July 12, 2023
Fiocchi’s Golden Waterfowl Bismuth load is the newest, and deadliest, addition to the beloved Golden Waterfowl line from the Italian shotshell manufacturer. The terminal advantage that waterfowl hunters gain when using premium non-toxic shotshell alternatives such as bismuth or tungsten is undeniable. Their heavier density simply allows them to hit harder and subsequently penetrate and kill waterfowl more efficiently than their steel counterpart. Fiocchi’s Golden Waterfowl Bismuth loads are no exception.
What’s Behind Bismuth?
Bismuth was the first non-toxic steel alternative to arrive on the scene after the lead ban in the early 1990’s. With a density of 9.75g/cc, bismuth falls smack in the middle between steel (7.5g/cc) and lead (11.34g/cc), making it roughly 25% denser than the steel used in standard waterfowl payloads. Besides the increase in terminal performance, bismuth gives hunters one other noteworthy advantage. Due to its increased density, bismuth allows hunters to decrease their shot size and still achieve equivalent downrange energy. Decreased shot size allows for more pellets in the hull, and more pellets in the hull means denser patterns and more dead birds.
While the increased pellet density of bismuth was appreciated, it also came with a few setbacks. Shotshell gurus discovered that bismuth has a brittle quality to it that often leads to pellets breaking or fracturing before ever contacting the bird, thus diminishing their advantage over steel. During my pattern testing of the Golden Waterfowl Bismuth loads I paid close attention to the holes in my paper for any sign of fracturing pellets. Luckily, I found very few fracture holes and the load patterned remarkably well.
Testing It Out
WILDFOWL first tested the prototype Fiocchi bismuth on redheads and teal on the Texas Gulf Coast over a year ago shooting a Savage Renegauge, with lethal results.
“In fairness, the shots were not far because the birds were behaving nicely, and the #4s produced some awesome kills,” reports Editor Skip Knowles. “The new loads were tested next with the 3” 28 gauge #6s on flocks of pigeons in Colorado with the new Super Black Eagle 3, with predictable results. But one memory leaps out the most. It was a January duck hunt where a friend dropped a Central Flyway mallard that was quickly escaping. The bird fell hammer dead from high enough it must have bounced 4 feet in the air in the cut alfalfa. It was late season, and many heavily feathered quackers fell to the new load. Bottom line? It works.”
I patterned the Golden Waterfowl Bismuth loads at 30, 40, and 50 yards with my Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 with a Patternmaster Code Goose choke threaded into the end of the barrel. At 30 yards, not even a tweety bird could have slipped through, with a pattern density of 76% and an average of 153 pellet holes inside the 30-inch circle. The pattern obviously opened up a little bit at 40 yards, but still delivered a 58% pattern density with an average of 117 holes finding their way inside the 30-inch circle. While 50-yards is a stretch, and quite honestly, farther than I typically shoot waterfowl, the Golden Waterfowl Bismuth loads surprised me with an evenly spread, 41% pattern density, that I doubt even a teal would have been able to get through without multiple pellets finding their mark.
It is also worth noting that while I normally loathe pattern testing 12-gauge loads because recoil is readily more apparent when shooting paper compared to shooting birds, the recoil was far less than I expected. Especially for a load toting a muzzle velocity north of 1,400 fps.
Premium products come at a premium price, though. The question you have to ask yourself is what are you willing to pay for less cripples and more birds strapped to the lanyard? Using bismuth decreases the number of “cleanup” shells needed to finish cripples, which cuts into the “value” of steel loads. Fiocchi Golden Waterfowl Bismuth comes in boxes of 10 shotshells and can be found at most major retailers for around $26 per box in 12-, 20-, and 28-gauge variations.
There is no denying that premium non-toxic shotshell alternatives have created a buzz in the waterfowl world, and with good reason. Fiocchi Golden Waterfowl Bismuth loads are a proven deadly option for those looking to pack a little more punch to the blind on their next waterfowl adventure.