According to Sacramento Ammo Store specialists, technological advances for the steel shot for waterfowl has progressed a great deal since the 80's. Although it has endured much criticism since then, improvements include:

  • Shells are packed for higher velocity
  • Payload delivers more energy
  • Wad-designs distribute shot better
  • Higher consistency of down-range patterns
  • Pellets are uniformly round
  • Improvements in annealing maintain steel toughness

Waterfowlers derided steel shot when it became required in the U.S. as a nontoxic-shot alternative for hunting waterfowl. Hunters bemoaned the inferiority of steel shots to traditional lead shots. They often cited examples of birds flying away when hit with steel shots. Then a tungsten-based alternative came about and many waterfowlers abandoned traditional methods. They opted for the latest and greatest that performed better than lead shots, though at a higher cost.

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Recently, the trend has swung back in favor of steel. Now waterfowlers celebrate contemporary steel loads. Why is that? Because contemporary steel shots are lethal for water birds. So much so that lead shots have all but been forgotten.  Quite simply, if you want a functional waterfowl bullet, it has to deliver shots with enough velocity to hit the vital. To achieve this, designers had to consistently and safely produce higher velocity bullets and also deliver bullets that distributed evenly. This is where improvements in wad design become important.

There is no doubt that the steel shot that you can buy now is much improved over what was available 20 - 30 years ago.

It’s easy to see why there is this preference for steel when one considers the current non-toxic shot scene. Manufacturers have made tremendous strides in the capabilities of the steel. We are seeing lethality with steel shots that we have never seen before. As manufacturers gain experience and the tech improves, designers began loading more powerful steel loads which lent itself to increased lethality.  Also, there is no doubt that the lead option being more costly has created more preference for the steel shot.

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