TSS (tungsten super shot) is dynamite on turkeys, but how does it potentially perform on bad guys?

Do TSS Shells Work For Home Defense:

  • Tungsten is denser and harder than lead.
  • It produces tighter patterns than lead.
  • It also flies further.
  • At 10 yards, Federal’s HeavyWeight TSS hits with 1,595 ft-lbs, but penetrated half of what Remington’s Ultimate Defense Buckshot did.

When I started to venture into the realm of TSS, I began to think about other applications for it besides turkey hunting. The first thing that always came to mind was home defense. Being pretty unfamiliar with TSS because I had not shot much of it at that point, I quickly formulated some assumptions about the overall performance of tungsten shot. As usually happens when we presume something too quickly, I was wrong.

For self-defense, comparing lead and tungsten is like comparing apples to oranges.

First, I figured it went without saying that tungsten shot would no doubt stop an aggressor as quickly as a load of lead, but I also assumed it would offer too much penetration and endanger others in home defense scenarios.

On the range, Federal’s HeavyWeight TSS load was compared to a conventional home defense round, Remington’s Ultimate Defense Buckshot. The Remington shell is 2¾ inches, shoots 1,200 fps velocity at the muzzle, and contains 8 pellets of 00 buckshot. The Federal HeavyWeight TSS is 3 inches, shoots 1,200 fps muzzle velocity, with a 1¾-ounce payload of No. 9 shot. Both rounds were fired on paper and into Clear Ballistic gel at 10 yards.

Here’s how it shook out:

While the Federal TSS round delivered a whopping 1,595 foot pounds of energy at 10 yards, the penetration was less than half of the Remington 00 buck. If you’re going to use your turkey shotgun for home defense, leave the TSS shells in the gun for this purpose.

The 3-inch No. 9 Federal HeavyWeight TSS shoots with a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps, and put 611 pellets in a 5-inch circle from 10 yards with an extra full choke (upper left). When used with an open bore (below), the pattern turns into a clean, single hole. Sound backward? It’s all about the relationship between the choke and the wad.
The 3-inch No. 9 Federal HeavyWeight TSS shoots with a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps, and put 611 pellets in a 5-inch circle from 10 yards with an extra full choke (upper left). When used with an open bore (below), the pattern turns into a clean, single hole. Sound backward? It’s all about the relationship between the choke and the wad.

Maybe the biggest lesson learned here was to NOT use the Federal Heavyweight TSS load in a defensive shotgun choked cylinder bore — in other words, no choke. The Federal TSS load, fired at 10 yards from a Mossberg 500 shotgun with a cylinder bore, produced a clean single hole, as if a slug had been fired. I believe this occurred because of the FliteControl Flex wad, which needs some form of choke to deploy so that it can separate from the shot payload. It would be very effective on intruders, but don’t miss!

Editor’s Notes: This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.


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