Skip to main content

Spectra Shot 20-Gauge Load Review

spectra_fOver the past several years, I have twice lost a band on a coin toss. Not just a run-of-the-mill band, but one from an Atlantic brant and the other from a speck. If I'd had some Spectra Shot, I might have been able to claim both. On other occasions, hunting next to Joe Blowhard, who claimed every difficult shot, a quick necropsy would have revealed the true dead-eye.

Spectra consists of standard steel pellets, coated with a proprietary color — blue, green, orange and yellow — that does not rub off or shatter when fired. Apparently, the folks at Spectra have been submarined by a few too many shot claimers too, and decided to do something about it: Issue everyone a different color, and let the knife determine who shot what.

Though I am a firm believer in the Nash Buckingham doctrine, "Don't send a boy on a man's errand," (i.e. stick to the 12-gauge), there are times when a smaller-gauge will do the job. Women, youngsters, and those of us older hunters who have had various parts replaced, often need to back off the firepower.

Spectra loads a 3-inch 20 with 1-ounce of shot, so I decided to give them a whirl at the patterning board (our season was still a ways from opening). My shotgun of choice was the Benelli Cordoba, designed for high-volume dove shooting, it's a basic Benelli 20-gauge with a ComforTech stock, ported barrel, lengthened forcing cone and a couple of other bells and whistles.


I shot a Briley Light Modified choke at 30 yards and then the Benelli Crio Modified at 40. The 30-yard LM patterns were impressive with an average of 83 percent of the 189 pellets inside the 30-inch circle. There was some central thickening with 55 percent of the pattern within the center 22-inch ring and 27 percent in the outer ring.


By dividing the pattern into these concentric rings, there are two equal size areas to compare results. What impressed me was the evenness of the patterns across the 30-inch circle. Not many ducks or geese could fly through these killer patterns and survive.

The Modified choke at 40 didn't fare quite as well. Not surprisingly, the additional 10 yards contributed to the thinning pattern. There's an old wives' tale that small-gauge patterns are smaller in diameter. Not true, but they are thinner due to the lighter shot charge.

Our Modified patterns averaged 57 percent, just a shade below expected 60 percent Mod patterns at 40 yards. The outer ring had an average of 22 percent with the inner ring averaging 35 percent; again, quite even, but thin with several areas devoid of pellets, which is expected as yardages increase.

After 10 shots over my chronograph, the shells averaged 1,342 fps; darn close to Spectra's published 1,350 fps. Since steel loses energy fast, the maximum range is about 35 yards. At 40, the retained energy is right on the ragged edge of lethal at 2.19 ft/lbs.


Checking recoil with the KPY ballistics program, the 6-pound 8.6-ounce Cordoba's recoil velocity was 15.71 fps, and the recoil energy (what it feels like on your shoulder) was 26.08 ft/lbs. A 1,200 fps 1-ounce target load generates a recoil velocity of 14.76 fps and a recoil energy of 21.98 ft/lbs, which is one reason why 20-gauge duck loads are appropriate for those who are sensitive to recoil. Also, when the ducks are decoying close, all you need are open chokes and a small-gauge shotgun.

Take 'em as they come is still 12-gauge territory, but more and more hunters are eschewing heavy recoil when conditions allow.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Swedish Duck Hunt

Swedish Duck Hunt

Kevin Steele takes part in a family driven duck hunt in Sweden.

Arkansas Snow Geese

Arkansas Snow Geese

Wildfowl Editor Skip Knowles took this short video showing all the Snow Geese flying. Let's just say, he had a very good hunt!

Puppy Training Getting Started

Puppy Training Getting Started

Puppy Training Getting Started

Browning A5 Shotgun -

Browning A5 Shotgun - 'Gun Stories'

Gun Stories host Joe Mantegna talks about the origin and history of the Browning A5 shotgun.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Healthy weight is a moving target that you should aim for all season with your duck dog.Achieving a Healthy Weight for Your Duck Dog Retriever

Achieving a Healthy Weight for Your Duck Dog

Tony J. Peterson

Healthy weight is a moving target that you should aim for all season with your duck dog.

We found Migra's shells to be plenty capable of taking down ducks and geese. A Closer Look at Migra Ammo Ammo

A Closer Look at Migra Ammo

John M. Taylor

We found Migra's shells to be plenty capable of taking down ducks and geese.

We might not see anxiety or worry in our dogs, but it is there and can affect hunting ability. How Stress Affects a Dog's Hunting Ability Retriever

How Stress Affects a Dog's Hunting Ability

Tony J. Peterson

We might not see anxiety or worry in our dogs, but it is there and can affect hunting ability.

For a good aquatic intro for your pup, simply take it easy.Basic Water Training for Your Retriever Retriever

Basic Water Training for Your Retriever

Bill Gibson

For a good aquatic intro for your pup, simply take it easy.

See More Trending Articles

More Ammo

Consistency is what pushes today's shotshell makers to constantly improve new waterfowl loads11 Best New Shotshell Loads For Waterfowl Ammo

11 Best New Shotshell Loads For Waterfowl

Wildfowl Online Staff - August 17, 2017

Consistency is what pushes today's shotshell makers to constantly improve new waterfowl loads

Pressure, Payload and velocity. It's a delicate balancing act Remington has seemingly mastered withRemington HyperSonic Review Ammo

Remington HyperSonic Review

John Taylor - December 15, 2014

Pressure, Payload and velocity. It's a delicate balancing act Remington has seemingly mastered...

Waterfowlers are far more concerned with function than form, except maybe the Killer Waterfowl Loads and Chokes for 2015 Ammo

Killer Waterfowl Loads and Chokes for 2015

Bob Humphrey - August 26, 2015

Waterfowlers are far more concerned with function than form, except maybe the "form" in



They're small birds that buzz the spinners tight, sometimes swinging wide and landing close (ifKent TealSteel: The Real Deal Ammo

Kent TealSteel: The Real Deal

John Taylor - March 21, 2016

They're small birds that buzz the spinners tight, sometimes swinging wide and landing close...

See More Ammo

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Wildfowl App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Wildfowl subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now