BOSS Bismuth Shotshells Review | The BEST Waterfowl Hunting Ammo?

October 28, 2022

Sometimes you find the perfect balance between performance and cost, for me BOSS copper plated bismuth shotshells are just that for waterfowl hunting. I bought my first BOSS waterfowl hunting shells almost two years ago and since then I have recorded 27 videos for my YouTube Channel testing patterns, ballistics gel penetration, recoil and other things with BOSS as the main ammo. 

I have evaluated BOSS Shotshells against many of the leading shotshells on the market like Kent Bismuth and Fasteel, Winchester Bismuth and Blindside, HEVI-Shot Bismuth, HEVI-Steel, HEVI XII, and many more, While BOSS has not won every test against every other duck hunting ammunition on the market, they have proven to have the best performance per dollar, in my estimation. 

Why BOSS?

I was rounding out a fairly disappointing waterfowl season where it seemed like none of the birds I shot were recovered. I knew I hit them, I had feathers across the water to prove it, but the steel shot I was using made me feel like I was firing saw dust out of my shotgun. It just didn’t have enough terminal performance to finish the job. I needed something better, and a friend tipped me off about BOSS. 

Within just a few minutes on their website I was thrilled at what I had found. But I had questions, many questions. So, I wrote to them and one of the actual owners of the company called me and we talked for hours on multiple occasions along with emails and text messages back and forth until I was satisfied and ordered my first few boxes with my own money. They had no idea I had a blog, or a podcast, and my YouTube channel didn’t even exist yet. I was just another customer. 

The Power Of Bismuth

So what makes BOSS Bismuth so great? First, it is the density of bismuth. Steel has a density of 7.8 g/cm3 while bismuth has a density of 9.7 g/cm3 depending on what its alloyed with. That makes bismuth about 25% denser than steel. Which mean every bismuth pellet is heavier and has more energy than steel pellets of the same size. So even at the muzzle of the gun, bismuth is going to have more power. This is not what makes bismuth so great though.

The bigger benefit is that because of the increased density, bismuth loses velocity slower than steel. So even if bismuth and steel leave the gun at the same speed, at 40 yards the bismuth is going much faster and it has more energy because of its higher density, so the power is multiplied.  Bismuth tends to have about 40% more power at 40 yards than steel.

Now steel shot makers try to compensate for this by raising the velocity and the pellet size. BOSS Bismuth leaves the gun at 1350 fps and many steel companies are pushing their steel loads to 1500 fps or more, in fact 1550 fps is not uncommon. However, because steel has such low density, it loses this velocity by the time it reaches its target.

The 3 sets of charts and graphs below illustrate how steel, bismuth and lead lose velocity after leaving the gun. When bismuth and steel are moving at the same speed, bismuth is already faster by the 10-yard mark. When steel stars out 150 fps faster, the bismuth has caught up to it at 15 yards. And when steel leaves the muzzle going a ridiculous 400 fps faster, bismuth still catches up at about 35 yards.  

So no matter how fast the steel is going at the muzzle, the bismuth will always be going faster at the 40-yard mark. And addition to having more speed, it always has more power because it is denser. Of course, lead does even better at retaining energy because it is denser still. But compared to steel, bismuth rules the day.

Now my testing also demonstrates that you cannot effectively compensate by just using larger steel shot. The below video test shows that #2 BOSS Bismuth has about 34% more ballistics gel penetration at 40 yards compared to steel #2 going 200 fps faster. But the BOSS Bismuth #2 also has 26% more penetration than steel BB shot going 200 FPS faster.  

So no matter how large you make the steel shot, you cannot beat the bismuth. And of course, the bismuth has more pellets because #2 will always have more pellets than BB. 

Copper Plating

The greatest features of BOSS go beyond its base material, however.  BOSS Patented the process for copper plating bismuth. I did a full article on this subject titled: Why Is Shotgun Shot Copper Plated? and you need to check that out. But in short, copper plating improves lubricity which improves patterns, velocity, and penetration to a small degree, while also potentially protecting the barrel.

Bismuth in general is able to deform on impact breaking bones and causing more damage than steel which is more prone to bouncing. Add the copper plating to the bismuth and you have multiple factors that increase lethality against ducks and geese and all winged game. Also, BOSS does make a copper plated tungsten TSS shell for turkey hunting call BOSS Tom, for which I also did a full review like this one.

Patterning

BOSS also engineers their loads to maximize performance with the average shotgun and choke tube combination, providing ideal and easy to tune patterns for short, medium, and long ranges. My many pattern tests put BOSS at about a 72% pattern density with a 3% +/- at 40 yards with a tight choke. Which is perfect for me, and most hunters.

Yes, other bismuth brands like Kent and Winchester use shot cups and wads geared for tighter patterns, up to 90% at 40 yards, but those are only ideal for long range hunting, pass shooting, and shooting at birds on the water at long range. They are too tight for normal ranges and need very open chokes to be effective at short range. BOSS comes tuned to pattern well for the average hunter and gear setup and is flexible for a variety of specialty applications. But if you want to shoot ducks on the water at 50 yards, Winchester and Kent Bismuth may provide some advantages with extra full chokes at excessive ranges. To each his own.

Cost Factors

BOSS Copper Plated Bismuth tends to be the most cost-effective bismuth load on the market. I have never seen another bismuth load cheaper in terms of cost per shell. And often prices fluctuate greatly for other bismuth brands based on demand and there may be price gouging.

