HEVI-Shot 101

Video what is hevi-shot made of

Did you know a small, specialized ammo company has been quietly pumping out millions upon billions of shotshells out of Sweet Home, Oregon, for the past 22 years? By offering so many choices of nontoxic ammo options for shotgunners, HEVI-Shot is often misunderstood. HEVI-Shot only produces non-toxic shotshell hunting loads. They don’t make centerfire or rimfire ammo (yet…) and they don’t load anything with lead. So, for shotgunners looking for a big list of options for hunts in lead-restricted areas: HEVI-Shot has it. In 2000, HEVI-Shot started up with the goal of making waterfowl ammo thatoutperformed steel. To do this, they spent more than a year developing their very own alloy mixture using tungsten and other metals. The result was a very heavy pellet superior to steel,but also outperformed lead due to its density. And the rest, as they say, is history. Along the way, HEVI-Shot also started crafting its own bismuth pellets which the company might be best known for. In 2022, the company reevaluated its catalog of offerings, discontinuing many of its convoluted product names and condensing its list of products to be simple and streamlined. But that doesn’t mean HEVI-Shot’s current product list is small. It’s still huge and can be confusing to comprehend.

Let’s take a look.

Pellets and stacks. The first key to understanding HEVI-Shot’s overall product line is grasping their overall strategy of pellet materials and stacked payloads. HEVI-Shot only loads non-toxic pellet materials: steel, bismuth, or tungsten. Of these three shot materials, steel has the lightest density of 7.8 g/cc. Bismuth is next at 9.6 g/cc, and HEVI-Shot tungsten is the heaviest at 12 g/cc. HEVI-Shot also loads a full line of turkey-hunting ammo using Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) pellets which have a density of 18 g/cc. Regarding lethality, it’s considered to be the same order: steel, bismuth, then tungsten and TSS. Again, HEVI-Shot does not load any product containing lead pellets. But forcomparison’s sake, the density of lead is 11.2 g/cc, which falls between bismuth and tungsten. A denser (heavier) material will carry its velocity and penetration energy longer. This means it will hit harder (faster) plus carry its lethality (in foot-pounds) out to greater distances.

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Think about it, if you had a whiffle ball, a tennis ball, and a baseball thrown at you at the same speed, which one would hurt the most? Density also relates to shot size. A one-centimeter cube of steel weighs a lot less than a one-centimeter cube of bismuth or tungsten. Because bismuth is 22-percent denser than steel hunters can choose loads that are one size smaller than steel yet still have the same or better lethality. Using tungsten, hunters can choose three sizes smaller. The size of the projectile effects penetration. If you were punctured in the foot by a large nail or a small needle, which one do you think would go deeper? That example of penetration is the same when shooting large shot size No. 2 compared to the tiny size of No. 9. The size of shot also affects pellet count. In a 3-inch shotshell hull, you can fit a lot more pellets of tiny No. 9s compared to the large shot size No. 2. So, if you choose a shotshell that features a material that is denser than another material, you will benefit by having more downrange energy, deeper penetration, and/or higher pelletcounts, which leads to fuller patterns with more hits on target at longer distances.

HEVI-Shot shells are loaded with either straight or stacked payloads. Straight means all of one material (100-percent of bismuth or tungsten or whatever). Stacked means multiple shot types in one shell. For HEVI-Shot, this means a layer of steel pellets and a layer of bismuth pellets loaded in the same shell. This stacked, dual-shot design, according to HEVI-Shot,improves on a shotgun shell’s performance.

To sum it up, HEVI-Shot’s three shot materials and two payload types all have a specific purpose in HEVI-Shot’s product line: Steel satisfies customers looking for a good option that is less expensive yet is effective at close and medium distances. However, a load that has both steel and bismuth is a better solution because a stacked loads offer an increase to the shell’s overall lethal effectiveness but with adding only a modest price increase. Bismuth is slightly more expensive than steel, but its performance is closer to that of lead loads, so a load with 100percent bismuth is an even better solution. And finally, tungsten comes with a larger price tag yet is the most effective at long distances compared to anything else, so tungsten loads are HEVI-Shot’s best solution.

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SELECTED FOR THE GAME. The second key is understanding that HEVI-Shot is organized by four hunting activities. Within each of those, HEVI-Shot offers its customers good-better-best solutions to choose from based on their need, preference, or budget. HEVI-Shot offers only the most popular loadings with specific attributes for each type of wild game, making it easier for customers to know what to select.

Waterfowl. HEVI-Steel is offered in 23 popular loads for waterfowl in a long list of sizes and speeds. HEVI-TEAL is offered in just three options—all in shot size No. 6. Both are good, all-steel solutions.

HEVI-Metal Longer Range and HEVI-Hammer feature stacked bismuth/steel payloads which is better than all-steel. HEVI-Metal is more robust of the two products. It’s available in 20different loads and features 30-percent of the total payload weight being bismuth pellets stacked on top of the remaining 70-percent being steel shot. HEVI-Metal Longer Range also features two shot sizes so there’s more pellets in its payload. Its bismuth pellets are one size smaller than its steel pellets, but because of density, they have the same ballistic coefficient as the steel. HEVI-Hammer is available in only 5 popular loads, and it’s stacked with just 15-percent bismuth over 85-percent steel, both pellet types are the same size in this load.

HEVI-Bismuth Waterfowl is an even-better choice because it’s loaded with all bismuth, and it’s offered in 23 different loadings. It’s also popular because it’s softer than steel and tungsten. Meaning it can safely be used in both modern and classic or older, fixed-choke shotguns.

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HEVI-XII is the company’s best solution for waterfowl. It got its name because its dense tungsten alloy weighs 12 grams per cubic centimeter.

Upland loads. HEVI-Hammer Upland is offered only in shot size No. 3 or 5. HEVI-Hammer Dove is offered only in shot size No. 7. Both products have stacked steel-bismuth payloads (15- over 85-percent). HEVI-Bismuth Upland is offered in only the two loads that pheasant hunters choose the most: 2 ¾-inch, No. 5 in 12- or 20-gauge.

Turkey ammo. HEVI-Metal Turkey is offered in shot size No. 4 or 5. These loads feature stacked payloads with bismuth on top of steel (30- over 70-percent). Turkeys are large upland birds, sopayloads are heavier in ounces than HEVI-Metal for waterfowl.Magnum Blend is a 12-g/cc tungsten load that features a mix of three different shot sizes—No. 5, 6, and 7—all in one load, making it HEVI-Shot’s best solution. This blend offers a more powerful, versatile payload with a higher pellet count compared to a traditional No. 5 or No. 6 copper-plated lead turkey load.HEVI-18 Turkey is the company’s new best-of-the best option. It features Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) pellets which deliver the ultimate in density (18 g/cc) in shot size 7 or 9. TSS is now widely known as being the most lethal pellet material on the planet, so it’s no surprise that HEVI-Shot loads it.

Predator shotshells. HEVI-Shot offers its best solution for predator hunting which is aptly named Dead Coyote. It features 12-g/cc tungsten pellets in shot size 00 Buck or T. Both can bedeadly up to 70 yards.

The element of quality. Shot and payload type matters, but there are other characteristics of HEVI-Shot shotshells which set them apart from other shotgun shells, such as their all-season reliability and specialized components. HEVI-Shot is very particular on what primers, powder, wads, hulls, and sealantsthey use, and because of that, its overall product quality exceeds expectations.

Larry Case


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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>