Ammo Review: Winchester Long Beard XR Turkey Loads

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When Winchester announced their new Long Beard XR turkey loads a couple of months back, they made a very specific claim about their latest galliform gouging shells. Thanks to their new Shot-Lok pellet packing idea, they claimed that their shot stays rounder coming out of a smoothbore than standard loose-packed loads. But they didn’t stop there. They also claimed that because of Shot-lok, Long Beard “offers the tightest patterns and longest shot capability of any lead turkey load in history—with twice the pellets in a 10” circle out to 60 yards compared to traditional lead loads.” I’m no ammo reviewer. I’ll leave blending batches of ballistic gelatin, examining shot deformation and measuring penetration distances to experts like Shooting the Bull. But when it comes to an easily verifiable claim like “twice the pellets in a 10″ circle,” I’m just the idiot to give it a try.

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And there you have the secret to Long Beard XR’s purported success. Shot-Lok’d shot. The wizards of Winchester don’t just plop their pellets into a shell with some powder and a wad like everyone else. Where’s the fun in that? Instead, they had a better, V8 forehead-slapping epiphany. Like an insect preserved in amber, they decided to encase their shot in resin. Picture your aunt Joan’s banana grape Jell-o surprise that she brings to Thanksgiving dinner every year and you’ll get the general idea.

But why, you ask? What does petrifying copper-coated lead shot do? Well, when the primer goes bang and the powder goes boom, the resin shatters and the resulting residual powdered resin forms a protective barrier around each pellet. No really. Winchy says that accomplishes two things; 1) it keeps their shot from clanking around, knocking into the wad and becoming deformed before it leaves the muzzle of the gun, and 2) the resultant rounder shot means tighter, more accurate patterns.

One of the first things I noticed about the Long Beards is their size. Since the rounds they sent me are apparently early runs meant for testing and evaluation purposes, they let it be known they’d prefer I didn’t photograph them because they hadn’t been tube-stamped like the stuff you buy over the counter will be. Normally I would, of course, have complied with their request. So let me first convey my deepest apologies to everyone in the greater Alton, Illinois area for the following photos.

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I had to include this shot because, as you can see, the Long Beard shell – these are all #4s – is, well, longer than competing 3″ loads by Remington (1/8″) and Hornady (3/16″). The extra length is apparently necessary to accommodate the volume of the Shot-Lok resin, a fact that may interest only me. I can hear you mumbling a question at your screen and no, I had no trouble at all cycling any of the rounds tested through my 3″ chambered scattergun.

And then there’s the crimping. Winchester isn’t closing the top of the shell on a bunch of loose shot when they manufacture Long Beards. Instead, they pour the resin in, then some shot and let things set. So rather than using a traditional crimp, Winchester pops on a solid plastic top with channels molded in to allow it to split when fired. You have to figure this non-conventional process not only costs more, but takes longer too and is reflected in the retail price. More on that later.

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Anyway, Winchester kindly sent three flavors of Long Beard (and some species-appropriate targets) for me to try, numbers 4, 5 and 6. So to put the new wunder-loads to the test, I bought two boxes of competing turkey loads in each size for a steel cage ballistic death match.

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Ammo in hand, I packed up my trusty Mossy 930 along with a shiny new Trulock turkey choke and traipsed out to the Busch Shooting Range in Defiance, Mo. to take advantage of their patterning range. Read ‘em and weep:

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#4 at 20 yards, Long Beard (L), Hornady (C), Remington (R)

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#4 at 40 yards, Long Beard (L) Hornady (C) Remington (R)

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#5 at 20 yards, Long Beard (L) Winchester (C) Remington (R)

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#5 at 40 yards Long Beard (L) Winchester (C) Remington (R)

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#6 at 20 yards, Long Beard (L) Hornady (C) Remington (R)

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#6 at 40 yards, Long Beard (L) Hornady (C) Remington (R)

Again, Winchester says their tighter pattern/more shot in a 10″ circle claim holds out as far as 60 yards. The bummer is the range I was using only goes out as far as 40 yards. Still, I think the results are good enough to draw some conclusions.

My first takeaway is, if I ever actually go turkey hunting, there’s no way in hell I’m buying any Hornady Heavy Magnum Turkey loads. Whether my particular gun/choke combo doesn’t like them or because they’re just awful, it’s obvious that – especially at longer distances – the Hornadys just don’t put enough pellets on the target. And yes, I’m aware that the Hornadys have a little less shot (1 3/4 oz. for the Long Beards vs. 1 1/2 oz. for the Heavy Magnums) but that small difference doesn’t account for how amazingly sparse the Hornady patterns were at 40 yards.