BOSS’s prices are always stable because they only sell direct to consumer from their website. You can usually get free shipping if you order more than $100 of product, and I have teamed up with friends to share small orders in order to not pay for shipping. I am pretty much resigned to never pay for shipping on anything from anyone if I can avoid it. In my opinion, BOSS’s bismuth shotshells are the best balance of cost and performance on the market. 

Shot Sizes & Loads

BOSS is a direct-to-consumer ammo company that only sells through its website. Some see this as a disadvantage but they are thinking too narrowly. Because of this, BOSS is able to have more sku’s than any other duck or goose hunting ammo company that sells through stores. They have about 26 different combinations for 12 gauge alone. And they have another 38 options in 10-gauge, 16-gauge, 20-gauge, 28 gauge, and .410.  That is 64 options for different gauges, pellet sizes, payloads, etc. Whatever your desired shell is, they probably have it.  No one else on the market can touch their variety. 

And their specialty shell is the 12 gauge 2 3/4″ #5 with 1.25 ounces of shot. They recommend this as the best all-season option. It is the equivalent of the old standard lead waterfowl hunting loads of 2 3/4 #6 lead with 1.125 oz of shot.  Low recoil, high pattern density, and high terminal ballistic energy. In fact BOSS does not even sell a 3.5″ 12-gauge load. In their words it is totally unnecessary, “you cannot kill the ducks any deader” than you can with their 3″ 12-gauge shells. I couldn’t agree more actually, but then again I am the guy who produced the video: Why You Should NOT Hunt With 3.5″ Shotgun Shells.

Feild Tests

I do believe I have done more BOSS Bismuth field test videos than anyone else on all of YouTube, including BOSS themselves. I am not sponsored by BOSS or compensated in any way by them to do this review. I have just been a long-standing fan, and someone who is fascinated with their product and wants to test it against everything I can to learn more about it and how it really performs.  In fact, the reason I bought my first block of ballistics gel was simply to see how much better BOSS was than the steel loads I had been using. I just decided to record that testing because I thought others would be interested also.

I have ballistics gel tested and pattern tested BOSS Shotshells against many of their chief competitors who make steel, premium steel, bismuth, and tungsten alloy waterfowl hunting loads. You can find all of my BOSS related videos on my YouTube Channel

BOSS does not always have the best pattern. And sometimes they don’t have the best penetration either, compared to metals that are even heavier than lead. However, BOSS has always beaten the competing loads in one or more areas, and sometimes all areas. The consistent performance and lower relative cost puts BOSS at the top of my list. For even more info, check out my podcast episode: All About Shotguns and Shells for Duck Hunters

Hunting With BOSS

For the last two years I have hunted with BOSS Bismuth #5, #4, #3/5, and #2 shot. Each one has been an excellent performing shell and done everything I have asked of it. People often ask what my favorite shot size is for BOSS and for me and what I hunt, that would be the #4. I think it is the best all-around load with ballistics energy approximately equal to steel #1 shot. However, I prefer the BOSS #5 for early season hunting of pretty much everything, the #2 for late season goose hunting. The #3/5 is a great load also and I did a full video testing the #3/5 against the #4.

I also have no hesitation to use BOSS Bismuth for hunting pheasants, doves, crows, and anything that flies. I just use 1 size larger shot than the lead size I would normally use, and I do not feel any handicap at all. 

Pros & Cons

The Pros:

  • Superior density compared to steel
  • Copper plating improves performance in several categories
  • Designed for use in the most common applications, you cannot mess it up
  • Softer material allows you to use old barrels and guns not rated for steel
  • Best priced bismuth option on the market
  • Still similar in price to premium steel options and blends like HEVI-Hammer
  • Tested and rated for velocity at 40-degrees Fahrenheit unlike many other who rate at an unrealistic 70 degrees
  • No plastic, flax, buckwheat or other fillers mixed into the shot
  • Coolest looking shell on the market. That counts for something!
  • More shot and load sizes and options than all of their competitors combined
  • Order a case and you get the BOSS moneybag, which is now my favorite way to carry shells into the field

The Cons:

  • Not cheap, no matter how you slice it.
  • Not the best load for ultra-long range at 50 yards, at least not in my gun/chokes 
  • You can’t get them in a store at the last minute, you have to order before you need them

Final Analysis

Why am I big proponent of BOSS? Because I’ve done 27 tests and it just works. It pattens well, it has outstanding ballistics gel penetration. It enables me to shoot ducks in the air or on the water at 40 yards reliably, and it does the job. When I go hunting, I do not want to think about my ammo. I spend the off-season testing, patterning, comparing, and doing all the leg work so when I walk into a hunt I only need to think about the hunt, and I am confident that if I do my part then BOSS will do its part.

I feel more confident than I ever did with steel, and I like that I can always order more ammo at any size and specs, and I do not have to go to a dozen stores to find exactly what I want. Yes, BOSS costs more than steel, but for me it’s well worth it. For you, that depends on your budget, style, and what you value.

Be sure to listen to The New Hunters Guide Podcast and check us out on YouTube

Till next time. God bless you, and go get em in the woods!

George Konetes Ph.D. – Founder and Host of the New Hunters Guide.

The New Hunters Guide is simply what George wishes he would have had when learning how to hunt; a single place to get practical hands on knowledge about different kinds of hunting, gear, strategy, and tips that can improve your comfort and fun factor in the woods.