steel or bismuth

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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby nausetduckhunter8 » Wed Jun 24, 2020 10:57 am

Gents,

I apologize for the lengthy post but I have done a deep dive the past couple years and this is what I have found. There is some good ballistic data out there in relation to the benefits of bismuth over steel. I have the documents, data, and websites to back all of this up but it will take me a bit to collect it all (baby on the way so have some other priorities!). First, a little history but I am assuming most of you know this already.

Post lead ban there was a rush to use the "next best thing" as many of you know. Bismuth, tungsten, steel etc all popped up with their supposed benefits. From a ballistics standpoint, tungsten is by far the best choice in regards to kinetic energy at point of impact through all sizes and ranges. As you know, tungsten is incredibly expensive but is so superior to steel that it has hung around. At the time however, no one knew a good way to produce bismuth and there were a few big hang ups with its use in waterfowling.

1) Cost to produce bismuth for shot shells was as expensive as tungsten.
2) The ability to produce "sound" shot was not available at the time. When sizes were increased over #5 shot the pellet would be come incredibly fragile and would shatter on impact without any penetration.
3) Due to this, the ballistic capabilities of bismuth was no greater, if not worse than steel.

Fast forward to 2014/2015. Kent had been working on new way to produce shot shell pellets of a bismuth alloy, which is what they are currently. Their ability to gather cheaper bismuth as a by-product of other commercial applications has helped reduce the cost of obtaining bismuth. Also, since the roll out of their bismuth line they have developed (and are currently under patent or will be soon) a way to create larger shot size (creater than #4's) that will not "explode" on contact. This allows the denser metal that bismuth is to actually apply its energy on contact.

The rule of thumb I have found after much testing is that your bismuth shot carries about a 2 shot size difference in energy than steel. That is, your #4 shot carries the same energy as a #2 shot steel. Granted, you may end up with larger entry wounds just due to shot size in steel, however, overall impact is greater in bismuth. Couple that with the increased amount of shot in a 2 3/4" #4 vs a 2 3/4" #2 then you have a much more effective round. The increase in powder and muzzle velocity in steel over the years has been the only way to produce a semi-lethal round. The issue is as many of you know, increase in speed doesn't equate to increase in impact energy. That is why you have so much "pass through" in birds from steel shot and does no good at increasing shot success. I have patterned the Kent #4's and #5's out of 15 different shot guns ranging from some old side by sides to an SBE 3. They seemed to pattern better that steel for me at about a rate 5% to 10% increase at ranges from 20 to 40 yards and then would decrease after that at a pretty significant rate. I barely take shots over 25 yards so I didn't have much to complain about in that regard.

Conclusion: Shoot bismuth, it puts the ducks down quickly and for good. Yes, it is more expensive than steel (much less than tungsten though) but figure this, if you shoot one steel shot shell to knock a bird down then 1-3 more as wounded shots at $1.25 a round how is that more beneficial than one shell at $2.25 a round? Plus, with lower amount of powder due to lower muzzle velocities you will be able to shoot these rounds from older weapons much more safely. This is a very much down and dirty synopsis but will be more than glad to talk to whoever has questions about it. Every person I hunt with has now switched over to bismuth and we will never look at steel shot again. I will end with the fact that if tungsten was cheaper, I would never look at bismuth again either.
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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby AvianAddict » Wed Jun 24, 2020 5:22 pm

Great in depth man, I really like shooting bismuth 4’s out of the 20. I still do shoot steel depending on where I hunt. When it’s mainly woodies in a small hole steel 4’s are great.


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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby Noreaster » Fri Jun 26, 2020 12:06 pm

I was going to order a case of the Boss 2 3/4" #5s to try out this season
I see that they have an option for their new hot primer for $15 more a case

Rogers will only ship ammo to a FFL in Mass now, that's sucks cause I used to get my black cloud from them when they had sales on cases
It's legal to ship ammo to Mass but our lovely AG sends out threatening letters to companies to scare them.

