In the past, slug shotguns were not very popular. Slug guns were really an inconvenience, as far increasing the accuracy of a shotgun, and most gun owners were likely to just use a rifle for hunting. However, the past twenty years have proven that slug guns increase in popularity. Perhaps now that hunting is usually considered as a sport over a means of survival, the ability to choose and customize a shotgun seems more appealing. Special hunting areas scattered throughout less-rural places call for special types of guns being used. These choices ensure the safety of hunters and lower the likelihood of bullets traveling past the designated area. Since these special hunting areas usually limit gun owners to handguns, muzzleloaders and shotguns, the idea of a slug shotgun outweighs any past inconveniences. The proximity of hunting areas to civilized areas is, in itself, convenient, so many hunters are switching over to the slug gun for the sport of close-range hunting for trophy game.
There are three basic choices for slug guns: a dedicated slug gun, an average smoothbore shotgun and a customizable shotgun.
Dedicated Slug Shotguns
A shotgun that only shoots slugs is fairly modern, and you probably rarely find other gun owners with this type of gun. A dedicated slug gun has only evolved, as the type has become more popular over the last couple of decades. One conflicting feature of the dedicated slug gun is the firing strength. With a range of 45-70, many accuse the dedicated slug gun of pushing the limits in special hunting areas, since it’s starting to diverge from its original hunting purpose. However, the gun is still allowed because it still stays within special area hunting regulations. Slug guns have a higher velocity, so their bullet will still stay within designated areas. Despite the accusations slug gun owners may receive, it’s important to keep in mind safety rules and regulations as a hunter and to practice accuracy. If a hunter is aware of what his gun is capable of, then it’s unlikely there’s anything to worry about, as far as pushing limit goes.
The flat trajectory of a slug gun ensures quick and painless kills. Increased accuracy will come with dedicated slug gun owners who are frequently using them. Slug guns fall in the 4-6 inch range, but they can have this effective range anywhere from 100 to 200 yards. The high velocity of slug guns means the hunter can accurately shoot from further distances, and a well-practiced gun owner will get great use out of their gun, almost comparable to more common rifles.
Since the use of slug guns for hunting has increased, dedicated slug guns are a great choice for a hunter, willing to make the investment. Specializing in slug guns allows a brand to create a high quality and accurate piece of machinery, making them all-together more appealing to the general market. We’ll cover customizable slug guns, but a dedicated slug gun is known for its mounted barrel, as well as scopes. The mounted pieces are no longer considered accessories, and the accuracy is far better than that of the other slug guns we’ll be covering. At the end of the day, the only major difference between a rifle and a slug gun is the barrel size. Otherwise, the feel and weight of the slug gun, along with the trigger, are should be recognizable and comfortable for gun owners.
Smoothbore Slug Gun
A smoothbore shotgun is already a fairly popular and common household gun. Many gun owners use these for home defense and small game hunting. For first time slug gun users, a smoothbore is a great place to start. Smoothbores are pretty affordable, and loading slugs into this shotgun is pretty easy.
As easy it is to load the slug, as tough it can be to actually hit what you are aiming for. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to predict the accuracy of your smoothbore. Modifying your gun with barrels and chokes can definitely make a difference here. If you’re purchasing a Smoothbore for the first time, consider what sized barrel you’d like: short or full-length. You can also choose to modify the chokes or replace them with adjustable chokes. If you already own a smoothbore, most gun owners advise you to experiment with different brands of slugs to see which will shoot more accurately from your gun. Just make sure your slug gun stays within the 4-6 inch range.
It may seem like going for the most expensive slugs will give you the best accuracy and point of impact, but your safest choices is to actually start lower on the price scale until you work your way up and find the best slug for your gun. Sabots and specially-loaded slugs don’t guarantee good performance for every Smoothbore.
You also need to consider gauge when looking for the right slug. The best advice is to go smaller. A 12-gauge, compared to a 20-gauge, will actually provide a more lethal slug hit at .69 caliber. If you’re worried about kick, though, you can still stick with a 20-gauge. The caliber is bigger, but newer hunters will probably feel more comfortable with this gauge, especially if they aren’t hunting large game.
If a smoothbore doesn’t appeal to you, a customizable shotgun for slugs is your next best choice. Although they’re not as cheap as a regular Smoothbore, customizable shotguns will still be cheaper than the dedicated options. Detachable barrels are your best friend, here. Switching between the shotgun barrel and a rifled barrel allows the gun to remain as a small game hunting tool, but you are ultimately adding the most accuracy increase. It doesn’t always look appealing, but being able to switch out your barrel to test slugs, is obviously a huge bonus. Cost is a consideration here, as well. The cheapest detachable rifled barrels are going to be from the most popular brands. The Remington 870 and Mossberg 500 are very popular choices, that have proven to work well for that purpose. Many aftermarket barrels come with adjustable open sights so minimal adjustment is needed after purchase. If you don’t yet own a shotgun, there are many available that already come with both a Smoothbore and a rifled barrel.
