A ground-breaking new turkey cartridge from Winchester will hit sporting good store shelves in early October. It’s called Long Beard XR, and there’s no doubt this super shotshell will shake up the turkey hunting world.
So, what’s the big deal?
Winchester might have actually achieved the pinnacle of lead turkey load performance with Long Beard XR. It all rests on the backbone of a proprietary glue-like substance that Winchester is coining as “Shot-Lok.” At its core, the concept is beautifully simplistic: As Long Beard XR cartridges roll down the assembly line, Shot-Lok (in its liquid form) is poured into each shell. Then, the pellets are dumped into this pool of resin and the resin hardens around the pellets, effectively sealing all the tiny gaps between the pellets.
Ammo manufacturers have been loading lead pellets in their shotgun cartridges for decades. For a variety of reasons, lead as a material is difficult to beat. However, lead has a major downfall in that it’s soft. When a lead shotshell goes bang!, the rear end of pellets in the shot column (closest to the primer and gun powder) undergo “set-back forces.” Without going into detailed physics, what happens is many of these pellets become deformed—you might commonly call them “flyers.” The flyers meddle with the aerodynamics of the shot string as it’s sent toward your target. Odd-shaped pellets fly slower (i.e. decrease velocity and thereby penetration) and break up patterns. In Long Beard XR, the pellets are protected during that initial explosion. By the time the wad of shot exits your shotgun barrel, the Shot-Lok has turned to dust and your pattern consists almost entirely of perfectly preserved round pellets. The result of Winchester’s fresh recipe is ruthless patterns and penetration. If you don’t smell what Winchester is cooking, read on.
I had the opportunity to test this new shotshell for the first time in Kentucky this spring. When I was given a handful of the prototype cartridges, I was told it’s an “effective 70-yard turkey load.” Yeah, right, I thought. But then I casually tried some No. 5s on paper at 20, 50 and 70 yards with a couple of different turkey guns that were lying around. (See the results of my highly un-scientific pattern test on the target images below. I’ll offer a more detailed patterning test in my blog soon; stay tuned.) The patterns were unlike anything I’d seen before. In the following 3 days, I completely crushed a tom at 35 yards and another through a narrow shooting lane at 60 yards. Two other birds brought into camp were killed from 50 and 60 yards. I finished my season in Maine by tagging a jake at 60 yards. All of these birds died quickly and cleanly. I recount these kills not to brag, but to share real-life examples that prove Long Beard XR isn’t just a pile of Winchester marketing fluff.
The most remarkable trait of Long Beard XR doesn’t lie in its long-range lethality. If you’re a responsible, respectful turkey hunter who centers your game around ethical, clean kills, then this load shines. When I spoke with Dr. Grant Woods about his opinions of Long Beard XR, he put it best: “Even with a load that’s designed to effectively drop birds at a distance, I still expect to shoot most of my birds within 30 yards. So, what really excites me about Long Beard XR is its knockdown power. It’s simple: Place your shot in the kill zone and the bird drops immediately—stone dead.”
However, I won’t shy away from the fact that this load will spell certain death for many long-range limb-hangers. So, if you plan to pluck birds from afar, the key is to tweak your turkey gun setup and take part in the necessary practice so that you can reach out to such distances reliably. Don’t expect to go into the field without due diligence and shoot a bird at 70 yards—such shots require polished shooting skills and the proper equipment. This is an advanced turkey load, and it should be treated as such. Consider investing in a portable rest and optics, and spend time on the range to ensure your setup is sufficient.
On a similar note, be cognizant of how tight your close-range patterns might be with Long Beard XR. Choke your turkey gun too tightly and you’ll likely have little room for error within 20 yards. But if you hit the bird where it counts, the results will be obvious.
In the end, how one kills a turkey is a personal decision. If it’s done legally, ethically and with safety in mind, more power to you.
Winchester will begin shipping Long Beard XR to retailers in the beginning of October 2013. It will be available for 12 gauge in both 3-inch (1 3/4-ounce) and 3-1/2-inch (2-ounce) offerings loaded with No. 4, 5 or 6 shot sizes. The muzzle velocity will be 1,200 fps. You’ll find it on store shelves for right around $19.99—that’s only about $5 more than Winchester’s Double X loads and much less than their Xtended Range tungsten product (which is currently discontinued due to the ridiculously high price of tungsten in the commodities market).
Be sure to share this post with your turkey hunting buddies!