Finally...The Perfect Turkey Ammo! - New Federal Premium® 3rd Degree™

January 2, 2015

Calling All Turkeys' Shane Simpson at the testing range.


Turkey hunters are forever searching for a shotshell that performs well on long-range targets, but with long-range loads, sacrifices are often made at short and mid-range. Super tight patterns, needed to reach out to 50 yards or greater, often result in misses at 15 yards or closer. In response, turkey hunters have added scopes and other sighting devices to help counteract this.


When I started turkey hunting almost three decades ago, I shot #6 turkey loads through a modified choke and rarely missed. Most of my shots were at 30 yards or less of course, but there were times that a gobbler hung up at longer distances and my setup wasn't capable of effectively reaching those distances. Like most other turkey hunters, I got caught up in the trend that tight chokes and long distance shotshells were the way to go but in turn, I sacrificed my short-range effectiveness. I wasn't accustomed to the tight patterns and even though I'd patterned my setup and knew just how it would perform at close range, years of shooting a short to mid-range setup sometimes proved too much to overcome. If a bird appeared unexpectantly and I needed to make a quick shot, I would swing on the bird and shoot just as I had done in the past. The difference now was those quick shots could very well result in a miss. Wouldn't it be nice if there were shotshells available that patterned well at short-range as well as long-range?


Introducing the New Federal Premium® 3rd Degree

With a new shotshell offering from Federal Premium®, the days of missing "close up" birds are now over! Recently, I had the pleasure of testing the new shotshell and I was very impressed with the results. Most of the folks at Federal are also avid turkey hunters so they know what turkey hunters want. 


"We're not out to win any long distance shooting competitions. Our goal is to offer the best performing shotshell at realistic distances and at an affordable price." says JJ Reich of Federal Premium. Reich also notes that the new load will still produce deadly patterns out to 50+ yards but with the added advantage of a more open and forgiving pattern for those tight shots inside 10 yards.


Because 3rd Degree™ utilizes the Flight Control Wad, the need for a super tight, turkey choke is unnecessary as the wad was designed to do all the work of maintaining a tight pattern. In fact, Federal Premium suggests that hunters use a standard "full" choke when using any load containing the Flight Control Wad. Some of my colleges, based on their personal tests, have even recommended using an "improved cylinder" or "modified" choke with these loads for best performance. I've seen this shell in action and have been very impressed with its performance thus far. Trust me when I say that Federal Premium's new 3rd Degree™ shotshell will be in my shotgun on every hunt this spring! - Shane Simpson,


Watch the following video, from our partners at ScoutLook Weather, and then check out more detailed information below. 





New Federal Premium® 3rd Degree 

3rd Degree™ uses a multi-shot, three-stage payload to deliver lethal patterns at any range. The leading section of the payload—20 percent of the total pellet count—is made up of No. 6 nickel-plated FLITESTOPPER® lead. Because these pellets release from the wad first and have a deadly cutting ring, they disperse quickly and create a larger effective pattern inside of 20 yards than standard loads. The next 40 percent of the load is copper-plated No. 5 lead shot, which creates a dense, even pattern at moderate ranges. The final 40 percent of 3rd Degree’s payload consists of No. 7 HEAVYWEIGHT® pellets. The tungsten-iron material’s high density gives the shot more energy than No. 5 lead shot at 40 yards and beyond. Plus, its increased pellet count results in more hits on target at long range. The pattern is maximized by the FLITECONTROL® wad, which opens from the rear and stays with the shot column longer than conventional wads for full, consistent patterns.



Features & Benefits

 Three-stage payload creates optimal patterns for the entire range spectrum

 20 percent No. 6 FLITESTOPPER pellets for forgiving close-range patterns

 40 percent copper-plated No. 5 lead for the most lethal performance at mid-range

 40 percent HEAVYWEIGHT for dense, high-energy patterns at 40-plus yards

 FLITECONTROL wad maximizes the flight characteristics of all three shot types

 1,250 fps muzzle velocity

 A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this product will be donated to the National Wild Turkey Federation


10 yard comparison of a standard lead turkey load (left) vs  Federal Premium® 3rd Degree™ (right)


Field Testing The New Loads

In spring of 2014, Federal Premium Product Manager Mike Holm and a pool of other employees, who are also seasoned hunters, used prototype loads to conduct initial field testing of 3rd Degree.

Holm experienced firsthand just how well the load performs at long distance during a hunt in May 2014 in South Dakota.

