Duck and Goose bismuth shot

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megasupermagnum

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I would like to share my experiences in the past and present with using bismuth shot on waterfowl. I've been using this shot for a few years in breech loaders and muzzleloaders. I've tried all kinds of sizes from #6 up to #BB, and I've settled in now to where I have a pretty good understanding of what will and will not work. First thing is the pattern, and bismuth is just like lead. It loves choke, but that's not to say a cylinder bore cant work. I only mention this because steel shot, which is horrendous in a muzzleloader, is not effected by choke nearly as much, where bismuth can really tighten up depending on the choke. My own muzzleloader has both barrels choked improved cylinder, and it patterns about how you would expect, and it does the job. I've found the best bismuth patterns in a muzzleloader come from the same wads as lead shot. In my case I'm using two .100" thick card wads under the shot, and one over. All of my shot is 6%-7% tin alloy and bismuth, and I've had no issues with fracturing or deforming. Recovered shot has shown to be just about as round as when new, just tiny little dimples from other shot during firing.

All shotguns are a compromise of pattern and penetration. If you have more of one, you are limiting yourself. You want both your pattern and penetration to run out at the same distance. That is the dance I played trying to find what worked best. On the extreme end, beyond what you are likely to get from a muzzleloader, At 1300 fps, I found a #4 bismuth penetrated into the chest of a big duck (mallard, canvasback, etc.) up to about 55 yards. During about 2015-2018 I hunted with a lazer rangefinder every time, and verified to the best of my ability, the range they were shot at. 55 yards was also about the limit of the pattern for this... BUT this was with a full choked gun throwing great patterns. I found that #5 bismuth did not have the penetration needed past 50 yards, and #3 did provide a dense enough pattern. Now if we pull back somewhat, the load I'm shooting in my muzzleloader has a muzzle velocity of about 1000 fps. Last weekend I shot a mallard at about 40 yards, and I found the shot just under the skin on the far side. Today I shot a big Gadwall at about 30 yards, and it had the shot pass completely through the duck, meaning it came out the back side. I'm finding my pattern for this gun is limited to about 45 yards for the big ducks. This is with a 1 1/2 oz load of #4 shot, not a small bore load. I don't shoot 20 gauge at ducks, but my brother does. One of my favorite loads for that is 7/8 oz #5, and that is doing about 1175 fps. #4 does not have enough pellets for any real pattern at these light loads. #6 could work, but it seemed any duck outside of about 30 yards had the shot stop on the breast plate. #5 seemed to be the sweet spot, and penetration and pattern seemed good to about 40 yards.

Moving onto geese, most of mine have been shot with B size bismuth. In a modern gun shooting 2 ounce of B at 1275 fps, I found both the pattern and penetration are good to about 60 yards. In my muzzleloader, I tried lighter loads, but for a good pattern, I needed 1 5/8 oz, and I'm going to up that to 1 3/4 oz in the future. Patterns for these are good to around 40 yards. I tried B in a 20 gauge, and it is an abysmal failure. There's simply not enough pellets with the light loads. Now for the small shot sizes, I've only ever tried #4. Last weekend I shot 1 goose Saturday, and 1 Sunday. I shot 1 yesterday, and 3 today, all with #4 bismuth, not because I wanted to, but because that is what was loaded. There is a very clear pattern with #4 bismuth on geese, it's not good. Out of the 6 geese, only 2 came down dead, and they got hit in the head. 1 came down, and died less than a minute later. 2 were cripple's that needed a second shot. 1 was lost. As I said, the 2 that were DRT were hit in the head and neck, and there were probably only 20-25 yards away. The one that died quickly after was also close, about 20 yards. The two cripples were about 30-35 yards away. The 1 that escaped was a second shot from one that came down DRT. It was still only about 25 yards out, but at an angle so his head was obscured. I should mention both that were DRT were perfectly broadside, as was the one that died quickly. The 2 cripples were overhead shots. Upon cleaning them, the reasoning was clear, the #4 pellets are going through the breast, but being stopped by the breast plate. The two DRT had at least a couple pellets each resting against the breast plate bone, and were obviously killed by head shots. The Two cripples were the same, although one had a badly broken wing. The one that died quickly had a pellet find its way right up under the wing, into the main artery in the breasts. It also had a pellet against the breast plate, so it was lucky, otherwise it would have been a cripple.

