Slug Guns Hunting Guide: Tips, Techniques, and Best Practices

Captain Hunter’s Key Points

  • Slug guns come in various types and gauges to suit different hunting needs and preferences. Shotguns can be converted into slug guns with a rifled barrel or scope, or purpose-built slug gun models can be purchased.
  • The three most common shotgun gauges used for slug hunting are 12, 20, and .410 bore. 12 gauge offers the most versatility while 20 gauge provides reduced recoil.
  • Sabot slugs and rifled shotgun barrels greatly improve accuracy compared to traditional Foster style slugs.
  • A scoped slug gun allows precise shot placement out to 100-150 yards. Red dot sights or ghost ring iron sights can also be effective without magnification.
  • Regular cleaning and maintenance of your slug gun prevents corrosion and ensures consistent performance.
  • Practice repeatedly from field positions to master the marksmanship skills needed for ethical, accurate shot placement.
  • Still hunting from an elevated stand or blind works well for slug guns given their limited range compared to high powered rifles.
captain sitting in the woods

Types of Hunting Slug Guns

Before we dive deep into slug gun hunting strategies and gear choices, it helps to have a basic grasp of the types of firearms used. While most any shotgun can fire a single projectile “slug,” purpose-built slug guns tailored for hunting tend to be more accurate and consistent. Here’s a quick overview of your options:

Shotguns Fitted for Slugs

Any pump action, semi-auto, or break-open shotgun can launch slugs when paired with a smoothbore or rifled barrel. The most popular hunting models include the classic Remington 870, Mossberg 500, and Winchester Model 1200. These shotguns offer versatility for both wing shooting and hunting large game with slugs.

To enhance consistency, some choose to use these just for slugs by installing an optics rail and scope. For optimal precision at longer ranges, switching to a rifled slug barrel imparts a stabilizing spin on saboted slugs.

While versatile, these converted shotguns usually can’t match the out-of-the-box accuracy of dedicated slug guns specifically built for extra stability. But they provide an affordable starting point for the slug hunting newcomer.

Rifled Shotgun Barrels

The simplest way to gain extra accuracy from your favorite pump action or semiauto shotgun is adding a rifled slug barrel. These feature interior rifling just like a rifle barrel to put stabilizing spin on sabot slugs.

Most models have cantilever scope mounts built right in for easy optics mounting. Often, you’ll see a fully rifled barrel that engages the slug throughout its flight. Other “rifled choke tube” designs only spin the slug in the last few inches before exiting the muzzle. Both work effectively to enhance precision.

Top manufacturers like Remington, Carlson’s, and Hastings produce rifled barrels for popular shotgun platforms. Just swap it in place of your normal barrel for season openers. This gives you a flexible deer season gun without buying anything new.

Bolt Action Slug Guns

The ultimate precision comes from purpose-built bolt action slug guns with heavy target-style barrels. Top players in this niche market are Savage and Mossberg with their specialized Slugster platforms.

These firearms mimic heavy barreled target rifles but in classic shotgun gauges and shooting sabot slugs. Expect exceptional 100 yard accuracy rivaling many deer rifles.

Bolt action slug guns appeal especially to those who already hunt with rifles for confidence in long range shot placement. Cycling the action also reduces perceived recoil compared to pump or semiauto platforms.

Semi-Auto Slug Guns

For those who favor autoloading actions, several manufacturers produce shotguns built specifically around sabot slugs. Remington’s SP-10 leads this market with its 10 pound heft absorbing recoil for crisp, accurate shots.

Benelli, Browning, and Franchi also offer semiauto slug gun models. These firearms make follow up shots faster than bolt actions and reduce recoil compared to pump shotguns. Consider one of these platforms if you anticipate needing rapid target acquisition.

hunter walking through the bush with slug gun

Choosing the Right Slug Gun

With an overview of the types of slug firing firearms now covered, let’s explore how to select the right one for your needs. Following a few key criteria helps narrow down options in this diverse market.

Intended Hunting Range

The distance you expect to shoot big game determines what class of slug gun matches well. For instance, if most of your stands place deer at 50 yards or less, an open choked smoothbore can do the trick.

But for consistent ethical kills out to 100+ yards, choose a scoped rifle sighted sabot slug gun. Maximize your effective reach through matching your firearm to typical terrain and shot angles.

Regional Hunting Regulations

In addition to typical considerations like caliber restrictions, understand if rifled firearms are allowed for slug hunting where you’ll be in the field. Several states prohibit rifles but allow smoothbore shotguns to sling slugs. This is especially common in the Southeast.

So know the lay of the land. If rifles or rifled slug guns aren’t permitted, keep it simple with an open choked shotgun for Foster type slugs.