Holm had a lot of experience using HEAVYWEIGHT No. 7 loads, and he had already killed several gobblers with them at distances beyond 50 yards. He had also patterned and practiced with prototypes of 3rd Degree in Federal Premium’s testing facility. Prior to his hunt, Holm shot this load more than 20 times at long ranges, so he knew its capabilities.

“It took a while, but an eager 2-year-old gobbler finally answered my calls,” Holm said. “Only problem was it was on the other side of the field. And, it wasn’t coming in any closer.”

But when the bird turned to make an exit, everything aligned perfectly.

“I knew it was a long shot, but I also knew the ammunition could do it. I pulled the trigger, and that gobbler went down for the count.”

Holm stepped off the dead turkey: 61 paces.

“The HEAVYWEIGHT pellets in this load did the job. I am certainly not advocating that hunters shoot turkeys at excessive ranges, but people need to know this ammo can perform at the 60-yard mark.”

Marketing Communication Specialist Jacob Edson shot a beautiful gobbler at just seven yards using 3rd Degree while on a different hunt in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Although the situation forced a quick, off-hand shot, the load’s FLITESTOPPER pellets left a swath of ragged holes along a 6-inch span of the bird’s head and neck. The tightest portion of the pattern, however, seemed to have just grazed the neck. If the pattern didn’t open as wide as it did, Edson feels he would have missed that turkey.

Packaging Engineer Tim Ash harvested a gobbler over decoys at 20 yards, Shotshell Product Engineer Adam Moser killed a longbeard at 33 yards, and Public Relations Specialist JJ Reich dropped a big tom stone-dead at 62 yards. Plus several other birds succumbed to 3rd Degree from a wide range of distances at the hands of other hunters at the factory.

These field-test results were always the same: 3rd Degree’s blend of technologies creates the industry’s most versatile, high-performance turkey load—at any range.



Questions & Answers: Federal Premium® 3rd Degree™

What was the main goal or objective when designing this new turkey load?

“Most modern turkey loads have evolved to pattern more tightly and reach farther. As a result, most loads perform more like a shotgun slug at close range—which sometimes leads to missed birds. When we set out to create a new turkey load, we kept this problem in the forefront of our minds. The result is 3rd Degree, a load specifically crafted to cover any situation a hunter might face. Its stacked combination of three different types and sizes of shot results in a turkey hunter’s dream ammo—one load that works at all distances, from extremely close to extended range, plus everything in between.”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


How did 3rd Degree get its name? 

“Its name represents its three stages of payload. Each stage is made up of different types of shot which are different sizes and different densities. This variety combines to create optimal patterns for three ranges—close, mid and long. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


What exactly is this new load made of?

“The payload is a mix of FLITESTOPPER® lead, copper-plated lead and our high-performance HEAVYWEIGHT® alloy. Our specialized FLITECONTROL® wad is also utilized to maximize the flight characteristics of all three shot types. And like all shotshells in our Federal Premium lineup, it uses top-notch hulls, a superior crimp, brass-plated steel heads, consistent powder and an ultra-dependable primer. We also color printed the 3rd Degree logo on the hull. Some hunters like to use spent shells as part of a turkey beard display. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


How does 3rd Degree achieve its close-range capabilities?

“The leading section of 3rd Degree’s payload—20 percent of the total pellet count—is made up of No. 6 nickel-plated FLITESTOPPER lead pellets, the same used in our popular Prairie Storm® pheasant loads. This unique shape and the fact the pellets release from the wad first cause them to disperse quickly and create a larger effective pattern inside of 20 yards than standard loads, even when using aftermarket turkey chokes. FLITESTOPPER pellets also have a distinctive cutting ring that creates a massive wound cavity through tissue and crushes bone to ensure a deadly close-range pattern. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


How does this load perform at typical ranges of 20 to 40 yards?

“Loaded behind the FLITESTOPPER pellets (making up the next 40 percent of the payload) is a layer of Premium® copper-plated No. 5 lead shot, which creates a dense, even pattern at moderate ranges. This is the same type of shot that powers our popular Federal Premium Mag-Shok™ turkey line. Copper-plated pellets are ideal for the most common turkey-hunting situations where decoys are placed at 20 yards or closer, while still performing well out to 40 yards. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


How does this ammunition achieve its long-range effectiveness?

