I’ve been shooting Federal Heavyweight TSS since it first launched in 2018. TSS (Tungsten Super Shot) has been around for awhile, but in general it was only available to handloaders prior to when Federal started stuffing shells with it three years ago.
The big deal with TSS is that it’s extremely dense metal. In fact, it’s 56 percent denser than standard lead shot. The implications of higher density are numerous—perhaps most notably that you can cram more, smaller pellets into a shotshell while retaining lethal energy. For example, I’ve mainly been shooting No. 9 Heavyweight TSS and those tiny 9s have the same downrange energy (read: ability to bust tom’s noggin) as old lead No. 5s. This means you can produce a better pattern with a higher pellet count. The only downside is if you hit a bird in the body, it’s more difficult to detect the pellets at the dinner table.
WATCH A TURKEY HUNT
FEATURING FEDERAL HEAVYWEIGHT TSS
Combine the energy of Heavyweight TSS with Federal’s FLITECONTROL FLEX wad, and of course the proper choke tube (I use a Trulock choke tube designed specifically for my No. 9s), and you’re holding a serious long-range dealer of gobbler death.
But just how far can you shoot turkeys with Federal Heavyweight TSS?
Turkey hunters have all sorts of different notions about how to kill gobblers, and what is “fair” or “right” or “acceptable” or “sporting.” To each his own. I’m fortunate to spend an absurd amount of time in the turkey woods every spring, and I like to make wild turkey a regular part of my year-round diet, so I enjoy tagging toms with a variety of tactics—and at a variety of distances.
The vast majority of my turkey hunting is done with a shotgun, and certainly I prefer pulling the trigger after calling a gobbler into my lap amidst a picture-perfect decoy setup. Maybe I’m just not good enough at turkey hunting, but that textbook scenario tends to be the exception. More often than not, strutters hang up outside of that imaginary 40-yard bubble that turkey hunters created long ago, and I’m not a big fan of letting them walk away.
You can study ballistics and watch gel tests all you want, but until you get experience with feathers and flesh, you can never truly know how a turkey load is going to perform, nor grasp its full potential. My first bird killed with Heavyweight TSS was at 5 yards, give or take a foot … and we don’t need to analyze those results. My second bird, however, was killed at a laser-verified 72 yards after I got into a flock with a buddy and all hell broke loose while attempting a double. I was forced to make a quick decision and I misjudged the distance to that bird, thinking he was 55-60 yards. He was 12 yards further than the top end of my estimation. The No. 9s swarmed him and he crumbled.
No, I haven’t made a habit of trying to shoot long-range longbeards because of that first experience with Heavyweight TSS, but since then I’ve killed several more birds with it in that 60- to 70-yard range. The only way to ethically shoot that far is with a red-dot sight or shotgun scope from a steady rest, but I’ll save that part of this conversation for another day.
Undoubtedly, some folks will watch the video above and say my 70-yard pattern isn’t adequate for shooting a turkey. If that’s your thought, you probably weren’t turkey hunting 20 years ago. It was that long ago when I first started turkey hunting, and the standard, accepted lethal pattern for a 40-yard turkey gun produced something like six pellets in the vitals (brain and vertebrate) that were sketched on an old-school paper turkey target. Everyone knows it really takes only one pellet to crack a critical bone or “jelly” a brain to shut down a turkey’s nervous system, but you need a respectable security blanket in your pattern (hence the theory of six pellets).
If turkey hunters who carry a shotgun shouldn’t shoot turkeys past 40 yards for concerns about lethality, then bowhunters should be limited to head shots. But again, that’s a conversation for another day.
I know the limits of my turkey gun, so hopefully you can discover your own.