For a while now the go to recommendation for defensive buckshot has been some form of Federal’s 00 Flite Control loads. The king of the hill being the low recoil 8 pellet version (LE13300). It was pretty easy. Need your gun to shoot consistent, tighter patterns out to 25 or 30 yards? Just use 8 pellet Flite Control. Piece of cake. Now though, that recommendation probably isn’t as safe as it used to be.
I first heard of this particular load having issues from the Sensible Self Defense blog. He noted having issues with some 8 pellet Flite Control in the fall of last year. I took cursory note of it, but otherwise disregarded it as a fluke occurrence because it was the first I had ever heard of Flite Control of any type having significant issues. The Flite Control I had stacked in the closet had proven to be good to go anyway.
In January of this year we started to see more 8 pellet Flite Control hitting the shelves of online retailers, and I picked some up just to plus up the supply. I always test new ammo, and even though LE13300 should be good to go, it doesn’t get a free pass. My initial results were disappointing.
Not wanting to believe the worst, I blamed a gun and choke that had seen about 1,000 rounds since it was last cleaned and decided to retest after a thorough cleaning. Surely it can’t be the ammo. Retest after scrubbing the barrel and choke gave the same results. Switched to a cylinder choke and still the same results. Uh oh.
Thinking maybe something went wrong with that particular gun ammo, I tested the new batch of LE13300 in a different gun and the results were not just the same, they were worse. To make sure I hadn’t somehow screwed up my guns I patterned some spare 9 pellet Flite Control and the results were as to be expected. All 27 pellets from 3 rounds of LE13200 at 25 yards accounted for within a reasonably sized area with a couple fliers (because 9 pellet load).
I am hoping this is just a matter of a bad lot of LE13300, but I really have no way of knowing. It is reminiscent of issues I have observed from Hornady’s low recoil TAP load, which uses a similar style of wad. My best guess is the payload is not releasing from the wad correctly, and it is stringing pellets, or pushing a fair portion of the payload off target.
An e-mail to Federal has so far gone unanswered, and since I have patterned this ammunition a handful of times now, it is almost all gone anyway. I will badger them as best I can, but I kind of doubt I will get much out of them. I cut open one of the shells from the new batch just to see what I could see. I immediately noticed something odd with the rear portion of the wad. It was sort of collapsing back in on itself and had a very thin ruffled edge. This is not something that I have observed when dissecting older versions of the load, and suspect this is the culprit. Purely speculation on my part though.
I am not certain if this is a defect, or an actual production change made on purpose. The lot # for this specific ammunition is L007Q01-L008Q05. If you have LE13300 from this lot #, it would probably be prudent to give it a little extra attention when patterning. If you have other recently acquired LE13300, might be a good idea to check it too since we don’t know if this is an on purpose change or something else.
I hesitate to make blanket recommendations for LE13300 until I am satisfied it is just an issue with a single lot. The problems are significant enough in one of my guns that I am not certain a person wouldn’t be better off with just standard 00 buckshot. At least that is a little predictable, even if it is predictably bad. The lesson though should be don’t take a load’s pattern performance for granted just because you have had good experience with it in the past. Always check pattern performance anytime new ammunition is purchased, even if it is of the same load.