Waterfowl Loads: Spectra Shot Review

Waterfowl Loads: Spectra Shot Review

Spectra ShotThe debate over who makes the best waterfowl load is never-ending. And when Spectra Shot enters the conversation, the most common reaction from veteran hunters is "oh, that's the colored stuff, right?" And if you've never shot Spectra, you might think the affordable color-coated shot a little odd, but let me tell you, these loads are devastating on birds.

WILDFOWL editors reported that on an early-season hunt in Saskatchewan, the 12-gauge hulls were hell on Canada geese. Randy Hill of Hard Core Decoys, killed several honkers at an honest 70 yards with 3-inch, No. 2s. The big birds fell belly-up into the cut peas, feet paddling in the wind.

So even though I wouldn't have the chance to try the loads on ducks (waterfowl season had not yet arrived in my neck of the woods), I was excited to test Spectra's new 20-gauge offering. I was able to static test the loads and get in a few close-to-home dove shoots. I also have extensive knowledge of Polywad Inc., the company that engineers Spectra.

The loads I received were 3-inch, No. 4s with a 191 pellet count and 1-ounce payload. Test loads contained a single unitized gas seal and protective wad body that ran the full length of the plastic hull. Polywad loads a massive number of prototypes for the industry, and are a state-of-the-art customized load operation.



I shot the Spectra non-toxics on my home test range in the Black Hills of South Dakota at 3,000 feet of elevation. They printed an average of 80 percent with a full choke, and 63 percent with a modified tube at 40 yards with Mossberg's Silver Reserve side-by-side. Patterns were uniform and retained an even spread.

The full choke pulled in a central core that indicated some added range if required. The steel shot was doing exactly what it was designed to do — staying round, flying tight, and producing enough energy (1,350 fps at the muzzle) to get the job done. With a terminal velocity of 620 fps at 40 yards, penetration was adequate, but pushing No. 4 steel beyond this distance with a muzzle velocity under 1,400 fps could prove risky. At 2.04 feet/pounds of penetration, the load has sustainable knock-down power.

Western South Dakota was overrun by Eurasian-collared doves five or six years ago and they have taken hold. Since the non-native species are about the size of a pigeon, and at least as tough, it was a perfect opportunity to test Spectra. Over the course of a three-day shoot, I dispatched a few of the monster doves, going through 62 rounds of ammunition. Recoil was light to moderate, easy for a small-framed youth or woman to control.

Now for something different: If you want to see exactly how this colored shot patterns, go to YouTube and search for "Spectra Shot night shooting." Spectra used black lights, making the colored BBs glow, and the video shows how a column of shot runs in a string downrange, versus a large circle, or cone of pellets.


The pellets fly like a long stick of shot, and scatter in all directions when they hit a clay bird. The shot column becomes thicker or wider as the range extends, and my belief is when the energy falls below 600 fps, the string starts to fall apart, causing more cripples.

Even with a number of tracer shooting aids offered in the industry today, this black-light system is outstanding because you can see the performance of the shot. Now we just need to get more trap and skeet ranges to roll out night shooting. Spectra's ability to glow in the dark could set off a major controversy (a good thing), showing what different types of  shot are doing in flight.

Spectra Shot CartridgesI remember back in the 1980s when ballistics experts were trying everything, including painting individual pellets different colors to see which pellets in the wad's payload control system reached the target first.


I have taken some heat for my views on the subject at times, but to say nothing would solve nothing. So I have included a quote from an Internet chat board regarding Spectra Shot's ability to glow in the dark. Though I almost never visit these sites, this shooter about says it all.

"The skeet shot boasts glow-in-the dark capabilities under black light. The illuminated fluorescent shot makes shot placement visible to the naked eye, revolutionizing skeet shooting and drastically reducing the discouraging learning curve inherent in the sport".

Pattern Board

Test 1: Modified choke at 40 yards

Shot             Pattern

1                    58%

2                    69%

3                    61%

4                    48%

Average:       63%

Test 2: Full Choke at 40 yards

Shot              Pattern

1                     71%

2                     83%

3                     87%

4                     69%

Average:        80 %

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