By Tom Cannon
Fiocchi Ammunition first entered the United States market in 1983, when Fiocchi of Italy began importing shotgun ammo manufactured in Italy. The product was so well received by American hunters, shooters and sportsmen, that the following year (1984) Fiocchi broke ground on their own U.S. production facility in Missouri. Currently that is where the majority of the product sold in the U.S. is manufactured.
I spoke with Carlo Fiocchi, Vice President of Marketing and Sales, about the history of Fiocchi , their reputation, and specifically their newest product; Warlock Steel. It isn’t long into any conversation with Carlo; before it is evident he is concerned about the importance of his family’s reputation. Fiocchi has no desire to put their family name on anything but a superior product whether it is shotgun ammo, or metallic cartridges. In fact many of Carlo’s relatives are engineers in Italy and put that training to use researching and developing new products.
Obviously, Fiocchi ammo is well known in Europe. In fact it has been used to claim numerous Olympic medals both by Europeans and Americans. There are two production facilities; one in Italy and the other in Missouri. Thus, I was curious about the differences between shotgun ammo produced for the European market compared to those shells sold in the U.S. Carlo summed it up in the fact that Europeans typically use a lighter loading than we do in America. For instance in Europe, the International trap loads are in the 7/8 ounce to 1 ounce loading, while American Trap is more commonly shot with 1 ounce to 1 1/8 oz shells. The European market doesn’t support the larger magnum loads either in lead or non-toxic versions.
Still, what Fiocchi learns in Italy and abroad does often find its way to American shores. One example of this is the introduction of nickel plating shot. Several American companies offer shot shells with copper plated shot (both lead & steel), yet it was Fiocchi who introduced nickel plated shot. The theory behind nickel is that it has a harder surface than copper and is more uniform thus it creates consistent and effective patterns as well as more energy. Nickel plating was a process Fiocchi developed in Italy and brought here. In fact one of their first loadings was in the Golden Pheasant product line. The Golden Pheasant shotgun shells have quite a following, and can arguably be called the “most effective shell for pheasants” by many upland aficionados!
Years ago Fiocchi introduced their Golden Waterfowl, non-toxic loads. This was a culmination of their top selling Speed Steel loads blended with some of the technology gleaned from the widely popular Golden Pheasant ammo. Fiocchi created a top shelf, premium non-toxic load, which utilized zinc plated steel pellets to produce more down range energy than typical steel pellets. What the Golden Waterfowl line gave up slightly in velocity it more than made up for with effectiveness in both pattern and knock down capacity. This line has also been widely embraced by those waterfowl hunters who seek out high performance as well as those upland hunters who are required to shoot non-toxic ammo.
Recently Fiocchi once again sought to improve their waterfowl product line with new technologies. The Warlock Steel shells are the latest and greatest from the Fiocchi lab. Intensive research and development found that in testing the most effective pellet load was 1 1/5 ounce of shot. Since they intended to create an optimum waterfowl shell, capable of high velocity but still incorporating the heavier, more uniform pellets of the Golden Waterfowl line; Fiocchi once again chose to use zinc plated steel shot.
Additionally through product testing and trials, a new wad was developed and became a key component in the Warlock Shells. Carlo advised me that the wads are of Fiocchi design manufactured from special materials in Italy. I was also impressed by the fact that Fiocchi manufactures its own primers! They do so in order to perfectly match the lock time of the primer to the specific powder in that particular ammo. Premium shot is mandated by the Fiocchi factory. Their shot is imported from Italy where it is made to their specifications; to ensure the utmost quality and performance.
I received a few sample boxes of the new Warlock Steel, and here are the results of my inspection. First, I closely inspected two boxes of the three inch, #2 shot, Warlock, item number 123ST15. Every shell looked and felt perfectly acceptable. There were no bulges in the hull, or nicks, dents or defects in the brass. Likewise the crimp at the top end of the shells all appeared to be satisfactory. After cutting into a sample shot shell, I personally counted and weighed the components. This load is listed as 1 1/5 ounce (shot) from the factory. My inspection revealed it to actually weigh 541.7 grains or 1.23ounce (1 15/64 oz). This was just marginally over the factory weight of 1 1/5 oz which translates to 1.2 ounce. Keep in mind that 1 ¼ ounce would translate into 1.25 oz; so you can see the Fiocchi load is very much acceptable. My pellet count in the actual wad was 143 pellets of size #2 zinc plated shot. All pellets were in good shape. They appeared perfectly round to the eye and all were shiny and free from rust or defect. My research showed that the pellet count for 1 1/5 oz of #2 STEEL pellets should be 150 pellets. Thus mu count of 143 would be slightly off the chart. Since the actual weight of the pellets falls right into line, I attribute the difference in pellet count to be due to the fact the Warlock pellets are ZINC coated thus making them ever so slightly heavier thus pellet count must be reduced to accommodate the listed load.
The wad itself was unique (as stated earlier). It was a brilliant pearl white color and all one piece. Every component was revealed to be exactly what was mentioned on the box and factory literature. At the time of this writing, I had not been able to pattern the load to determine its effectiveness yet I did hear from some hunters in the Dakota’s who spoke very highly of the Warlock shells. Fiocchi lists the velocity at 1550 fps, which is world class speed. Carlo assured me that this load is the optimum shell to achieve both speed (velocity) and knock down power (energy) as well as creating a nice pattern. What’s more I located the Warlock shells, for $110 a case (Roger’s Sporting Goods), which is a real bargain for such quality. In fact,the Warlock Steel was listed at just under ten dollars a case cheaper than Speed Steel.
One of the most common comments or feedback about Fiocchi ammo; is that it is very clean burning. Those hunters and shooters who prefer semi-auto firearms really appreciate this fact. Carlo mentioned that as with all components the factory takes great care when developing a new product to ensure it not only has a proper burn rate for the powder and components but also that they have chosen a clean burning propellant. Dirty or poor burning powder can often lead to powder buildup inside the receiver and gas piston or recoil process. This in turn can reduce the reliability of that firearm and even cause malfunctions. Attention to detail, from primer to pellet is why Fiocchi has made great strides in the ammunition market. In fact, Fiocchi is quickly becoming a household name due to their quality and value.