Slugging away.

Author:Miller, Payton
 
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SABOT OR RIFLED? SMOOTHBORE OR NOT? WHAT KIND OF ACCURACY CAN YOU EXPECT IN A MIX-AND-MATCH AT THE RANGE?

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A lot of states and individual counties-including a few with serious "big buck" reputations--stipulate the use of shotgun slugs for deer. To those who grew up in rifle states, this may sound like a handicap. But when you consider the real-world in ranges most whitetail is taken at, not so much.

The advances in shotgun slugs in the past couple decades may not have the same sex appeal compared to rifle and handgun ammo, but advances nave been considerable. The time-honored Foster-type rifled slug has been overshadowed by sabot slugs, featuring--essentially--sub-caliber (usually .50 in 12-gauge), streamhned "bullets," often polymer tipped and a specifically designed and advertised to be used with rifled barrels.

And although we use the term "rifled slug," we should acknowledge one thing right here from the outset: the grooves giving them their name don't spin them so much as they permit them to squeeze through different barrels and chokes.

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It was just this rifled slug/sabot distinction which got us to thinking. What would happen if we used "for smoothbore barrel" rifled slugs in a rifled barrel or "for rifled barrel" sabots in a smoothbore? Exactly what is the "crossover potential" of both types? When you see the caveat "For Rifled Barrels Only" or "For Smootbore Barrels Only" on a 5-pack of slugs, does it really mean that?

Well, generally speaking, of course it does. But we kind of wanted to find out to what degree, so we decided to shoot a bunch of current slug loads from a scoped, rifled-barrel Browning A-Bolt Stalker topped with a Burris Droptine 2-7X Slug Scope and an open-sighted Benelli Tactical M2 smoothbore. We wanted to see what loads--whether high-tech polymer-tipped sabot or chunky, traditional rifled slugs--gave what kind of results in both guns.

I All our slug loads were 2-3/4-inch 12-gauge. It is possible, of course, to buy 3-inch slug loads if you're so inclined. Winchester, for example, offers a 3-inch version of their 375-grain Dual Bond sabot load. You'll get about an extra 50 fps over the 2-3/4-inch version. Whether or not that's worth it to you is a personal matter. But for me the answer is a resounding no. Anyway, considering the amount of bench time we anticipated, passing on 3-inch stuff was a no-brainer.

To throw in a kicker, we wanted to find out how a rifled choke tube in the Benelli would handle both types as well. So we got hold of a Carlson's rifled tube to determine what the results would be in the overall mix. Obviously, there are a lot of deer hunters out there in shotgun-only areas who are still happily putting their favorite duck or pheasant gun to double duty. Not everyone is going to invest in a fully rifled, dedicated slug gun, so we wanted to see the advantages a rifled tube might bring to the table.

Both guns we used had excellent recoil-absorbing characteristics--the A-Bolt by virtue of its excellent recoil pad, the Benelli by virtue of its ComforTech stock, not to mention its semi-auto inertia action (more kick than a gas gun, still less than a bolt or...

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