That's a lot of anecdotal stories, but one thing seems to remain true, they all work out relatively well in KYP's shotshell ballistics software. I've tried with with steel as well, and it is fairly consistent that their calculated "gel penetration", 1.25" goes into large ducks, and 2.25" goes into geese. It's worth noting that this is almost identical to what other people have found over decades. It isn't that the calculated "gel penetration" really means anything, it's just a standard we can go off of. #4 bismuth at 1000 fps is estimated by KYP to get 1.25" at 46 yards, almost identical to what I've found is lethal in the real world for ducks. Now if I do #4 bismuth at 1000 fps, but do 2.25" for geese, its only 13.9 yards. No real surprise there. As I said, it is all a balancing act. There are people who believe in big and slow, and light and fast, and both can work. If we speed that #4 up to 1200 fps, which is about the limit of what you are going to see from a muzzleloader, we see the lethal range goes up to 21.6 yards, still not very good. I've already shown that 1 5/8 oz of B size works, and it calculates to 45 yards. For the light and fast crowd, 1 3/8 oz of #1 at 1200 fps is comparable. If you are willing to give up range in trade for less recoil, 1 1/8 oz of #2 at 1200 fps will penetrate to 35 yards, and has about 113 pellets, which you should be able to have a usable pattern to 35 yards with that.

The same thing can be applied to ducks. #4 at 1000 fps is 46 yards, while #5 at 1200 fps is 44 yards. Along with that 1 1/2 oz of #4 is about 231 pellets, while only 1 1/4 oz is needed to exceed that with a #5. While on the subject of heavy vs fast, lets touch on recoil. If we assume the same gun, lets compare 1 1/2 oz at 1000 fps to 1 1/4 oz at 1200 fps in an 8 pound gun. I get 53 ft lbs for the 1 1/2 oz, and 53 ft lbs for the 1 1/4 oz. Identical. So we have identical recoil, identical pellet counts, and identical penetration, within reason of course. So why do people take different approaches? I would imagine most of it is experience and comfort with what you know. Here is why I choose to always lean towards heavy payloads at lower velocities. #1 is the pattern. People obviously get the faster loads to pattern well, but day in and day out, I get the slow and heavy loads to pattern better, and with less work. #2 is wind drift. This is hardly ever talked about, since it rarely matters to a lot of people. As a waterfowl hunter, I see some crazy strong winds. I've taken shots at cripples on water, meaning steady aim at a bird on the water, and had the entire pattern visibly hit feet to the side of the bird due to the crosswind. If we use the ballistic software from CTmuzleloaders, I'll try and illustrate this point. This program is tuned for lead, but this applies to bismuth, or steel, or any other shot type. Not in the actual numbers, but in that a larger shot bucks wind better than a smaller one, although the difference is not huge. I see no advantages to the light and fast approach myself, but that's just me.
 

ebutch

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This is great information! I am still thinking about toting my uncles Pedersoli out for a duck hunt. Right now, I am using #2 bismuth shot, throws a pretty good pattern at 30 yards.
Be interested in reading more about your duck and goose hunts. Thanks for sharing all your findings, and good luck this season
 

megasupermagnum

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I had a less than ideal day, but it could cumulate into an amazing tomorrow. It seems I was off the X, way off the X. I did get two ducks though. Two beautiful shoveler drakes, one shot each. They were crossing right in front of me, and were farther than I thought. The first one wasn't that far, maybe 30 yards, but the second shot he must have been back in the flock, because when I walked over to the spot I shot him, it was all of 45 if not 50 yards. No matter, both folded up, and landed feet up. These were very big shovelers, about like a young mallard size. The far duck took 4 pellets to the body, and at least one to the head. As far as I can tell, 3 of the 4 pellets went all the way through the duck. I did recover one pellet on the far side, right up agains the skin. It's quite amazing how effective #4 bismuth is on ducks, yet completely ineffective on big canada geese.

