Waterfowl Hunting: What You Need to Know About Steel Shot

Nontoxic shot has been required for waterfowl hunting since 1992. And more states are mandating its use in select areas for upland bird hunting—even for doves on some state lands.

During the past two decades, despite a plethora of nontoxic-shot types coming to the market—steel, bismuth, and tungsten composites—bird hunters have taken primarily to shooting steel shot. Steel currently makes up nearly 90 percent of all nontoxic shotshell sales.

While numerous denser-than-steel tungsten-­composite pellet loads have come on the scene, offering ballistic superiority over steel shot, their price point (generally two to three times higher than equivalent steel loads) has kept most wingshooters from embracing them. Because of material cost and low sales, most U.S. shotshell manufacturers are dropping tungsten-composite pellet loads from their lines. That means steel shot will likely remain king long into the future.

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