When the folks at Winchester called to invite me down to East Alton, Ill., home to Winchester’s legendary NILO Farms, last October, they said they wanted to introduce me to a new type of non-toxic waterfowl ammunition, one they assured me would be quite eye-opening. Little did the men realize just what an understatement they’d made.
At first glance, Winchester’s new Blind Side appears to be just another 1-3/8-ounce steel load housed in a black hull with a silver base. Even the advertised velocity – 1,400 feet per second (fps) – isn’t out of the ordinary; however, once the technicians began describing the new load in detail, it quickly became apparent that this non-toxic offering was something unique.
To fully understand Blind Side, let’s break a single shotshell down internally, component by component. The first noticeable difference is the shot itself; not your traditional round pellets, but rather hexahedrons – six-sided cubes of zinc-plated steel. The technicians explained there are two primary reasons for the unusual shape.
Next, you need to see the wad. For several years now, shotshell manufacturers have been experimenting with radical new wad designs, as they apply to non-toxic applications. Many waterfowlers are familiar with Federal’s FliteControl (FC) wad; a rear-braking cup that distinguishes itself through increased pattern densities at longer yardages. Unlike the FC wad, the Blind Side cup sports three diamond-shaped cuts on the aft (forward) portion of the wad proper.
Upon leaving the muzzle, the diamonds open and flex rearward, slowly separating the wad from the Hex Shot charge, but not before remaining with the charge long enough to ensure consistent patterns downrange. Interestingly, the Blind Side wad is a two-piece unit made up of the cup and a second hinged, base upon which the cup and charge sit. Because the Hex Shot creates room inside the hull otherwise occupied by pellets, more space now exists for this hinged wad. This contributes to pressure reduction, increased velocity, and reduced perceived recoil.
Blind Side is loaded using Winchester’s proven Drylock system, a sealing process that serves to keep both the powder charge and the primer watertight. Two formats – 3-inch, and 3-1/2-inch – are available, those in 1-3/8 ounce and 1-5/8 ounce loads, respectively, and containing either #2 or #BB Hex Shot in black hulls. Blind Side hit the shelves in June 2011.
True to Winchester’s claim, Blind Side does appear to respond to different choke constrictions quite accurately. Percentages – and, yes, we did take the time to count several rounds for an average – confirmed modified to print as approximately 63 percent; full tubes accounted for roughly 73 to 75 percent of the #2 Hex Shot pellets in the 1-3/8 ounce load into a 30-inch circle at 40 yards.
Overall, I was impressed with the ammunition’s performance on the range at measured distances from 25 to 45 yards – actually, quite impressed, and this including multiple penetration tests using ballistic gelatin. Consistency and uniformity were two common denominators I witnessed throughout the pattern tests, and these, again, at 25, 35, and 45 yards.
We shot surprisingly challenging mallards at Nilo, and while I can say the Blind Side performed well, I can’t say its performance was radically better than that of other quality steel loads, e.g. Winchester’s Super-X Steel, running at comparable velocities. I did notice birds hit squarely were – or so it seemed to my eye – undeniably dead, and very dead at that, in the air; however, I did see a small number of drop-legs, i.e. crippled birds, which required a follow-up round. Inconclusive, I’m thinking, as gunners will see identical and time-to-time multiple-hit scenarios with any of the modern steel shotshells on the market today.
Curious as to Blind Side’s claim of “massive wound channels…and blistering trauma,” I watched as engineers field-necropsied several of the mallards dropped during the morning’s shoot. While there was certainly no denying the birds were indeed dead I really couldn’t tell much difference internally between a mallard killed by Blind Side, and one tagged by a similar charge of round steel pellets. That’s internally, mind you.
While hunting on Utah’s Great Salt Lake I, and some hunting partners, noticed Blind Side’s tendency to “pillow case” birds. I’m assuming it’s the shape of the Hex Shot that cuts feathers quite impressively; the resulting clouds of drifting down, primaries, and body feathers is very noticeable.
But cutting feathers and killing ducks – consistently killing ducks dead in the air – are two radically different things. Does Winchester’s newest designer non-toxic waterfowl load do both? Yes. Does Blind Side do it better, i.e. more efficiently, than a comparably quick 1-3/8 ounce charge of steel #2s? At this point in my testing, I can’t unequivocally answer in the affirmative; not, however, until I’ve had a chance to shoot the new offering side-by-side against traditional steel. And I’m very much looking forward to that experiment.
Until that happens, Blind Side is a definite unique alternative to that Same Old Steel Syndrome. Every little bit helps in the duck blind.
This article appeared in the October 24, 2011 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
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