Where they are legal, make the most of extended reach and pinpoint accuracy with a purpose-built slug gun shooting sabot slugs. Just be doubly sure to never cross state lines with it due to varying laws!

Desired Features

You also choose a slug gun based on desired handling traits and features. Those focused on range time gravitate towards heavier barreled platforms to tame recoil shot after shot. Hunters wanting a lightweight truck gun look for synthetic stocks on short barreled weapons.

If you know you’ll always run optics, select built-in, long eye relief scopes on guns like Savage’s Slugster line. Or add your own optics to picatinny mounted pump actions. Just be honest about must have capabilities now to avoid future upgrades down the road.

Budget Realities

Available funds inevitably factor into buying decisions with any hunting firearm. The good news is effective deer dropping slug guns are available at almost any price point today. Even under $300 gets you within ethical killing range if you hunt smart with an open choked smoothbore.

But the precision of sabot slugs extends realistic distances compared to bulkier Foster style projectiles. If you can invest more upfront, bolt action guns from Savage and Stevens allow superb accuracy just under $500. Top tier semi-autos stretch into four digits but deliver tack driving groups and lightning fast follow up.

Set your budget then find your best match across this spectrum of prices. With such variety today, no one hunts without options on either end of the cost curve.

elk next to hunter with s a slug gun

Understanding Shotgun Gauges

If you’re newer to shotguns in general, the numbering system designating different bore diameters can seem odd compared to rifles. But learning the distinctions helps select your optimal deer slug slinging cannon. Let’s cover the common gauges and which may work best for your needs:

12 Gauge

Considered the most versatile shotgun bore, 12 gauge throws the widest slugs and heaviest payloads. It’s prevalence also makes ammunition easy to find and usually lowest cost. With versatility and value combined, there’s little mystery why 12 rules the roost across shotgunning disciplines.

For slug guns, loads range from lighter target shots at 1oz to heavy 2oz thumpers meant for big game. Variety abounds for smoothbore or rifled barrels including Brenneke, Lightfield, Federal Premium, Winchester, Remington, and Hornady slugs.

While stouter recoil comes with moving heavier mass, the vast 12 gauge slug selection makes it a prime choice as an all around shotgun caliber for both birds and deer.

20 Gauge

Splitting the difference between heavy hitting 10 gauges and manageable .410 bores, 20 gauge throws lighter slugs with less recoil than 12 gauge. Still packing enough mass for deer out to 100 yards, it appeals especially to smaller framed shooters. Youth and women alike appreciate its blend of versatility and easy carrying without brutalizing your shoulder.

Sabot options like Hornady’s SST slug leaves a 20 gauge’s 3⁄4 ounce projectile still delivering 1400 ft/lbs of punch. That’s ample power for confident anchoring of whitetail and black bear. For moderate big game at moderate ranges, 20 gauge has much going for it where legal.

.410 Bore

On the absolute low end of hitting weight, three inch .410 shells can move a 1⁄2 ounce sabot slug at over 1,800 feet per second. Energy tops out around 1100 ft/lbs – paltry by larger bore standards but still useful given precise shot placement and close range.

With virtually no recoil and featherweight hardware, .410 bolt actions like Rossi’s matched with a long eye relief scope prove effective short range deer medicine. Their minimal report makes them ideal for suburban deer removal too where noise must be kept to a minimum.

a black and silver gun

Selecting Ammunition

While sabot slug technology transformed deer hunting in the 1980s, lead Foster style slugs still have their place for smooth shooting, open choked barrels today. Understand the characteristics of each along with specialty loadings to pick your best match. Consider all these factors when buying your slug season supplies:

Sabot Slugs

These encapsulate a smaller caliber solid lead or copper projectile within a lightweight outer plastic “shoe” that grips the rifling spin imparted from rifled barrels. Upon exiting, the sabot petals away allowing the dense inner slug to continue stabilized flight towards the target.

Sabots require spin stabilization to achieve their exceptional accuracy which is why they’re almost exclusively used within rifled slug barrels. Expect these to print tight 100 yard groups from gun and ammunition combinations optimized to compliment one another.

All major ammunition makers load sabot options with Remington, Federal, Winchester, Hornady, Brenneke, and Lightfield leading the pack. They’re equally at home hammering deer and hogs as punching paper. For reliable ignition, always choose shells marked specifically for rifled barrels when running sabots.

Foster Style Slugs

Your classic “wall of lead” slug resembles the shape of a door stopper. These bond a heavy tapered projectile to the shell casing itself making them as foolproof as any other single piece ammunition. High mass lends brute, bone-breaking energy with moderate accuracy acceptable for short range work in smooth shotgun bores.