Adding a rifled barrel to a shotgun for slugs vastly improves the accuracy of an average smoothbore. You will still stay in the 4-6 inch range, but you’ll have the same accuracy with you slug gun at 100 yards as you would if you try to hit something at 50. At this point, if saboted slugs will suit you, you can take advantage of their higher velocity to increase your slug gun’s range. Keep in mind, that you will probably sacrifice some accuracy. That’s why it’s important to choose a gun, customizable parts and slug that will create the best ratio of accuracy, velocity and range. Again, test test test! It might take a while to find the perfect combination. Give sabots a chance. Through trial and error, you’ll notice that some saboted slugs leave you completely short and some end up improving the accuracy on top of what you already have. The type of rifling and the twist in your barreling will affect how well your those slugs perform. Some plastic sabots react unfavorable to certain types of barreling and will project poorly. The same goes for lead slugs. It’s really all about the right combination for your gun.
Customizable shotguns tend to be a very happy middle road for slug gun shooters. Purchasing a barrel to attach to a cheaper shotgun is an economical way to greatly improve the accuracy of a slug gun without having to purchase a dedicated one. Plus, you’re getting more use out of your shotgun.
Since we’ve discussed the various ways you can improve accuracy for your slug gun, we should discuss scopes. While choosing a rifled barrel is a fantastic way to improve the accuracy of your shotgun, picking the right scope will help increase your personal accuracy and make you more acquainted with your gun. Picking an optic with crossover or overlap are very ideal, especially for a slug gun. Obviously scopes with greater magnification, improve your accuracy over greater ranges and helps with small game. A red dot scope can work very well in combination with a slug gun, but after all that’s up to your preferences. Also, if you’ve chosen a 12-gauge shotgun, consider the recoil you’ll encounter when hunting. For obvious reasons, you’ll want to be careful using a scope on a slug gun with a lot of kick. Try to purchase a scope with 3.5 – 4 inch eye relief. If you’re using a dedicated slug gun, you might not need to invest in a scope for increased accuracy, especially if you’re not going much past the 100 yard range. Many gun owners suggest using a scope with a fixed 4 power. Otherwise, an optic that varies between 1 to 4 power is a good way to go as well. If you’re not using a dedicated shotgun, and you’re using a smoothbore instead, it’s suggested to stick with the 1 to 4 power range optic, since you’ll likely be forced to come in closer range to shoot your game.
One of the most recommended scopes on the market for slug gun hunters is the Nikon Prostaff Shotgun Hunter. Nikon is an obviously recognizable name, and it’s well reviewed amongst all levels of gun owners. It’s a variable scope, with a power optic of 2 to 7, which really allows a slug gun hunter to reach the full accuracy of their gun, no matter if it’s a dedicated slug gun or a smoothbore. Although slug gun hunters will likely stick to small game hunting, it’s also good for larger game. The greatest part is that this scope accounts for a lot of the shortcomings we discussed earlier: the Nikon Prostaff Shotgun Hunter has a bullet drop compensator that accounts for the aerodynamics of slugs with velocities of 1900 to 2000 feet per second on 100 to 200 yard shots. It’s easily adaptable so you can adjust it perfectly to the slug gun you use. There really isn’t another optic that comes close to the Nikon Prostaff Shotgun Hunter, as far as slug guns go. If you haven’t committed to a dedicated slug gun, it would be wise to consider investing in such a beneficial piece, especially if you’re having trouble finding the best slugs for your gun.
Caring for a Slug Gun
Like any gun, it’s important to take special care of your slug gun. Slug guns require both routine cleaning and an annual cleaning, which involves completely disassembling the gun. Of course, if you what you are doing, you can do both cleanings by yourself. In most cases, however, it’s advised that you take your gun to a professional gunsmith for annual cleanings. You should always give your slug gun a light cleaning after every use, and it’s very simple to do:
- First, leave your slug gun in a warm, dry place to come to room temperature before you take apart any pieces.
- Apply a cleaner to a bore mop, and swab the bore to remove any loose debris and moisture.
- Remove the slug gun’s forearm, and wipe the magazine tube with a cloth with cleaner on it.
- If you own an autoloader slug gun, wipe the gas pistons, valves or springs. Then, reinstall them.
- Reassemble the gun, and then wipe the gun’s exterior with some lubricant on a cloth.
You’re likely to start seeing slug guns gain even more popularity over the next decade. While it’s great to travel to rural areas for more open game hunting, the more common reality for gun owners is choosing the special hunting areas nearby for saving travel time and collecting trophy game easier. As special hunting areas increase, so will slug guns. It’s wise, as a small game hunter, to stay ahead and invest in a way to suit your hunting style and needs.