Recently, I became aware of a new contender in shotgun ammo specifically tailored for defensive purposes (H/T Ashton Ray of 360 Performance Shooting). Fiocchi USA has introduced a new 12 gauge loading under their Defense Dynamics branding. In reading about it, there were things I liked, and one thing I didn’t necessarily like. The good points include nickel plated lead shot, low recoil, low flash powder, and a proprietary “high performance wad.” What I don’t like is that it’s a 9 pellet load. Per Tom Givens, the way that 9 pellets are stacked in a shell vs. 8 pellet loads can cause pellet deformation and flyers. I was lucky enough to be able to order an in stock box of the ammo to try out. Conveniently, it is offered in 25 cartridges per box.
I went to the range with my Remington 870P SBS to try it out. Recognizing that not everyone has a Vang Comp tuned barrel, I also took my spare cylinder bore barrel. I used my traditional patterning test of a single shot at 5 yards, a three round pattern at 15 yards, and a final shot at 25 yards. I fire the 5 yard shot into the head box of an IDPA target, with the other four shots fired at the center chest area. At the risk of becoming repetitive, I use this protocol to test the feasibility of a head shot or hostage rescue shot at room distance, and to test the pattern spread at the longest possible shot inside my home and then of a longer shot outside my home but still within the curtilage of my property.
First up, the results with my VCS treated 14″ barrel with fixed modified choke. The five yard shot was typical, with the wad impact visible and all but one pellet within the 4″ center circle of the head box. At 15 yards, I counted 11 pellets out of 27 outside of the 8″ center circle. Having said that, all pellets were still within the -1 zone of the target. At 25 yards, I counted 3 out of 9 pellets outside of the 8″ center, with 1 pellet in the -1 and two in the -3 zone of the target (the arms). With these results, I would be comfortable using this ammunition out of my gun at room distances, but not much beyond that. I’ll return to this point later, but note the lack of wad impacts at 15 and 25 yards.
Next, I switched barrels on my gun and used a plain 18″ cylinder bore barrel with a bead sight. This is where the results got a little bit interesting. The pellets at 5 yards were tightly clustered in the -0 of the head box with the wad impact visible. At fifteen yards, I counted 7 out of 27 pellets outside the center scoring area plus the wad impact. Of those seven pellets, one hit in the -3. At 25 yards, I count 6 out of 9 pellets outside of the -0, with two in the -3. Again, the wad impact was visible.
So what conclusions can be drawn from the comparison of the two barrels? At close range, I would argue that the cylinder bore barrel worked better. The results at 15 were less definitive. Only at 25 yards did my VCS barrel outperform the plain cylinder bore barrel. This doesn’t necessarily make sense, because I suspect that much like Federal FliteControl, the wad is stripped from the pellets earlier out of the tighter modified choke. I say this because of the lack of wad impacts on the target shot with the modified choke vs. the visible wad impacts on the target shot with the cylinder bore barrel.
I was able to recover a wad from one of the targets, and found something interesting. If you look in the pellet cup, there are three indentations were the pellets sit. It would make sense that the pellets are stacked three on three on three. Nonetheless, I think it could be argued that the ammo had flyers out of both barrels, especially at 25 yards (look at the impacts in the -3 areas). Just to see, I did try to push the wad through the modified choke and the cylinder bore. It was a tight fit with both, but obviously more so with the modified choke. I think the wad probably does a good job of minimizing pellet deformation, but it is not a FliteControl wad by any stretch.
Bottom line, I think this ammo is okay for strictly home defense use, but as always, test it in your gun to know for sure. Every shotgun barrel is unique! And yes, I still need to clean my SBS barrel to hopefully clean up the funky patterns. I’ve got an appropriate bore brush and rod on order.
The other experiment I tried was due to a recent discussion of Hornady Black ammo on Facebook. I had pointed out how it performed better than Federal FliteControl out of my modified choke and was asked about performance out of a cylinder bore. So I shot one round out of each barrel at 15 yards, just to see. Performance was moderately better out of my VCS barrel (all eight pellets in the center scoring area). Again, the modified choke apparently stripped off the wad. Conversely, out of the cylinder bore barrel, only six out of eight pellets hit within the center scoring area and the wad impact is obvious. I will admit that I expected a bit better. Out of a cylinder bore barrel, Federal FliteControl is still the gold standard.
The counterpoint is that what the Vang Comp system gets you is consistency and the ability to use almost any decent ammunition and expect decent results. I will probably shoot some more of the Fiocchi ammunition out of my Winchester 1300 with VCS treatment just to see how it does in the absence of the modified choke. Until then, stay tuned for more content!