The first shot I ever took of APEX TSS Turkey hunting ammunition put 297 pellets into a 10″ at 40 yards. Before the morning was through, I found a choke tube that would give me 378 pellets in that same circle at the same range. To put that into perspective, that is a dinner plate with almost 400 holes in it, we are talking about devastating effectiveness. Most lead turkey loads do not even have that many pellets in the shell!
The APEX TSS Turkey loads have demonstrated the best pattern efficiency of any turkey load I have ever shot as of this writing. The patterns are amazing. And as I understand it, others have gotten even tighter patterns with tighter chokes. Now there does come a point where the pattern can be too tight but more on that later.
The bottom line is this ammo is impressively effective and I could not rate it any more highly. But there is more to it than that. If you are considering this ammo or any TSS turkey shells, this review will provide you with insights and data from my firsthand first tests.
If you are looking for more info on turkey hunting shotguns, ammo, and chokes, check out these podcast episodes I have done on the subject:
- Turkey Hunting Guns and Ammo For Beginners
- Turkey Hunting Shotguns | Is Bigger Better?
- Turkey Hunting Shells, Shot, & Chokes
- Should You Hunt Turkeys With Tungsten Shot?
The Big TSS Questions.
The two most asked questions regarding turkey hunting ammo of this caliber are:
- Is that level of performance really necessary?
- Is this TSS Ammo worth the price?
After having done some tests with the APEX and hunting with TSS in general, those are easy questions to answer. For the first question, yes, this kind of performance is absolutely necessary IF you plan to hunt beyond 40 yards. Is it worth the price? Yes, IF you plant to hunt beyond 40 yards.
Tungsten Super Shot gives you increased range and lethality at range. That is its greatest strength. If you plan to hunt at 25-35 yards, it just is not needed. You can use much cheaper lead shot, like Winchester Long Beard XR to easily and efficiently take birds at close to mid-range. TSS shot gives you the ability to punch out further, to hunt at truly extended ranges. And if you want that flexibility, there is no substitute for the power and patterns that APEX brings to the hunt.
How Many Pellets Do You Need?
My rule of thumb that I use for all turkey hunting ammo of all sizes and densities is 100 pellets in a 10″ circle at the range you plan to shoot. At close range, almost anything will work for turkey hunting, lead target loads, steel, bismuth, anything. When you get to the 40 yard line however, your choices are very few if you want to get 100 pellets in a 10″ circle. There are a handful of lead loads that are up to the task, like the Winchester Long Beard.
If you want to hunt beyond 40 yards, lead quickly drops below the pattern density threshold. Even though the marketing sometimes quotes things like “Putting twice the pellets in a 10″ circle than comparable turkey loads out to 60 yards” you need to ask what are they really claiming? They are saying their lead turkey ammo is twice as good as others, but none of them live up to the standard of 100 pellets in a 10″ circle at 60 yards. But APEX TSS Turkey does.
Pattern & Ballistics Gel Test Results
I put APEX to the test at 40 yards and at 60 yards with the same Carlson’s 0.670 turkey choke and here is what I saw: 378 pellets of #9 shot at 40 yards with 170 pellets at 60 yards. This means that at 60 yards, the APEX is more effective than almost every lead load on the market is at 40 yards. These shells easily give you the ability to punch out to 70 yards, perhaps more if you have a tighter patterning choke than I did.
You might wonder if these tiny #9 TSS pellets still pack enough punch to get the job done. Well from my field testing, the #9 TSS has about 32% more power at 40 yards than lead #6, which gives it almost as much ballistics gel penetration as lead #4. And at 50 yards, the APEX TSS still had 3.26″ of gel penetration. Which is mind blowing. That is a lot of numbers, but what it means is that at range the TSS #9 packs similar power to the largest lead shot that is legal to use in my state.
I tested the APEX TSS Turkey in 3″ shells with 2.25 oz of #9 tungsten shot going at 1150 FPS using a Mossberg 940 Pro Turkey shotgun with a 24″ barrel topped with a Holosun 507k red dot. For even more, check out my video where I pattern tested multiple chokes with the APEX TSS Turkey ammo:
Can A Pattern Be Too Tight?
It can be easy to get the impression that a tighter pattern is always better, and with TSS you can actually get to the point where a pattern can be too tight. Of course, pattern density is relative to range, so if you go far enough even the tightest pattern becomes perfect. But at close range, a pattern can be so tight that you are able to miss a turkey.
If your pattern is softball sized at 20 yards so you can have a tight pattern at 60 yards, then it can be like trying to hunt turkeys with a slug gun or a rifle when you are only aiming for head shots.
I personally still want to have some margin of error at 20 and 30 yards so I can take birds that come in that close. So for me, the patterns I got with the Carlsons .670 turkey choke were ideal. Some people aim for even tighter patterns to be able to shoot even further, and that is cool, but I cannot see myself needing to shoot past 70 yards where I hunt. For my hunting area, a good realistic long-range shot is about 50-55 yards. I cannot see much further than that.
Here are some additional videos I’ve done on turkey hunting ammo to help you take things to the next level.
- The 4 Types Of Turkey Hunting Ammo
- 8 Turkey Hunting Ammos Put To the Test
- The Truth & Lies About Tungsten Shot
- How Much Difference Do Turkey Chokes Make
Cons & Concerns
So, it is not all rainbows and sunshine with these loads, there are a couple of cons. First, the recoil is major. For one or two shots under the adrenaline of hunting conditions, its ok. But for pattern testing at the range, the kick is brutal. I would recommend sizing down from the 2.25 oz to the 2.0 oz 12-gauge version to trim off some recoil energy.
Just shedding that 0.25 oz of shot cuts recoil from about 66 foot-pounds of recoil energy to 54 foot-pounds. That is a major help to the shoulder. A semi-auto shotgun can also help, check out this article I did on the subject: Do Semi-Auto Shotguns Have Less Recoil REALLY? All TSS that is hotly loaded will have the same concerns, thankfully APEX has enough load options that you can pick how much shot and recoil you want.
Second, the cost is high on TSS shells, coming in at nearly $13 per shell. You can save some if you step down to 2.0 oz version as well. They are about the same price as other TSS loads on the market, if not a little less expensive. They compare well, but TSS turkey ammo in general is expensive.
As I said early on, it is worth it if you are going to use it to its full potential. Most hunters shoot one or two shells a year in the field so a box of 5 shells may last you 3 years or more once you are sighted in, that is not a bad investment for the best turkey ammo on the market. But if you are going to hunt at short range with it, save the money and buy lead.
Conclusion & Recommendation
The APEX TSS Turkey loads are just devastatingly effective. So much so that a 20 gauge is probably more than enough for most hunting scenarios. There is really no need for the more heavily loaded 3.5″ 12-gauge shells either. In fact, this ammo really does make a 28-gauge shotgun viable for turkey hunting, those shells still have 477 pellets of #9 TSS in them.
In conclusion, I also really like APEX as a company. It is a veteran owned American company with a great story and high quality. These TSS turkey shells demonstrate outstanding performance at a good market price, and they are viable on their own merits. Being able to support a great company is just another big benefit in my book.
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.
As a note, APEX kindly provided me these shell as my request to do this review, and Carlson’s and Muller provided the chokes, thanks to them for their support.