Given they require no spin stabilization, they function equally well through choked or open cylinders without bridging. Standard velocity or lower recoil loads work superbly for easy shooting in fields and forests. When chasing meat for the freezer in thick habitat, reach for heavy Foster loads that hit like trucks out to 60 yards.

While sabots own the accuracy crown, tried and true Foster slugs still deliver thunder and great value for smoothbore shot guns. Their lower cost and versatility isn’t fading anytime soon even among diehard modern inline hunters.

Specialty and Premium Loads

In addition to basic target practice fodder and lead slugs, several manufacturers load specialty shells tailored for large game. Chief among them are non-toxic blends using copper or tin as their primary ingredient. Brands like Federal’s Heavyweight TSS and Brenneke with lead-free Green ammunition lead in this regard.

You also find premium options like Hornady’s Leverevolution loading that mates pointed Flex-Tipped projectiles to a mono-block sabot for aerodynamic performance from rifled deer slug barrels. Accuracy always goes up when uniformity follows in the slug world.

There’s even subsonic and magnum tuning to tweak ballistic arcs and velocities for your specific firearm. While pricier, delving into these upper tier slugs often improves success thanks to more efficient energy transfer and penetration. Test differing loads to see which groups tightest from your chosen deer dropper.

Person in Green Camouflage Print Pants Carrying Shotgun Shells

Optics and Sights for Slug Guns

Accurate shot placement further than 50 yards virtually requires some form of optics or aiming assistance beyond a simple front bead or open iron sights. Tapping your slug gun’s potential necessitates mounting both scopes and other sighting systems built to handle the unique recoil.

Consider the following accessories to make the most of your deer dropper whether built of wood and blued steel or forged of composites and nitro finishes:


No accessory improves hit probability more than an appropriately chosen scope. Variables like magnification level, reticle format, and adjustment fineness all refine your accuracy equation when launching projectiles at living targets.

Most slug gun scopes fall between 1-4x or 2-7x overall magnification range. This balances hunting field of view with sufficient zoom for fine aiming. Specialized “sabot” reticles like Nikon’s provide holdover points for 275, 300, and 325 yard shots. Know your max distance then match power for 40 yard zero dead on at further reaches.

Eye relief of at least four inches aids fast target pickup shooting from improvised field positions. Generous adjustment knobs sync trajectory to aim for seasons serving venison stew. No single add-on does more for consistent ethical kills at distance than dialing your slug rifle in behind glass.

Red Dot Sights

These compact optics project an illuminated aiming point forwards against your target making centering your shotgun naturally easy. Wider fields of view and generous eye relief box lend rapid shoulder mounts. Red dots like Vortex’s Venom or Leupold’s VX Freedom allow both eyes open shooting ideal for reacting quickly in transitional forest terrain

While less precise than magnification scopes, sophisticated red dots work superbly with sabot slugs inside 100 yards – especially at larger targets like bedded bucks or storming boar. Zero your venom rig for dead on holds at normal distances. Consider an offset model still allowing sights use in case electronics fail or close action demands instinct shooting.

Hunters wanting fast target acquisition and good enough accuracy find much love for non magnified red dots paired to potent slug shotguns. They split differences between scopes and irons nicely.

Ghost Ring Sights

These circular rear notches with thick sighting rims quickly center front posts in variable light conditions. Coupled with metal front blades in a ramp configuration, ghost rings provide intuitive aiming without batteries or optics to fail.

Many rifles and shotgun receivers come pre-drilled and tapped for these rugged steel sights still used by military and law enforcement globally. To maximize hit probability past 50 paces, marry a quality fiber optic or tritium front post to ghost ring rear. This lights your sight picture automatically at dawn and dusk prime movement windows.

Simple, effective and ten times faster than notched rear and bead front iron sight sets for the woods hunter needing to take snap shots. Whether leading a lunging boar or stopping a bounding deer in the brush, ghost rings help heave slugs with precision most scenarios demand without adding weight or wound up scopes prone to damage in the thick stuff.

Portrait of a Hunter Holding a Shotgun

Maintaining and Cleaning Slug Guns

While not rocket science, keeping any firearm running smoothly takes performing proper preventative maintenance and cleaning. Given the challenging conditions most hunting arms face in backwoods locations, staying on top of these areas is doubly important for your slug gun.

