December 15, 2014
Pressure, Payload and velocity. It's a delicate balancing act Remington has seemingly mastered with 1,700 fps HyperSonic, a super-hot non-toxic that cuts lead and delivers superior energy at the point of impact.
Prior to the advent of steel shot, hunters were content to shoot loads in the 1,200 to 1,300 fps range. The original 12-gauge, 3-inch magnum had a velocity of 1,350 fps while pushing a moderate payload of 1…œ ounces of lead.
Steel is about two-thirds as dense as lead, so velocities had to go up. Early steel was slow, too weak for geese and ducks. With better propellants, loads gradually pushed into the 1,400 fps range and on up to 1,600, displaying real killing power.
Then Remington unveiled HyperSonic.
The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Institute (SAAMI) is our national governing body, setting standards for firearm and ammunition construction and manufacture. One of the more important of these is ammunition pressure. But, the most important is service pressure — a shell that can be consistently fired in a shotgun in good working order.
The service pressure for the 2¾- and 3-inch 12-gauge is 11,500 psi and for the 3½-inch 12, 1,400 psi.
Remington's engineers came up with a clever way to keep pressures safe, yet deliver blisteringly-fast velocity. A law of physics states, if you double the volume, you halve the pressure. Remington accomplished this with the Xelerator wad, a …-inch long tube with a …›-inch opening at the bottom.
When the propellant is charged, the wad is then seated, filling this tube with powder. Upon ignition, the extra-hot primer ignites this small powder charge thereby pushing the entire payload forward, effectively doubling (or more) the volume of space. When the remaining propellant is lighted, pressures are kept within safe limits.
Hard steel pellets react better to being flung down the barrel at 1,159 mph than soft lead, but there is a trade-off in terms of patterning.
HyperSonic test patterns, shooting a Remington VersaMax with .215 constriction (modified) Carlson's choke, showed central thickening within the inner 20-inch circle, containing an average of 38 percent of the 59 percent of the pellets striking within our 30-inch circle. Twenty-one percent penetrated the outer ring.
We counted 84 pellets in a BB shotshell — normal pellet count is 89 — and a goose struck with this load would be very dead. The load specifies 1¼-ounce of BBs, and on the top of the deconstructed loads were several light plastic discs we presume to be space fillers put there to make sure the payload occupies every available bit of space, and ensuring the interplay between the crimp and initial ignition vital to the consistent performance of this load.
On the chronograph, the three-foot velocities were less than 1,700 fps. We shot on a warm 80-degree day and our average for five shots was 1,594 fps with the recorded high being 1,620 and low 1,561 fps. We were not in a laboratory, so our results might be challenged by Remington's engineers. But be absolutely certain, HyperSonic is lethal if you do your part. At 40 yards, the retained pellet energy is 9.81 foot/pounds, and you only need five pellets striking a goose with 3 ft/lbs each of energy to ensure a kill, so it's beyond enough.
HyperSonic is an excellent load for wildfowling, just don't let the high velocity go to your head and start stretching your barrel. Sure, this load has the capability to kill at extended ranges, but that doesn't automatically mean you do.
My Choke Tube Is Stuck!
I received a frenzied email from WF editor, Skip Knowles cursing a stuck choke tube in his Beretta A400. He went on to lament all the steps he had taken to try to get it loose. It took two men, a vise, a pipe wrench, a hammer, a 2x4, a broken choke wrench, soaking in solvent in the sun, a whole can of PB Blaster... A stuck tube is common. I've mutilated two that were seized in my wife's skeet gun.
We can prevent this problem first by using a good non-seize grease like Pro-Shot, or an auto lube like Permatex or other anti-seize grease. This stuff is nasty, so use latex gloves, and for that matter any time you clean guns.
If you get a stuck tube bathe it in penetrating oil, then heat the barrel lightly with a hair dryer to draw it into the threads, and let it sit.
Use the proper choke-tube wrench to try to loosen it. If this fails, a good solid rap with a mallet on the wrench may break it loose. Beyond this, whatever works, Vise Grips, pipe wrench, anything that will give you good leverage.
Lastly, occasionally loosen and re-tighten your tubes to keep them moving, and pull 'em out and relube them from time to time.