Federal 3rd Degree Turkey Shotshells

By Randy Wakeman

Federal 3rd Degree Turkey Shotshells
Illustration courtesy of Federal Premium Ammunition.

Federal Ammunition literature states:

As turkey loads have been engineered to pattern more tightly and reach farther, they have also become less forgiving at close range, leading to missed birds. 3rd Degree uses a multi-shot, three-stage payload and the exclusive FLITECONTROL wad to deliver forgiving, lethal patterns whether a gobbler is standing 10 yards out, or 50-plus. It is the most versatile turkey load we have ever produced."

Federal goes on to explain that their 3rd Degree turkey loads have, "20 percent No. 6 FLITESTOPPER pellets, 40 percent copper-plated No. 5 lead and 40 percent HEAVYWEIGHT #7 pellets." Although the description of this triplex load sounds gimmicky, the underlying reasoning is sound. A problem with the ultra-tight turkey patterns at the longest possible range is that they are a handicap at close ranges. Your ideal 50 yard load may be a comparatively dinky little fist of pellets at ten or fifteen yards.

Federal addresses this with the addition of the 20% Flitestopper pellets that migrate out of the pattern quickly. It works as promised.

The muzzle velocity of the 12 gauge, 3 inch, 1-3/4 ounce load is 1250 fps and the pellet count is about 339. This is significantly better than a 1-3/4 ounce load of #5 lead, which normally gives you about 298 pellets. It is a good enough load that you do not need a dedicated turkey choke inside of 40 yards. A Trulock Precision Hunter Improved Modified produces more pattern than needed at 40 yards or less.

If you want to reach out further you can use a tighter choke. However, for spring turkey hunting I have never needed anything past 40 yards, and a typical shot is closer than that.

Federal 3rd Degree is also available in 12 gauge, 3-1/2 inch, 2 ounce shells at 1250 fps MV and in 20 gauge, 3 inch shells with a heavy (for a 20 gauge) 1-3/8 ounce payload at a MV of 1100 fps. As with all Magnum loads, heavy recoil comes with the territory.

In both 12 and 20 gauge, 3rd Degree shells are packaged in five shell boxes. Needless to say, they are expensive compared to more conventional shotshells. For example, as this is written (Spring 2017) a five round box of 12 or 20 gauge, 3 inch shells sells for $15.49 online at Midway USA. This is $3.10 per round, not including shipping!

Federal has spent a lot of R&D time and effort on these loads and it shows. The goal was the most versatile, generally effective shell at multiple ranges and I'd say that Federal has achieved their objectives with 3rd Degree.

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Copyright 2017 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.