Federal 20 Gauge TSS Pattern
In the author’s 20 gauge Remington 870 with a Carlson .575” diameter turkey choke, Federal’s 1 ½ ounce load of 7 shot averaged 110 pellets in a 10 inch circle at 40 yards. photo by Phil Bourjaily

If you’re tired of lugging a 12 gauge through the turkey woods, but don’t want to give up power and range, Federal Premium’s Tungsten Super Shot may be the solution. It’s an expensive solution, but TSS turns a 20 gauge into the equal of most 12s. The way hunters have been lining up to pay $6 and $7 per shell, you’d think Tungsten Super Shot kills a turkey, cleans it, cooks it, and does the dishes after dinner. Not quite, but TSS is impressive stuff. One of the most impressive advantages over lead is the way it elevates smallbore turkey gun performance. Tungsten Super Shot, loaded by ammo giant Federal—as well as little guys Apex and the Nitro Company—is made from a tungsten-iron alloy blended to a density of 18 grams per cubic centimeter, much denser than any other pellet (lead is about 11.3 g/cc), and almost as dense as the 19.1 g/cc depleted uranium used by the military for armor-piercing ammunition. Tungsten is a scarce, expensive metal, and the price of raw materials drives the price of the ammunition, hence the TSS price tag.

The denser the pellet, the better it retains energy and penetrates. That means small TSS pellets hit like large lead pellets. You can shoot smaller shot with TSS, and since there are more small pellets to an ounce than large pellets, you increase the overall amount of shot you’re sending downrange.

Nine shot, normally used only for close range clay targets at skeet in lead, makes a potent turkey pellet in TSS. It gives you the energy of lead 5 shot (my personal favorite for turkeys) with a much higher pellet count. TSS 7 shot approximates the pellet counts of lead 5 shot, yet has even more penetration energy than lead 4s.

What it Means for Smaller Bores

This spring I’ve had a chance to shoot limited amounts of TSS, as ammo companies have sold all they can make, leaving not many Testing and Evaluation samples for the likes of me. Nevertheless, from what I have seen, 12 gauge TSS amounts to overkill at reasonable turkey hunting ranges. Honestly, unless you want to shoot turkeys at 60 plus yards, you can do as well with lead out to 45 yards as you will with TSS.

In 20 gauge and even in .410, it’s a different story.

Federal Heaveyweight TSS 20-gauge shells are available loaded with #7 and #9 shot.
Federal Heavyweight TSS 20-gauge shells are available loaded with 7 and 9 shot. mfg photo

At The Range

A 20 gauge hull holds plenty of appropriately sized TSS pellets. Seven and 9 shot are the main choices. Since 9s are the hot commodity this spring, I was only able to get 7s to try out, although I’ve tested 12 gauge 9 TSS. And, there are no flies on the 7s, either.

In my 20 gauge Remington 870 with a Carlson .575” diameter turkey choke, Federal’s 1 ½ ounce load of 7 shot averaged 110 pellets in a 10 inch circle at 40 yards.

I’m in agreement with people who believe 100 holes in a 10 inch circle is a good benchmark number, and I’ll allow 90 as enough to kill a turkey. That makes my 20 gauge into a genuine 40 yard gun, and I suspect if I underestimated range by a little bit, the 7s would still kill the turkey cleanly. It slightly outperforms my Mossberg 835 12 gauge gun loaded with its favorite Winchester Long Beard lead 4 shot.

Federal keeps the velocity of these 1 ½ ounce loads down to 1,000 feet per second, which is very slow. That’s a feature, not a glitch with this ammo.

Dense pellets like TSS retain energy very well and don’t have to be boosted to high velocities to be lethal downrange. At the same time, lower velocity means lower recoil, and that’s important when you’re shooting a light gun.

The worst thing about 20 gauge TSS, besides paying for it, is finding it. That’s the tricky part. Killing a turkey with it will be no problem at all.

The Heavyweight TSS Lineup in 5-shell boxes:

Gauge Length Load MSRP
12 3 ½-inch 2 ¼-ounce, 7 shot $49.95
12 3 ½-inch 2 ¼-ounce, 9 shot $49.95
12 3-inch 1 ¾-ounce, 7 shot $44.95
12 3-inch 1 ¾-ounce, 9 shot $44.95
20 3-inch 1 ½-ounce, 7 shot $35.95
20 3-inch 1 ½-ounce, 9 shot $29.95
.410 3-inch 13/16-ounce, 9 shot $29.95