density tungsten alloy which results in more shots for the same weight. You’ll get an improved down-range shot, consistent patterns, and high-density which is beautiful for waterfowl hunting. Best of all, this is an American Veteran owned and operated company with a huge selection of US-made, non-toxic, shotgun shells.
9. Remington Wingmaster HD
These Remington shells are ten percent more dense than lead and they provide great density for pellet count and pattern. They’re designed to stretch the kill zone so you don’t have to worry about being quite as accurate as you would with some of the other tungsten rounds in this review. They’ve combined density, energy, and shape to create a load that is great in varying conditions but has enough stopping power to take down a goose or large duck.
10. Boss Bismuth
These are a steel alternative which we haven’t seen too much of so far. They were developed in the 90s to help people who may have been using older shotguns. The problem is, the steel loads were way too weak to take down larger waterfowl in comparison to small game. That said, the Boss Bismuth is a great option because they now have copper-plated rounds for 12, 16, and 20 gauge that they sell directly. These rounds are much more capable of taking down a duck.
Duck hunting requires a unique mindset and skill set. This is where survival instincts come into play and who knows, someday we may be hunting and fishing for survival so the sooner we start to get our head screwed on right, the better off we’ll be. Either way, having the right ammo will help your game and make your life a lot easier.