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Winchester Blind Side Waterfowl Shells

July 12, 2012
Bill Waugaman , Ohio Valley Outdoors

In the early 1970's, it was determined that waterfowl was being poisoned by lead shot they were ingesting through normal eating habits. As a test, steel shot was made available for the first time in 1974 to waterfowl hunters in New Jersey; in fact the shells were orange and marked 'experimental'. In 1991, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service passed a law banning lead shot for waterfowl. Ammunition manufacturers began getting creative to enhance the performance of steel shot or developed shot from other 'heavy' materials such as bismuth and tungsten.

----- Winchester Blind Side Waterfowl Shells

Winchester went the route of improving performance with Blind Side waterfowl shells. Blind Side shells are different from the Drylok Supreme shells primarily in two of the componentsthe shot and the wad.

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Blind Side Hex Shot and typical round steel shot

The steel shot is hexahedronal in shape. This shape is 6 sided (like dice), but with rounded edges and corners, and has two major advantages over round shot. First, the hexahedronal shape allows more shot to be loaded into a shell using the same amount of space because it packs denser than round shot. In other words, more pellets to hit the target. Winchester has tested their hexahedronal shot using ballistic gel; results show this shot shape does more 'terminal damage' than round shot.

To maximize patterning with the hexahedronal shot, a new wad had to be developed. The wad in the Blind Side shells utilize 3 diamond shaped petals that open up once the wad leaves the barrel. These petals effectively slow the wad down pulling it off of the shot load and allowing the shot load to stay together longer to improve patterning. In a typical wad that opens from the front, hexahedronal shot would disperse very quickly.

In cutting apart some Blind Side shells, the average shot counts were: 3" BB (99 in 1 3/8 oz.), 3.5" BB (119 in 1 5/8 oz.) and 3.5" #2 (206 in 1 5/8 oz). It is interesting to note that all three shells have the same muzzle velocity of 1400 fps.

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I tested 3 different Blind Side shells in a Mossberg 935 with a factory modified choke tube. Since the load weight and velocities varied substantially between manufacturers, performance comparisons with #2 shot were not feasible; the Winchester Blind Side 3.5" BB shot shells were similar enough to Remington NitroSteel 3.5" BB shot shells. Observations were based by taking the average number of shot holes in a 30" diameter circle from a series of targets.

BB ShotWinchester Blind Side 3.5", Remington NitroSteel 3.5"

Blind Side 1-5/8 oz. (119 count) 86 shot holes average (72% of load); variance of 15 (79 to 94); 13.9% PDL*

NitroSteel 1-9/16 oz. (110 count) 90 shot holes average (82% of load); variance of 19 (80 to 99); 14.5% PDL*

While the numbers may seem similar and the NitroSteel did a better job based strictly on the number of shot holes, the Blind Side was more consistent in the number of shot holes and did a better job of overall patterning even with fewer shot holes.

So, what's the advantage of using Blind Side shells over other brands?

-- consistency of pattern and less distribution loss

-- the hexahedronal shot has a more 'knock down' power than round shot

-- consistent muzzle velocities between Blind Side shells of different lengths, shot size and payload

-- the new Winchester Blind Side shells are comparably priced with other steel shot shells

When it comes to waterfowl hunting, shells loaded with heavi-shot, bismuth and similar shot materials are not worth the typical $3+ per shell as compared to steel shot at 80 to $1 per shell for me. That being said, I want to get every possible advantage using steel shot. My next hunt for ducks or geese will be the real test.

** Note -- The above results cannot be assumed as expected performance for other shotguns and chokes. It's always best to pattern your own shotgun using different chokes and shells to determine which combination works best for your specific needs.


*PDL (pattern distribution loss) - To evaluate how evenly the shot holes were distributed on a target (instead of just a visual observation that can be subjective), I measured the 3 largest circular areas on each target void of any shot holes inside the 30" test pattern (the 'how did I miss that bird???' areas) and compared this to the overall area. The lower this number, the better the pattern is distributed.


First Published December 2011



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