- October 31, 2016
- Doug Howlett
Think coyote hunting and most hunters think wide open terrain and flat-shooting rifles. But in the choked timber stands and thick swamps of the Eastern half of the United States, predator hunting can, like turkey hunting, be a close quarters game; and nothing works better in close quarters than a scattergun. Here, calling coyotes often translates into the predators sprinting in from the cover, providing just seconds to get off a shot before they realize what is going down. In such situations, making a precise aim can be tricky. Delivering a shot with a little spread is helpful. In fact, in such situations, a shotgun with a hard-hitting pattern is almost necessary. It was for these hunters, Winchester introduced Varmint X Shot-Lok loads.
Few game species require tight patterns like a wild turkey. With thick breasts and heavy feathers, turkeys are well protected from shots to the body, especially at distance. That makes shots to the small head and neck area essential, and a load capable of delivering a tight pattern to that area downright critical.
For many years, and even now with most loads, the generally accepted maximum range for taking a shot at a turkey was 40 yards. Even with advances in nontoxic, alloy shot options that tout a host of performance improvements have done little to push performance much beyond this mark. Sure, hunters have succeeded at shooting turkeys at longer ranges, but to say shots at such distances can be taken reliably simply has not been the case.
With Winchester’s introduction of Shot-Lok technology, however, the game has changed. But first, what is Shot-Lok technology? Shot-Lok is the honey-like resin poured into the wad just prior to the load of copper-plated lead pellets. The resin hardens upon drying, filling any gaps or air around the pellets, ultimately turning the load into a solid mass. This hardened resin protects the pellets from deforming when setback forces are unleashed at the pull of the trigger. Most often, the sudden forward motion of the load causes the shot itself to crush backwards, much like your head and body when sitting in an accelerating rollercoaster. This force typically leads to the deformation of pellets at the rear, pellets, which fly differently through the air and can create ragged holes in patterns.
Shot-Lok protects rear pellets from deforming, but at the same time fractures as it travels down the barrel. Pellets exit the muzzle as a single mass that flies truer and farther. While hunters should always test each load before hunting with it, Shot-Lok has allowed most hunters to make reliable shots out to 55 and even 60 yards.
Shot-Lok for Predators
Next up for Shot-Lok was a dedicated load for wild flying pheasants, tough birds in their own right. And right behind them, a predator load utilizing the technology just made sense. Winchester’s initial Varmint X Shot-Lok offering in 2016 came in the form of 3-inch shells loaded with 1½ ounces of plated BBs. They leave the barrel at around 1,300 fps and are designed for effective, yet deep-penetrating patterns out to 40 yards—the perfect distance for predators and varmint hunters in any hunting environment with a lot of cover.