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American Rifle
Rifle Magazine
February - March 2005
Volume 40, Number 1
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 233
On the cover...
The Smith & Wesson Performance Center Model 629 Compensated Hunter is set up with a Burris 2-7x scope. The Model 629 Hunter features an 8.75-inch barrel and square butt stocks. Cover photo by Stan Trzoniec.
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The coyote is in trouble. It’s not that the death rate due to natural causes is escalating, but fatalities stemming from gunpowder poisoning will likely be on the increase.

I first got wind of this in March 2004. The voice on the phone was instantly recognizable – a good friend who hangs his hat in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “Brace yourself for some big news!” I was already braced, because Ed’s network is often a jump or two ahead of my jungle drums.

Our mutual friend, Jay Menefee, in his role as chief cook and bottle washer at Polywad, Inc. down in Macon, Georgia, had again been burning the midnight oil. This time around, Jay was not plotting against turkeys. This time it was a super-deadly load for predator hunters who find the shotgun more challenging than the rifle.

Working hand-in-hand with Environ-Metal, the Oregon-based company that gave us HeviShot, Jay had developed a 12-gauge, 3-inch load containing 50 pellets of T-size tungsten-nickel-iron that sizzle along at 1,325 fps and deliver patterns that are awesomely tight. What better name for such a loading than “Dead Coyote”? Believe me, point the gun right (either head or rib cage) and those crafty yodelers are going to drop in their tracks and never so much as quiver.

Within a few days of learning about the Dead Coyote load, a 50-round package landed at my backdoor. All other in-process projects were immediately shoved to the back burner. The first order of business was surgery; the cutting apart of a few rounds for a close look at the details of loading.

The white translucent hull is from Fiocchi, and it features a rolled crimp in conjunction with a transparent plastic overshot wad that is made to shatter on firing and not interfere with the payload on muzzle exit. Thirty-five grains of a fine-granule ball-type powder drives the shot charge, which is box-marked as weighing 1 1/2 ounces with a pellet count of 50. For my test loads, the count was 52 pellets, and the charges were overweight by close to 43.0 grains. And that’s no cause for complaint.

The one-piece plastic wad column is from Gualandi in Italy.   This wad is 48mm in length and has no integral crush section. For the Dead Coyote load, no insert wadding is used on the floor of the shotcup for cushioning. The wad’s exterior is designed with closely spaced circumferential ridges to reduce bore contact. The very same wad, by the way, is available for handloading from Ballistic Products and is cataloged by that mail-order vendor as the 50mm LBC (limited bore contact).

In itself, the LBC wad is a sturdy unit, and when the payload is packed with a spherical or polybead buffer (as it is for the HeviShot Ts), there is total bore protection with any of the harder-than-lead pellets. During my Dead Coyote pattern testing, I managed to recover nearly every wad, and the only damage (if it can be called that) was light pellet imprinting of the shotcup’s interior. In fact, the wads weathered the bore journey and choke squeeze in such good condition that in a pinch they could have been used again.

When you look at these HeviShot Ts, you’re in for a big surprise. Unlike the smaller pellet sizes that are anything but round, what you’ll see is a pellet with nearly perfect sphericity. That’s because the Ts are mold shot. Their surface is not truly smooth but slightly pebble grained. The average diameter for the 10 pellets I measured was .205 inch, and that places them in between a true T and TT size – in other words a half size larger than the U.S. standard of .200 inch.

The per-pellet weight averages out at almost 13.5 grains. That’s getting close to the weight of a lead pellet of F size, the actual difference being roughly 1.5 grains. Being harder than lead, however, these HeviShot Ts will likely give deeper penetration in animal tissue than F-size lead, assuming a matching velocity.

My pattern testing began with a Mossberg Super-12 autoloader, a gun for which I had a bunch of screw-in steel-shot choke tubes. The plan was to sort out the best constriction by firing two shots through each choke and then move on to five-shot tests at 40, 50 and 60 yards. But, alas, the Super-12’s trigger group came down with something akin to the West Nile Virus; the sear refused to move far enough to release the hammer.

I did fire a few rounds for pattern at 40 yards before the Super-12 became ill, and the efficiency ranged from 94 to 98 percent in the time-honored 30-inch circle, with an average of 38 pellets printing in the 20-inch core. This was with the Terminator choke tube – a light FULL giving .030 inch of constriction. In my opinion, outstanding performance!

I then turned to the big Browning O-U with 3 1/2-inch chambers and back-bored barrels (.740 inch), using steel-shot choke tubes (most being of the extended and ported type) that ranged in constriction from .020 to .055 inch. The effi¬≠ciencies ranged from a low of 63 percent with 20 “points” of constriction to a high of 93 percent with 55 “points.” The latter was a Clearview turkey choke. I was a bit apprehensive about running those big, hard pellets through a tube that tight, but I needn’t have been, because there was no sign of any damage. As I mentioned earlier, the shot charges are fully packed with buffer of the polybead type – a substance so slippery that the pellets can easily shift about and reposition when moving through the forcing and choke cones. Thus the possibility of pellet bridging is virtually eliminated. But make your own decision on the matter of choke constriction.

According to what I’ve been told, the metallurgical makeup of these molded pellets is such that they will fragment rather than ricochet upon striking a hard surface such as rock. But they will not fragment upon striking animal flesh, though they might do so on striking heavy bone. We will have to wait for the jury’s verdict on this matter.

It is inevitable that some goose hunters who pass shoot at extreme range will be giving the Dead Coyote load a try, hoping for some form of magic. The T-size pellets will retain enough energy to deeply penetrate large Canadas at 100 yards or more, no question about it. But when you start with only 50 or 52 pellets, pattern density over the long haul becomes almost nonexistent, and the very occasional kill, if it happens at all, will simply be a lucky happenstance.

If you have any doubt about that, just look at the nearby table that summarizes my pattern testing. Between 40 and 50 yards, the density loss amounted to 10 percent, and between 50 and 60 yards there was an additional loss of 13 percent. Even if the rate of loss doesn’t escalate but remains constant as the yardage increases, what will be left at distances of, say, 80, 90 or 100 yards? I think we all know the answer to that. Divine help will be very much needed.

The only justification I can see for the use of these outsize Hevi pellets on geese is when the wind is blowing at near-gale force. Pattern drift will surely be substantially less than with pellets of smaller size, but even then the shooting should be confined to reasonable, common-sense ranges.

Will there be other Dead Coyote loads coming on line? There is at least one that I know of – a 12-gauge 3 1/2-inch round. This one is on the drawing board as I write these lines, and it should be ready for the market by the time you’re reading this report.

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