Outdoor Gear Reviews

Federal Premium 3rd Degree Turkey Load Review

Nebraska GobblerI made the switch this season to the Federal Premium 3rd Degree Turkey Load after a miss with standard ammunition and boy am I glad I did. I am generally a fan of Federal Premium Ammunition for rifle loads and I have a pretty large selection of shells from all different brands for my shotguns. I am also not usually a person who jumps on the bandwagon regarding new ammo.


Opening week of turkey season saw me headed out to the Kaiser, a farm we hunt pretty regularly. I walked in at sunrise and the birds were gobbling. I hit my call and two jakes responded. As I rushed to set up, the two jakes came running in about ten minutes later. I was trying to film this, but made the classic filming error by facing the sun. I am pretty sure the glint from my lens gave me away and the birds started to walk away. Then the biggest tom of my life walked into the field and began a 15 minute tease as he approached my decoys. I called him to about 40 yards, pulled up the shotgun and fired. I MISSED! I fired again and missed again as he took off flying!


I came home and ordered three boxes of Federal Premium 3rd Degree Turkey shells and had them in my hands in under a week. The next two weeks I spent about five days exploring some public access areas and finally found the one I wanted to hunt. I got in early and set up and…nothing responded. So I hiked out and just as I got to the truck I saw the one!! I turned around and ran through some ditches, set up and peaked over the hill. He was gone and had already crossed my pinch point so I moved on a dead sprint to a new location, sat down, and hit the box call. A hen chirped and almost ran me over not knowing what to do and the gobbler came over the fence and popped up his head at 28 yards and I pulled the trigger. I pretty much took his head clean off. He was my second Nebraska gobbler and my second taken on public land.


I shot these new shells through a Remington 870 express with a full choke. I don’t own a fancy turkey choke and I shoot a shotgun that every hunter can afford to hunt with, a true working man’s shotgun. The 3rd Degree shells performed flawlessly. I talked to the team at Federal and asked a few questions:


FP_FS_Copper_HW_pelletsHow 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.

FP_FlitecontrolWad_Turkey_PinkWhat 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 shot shells 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.


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.


I am now a believer in these shells and whenever I am turkey hunting, these will be the shells I use. They have shown me that the 3rd degree system of 3 different shot patterns and the flight control wad are a deadly combination on turkey. Having seen the devastation on this gobbler I now have the confidence in the shells that I choose to use. You can clearly see these shot shells are labeled 3rd degree so you will never get confused with any other shells. And while these are not the cheapest shells on the market, I believe they are worth the investment. I can hardly wait until fall when I head back to the turkey woods.

Kevin Paulson

Kevin Paulson is the Founder and CEO of HuntingLife.com. His passion for Hunting began at the age of 5 hunting alongside of his father. Kevin has followed his dreams through outfitting, conservation work, videography and hunting trips around the world.

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