But back to the real story. To test Winchester’s claim, I needed to tote up the number of hits. Given how tight the patterns were for all the rounds at 20 yards, I figured that counting the shot on the 40-yard targets would be the most meaningful. Just about anything you feed your smoothbore ought to kill ol’ Tom at 20 yards.

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I selected the best-performing competitor at each shot size. And to compensate for my sometimes questionable aim, I drew my own 10″ circle from what appeared to be the center of the pattern on each target. Then I gridded them out, took off my shoes and socks and commenced to counting. Here’s what I came up with:

 

Long Beard XR

Remington Premier Magnum

#4 at 40 yards

94

83

Long Beard XR

Winchester Super-X

#5 at 40 yards

135

74

Long Beard XR

Remington Nitro Turkey

#6 at 40 yards

220

120

Now if you look at my pathetic #4 target at 40 yards, above, you can see that I probably didn’t give the Long beards a fair shake. Translation: I barely hit the side of the barn on which the target was hung. So I’m thinking it’s fair to throw that one out. Be that as it may, based on the results for the #5 and #6 targets, sure enough, just about twice the Long Beard pellets hit my 10″ circles compared to the competing loads.

And that’s not all. While I didn’t tote up the hits on the 20-yard targets (all the hits look lethal as hell), check ‘em out, above. The #4 and #5 targets show clearly tighter, more giblet-perforating patterns than the competitors. The only load where the Long Beard was bested was the #6 at 20 yards. The Remington Nitro Turkey clearly looks to have done better at that distance. Though as the 40-yard comparison for the same ammo shows, the Long Beard XR was almost twice as good as the Nitro at the longer range.

So what does all this mean? I think it’s fair to say that Winchester’s claim that their Shot-Lok’d shells make for tighter groups at longer distances – more holes in your gobbler – isn’t just a load of marketing malarkey. If you plan on lying in wait to blast your own Thanksgiving dinner this year, a box of Long Beard XR loads seems like a good way to go. But what will this new exotic round run you?

For reference, I bought all of my competing ammo on line through Cabela’s. Here’s what it cost me before shipping:

Hornady Heavy Magnum Turkey #4 – $13.99
Remington Premier Magnum Copper Plated Turkey Loads #4 – $15.99
Winchester Super X Magnum Turkey #5 – $10.99
Remington Hi-Velocity Magnum Copper-Plated Turkey #5 – $15.99
Hornady Heavy Magnum Turkey #6 -  $13.99
Remington Nitro Turkey Loads #6 – $9.99 each

Cabela’s price for 3-inch Long Beards is $18.99 so you’re definitely looking at more bucks for your bang for the new stuff. But if that means a better chance for a clean kill at greater distances, a few extra samolians seems a small price to pay.

Specifications:

Gauge: 12
Length: 3 inches (3 1/2 inch loads available, too)
Sizes: #4-6
Loads: 3″ – 1 1/2 oz. (3 1/2″ – 2 oz.)
Price: 3″ – $18.99 (3 1/2″ – $22.99)

 

Ratings (out of five stars):

Pattern: * * * * *

In almost every case tested, the Long Beard XR loads clearly resulted in tighter, more lethal patterns, particularly at longer distances.

Value: * * * *

Yes, they’ll cost you more for a box of ten shells than competing copper-plated loads. But unless you’re sure you’re going to be shooting from almost bad breath distance to your would-be dinner, the Long Beards give you a better chance of making a clean kill.

Overall * * * * 1/2

Again, I’m not a turkey hunter. And even with the Long Beard XRs, I’m not sure of the ethical advisability of pulling the trigger if you’re 60 yards away. But given the fact that judging your distance out in the bush can be tricky, as long as your aim is true, Long Beards would seem to give you a better chance at a clean kill than any of the other brands I tested. Save the dark meat for me.

43 Responses to Ammo Review: Winchester Long Beard XR Turkey Loads

  1. avatarAnonymous says:

    PETA

    People Eating Tasty Animals.

    Especially Turkeys.

  2. avatarpwrserge says:

    That actually looks rather amazing. I wonder if the same tech can be applied to 00 buck or 000 buck?

    • avatarOddux says:

      Why would you need 00 or 000? Kyl… errr… Dmitri says birdshot is the way to go for self defense.

      • avatarpwrserge says:

        Dmitri is a moron. 00 buck is the lightest shot you want to use to stop two legged predators.

        • “00 buck is the lightest shot you want to use to stop two legged predators.”

          Actually, while 00 is the most common, it’s not really the most effective. #1 buck, when done right, hits a pretty much perfect blend of shot size, penetration, and tissue damage. 00 buck from a 12-gauge still manages to overpenetrate quite a bit (25″ in gel in my testing, where 18″ is considered the max). #1 buck is a little smaller, gives more surface area (from having more pellets), damages about 30% more tissue than 00, creates more wound paths, and doesn’t overpenetrate (it hits the perfect zone of 14-18″).

