Mountain hunting requires lightweight equipment, and for me that means leaving the 12 gauge at home. I’m a big fan of 20 gauges for upland hunting because I typically do a lot more walking than shooting. Those precious ounces I can shed by going with an ultra-lightweight 20 is welcome when I’m scaling a mountain at 10,000 feet.
Luckily you don’t have to give up a lot of muscle if you’re particular about what you feed your 20 gauge. Federal’s high-octane Prairie Storm shot shells are some of the hardest-hitting loads I’ve used, and I really don’t feel I’m at any disadvantage by stepping down to a 20 gauge.
Prairie Storm was built off the success of Federal’s Black Cloud waterfowl load, utilizing the company’s new FliteControl wad and FliteStopper lead pellets. Prairie Storm benefits from the same technology that’s proven effective on waterfowl—but has been specially modified for upland hunting.
By combining Premium copper-plated lead (70 percent) and nickel-plated FlightStopper lead (30 percent), hunters get improved downrange performance and edge-to-edge pattern consistency, which means fewer crippled birds. Federal’s FliteControl wad deploys “wings” that pop out in the rear once the wad is free from the shotgun barrel, which creates drag and pulls it back away from the shot column, resulting in loads that open up early for close shots but maintain pattern density downrange.
During our hike up the mountain, I got the chance to chat with Tim Brandt about the virtues of their premier upland offering.
Why do you think upland hunters have embraced the new Prairie Storm load?
I think hunters like this load so much because it offers something other shot shells don’t. The FliteControl wad is unique and works well when combined with the FliteStopper shot. As an avid bird hunter, I know we have days when we shoot well—and other days when we miss “easy” shots (and I know you and I have shared both in the field). But PS really does give us an advantage. The consistent patterns and specially designed shot make a difference in the number of birds in our vest at the end of the day. I know late last season I was trying to use up some random shells— and could really see the difference when I loaded Prairie Storm.
These are essentially high-octane shot shells. What is it about Prairie Storm’s design that makes it so lethal?
Sure, PS is fast. But what makes it so deadly is the FliteControl wad/ FliteStopper shot combination. If hunters haven’t tried it yet, I encourage them to take it to the patterning board. They’ll see the difference. Not only does it pattern well, but it maintains its speed (thus energy) downrange because of the rear-braking FliteControl wad system. Add to that the perfect mix of FliteStopper and Premium shot.
Tell me about the guy who spends the extra buck for high-quality shot shells and why.
We hope it’s because they see the value in spending extra money on the one thing that actually “connects” with the game—and in most cases is the least expensive part of the hunt. If you’re after two or three birds per day, you’ve traveled a long way, are carrying your favorite Benelli shotgun, wearing the latest gear, have paid an out-of-state license fee and maybe even paid a guide—the cost difference in high-quality ammo vs. standard ammo is very minimal. But the performance difference is noticeable. Prairie Storm translates to more birds for a few extra dollars.
With the growing popularity of the 28 gauge, does Federal have any plans to expand Prairie Storm to include the 28 gauge?
I love the 28—especially in that sweet semi-auto Benelli we shot. But for now, we won’t be offering a Prairie Storm option. We do have great bird and target options for that gauge though—including our Field and Range Steel and Premium Wing-Shok lead loads.