By Bill Miller
Much of the allure surrounding waterfowl hunting is the opportunity to hunt dream destinations across North America. Places like Stuttgart, Canada, Chesapeake Bay, the Pas, the Platte River and dozens more fill the bucket lists of devoted duck and goose hunters.
Yet, when a hunter finally gets the chance to hunt some of these great destinations, the hunts may turn out quite differently than they imagined.
Take Stuttgart for example. Next to being known as the home of the World Championship Duck Calling Contest, hunters equate this Arkansas prairie town with the finest flooded timber mallard shooting in North America. Of course, this is the kind of hunting that put Stuttgart on the map, but I have hunted the area when there were more ducks working the rice fields than the timber.
To improve our chances for success, we sometimes wound up shooting mid-range birds from a pit blind instead of close-range greenheads from behind a pin oak. We've even changed our game completely when we saw how many geese were frequenting the area and the ducks weren't in yet!
Adapting with Blind Side
As you can see, the action even at legendary locations can turn out to be much different than expected, and waterfowlers must be adaptable in order to ensure a successful hunt no matter what situation they encounter. A key part of adapting is using ammunition that allows you to adjust quickly, often without the chance to hike back to the truck or run to the store for different shells. In addition to being stacked, fast and deadly, you'll find the Winchester Blind Side shotshells extremely adaptable. And, as long as you can find a few choke tubes in your blind bag, shooting with Blind Side loads can save you a time-wasting trip back to your truck or the store for those different shells.
More than any other specialty waterfowl loads firing steel shot, Winchester Blind Side responds to choke constrictions in a manner you would expect from the traditional lead loads no longer allowed for waterfowl use. This is courtesy of the revolutionary Diamond Cut wad system working in tandem with Hex Shot.
The Blind Side Advantage
Winchester Blind Side has proven to be the waterfowl load that puts a square peg in a round hole and with a lot more force. Pellets in Blind Side shells are actually cube-shaped with rounded off corners. These hexahedron pellets are called Hex Shot for short.
A huge advantage of Hex Shot is more of it can stack into the same amount of space than spherical shot, much like it is easier to stack boxes of the same size than it is to stack a bunch of basketballs.
Winchester uses a proprietary loading system to actually stack 1 3/8 ounces of steel Hex Shot into a 1 1/4-ounce sized shot cup. A No. 2 Hex pellet weighs the same as a No. 2 spherical steel pellet, but, by volume, 16 more hex shot pellets fit inside a 3-inch shell. That means a standard 3-inch steel load has 156 No. 2 spherical pellets, while a 3-inch Blind Side contains 172 pellets making for more than a 10 percent pellet count increase. Depending on shot size, the stacking of Hex Shot increases pellet count volume as much as 15 percent over other non-round shot loads on the market.
Now, a heavier payload in a smaller space could also be a recipe for increased recoil, especially considering the the 2013 High Velocity Hex Shot shells are driven to 1675 fps at the muzzle (earlier versions touted 1400 fps) by an increased powder charge. However, because the shot packs more tightly together, there's more leftover space inside the shell than in a standard 1 3/8-ounce load. As a result, Winchester developed the new Drylok hinged powder cup based on the renowned recoil reducing design of their AA target loads.
Hex Shot has distinct edges and flat surfaces. Upon striking feathers, flesh and bone, these edges cut and tear more effectively than smooth, spherical shot. Flat surfaces also impart the full energy of each pellet to the tissue. That means Hex Shot maximizes two types of killing power: improved tissue damage to induce optimal hemorrhaging, as well as massive hydrostatic shock transfer, which is devastating to the nervous system.
The biggest knock on spherical steel, especially in loads pushed to extreme velocity, is that it cuts through ducks without imparting much of its potential knockdown energy. That's why you sometimes see them fly off seemingly unaffected only to fold up hundreds of yards away. Round pellets can waste that energy by cutting through too easily, while Hex Shot's flat surfaces impart more energy to the bird.
What's in a wad?
In any shotshell system built around nonspherical pellets, it's the wad that makes or breaks pattern dispersion and consistency. For Blind Side, Winchester created the Diamond Cut wad featuring three petals at the back of the wad that open rearward as it leaves the barrel. The shot cup portion of the Diamond Cut wad has no slits. Therefore, it stays closed, almost like a capsule, keeping the Hex Shot together farther down range. In testing, the dispersion of Blind Side's pattern is similar to quality loads of traditional spherical steel shot, which is known for tight patterning.
The great adaptability of Winchester Blind Side to any waterfowl situation comes from its traditional response to choke constrictions. Many standard steel shot loads pattern consistently through a specific choke constriction, but blow out or pattern irregularly through another choke size. Others pattern tightly, but remain about the same, through any similarly reasonable choke constriction. The patterns change little regardless of the constriction allowing little ability to improve the shot's performance by switching out chokes.
Blind Side, on the other hand, responds well to traditional choking. That means you can count on a faster dispersing pattern from an improved cylinder choke for ducks in the timber, a middle-of-the-road dispersion from a modified choke for field shooting and tighter long-range patterns from a full-choke for pass shooting situations. And all of this from the same shells!