Veteran waterfowl hunter and respected outdoor authority Scott Haugen dubs HEVI-Shot’s HEVI-Metal Xtreme the most effective shotshell he has ever fired. Read on to find out why.
by Scott Haugen
There’s only one way to prove how good a shotgun shell is, and that’s by shooting ducks, a lot of ducks. The shell should be shot in a range of guns in the highest number of hunting scenarios possible. It’s also essential that small, medium, and large ducks are harvested, including diving ducks and late-season birds with a higher feather count.
On top of that, the shell should be shot alone by the hunter who is testing it and with buddies throughout the season. This allows for controlled shots in solo situations and at flaring, fast-moving birds following shots taken by friends hunting from the same blind or in layouts next to you. The shell should also be shot in high winds, especially crosswinds, to see how it holds together. The more testing, the more accurate a conclusion can be drawn on a specific load.
Last season I got to test many shells on several dozen hunts beginning in September and running through January. The shotshell I tested most thoroughly was HEVI-Shot’s new HEVI-Metal Xtreme. I shot this new load in multiple 12- and 20-gauge guns and killed over 100 birds. It’s the most effective shotgun shell I’ve ever fired, and here’s why.
To start with, the load is very accurate. On the first hunt I shot it on, I fired eight times and killed seven ducks with my 20 gauge. My hunting buddy, Austin Crowson, shot the Xtreme shells nine times from his 12 gauge to secure his seven-duck limit, and a couple of the birds he knocked down left me in awe. The day before that hunt, I toured the HEVI-Shot factory, and these Xtreme loads were coming off the production line. Crowson and I were the first hunters to use them, so I was told. I was so impressed with the Xtreme’s performance I got my hands on more boxes and shot them a lot in an array of hunting situations over the next three months.
Not only is the HEVI-Metal Xtreme load accurate, but it also packs a punch. I killed ducks with it in my 20 gauge that I’d hesitate to pull the trigger on with a 12 gauge. The pattern held tight in stiff winds and killed divers —including canvasbacks — with conviction and even accounted for some thick-feathered honkers towards the season’s end. It penetrates extremely well without ripping tissue at close range, too.
With the first box of HEVI-Metal Xtreme loads I shot, 19 ducks died. I have more impressive numbers to share, but suffice it to say, the three hunts where I fired seven shots on each hunt and killed seven birds each time got my attention. I let a few buddies try the Xtreme’s, and they had instant success with high shot-to-kill ratios.
So, what makes the HEVI-Metal Xtreme load so lethal? I think it’s the efficient payload and what’s pushing it. Oh, and I’m not talking powder. HEVI-Metal Xtreme is a layered load consisting of 30 percent of HEVI-Shot’s original 12g/cc of HEVI-XII tungsten pellets stacked over 70 pecent steel. The dense tungsten pellets are three shot sizes smaller than the steel pellets they’re paired with, which ensures both layers have equal, highly efficient, and complimentary downrange performance. And what pushes this stacked payload is one of the most revolutionary wads ever to come, Federal’s FLIGHTCONTROL FLEX wad. Yes, the same wad used in Federal’s highly-prized Black Cloud shotshells.
In February of 2022, Federal acquired HEVI-Shot, and by sharing the best of what each company has created over the years, some impressive things are happening. The HEVI-Metal Xtreme is leading the way by incorporating the FLEX wad.
Regarding killing ducks, velocity and long-range patterns that fly consistently is the benchmark. Not that you’ll be shooting long-range at ducks — especially if hunting over decoys — but long-range, tight patterns equate to an efficiently traveling load, and if it’s moving fast, it’s highly lethal. That’s precisely what the HEVI-Metal Xtreme does.
Using HEVI-Metal Xtreme, the number of ducks I crippled significantly dropped because birds died on impact. Toward the end of the season, I hunted in some extreme winds, 30 mph sustained, with gusts more significant than 40. I shot different loads, but nothing performed like the Xtreme’s, not even pure tungsten loads, which surprised me, and honestly, I can’t explain why.
Throughout the season, I shot the HEVI-Metal Xtreme a lot in both 20 and 12 gauges. Both gauges offer 3-inch loads in a 6×3 and 4×1 combo, the 6 and the 4 being the 30 percent tungsten, respectively. The 20 gauge HEVI-Metal Xtreme loads consist of a 1-1/16-ounce shot charge that moves at 1,350 fps, while the 12 gauge carries a 1-1/4-ounce charge at 1,450 fps.
With these load combinations, the travel rate of both the tungsten and steel are optimized, which means kinetic energy is maximized down range, equating to impressive killing power. Two of my buddies who hunt waterfowl over 100 days a season instantly killed birds with the Xtreme’s and said it was the best-performing loads they’d ever shot. The Xtreme even outperformed the pure tungsten loads, which I also love shooting. The Xtreme kills fast and far with impressive power, period. I think the FLIGHTCONTROL FLEX wad is a significant part of its success, along with the pellet size pairings and travel rates of each charge.
I liked shooting the 6(tungsten)x3(steel) loads for decoying ducks. In open habitats where birds could flare for various reasons — from changes in lighting to wind shifts, catching movement in the blind to not liking something in the decoys — I prefer the performance of the 4×1 loads. The 4×1 Xtreme shells were also very effective when hunting ducks and geese simultaneously, eliminating the need to switch to a bigger pellet for geese. I killed little cacklers and big Canadas that came into the decoys and passed overhead with authority.
When hunting with buddies in close-quarter decoying scenarios, I liked the 6×3 loads due to the increased pellet count. Likewise, on very high wind days — I’m talking 30 mph plus — I like the smaller pellets in the 6×3 loads as they didn’t get blown off course as quickly as the larger pellets, and they still delivered impressive killing power.
One of the features I love about the Xtreme shells is their ability to fire and cycle in every gun I shot them in. This isn’t the case for all brands of shells. I shot the 20- gauge Xtreme shells in four semi-autos and a pump, and every shot was fed, fired, and ejected. I shot the 12 gauge Xtreme in six different guns with perfect results. The powder burns clean, too.
Once you find a gun, choke, and load combination you like, you instantly know it. You will stick with it because it gives you confidence. Missed shots with such a setup are realized the moment you pull the trigger, sometimes even sooner.
There’s nothing more frustrating when waterfowl hunting than doing everything right, knowing you’re dead on a bird when you pull the trigger, and it just keeps flying. Such failure of shotshell performance must be recognized, and then a change must be made. Please don’t dismiss it as having a bad day shooting because once you find the proper combination and a load you believe in, off-days will be few and far between.
Note: Scott Haugen is a waterfowl hunter of 47 years. Learn more about his many books at www.scotthaugen.com and follow his adventures on Instagram & Facebook.