I've been buying my pistol & rifle ammo lately from targetsportsusa in CT. Just have to submit a picture of your FID/LTC
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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby mawtrfowler » Fri Jun 26, 2020 1:36 pm

Timely revival of this thread, just patterned some boss 2 3/4" 5's last night. 30 and 35 yards out of a carlsons cremator long range. Switched to these mid season and they really do perform great compared to steel.ImageImage

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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby AvianAddict » Fri Jun 26, 2020 7:27 pm

Mawaterfower, those are some solid patterns! I shot boss 4’s out of the 20 most of last season and loved them. Nor’easter, boss shipped right to my doorstep. If not find an FFL close to home, it’s no big deal. I shipped 500 rnds of 9mm to a local FFL and he didn’t charge me anything.


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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby Noreaster » Sat Jun 27, 2020 10:16 am

AA, I said that Rogers sporting goods would only ship to a FFL now for any ammo sales in Mass
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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby james1981 » Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:41 am

I have been shooting kent bismuth no 4s and 5s for over three years now. I am very very satisfied with their pattern and killing power. It drops ducks dead. I like kent no 2s as they are very cheap for early season.
I have noticed the price of Heavy X is reasonable, I used it last season and was dropping geese very very effectively in BB and 2 sizes.
Bismuth is a great product, I especially enjoy kent shells vs Hevi brand as they are a better company in some regards. I think the marketing on shells like heavy metal is deceiving to hunters. Packing a no 2 shell with 2 steel and 4 hevi shot is very deceitful as the almost impart the same ballistics. The often also do not disclose their densities or falsely advertise them. Heavy X and Bismuth are essentially very very similar densities.
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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby Dog Tired » Tue Jun 30, 2020 6:53 am

i settled on kent bismuth 3" #5 for this coming season based on the above and my own experience with the shell. i'm sure boss and hevi x are great options but Kent won my money for availability (ordered from Rogers) and cost (less than hevi x, cant remember if its less than boss). the shipping thing was no factor to me as i'm in NC at the moment. speaking of NC, I see the steel vs bismuth question as a matter of specificity....when i'm fishing the salt down here I can use a catch all lure or a specific one to the conditions and species im targeting to achieve a desired result, much like a specific shotshell material and size/velocity combo for a large/small bird on a windy day or a super small pothole.

the answer is: it depends.
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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby james1981 » Tue Jun 30, 2020 7:51 am

I agree, Kent has won my money, but I wanted to be fair to try out the hevi x. I got them on sale for very cheap from midway a few years ago. I usually load them up on bigger water.

The kent 3 in no 5 drops big ducks, I dropped a mallard passing shot over head, stone dead hitting the water. It has won me over by far.
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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby AvianAddict » Tue Jun 30, 2020 8:51 am

I’ve used both boss 4’s and kent 4’s and they are both good. The only thing with kent is the use European sized shot so the size on the box is actually a half size off. So 5’s are 5.5’s etc. The price is almost identical between boss and Kent, I think roughly 2 cents difference per shot.


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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby nausetduckhunter8 » Tue Jun 30, 2020 12:07 pm

Correction. I just spoke with a rep from Kent and their bismuth shot size from 2's and larger are NOT made with the Kent proprietary alloy and/or their process. I apologize for that misinformation. They will be producing larger shot size with their process provided the market dictates the need in the future. I did not get an answer as to who's shot they were using for the year or two they used larger bismuth shot size. They will only be producing #3 or smaller at this time. I swear I'm not paid by Kent! Haha
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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby james1981 » Thu Jul 02, 2020 11:23 am

No 3 should be plenty for Puddle ducks and even geese...
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Re: steel or bismuth

Postby AvianAddict » Thu Jul 02, 2020 4:57 pm

James, I’ve been wanting to try the Boss 3’s for geese.


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