“For far-out birds, the load contains ultra-dense HEAVYWEIGHT shot to deliver a consistent, long-distance punch. This is the final 40 percent of 3rd Degree’s pellet count. The tungsten-iron material’s high density (35 percent denser than lead) gives the No. 7 shot has more penetration energy and velocity than No. 5 lead at 40 yards. Plus, the smaller shot size results in a higher pellet count and more hits on target. There are 339 pellets in 3-inch 3rd Degree shell versus to 297 in a comparable No. 5 lead load. The resulting velocity and penetration energy has what it takes to fill tags at 50 yards and beyond. And don’t forget, the entire payload of 3rd Degree is maximized by Federal Premium’s exclusive FLITECONTROL wad, which stays with the shot column longer for even, reliable patterns at greater distances. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


Some hunters may not be familiar with the FLITECONTROL wad. What exactly is it?

“Black Cloud® waterfowl loads put FLITECONTROL on the map. Unlike conventional wads, the FLITECONTROL wad opens from the rear to stay with the shot column longer. Combined with specialized payloads (such as the one in 3rd Degree), the system results in a pattern that’s tailor-made for specific situations. Today you’ll also find the FLITECONTROL wad combined with shot to match it in our personal defense buckshot loads, pheasant loads and many of our other turkey loads. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


What were your overall requirements when testing this new load at the shooting range?

“An ideal turkey load will put 80 pellets in a 10-inch circle with at least 10 pellets in the kill zone. Our testing of the 3-inch load at 40 yards reveals that 3rd Degree delivers approximately 95 pellets in a 10-inch circle, with more than 20 pellets in the head and neck. At 50 yards, the average pellet in the 10-inch circle drops to 65 pellets, yet there are still 10 or more pellets where it counts. That said, we know 3rd Degree isn’t going to win any long-range pattering contests. But that’s fine by us. We didn’t set out to create the ultimate long-range load. Instead, we focused our efforts on what hunters really need: a load that kills turkeys more effectively through a realistic range spectrum of 10 yards to 50 yards and beyond.”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


How does the 3rd Degree look on a close-range patterning target?

“Again, the FLITESTOPPER lead portion of the payload spreads quickly. Our factory testing has shown effective patterns to be 60 percent larger than comparable lead loads at 10 yards. The first test target is shot with our 3-inch 3rd Degree load. For comparison, the second test target is shot with a No. 5 lead turkey load. Both shots were taken using a Mossberg 930 semi-auto with a 24-inch barrel and extra-full turkey choke. You can see the 3rd Degree has much more wiggle room due to its wider, close-range pattern. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


How does the new load look on paper at longer distances?

“The No. 7 HEAVYWEIGHT and No. 5 Premium copper-plated lead portions of the 3rd Degree payload create dense, high-energy patterns at long range. At 50 yards, 3rd Degree puts 69 percent more pellets in a 10 inch circle than comparable lead turkey loads. This test is based on a five-shot average of patterning targets shot with the 3-inch load through a Mossberg 930 with a 24-inch barrel and extra-full turkey choke. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


What were the test results when shooting 3rd Degree into ballistic gel? 

“At close range, the farthest outside edges of the pattern were FLITESTOPPER pellets. And you could definitely see that these pellets produced impressive damage to the gel. At extended long range, the majority of the pellets, more than 60-percent, were HEAVYWEIGHT pellets. This is because HEAVYWEIGHT remains at the pattern’s core due to its density and resistance to deformation. The gel test proved the different types of shot did the jobs they were intended to do. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


Performance and penetration of a 3rd Degree™ shotshell in ballistic gel @ 40 yards.


Why does 3rd Degree’s box feature the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) logo?

“Many hunters know Federal Premium is a long-time supporter of turkey restoration. The company continues this effort with 3rd Degree through an on-box ammunition royalty program. For every box sold, Federal Premium donates a portion of the proceeds to the NWTF’s habitat and education programs. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


What else do you want our readers to know about 3rd Degree?

“Whether your hunting strategy is crawling up on an open-field gobbler while holding and hiding behind a portable turkey decoy to aggressively challenge gobblers to charge in close, or sit your back up against a large tree and calling up turkeys until they are practically in your lap, hunters are going to love 3rd Degree’s forgiving close-range pattern. The fact that it will also harvest far away birds if the need arises is just icing on the cake. ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager.


What are the specifications and manufacturer suggested retail price?

“3rd Degree is available in five-count boxes. We offer a 3-inch, 1 3/4-ounce load with the suggested price of $21.95 and a 3 1/2-inch, 2-ounce load at $24.95. Product is available at dealers nationwide for spring 2015 hunting seasons. Learn more at ”—Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager


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