Old School, High Tech: Federal Premium 3rd Degree Turkey Ammo

To load its innovative 3rd Degree Turkey ammunition, Federal Premium had to re-engineer a half-century-old machine
To load its innovative 3rd Degree Turkey ammunition, Federal Premium had to re-engineer a half-century-old machine to custom-build the shells. The photos below show various stages of the manufacturing process. Here, a shell hull gets its logo.author photo

Anyone who liked Mike Rowe’s former show “Dirty Jobs” or who is a fan of the Discovery Channel’s “How Stuff Works” obviously likes to know the story behind today’s products. I certainly do. So when I toured Federal Premium’s ammunition factory in Minnesota recently and saw that Federal’s new, cutting-edge turkey load is made on machinery that’s a half-century old, I started asking questions.

3rd Degree hulls ready to be filled.
3rd Degree hulls ready to be filled.author photo

As this old warhorse of a machine churned out shells, J.J. Reich, a public-relations specialist for Federal's parent company said, "Yeah, we had to go old school to make this hi-tech load. We needed a machine that would load each of three stages of shot. New CNC machinery does marvelous things, but for this stacked combination of shot, we had to engineer this old machine to build our 3rd Degree."

Federal Premium unveiled its 3rd Degree load for turkey hunting earlier this year. It's an innovative payload with shot optimized for close shots, medium-range shots, and long-range shots, all in one.

3rd Degree shells on the packer machine.
3rd Degree shells on the packer machine.author photo

Three different sizes and types of shot are stacked. The front of the shot charge (20 percent of the payload) consists of No. 6 Flitestopper lead pellets, which, due to their circumventing band (and thus non-spherical shape), quickly expand the pattern. (Anyone who has missed a turkey at close range because of a tight pattern and moving turkey head will appreciate these pellets.) Next, comprising 40 percent of the payload, are No. 5 copper-plated lead shot. To the rear, the last 40 percent of the shot charge consists of No. 7 Heavyweight shot. Heavyweight shot is 35 percent denser than lead, so it retains its spherical shape during setback and while traversing the bore and choke; as a result, it helps to maintain a tight pattern at long-range. So basically this load doesn’t compromise; it’s the best of everything.

Still that machine intrigued me. To load these shells, Federal had to invent a customized process and train people to turn over an ancient machine. It’s pretty cool what American manufacturing still does.

3rd Degree shells rolling off the line.
3rd Degree shells rolling off the line.author photo