March 30, 2016
Old-time hunters will recall Browning was briefly in the ammunition business during the late 1970s. They'll also recall the "power rating" on those boxes, which attempted to guide selection by the range of the expected shooting distance.
Loaded on the cheap, it never caught on with hunters.
But Browning's new BXD Waterfowl shotshells are the antithesis of that old ammo: quality (commensurate with that of Browning firearms) was the first rule in designing and charging these new shells.
Loaded by Winchester, the new ammo relies on quality components, some specially-developed that we'll get to in a minute, while remaining affordable. Ben Frank, Browning ammunition's brand manager, stated emphatically, "Browning ammunition is not a re-packaged Winchester product."
I spent two unproductive days in Utah trying to shoot some ducks with this new offering. Funny to a point, our other group hit ducks both days while we went duckless.
The cases are distinctive black in 12-gauge with the iconic Browning trademark stamped in gold along with the shot size and weight. The heads are brass-plated steel and also bear the Buckmark. The load I tested had a velocity of 1,450 fps, sufficient to ensure good clean kills with No. 2s to 50 yards.
The wad looks a lot like the one Winchester loads for Blind Side in some areas. But it is different. Colored a chocolate brown, its skirt is intended to expand like the brakes on an airplane's wings. And the shot cup is not slit in the conventional sense.
The Browning wad is slit into six panels, each of which bulge as it moves through the air, adding to the wind resistance and stripping the wad from the shot. Exactly when the shot separates from the wad is a question mark, but the wads recovered during pattern testing flew within a few yards of the 40-yard target.
Conventional wisdom has always been to shoot more open chokes with steel shot, hence skeet or improved cylinder for ducks and modified for geese. Not so with BXD Waterfowl. In fact, the box recommends, "Works best in modified, improved modified or full chokes."
Frank said with the style of wad there were variances in point of impact with open chokes, but the tighter three provided both the friction to begin wad and shot separation and also steadied the shot column for proper accuracy.
During the first split of Maryland goose season I put the BXD Waterfowl line to the test. I prefer BBs for Canadas, but No. 2s within reasonable range work fine, and indeed they did. The birds were close, but using a Trulock Super Waterfowl Full, kills were impressive.
Back at the range, I shot a series of patterns with Trulock chokes that provided exact constrictions in my Remington Versa Max of .010 for IC, .020 for Mod, and .030 for Full. The results were surprising.
The IC provided 60 percent patterns at 40 yards, the Mod 59 percent and Full 63 percent; I'd call that a tie! What I did find though, was a couple of patterns from the Mod and IC showed some vertical stringing that came as a result of the longer shot retention in the shot cup.
It's a fact of life with shot-retention wads that on occasion there will be what ballistic engineers call "slinging," i.e. the shot cup and shot charge begin to oscillate and cause the shot to disperse in a side-to-side or vertical manner. In my case it was vertical with 26 pellets from the Mod choke outside of the 30-inch circle and 29 with the IC.
The slinging footprint was noticeable as a pattern of pellet distribution. Would this bother your shooting? No. In fact I'm sure if you put other loads using pellet-retaining wads to the test, they would sling as well. It is a fairly infrequent occurrence.
Browning BXD Extra Distance Steel
|Gauge||Length||Velocity (fps)||Shot Weight||Shot Size|
|12||3 ½||1,500||1½ oz||2|
|12||3 ½||1,500||1½ oz||BB|
|12||3||1,450||1 ½ oz||BB|