Deets on Federal’s New Steel Shells

September 21, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More

(Federal photo)

We love the facts that Federal 1) pushes the envelope in shotshells, 2) made a unique pheasant shell that works as advertised (Prairie Storm), 3) donates money to Pheasants Forever for every box sold of Prairie Storm and 4) is a company that actually comes out with new upland products – they haven’t given up on us!

Anyhow, Federal recently announced a new steel version of its Prairie Storm shells called…Prairie Storm Steel. Why? The press release was short on whys, so we chased down Federal PR dude and Serious bird hunter Tim Brandt for some answers.

SBH: Why steel shells?

Tim: In some states on public lands you have to have steel [or other non-lead shells], and in some places the crossover between waterfowl production and upland hunting requires the use of non-lead shells.

Why steel and not another non-lead alternative?

We wanted it to be affordable. There’s no doubt that other non-toxic options are excellent ballistically, but they’re tough on the wallets of hunters. If you’re going to be shooting any type of volume throughout the season, they’re tough to afford.

Also, on the waterfowl side, we sell way more steel than other non-toxic alternatives.

What else can you tell us about these new shells?

What we wanted to do was have a product for pheasant hunters that was steel and not just Black Cloud [Federal’s hugely popular waterfowl shells] in another box. So our engineers worked to come up with a product that uses the same technologies and platforms as Black Cloud but is dedicated to pheasant hunters.

One of the big differences is shot mix. Since the typical pheasant shot is [taken] a lot closer than the typical duck shot, we needed an upland load that would open up a little more [vs. the duck loads].

The Prairie Storm Steel shells do have a [Black Cloud-like] mix of our Premium Steel and Flitestopper Steel [which has a cutting edge], but where Black Cloud has 60% Premium and 40% Flitestopper, Prairie Storm Steel is 50-50 [to help the patterns open faster].


Here are the specs on the available (as in now) Prairie Storm Steels:

  • 12ga, 3″, 1-1/8 oz, #3 shot, 1600 fps
  • 12ga, 3″, 1-1/8 oz, #4 shot, 1600 fps
  • 20ga, 3″, 7/8 oz, #3 shot, 1500 fps
  • 20-ga, 3″, 7/8 oz, #4 shot, 1500 fps

Tim noted that Federal engineers spec’d the above loads to be comparable to the energy levels of a #5 lead shell. (Note that steel shot has to be bigger in size than lead to get similar performance because it’s less dense.)


> That pheasant-specific mix of Premium and Flitestopper steel was arrived at via software and testing.

> Through a partnership with Pheasants Forever, PF gets some money for every box of Prairie Storms sold (steel or lead).

> Federal also added 20-gauge 2-3/4” Prairie Storm FS Lead loads this year. It had had 3″ only.

> For more info, here’s the shotshell section of the Federal website.


Category: Federal Premium, Non-lead

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jay says:

    I shot 2 Prairie Storm shells that a friend gave me to try and handed the rest back to him. Come on, do we really need shells going 1500 FPS? I’d rather not jar my brain by with the recoil. Granted I was shooting a model 21 and not an auto loader but still…..

    I don’t shoot steel and will avoid it at all costs. I don’t believe lead shot in the uplands causes harm so why shoot ballistically inferior steel shot. Ammo companies have driven us to using steel by making the price differential so large that many feel compelled to spend less. Don’t care home much you load in a steel shot shell and how fast you make it go (they are at 1700 FPS now) it is still garbage.

Leave a Reply