Black Cloud Vs. Hevi-Metal
I couldn’t believe it. The geese were turning and heading toward me. I kept calling as I watched them approach from what looked like miles away. I had never hunted waterfowl before. I had some basic information on decoy set ups from other hunters and internet articles. I learned calling from a DVD that came with my call. Other than that I was making it up as I went along. I sat in my blind (self-designed and built, 2x4s, camo burlap, carriage bolts and wing nuts) thinking that this might actually work. I was still calling as the birds circled behind me, less than 50 yards away. As they came into view on my left I dropped the call and got ready to shoulder the shotgun. They were passing at 30 yards, slowing down and maneuvering into landing position when I decided to shoot. The Canada I was lined up on reacted instantly to the first shot, but kept on going. I cycled the action and hit him again, another obvious hit. By the third shot he was just out of range and I was out of shells.
The above scenario played out a few years ago and, looking back, I think a lot of my failure to bring down my goose had to do with cheap steel shells. When you see a box of basic steel shells for 18 to 20 dollars, then compare it to the more sophisticated offerings that are at least ten dollars more, it’s easy to talk yourself into saving some cash. But, as has been pointed out by many devout waterfowl hunters, cheap shells are not to be equated with economy. Inexpensive ammo invariably requires multiple hits to bring down birds. If one is to routinely use several shells per bird, the cost/bird ratio rises rapidly. Better quality ammo, via tighter patterns and/or pellets that are heavier than steel, can drop birds with less expenditure.
Two popular loads at the premium end of the spectrum are Federal’s Black Cloud and Hevi-shot’s Hevi-Metal. Black Cloud is all-steel, with 40% being “Flitestopper” shot, designed to cause more damage than standard pellets, and 60% regular steel. This is combined with a specially designed “Flitecontrol” wadding that helps the pellets retain a tight group. In contrast, Hevi-Metal is 50/50 hevi shot and steel, with the former loaded in front of the steel. Black Cloud is a product I have yet to try out on birds, but I have been pleased with my limited experience with Hevi-Metal. In preparation for this year’s goose season I thought it pertinent to do some informal pattern testing.
Due to a variety of factors I only shot 5 rounds, one per target. The gun was a Remington 870 Magnum Express, with 3″ 1 1/4 oz. size BB shot. All shooting was done at 30 yards, at identical sheets of cardboard measuring approximately 14″ by 17″ with a large black dot in the center. Two shots were made with Black Cloud and full choke, two with Hevi-Metal and full choke, and one with Black Cloud and modified choke. The decision to test a modified choke had to do with steel shot’s reputation for erratic patterning out of full chokes.
From this limited test the Hevi-Metal grouped slightly tighter than the Black Cloud, which, with the full choke seemed to have some small gaps in the pattern. Again, two shots certainly does not constitute solid evidence. And the single shot with the modified choke only hints at averages, but it did seem to deliver a more consistent pattern than the full choke.
From this limited test, my conclusion is that Hevi-Metal is going to deliver more bang for your buck. Not only does it throw a tighter pattern, half the pellets are Hevi-Shot, which is heavier than lead, let alone steel. And that makes a big difference when shooting critters as tough as geese.