Joe Balog was born and raised on the Great Lakes, where he's earned a living as a charter boat captain, pro bass fisherman and outdoor communicator. As waterfowl editor for Realtree.com, Balog was bitten by the duck bug while hunting the world famous St. Clair Flats. Between duck hunting, fishing, and dog training, Balog spends some 300 days a year on the water.
The Truth About Kent Fasteel, TealSteel and Tungsten Matrix
Our behind-the-scenes look at premium waterfowl loads continues. This week, we're talking Kent Fasteel, TealSteal and Tungsten Matrix. (We've discussed Federal Black Cloud and Winchester Blind Side in previous posts).
Any waterfowler who has been around the game for a while knows at least one guy who lives and dies by Kent Fasteel. The incredibly popular load is both inexpensive and available just about everywhere. “I just shoot Kents. They’ve always worked for me” is a phrase heard a hundred times over.
I spoke with Doug Dockeney from the Kent factory. He didn’t mince words when offering opinions on today’s shotshell market. “Non-spherical pellets go against everything we’ve known about physics: that spherical objects fly straighter with less resistance. Now some of these (competitor's shells with uniquely shaped pellets), with their (high) density, they work fairly well.” Dockeney continues, standing firm to the original Kent principles, “We use all quality components. We’ve used all quality since day one, and go out of our way to make sure quality is high. We do extensive testing, and have done so since day one. The patterns are very, very good, and we see very few defects”.
Dockeney pointed out the limits of his incredibly popular Fasteel. “Steel is only going to be effective so far down range. For long shots, you’re going to need a different pellet material.”
For long shots, he recommends the company’s Tungsten Matrix. Looking at the specs, I noticed the 3 ½” Matrix comes in with a full 2-ounce load. That’s over 20 percent heavier than traditional steel, including some of the new “hybrid” shotshells. That energy transfer would lead to a more effective range. But it comes with a cost. Are you really going to take a 50-yard shot with a $4.60 shell? Hmmm…..
New this year is Kent’s TealSteel Load. Testing in chosen markets last year proved the load to be a big seller. From what I can tell, it’s basically a Fasteel load of No. 5’s. But it may be just the thing you’re looking for.
Personally, I like Kent shells. I’ve never shot the Tungstens, as the thought of $5 bills being ejected from my gun every time I pulled the trigger was just too much to bear. But, I usually have good success with the standard Fasteel loads.
My point is this: waterfowlers are always trying to blame a missed shot on something other than a lack of ability. Therefore, we are quick to try new shotshells, thinking we might find a solution to our problem. But here’s the real problem, pal: you ain’t swinging the gun. I’m not going to give you a “solution” in this series as to which is the “best” shell on the market. I’m just going to report what the experts have told us, throw in a little insight, and try to keep you on track in this overloaded world of trendy marketing, excess money and inflated machismo.