Later in the day I got a single shot at a pheasant at about 35 yards. He went down, ran about 10' and died. It looks like 4 pellets went into the chest, none came out. This was a rather steep angle of a shot, not broadside shot at all.

What I did find though, is we have got a huge amount of blues and snow geese, and I have a front row seat to where they were eating. Tomorrow morning, hopefully I'll have a report back on some light geese. The gun is currently loaded with #4 bismuth, so I'll take at least two shots at them with that. Afterwards, I may switch to B shot depending on how it goes. Snow geese are right between Canada geese and mallards for size, so I really don't know how it will go. If they are coming in close, sub-30 yards, it will probably go really well.
 

megasupermagnum

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Well I laid an egg yesterday on snow geese. I started off with no decoys, as I have no snow goose decoys. The first few waves had them landing in the next field over, about 150 yards past the property line I had permission for. I then set out all my honker decoys, about 75, a mix of silos, socks, and floaters I use as fullbody. This did nothing for the snow geese, who continued to land in the next field. I set up right on the property line hoping for passing shots, but no luck at all. They absolutely will not fly below about 100 yards in the sky until they are spiraling right on top of where they want to land.

I did manage to knock off a couple of honkers with B shot, which while the patterns are not that good, inside of 35 yards, they are quite effective on big geese. I had the right barrel loaded with #4, and the left with B. Luckily both honkers only needed a single shot. I did have a flock of pidgeon come by, and a single shot with #4 brought down two pidgeon.

Late in the day I did an evening duck hunt, something I rarely do. I set up on a favorite spot, an old non-connected river section. I'm not sure of the proper term. It's a section of what used to be a river, about 20-30 yards wide, and about 1000 yards long. There are also a bunch of open water pockets the ducks can land in. I set up in that channel, and the ducks cruise right down the middle. I ended up getting 4 greenwing teal until sunset, when legal shooting stops. As I was loading decoys, hundreds of teal were dropping in farther down.
 

megasupermagnum

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For whatever reason, this gun really loves #4 bismuth. I'm not complaining. For some strange reason, it does not seem to like B shot at all. My modern 10 gauge loves the stuff. I've tried a number of wads and shot charges. The only thing else I want to try is using cream of wheat as a shot buffer. Other than that, I may just have to write if off as a lost cause, or keep shots close. Even at 35 yards, the bird had better be perfectly broadside. 30 yards being a better number for sure kills. If it patterned %wise like the #4 does, the stuff would work great to 45 yards.
 

megasupermagnum

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Well, no sandhill crane to speak of. I'm not sure where they are, but I can't find them. I did get into some good ducks and geese today. I picked this spot hoping to intercept a tundra swan, but they all skirted the decoys. I must have had to watch 50 pass by me today. Oh well, I'll try a different decoy spread tomorrow, and hope they come closer. I did end up with a decent haul. I got a specklebelly, which is very rare for me. This one came in with a flock of canada geese for some reason. I also got a beautiful canvasback drake. A flock of greenwing teal came in, and I got two with one shot. The other was pretty ugly, they were a little close apparently. I must have put 15 pellets in that ones breast. The pictured one wasn't too bad. After the picture another flock of canada's came in, and I completely whiffed the shot. I ended the day jump shooting a mallard.

The specklebelly, which is about the size of snow goose, I shot at around 25 yards with #4 bismuth. I got most of the shot in the head and neck with obvious hits, I also got two in the breasts. Both pellets went through the breasts, and into the chest, so good news there. The canvasback was a longer shot, 40-45 yards, and I got 3 pellets of #4 that went into the chest on that. All day I had the second barrel loaded with #B, waiting for a canada, or ideally a tundra swan. I upped the load to 1 3/4 oz, and used cream of wheat as buffer. Surprisingly, using this as buffer dramatically tightened the patterns to something usable. I have yet to count pellets, but I have no worries about a tundra swan under 40 yards now.