          Of course, it’s also quite difficult to find a good anti-personnel load of #1 buck, only Federal makes it (part #LE132-1B), and there’s not much point in arguing because 00 is extremely lethal, so if #1 is “more lethal than extremely lethal”, er, what’s the point in deader than dead?

        • avatarAccur81 says:

          I’ve still got patterning targets for several different buckshot loads from 5-15 yards. They are all 00 buck, and they perform in a noticeably different manner, with the Mil-Spec green rounds being the worst.

          Whatever you use, I strongly recommend patterning it before you load up for self defense or hunting.

    • avatarJim R says:

      Don’t see why not, though I’m not sure how effective it’d be with a shot size that large.

    • avatarHasdrubal says:

      Federal makes a good buckshot for that, look up “flight control. ” Keeps the shot from leaving the wad too quickly, gives you nearly double the effective range.

  3. avatardlj95118 says:

    …Newbie here – why are turkeys traditionally taken with shotguns versus rifles? I understand people take rabbits (usually much smaller than turkeys) from greater distances with rifles. So, why shotguns for turkeys?

    • avatarpwrserge says:

      Depends on the rifle. The problem is that a shotgun will do too much tissue damage to keep a rabbit edible. A turkey has as a lot of mass that is not vital and it’s much harder to get a humane kill with a rifle when you’re shooting at what’s basically a sack of feathers. (Or so I was taught anyway.)

      • avatarIng says:

        Secondhand info only, but I’ve heard that with turkeys you want to aim for the head/neck to get a clean kill (in the ethical and the dinner-table sense). Given that it’s such a small target, you need the spreading pattern of a shotgun to make sure you deliver a lethal hit.

    • avatarMark N. says:

      Because hunting regulations in some states simply do not allow you to do so.

    • avatarRambeast says:

      As others mentioned, multiple projectiles make for a “clean” kill without ruining the meat to be harvested. Now a lot of people can hit the 2-3″ area necessary for a head shot at distance, but turkey hunting is traditionally done at ground level. Firing a rifle at ground level without a reliable backstop can make for tragedy.

      I know a guy that hunts turkey with a .22, that ba$tard is one hell of a shot…and only 7 years old. BTW, he took his first deer at 5.

    • avatarColby says:

      For my purposes, whether I use a rifle or a shotgun depends on whether I’m actually “turkey hunting” or if I’m just going to go kill one for some dinner.

      If I’m taking the time to enjoy the sport of turkey hunting I’ll get my shotgun and calls and camouflage and go sit out and enjoy the sunrise while trying to call one to within effective shotgun range. But the success rate with that method is considerably lower than when using a rifle.

      On the other hand, if I’m driving to the ranch and decide I might wand some fried turkey strips for dinner, or if I’m deer hunting, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll see a flock of turkey on my way up the driveway within rifle range. I have shot many a turkey with a .243 or a 22-250 and I have had never had a turkey run away afterward, but that isn’t to say a rifle is always more effective than a shotgun for every user or that it is a better tool in any regard. Rifles just get the job done for me, and that’s all I can say about that.

      The rifle just gives me more opportunities at longer ranges, so most of my turkey kills have been with a rifle. However, using a shotgun creates a handicap that helps me enjoy the sport a lot more. My shotgun turkey kills are all memorable events in my life. The rifle kills-not so much.

    • avatardlj95118 says:

      …hmmm, well all that makes sense.
      Thanks everyone! *8)

  4. avatarJim R says:

    You have to pay for better quality. I wouldn’t shoot trap or skeet with them but if I wanted dinner, I’d pay the money for the better shells.

    I just wish I could go after the big suckers that live in the woods behind my house. Sadly I am in a subdivision and there’s a school behind those woods, so that would be incredibly unsafe and HIGHLY illegal.

    I swear to God the biggest one must be 20+ pounds. The dog treed it last week. Ever see a turkey fly? It’s like watching a fat kid run a 100-yard dash. Funniest thing I’ve seen in weeks.

    • avatarjwm says:

      Funny as hell. Was on my way to my gold panning spot driving on 80 when turkey decided to fly from one side of the highway to the other. He realized after he launched himself from the small rise on one side that he wasn’t high enough to clear all the traffic.

      Disney could not have made a funnier cartoon than that fat bird trying not to get splattered. He made it. But I’ll bet he’s suffering from PTSD as a result.

    • avatarRokurota says:

      Are airguns legal in your neighborhood?

    • avatarAdam says:

      And this is why God made bowhunting. You don’t have to worry about a stray arrow going through the woods and hitting the school, nor do you have to worry about a concerned citizen calling the police because of gunfire.

      Although bowhunting requires calling them in a bit closer.

  5. avatarrca_cajun says:

    TN Outdoors 9 has a giant video library of ammo tests and he is also very objective in his testing.

