The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Review: Federal Premium Hi-Bird Ammo

This article originally appeared in CARNIVORE Issue 2

Pigeons Are No Match for Hi-Bird Ammo

When we’re shooting, we prefer to shoot as much as possible. But blasting through cases of shotgun shells can put a toll on your body just from the repetitive recoil. The pain is worth it when there’s instant gratification like birds on the ground or disintegrated clays.


When Federal Premium introduced Gold Medal Grand shotshells, competitive shotgunners welcomed it with open arms. Gold Medal Grand’s main attractor was its newly developed Softcell wad, a two-piece design with an air pocket instead of a traditional buffer. The air pocket’s job is to reduce felt recoil. Other desirable features of the ammo include a brass-plated steelhead, reloadable hull, laser engraved load information on the hull, high-performance propellant, and a reliable primer.

Federal Premium created Hi-Bird shotshells using the same technology introduced in its Gold Medal Grand. This created a load that high-volume bird hunters could use without feeling like they stepped out of a boxing ring after leaving the field. Pigeon hunting is the perfect sport for Hi-Bird ammo, so much so that Federal included a picture of a pigeon on the box. Hunting pigeons is more feast than famine, with the opportunity to kill hundreds of birds in a single day.


Federal Premium boasts the Hi-Bird ammunition as producing uniform patterns with high-energy lead shot. A miss in the field could be the Indian or the arrow. Testing the proverbial arrow increases confidence by proving the true capabilities of the load.

As with most tests, the results are relative to the conditions in which they were tested. Results could vary dramatically depending on the shotgun, barrel, barrel length, and choke tube used. Be sure to pattern your gun at the average range you expect to shoot to increase your likelihood of success. Controlled testing was done using a Benelli Black Eagle II with a 26-inch barrel and a modified choke. The Hi-Bird ammo tested was the 7½, 1¼ ounce, 12-gauge load.

hi bird test


Using a 30-inch circle to test the pattern is an industry standard. It gives a measurable standard to determine how effective the load and gun combo is at putting pellets inside of a reasonable kill zone. For the load tested, hitting a pigeon at 40 yards should be effective. With this specific test gun, 40 yards would be the limit for a guaranteed hit. Past that distance, a bird could slip through; however, a dove was taken at 65 yards in one shot.


Consistency of the overall length, shot weight, and charge weight were impressive. Shell length difference was +/-0.0105 inch. Shot weight measured +/-4.35 grains, the difference of +/- 3 to 4 pellets. This test load was labeled as 1¼ shot, meaning the shot weight should be 1.25 ounces. All of the control shells tested had shot weights under 1.25 ounces.

The show-stealer was the charge weight; we’ve seen match-grade factory rifle loads that aren’t as consistent. Hi-Bird’s charge weight showed a difference of +/-0.1 grains — truly shocking. Data proves the Hi-Bird ammo is loaded consistently, this means you should get repeatable results throughout the same case of ammo or those with the same lot number.


Other specs on the box include dram equivalent, muzzle velocity, and shot. When you see “Dram Eq.” on the box, it’s just a unit of measure. One dram is equal to 1/16th of an ounce; 27.34 grains equal one dram.

Dram equivalent means that the charge in the shell (of smokeless powder) is equal to the advertised dram of black powder. The smokeless powder of the Hi-Bird ammo has roughly three times the potential chemical energy of black powder, therefore approximately one third is used.

There’s no such thing as too many pigeons.

There’s no such thing as too many pigeons.

Like other boxes of ammunition, muzzle velocity is relative to the manufacturer’s test environment. Looking at either the dram equivalent or muzzle velocity are good indicators of potential felt-recoil. When comparing ammo boxes, a lower number of either dram equivalent or muzzle velocity should result in lower felt-recoil, given that the shot weight is equal.

Shot size has an inverse relationship with the number of pellets in the shell. The larger the shot size, the less pellets there’ll be in the shell. Each shot size varies by 0.01 inch as follows:

  • 4 shot = 0.13 inch
  • 5 shot = 0.12 inch
  • 6 shot = 0.11 inch
  • 7.5 shot = 0.095 inch
  • 8 shot = 0.09 inch

Hi-Bird is offered in multiple loads, ranging from four- to eight-shot. In addition to pigeons, the company recommends Hi-Bird for high-flying doves, crows, pheasants, and any other challenging upland birds.

Wire mesh along the edge of the Final Approach layout blind makes it easy and comfortable to stay concealed when looking for birds.

Wire mesh along the edge of the Final Approach layout blind makes it easy and comfortable to stay concealed when looking for birds.


We were able to put Hi-Bird to the test in its intended environment. Over the course of three days, we smoked hundreds of pigeons. Most shots were 30 to 40 yards away, and we hit more than we missed.


By the end of each day, we were definitely feeling the multiple cases of Hi-Bird we burned through, but it wasn’t anything 800mg of Ibuprofen couldn’t fix. We were surprised to learn that people eat those sky rats, and they taste pretty damn good. Pigeon is kin to dove and can be cooked using the same recipes. Check out our pigeon taco recipe covered in Pairings of this issue. We’ve caught the pigeon-hunting bug, thanks to its always-open season and target rich environment.


Pigeons can be cleaned and cooked up just like dove.

Pigeons can be cleaned and cooked up just like dove.


Enter Your E-Mail to Receieve a Free 50-Target Pack from RECOIL!

NEXT STEP: Download Your Free Target Pack from RECOIL

For years, RECOIL magazine has treated its readers to a full-size (sometimes full color!) shooting target tucked into each big issue. Now we've compiled over 50 of our most popular targets into this one digital PDF download. From handgun drills to AR-15 practice, these 50+ targets have you covered. Print off as many as you like (ammo not included).

Get your pack of 50 Print-at-Home targets when you subscribe to the RECOIL email newsletter. We'll send you weekly updates on guns, gear, industry news, and special offers from leading manufacturers - your guide to the firearms lifestyle.

You want this. Trust Us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the Free