A picture as requested. I'm not sure if I said anything, but over the summer I messed with gun fit. I added a Shockeater recoil pad. I think it actually looks good, it's leather, made in the USA, and comes with multiple inserts to adjust LOP. I then needed to raise the comb. Normally I use moleskin, but they did not have any that day. Instead I got this 3M blister tape, and it seems to do the same thing. This gun has seen a lot of shooting this season. I went through 10 pounds of #4 bismuth, this is the only shotgun I've used this year. I'm going to continue that.

IMG-20211030-141554542-HDR.jpg
 

caswelldon44

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I would like to share my experiences in the past and present with using bismuth shot on waterfowl. I've been using this shot for a few years in breech loaders and muzzleloaders. I've tried all kinds of sizes from #6 up to #BB, and I've settled in now to where I have a pretty good understanding of what will and will not work. First thing is the pattern, and bismuth is just like lead. It loves choke, but that's not to say a cylinder bore cant work. I only mention this because steel shot, which is horrendous in a muzzleloader, is not effected by choke nearly as much, where bismuth can really tighten up depending on the choke. My own muzzleloader has both barrels choked improved cylinder, and it patterns about how you would expect, and it does the job. I've found the best bismuth patterns in a muzzleloader come from the same wads as lead shot. In my case I'm using two .100" thick card wads under the shot, and one over. All of my shot is 6%-7% tin alloy and bismuth, and I've had no issues with fracturing or deforming. Recovered shot has shown to be just about as round as when new, just tiny little dimples from other shot during firing.

All shotguns are a compromise of pattern and penetration. If you have more of one, you are limiting yourself. You want both your pattern and penetration to run out at the same distance. That is the dance I played trying to find what worked best. On the extreme end, beyond what you are likely to get from a muzzleloader, At 1300 fps, I found a #4 bismuth penetrated into the chest of a big duck (mallard, canvasback, etc.) up to about 55 yards. During about 2015-2018 I hunted with a lazer rangefinder every time, and verified to the best of my ability, the range they were shot at. 55 yards was also about the limit of the pattern for this... BUT this was with a full choked gun throwing great patterns. I found that #5 bismuth did not have the penetration needed past 50 yards, and #3 did provide a dense enough pattern. Now if we pull back somewhat, the load I'm shooting in my muzzleloader has a muzzle velocity of about 1000 fps. Last weekend I shot a mallard at about 40 yards, and I found the shot just under the skin on the far side. Today I shot a big Gadwall at about 30 yards, and it had the shot pass completely through the duck, meaning it came out the back side. I'm finding my pattern for this gun is limited to about 45 yards for the big ducks. This is with a 1 1/2 oz load of #4 shot, not a small bore load. I don't shoot 20 gauge at ducks, but my brother does. One of my favorite loads for that is 7/8 oz #5, and that is doing about 1175 fps. #4 does not have enough pellets for any real pattern at these light loads. #6 could work, but it seemed any duck outside of about 30 yards had the shot stop on the breast plate. #5 seemed to be the sweet spot, and penetration and pattern seemed good to about 40 yards.