    Check him out for great ballistic tests. http://www.youtube.com/user/tnoutdoors9

  6. avatarLJM says:

    And George Trulock makes one helluva a choke. Great products, and I’ve made some outstanding shots on Pheasants, Ducks and Geese with their tubes.

  7. avatarJimbo says:

    The Hornady ammo box explicitly states that the ammo patterns best with an IC or Mod choke due to the versatite wad. I’d be curious to see the results if you had followed the directions properly… Not really a fair shake.

    • Huh. I didn’t notice that little advisory on the end of the box. To be fair, I’ll do a follow-up and shoot them again with a modified choke. Thanks for the tip.

      • avatarJimbo says:

        I realize in re-reading that, the tone I may have conveyed was unnecessary. Apologies. Thanks for looking into that. A box that I had bought has the warning. Maybe yours did not? At any rate, thanks for patterning some high end turkey loads for us.

  8. avatartravis m. says:

    typo: And that’s not all. While I didn’t tote up the hits on the 20-yard targets (all the hits look lethal has hell),
    It should read (all the hits look lethal as hell) not has hell.

  9. avatarlarry weeks says:

    Walking along a thick fence row while deer hunting and flushed a turkey, not 10 feet away. Sounded like a B-52 taking off! I pointed my traditional caplock muzzleloader at him and thought about taking the shot. Big and slow, should have been easy. But, I figured the second I did a 12 point buck would have popped up. I was suffering from PTSD after that!

  10. avatarMatt in FL says:

    Nice review, Dan. Thanks.

  11. avatarSoutherner says:

    Looks like the Roll Crimp is making a comback! I noticed Dan did not use the term roll crimp. I trust Winchester did not prohibit the use of that term. After all the industry spent a lot of money promoting the fold crimp back in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

    As for using the resin technology with buckshot – it just might work and the roll crimp will give more room for a larger pellet load

  12. avatarSamuel Suggs says:

    I look forward to the day I can enjoy a thankgiving dinner I hunted myself.

  13. avatarDan Stahlman says:

    Thanks for testing the new XP’s. I am looking for a new shell now that Winchester has stopped making the Supreme Elite shells which were the best shells I have ever found. They cost a bit more but did they ever deliver.

  14. avatarPaul says:

    Sorry I’m late to the party, but I have to second the recommendation to retry the Hornady loads with a lighter choke–as well as any Federal FliteControl products whose caps you pop. I’ve patterned both their buck and duck offerings, and the wads frequently perform best with little to no choke, based on their closed font end and how they “rear-brake” in flight. Pushing them through a modified or full (and certainly a turkey) choke is guaranteed to defeat the technology you just paid a premium for.

  15. avatarDouglas says:

    I shot several loads today and the XR’s did the best I put 43 pellets in the head at forty and 18 at 60 yards that was with the 3in. #5 and I used a kicks gobbling thunder .665 choke the only other shot that did that was mag blends and they did the exact same but cost 35 dollars for a box of five vs $20 for a box of ten XR’s

  16. avatarJamie says:

    The reason the Hornady loads patterned so terribly, is the choke you were using. Their Versatite wad, much like Federal’s Flite Control wad, isn’t made to be choked down with a tight choke. Shooting a tight(full or tighter) is exactly what you’re NOT supposed to do with that wad. They are made to be shot with a modified-ish choke. Even says so on the box. Over constriction causes blown patterns. Plain and simple.

  17. avatarebowen says:

    Thank you for doing this comparison of shot shells. I bought the Winchester xr shells in 3 inch #5′s today at Cabelas. They are truly an advantage to turkey hunters. I wonder if other companies follow suit with the liquid buffer. The Drury Boys have an interesting experiment with them as well on you tube.

  18. avatarBrian says:

    Now, if only Winchester would make the XR loads for my 10ga!

  19. avatarRyDaddy says:

    Anybody have a problem with them? In my first bit of testing myself, the resin didn’t hardly break up; I punched a 1″ hole through the turkey target at 50 yds like I had fired a deer slug, with a couple stray pellets that did break off, maybe a half dozen, scattered about.

    Is it my choke or gun combo? Its a Rem 870, I couldn’t even tell you what the choke is, I’ve never changed it from the factory piece when I got the gun in, oh, about 1991. :)

  20. avatarDan says:

    Very interesting. I would fire a question off to Winchester about this. There’s nothing wrong with your 870. Only thing that might have happened but its reaching is if you had a improved cylinder choke in you gun maybe (and I mean maybe) there wasn’t enough constriction to break up the sleeve. My Granddaughter shot a Tom Last week with a longbeard #5 at 35 yards with a 665 Kecks and hammered it. Other than this I don’t have a clue what WENT WRONG.

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