Moving onto geese, most of mine have been shot with B size bismuth. In a modern gun shooting 2 ounce of B at 1275 fps, I found both the pattern and penetration are good to about 60 yards. In my muzzleloader, I tried lighter loads, but for a good pattern, I needed 1 5/8 oz, and I'm going to up that to 1 3/4 oz in the future. Patterns for these are good to around 40 yards. I tried B in a 20 gauge, and it is an abysmal failure. There's simply not enough pellets with the light loads. Now for the small shot sizes, I've only ever tried #4. Last weekend I shot 1 goose Saturday, and 1 Sunday. I shot 1 yesterday, and 3 today, all with #4 bismuth, not because I wanted to, but because that is what was loaded. There is a very clear pattern with #4 bismuth on geese, it's not good. Out of the 6 geese, only 2 came down dead, and they got hit in the head. 1 came down, and died less than a minute later. 2 were cripple's that needed a second shot. 1 was lost. As I said, the 2 that were DRT were hit in the head and neck, and there were probably only 20-25 yards away. The one that died quickly after was also close, about 20 yards. The two cripples were about 30-35 yards away. The 1 that escaped was a second shot from one that came down DRT. It was still only about 25 yards out, but at an angle so his head was obscured. I should mention both that were DRT were perfectly broadside, as was the one that died quickly. The 2 cripples were overhead shots. Upon cleaning them, the reasoning was clear, the #4 pellets are going through the breast, but being stopped by the breast plate. The two DRT had at least a couple pellets each resting against the breast plate bone, and were obviously killed by head shots. The Two cripples were the same, although one had a badly broken wing. The one that died quickly had a pellet find its way right up under the wing, into the main artery in the breasts. It also had a pellet against the breast plate, so it was lucky, otherwise it would have been a cripple.

That's a lot of anecdotal stories, but one thing seems to remain true, they all work out relatively well in KYP's shotshell ballistics software. I've tried with with steel as well, and it is fairly consistent that their calculated "gel penetration", 1.25" goes into large ducks, and 2.25" goes into geese. It's worth noting that this is almost identical to what other people have found over decades. It isn't that the calculated "gel penetration" really means anything, it's just a standard we can go off of. #4 bismuth at 1000 fps is estimated by KYP to get 1.25" at 46 yards, almost identical to what I've found is lethal in the real world for ducks. Now if I do #4 bismuth at 1000 fps, but do 2.25" for geese, its only 13.9 yards. No real surprise there. As I said, it is all a balancing act. There are people who believe in big and slow, and light and fast, and both can work. If we speed that #4 up to 1200 fps, which is about the limit of what you are going to see from a muzzleloader, we see the lethal range goes up to 21.6 yards, still not very good. I've already shown that 1 5/8 oz of B size works, and it calculates to 45 yards. For the light and fast crowd, 1 3/8 oz of #1 at 1200 fps is comparable. If you are willing to give up range in trade for less recoil, 1 1/8 oz of #2 at 1200 fps will penetrate to 35 yards, and has about 113 pellets, which you should be able to have a usable pattern to 35 yards with that.

The same thing can be applied to ducks. #4 at 1000 fps is 46 yards, while #5 at 1200 fps is 44 yards. Along with that 1 1/2 oz of #4 is about 231 pellets, while only 1 1/4 oz is needed to exceed that with a #5. While on the subject of heavy vs fast, lets touch on recoil. If we assume the same gun, lets compare 1 1/2 oz at 1000 fps to 1 1/4 oz at 1200 fps in an 8 pound gun. I get 53 ft lbs for the 1 1/2 oz, and 53 ft lbs for the 1 1/4 oz. Identical. So we have identical recoil, identical pellet counts, and identical penetration, within reason of course. So why do people take different approaches? I would imagine most of it is experience and comfort with what you know. Here is why I choose to always lean towards heavy payloads at lower velocities. #1 is the pattern. People obviously get the faster loads to pattern well, but day in and day out, I get the slow and heavy loads to pattern better, and with less work. #2 is wind drift. This is hardly ever talked about, since it rarely matters to a lot of people. As a waterfowl hunter, I see some crazy strong winds. I've taken shots at cripples on water, meaning steady aim at a bird on the water, and had the entire pattern visibly hit feet to the side of the bird due to the crosswind. If we use the ballistic software from CTmuzleloaders, I'll try and illustrate this point. This program is tuned for lead, but this applies to bismuth, or steel, or any other shot type. Not in the actual numbers, but in that a larger shot bucks wind better than a smaller one, although the difference is not huge. I see no advantages to the light and fast approach myself, but that's just me.
Where are u getting ur bismuth from Im barrowing a shot gun for opening day of October 1
 
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