Follow this basic upkeep regimen to prevent malfunctions when Mr. Big stands broadside at 15 yards:

General Care Tips

  • Wipe all exterior metal daily with oil cloths in wet weather to prevent rust
  • Clean barrel using one piece coated rods to prevent jacket separation and fouling buildup
  • Scrub plastic stocks and forends to remove debris with warm water and soap as needed
  • Apply light coat of quality gun oil to action components and trigger assemblies if hunting daily
  • Fully dissemble bolts including firing pin sections to remove caked carbon and dirt seasonally
  • Replace minor springs and pins weakened by constant compression before failures occur
  • Store unloaded in secure, climate controlled spaces away from temperature extremes when not hunting

Staying ahead of grime guarantees solid performance afield. Don’t let neglect cost you shots at once-in-a-lifetime trophies.

Post Season Maintenance

More intensive scrubbing and overhaul helps your firearm operate like new next fall. After concluding each season’s pursuits, conduct thorough cleaning:

  • Remove all barrels and stocks for complete access and inspection
  • Brush out barrel interiors completely using a bronze bore cleaner then oil
  • Soak and flush all bolt pieces and action springs in solvent followed by lubricant
  • Scrub chamber and lug recesses with a steel brush to remove grime
  • Wipe away dirt on exterior and interior surfaces with a rag
  • Oil key components then reassemble all parts
  • Function check trigger, bolt and feeding behavior noting any anomalies

This postseason rifle spit shine removes a year’s worth of filth so gases, shells, and slugs flow without fail on your next expedition. Neglect risks crippling jams or stuck cases in remote locales.

Whether a bargain department store pump gun or fancy semi-auto Italian stallion, all benefit from proper yearly overhaul restoring mechanical order.

bench for cleaning guns

Accuracy and Shooting Techniques

Success slug gunning relies as much on mastering shooting methods as choosing the perfect firearm. Anything delivering a one ounce projectile at nearly 2,000 feet per second demands precision aim to connect cleanly on deer vitals past spitting distance.

Follow these tips to make the most of your smooth bore or sabot slinger when hunting occasions call:

Develop Proper Form

  • Support footing should lean forward, transferring 70% of heft through the leading foot
  • Maintain solid shoulder stock interface allowing recoil impulse to flow straight back
  • Pull buttstock firmly into pocket to generate stability shot to shot
  • Align eyes directly behind chosen sighting system
  • Hold breath only long enough for trigger squeeze and follow through
  • Keep head static throughout firing sequence, allowing barrel rise before realigning

This stable shooting platform focused on managing energy flow makes easy repeatability assisting smooth trigger presses. Rushing the process risks missing game animals or painful scope eyebrows!

Refine Accuracy Drills

Range sessions must include positional shooting similar to circumstances encountered hunting rather than just benchrested accuracy. Consider including drills such as:

  • Practicing firing from kneeling using shooting sticks or packs as supports
  • Bracing your body against trees and shooting from either side to mimic odd stand locations
  • Repeatedly patterning slugs prone over improvised rests like logs or backpack while wearing full hunting gear
  • Running dynamic shooting with targets visible for short durations to simulate fleeting encounter moments

Sharpening reflexes, balance, and positional familiarity pays huge dividends tagging retreating deer or quick follow up attempts on wounded hogs in heavy vegetation. Prepare for reality by rehearsing.

Detail Zero Distances

  • Concentrate initial bullet zeros at 40-60 yards depending on typical shot distances for your region and hunting style
  • For clear-cut forest or agricultural areas, stretch zero to 100 yards allowing dead on holds at normal ranges
  • In thickly wooded terrain, keep zero more conservative for closer passing shots in scrub and brush
  • For multi-range versatility, considerSCOPE utilizing slug gun scopes with trajectory compensating reticles calibrated to common reaches
  • Always confirm precise impacts at various distances to internalize holSights and holdover Referencing ballistic charts aids street shooting by mapping arcs before hunting situations demand split second decisions

No two hunting properties or conditions completely align. Spending range time personalizing zero for your normal launch points makes threading needles on boars or deer viable when no rest presents itself.

Practice early, practice often, practice right!

Hunting Strategies and Tips

In addition to marksmanship, success punching tags with slug guns relies heavily on hunting tactics tailored to their effective attributes. Here are field proven methods for making the most of your smoothbore or sabot slinger:

Still Hunt HighTraffic Areas

Unlike high velocity rifles, slug guns work best inside 150 yards. So concentrate movement across networks of trails, funnels, bedding zones, water sources, and feed areas deer habitually utilize.

Pause frequently, scanning ahead with binoculars and listening for clues betraying activity. Stalk cautiously towards recent signs of passage such as beds, rubs, tracks, or droppings to optimize reaction time should targets appear.

Let their routines place venison within your kill zone rather than rambling through vast acreage with no destinations. Hunt hard within slug gun range!

Pursue Saddle Terrain

Natural saddles linking bedding cover to feeding grounds make perfect stand sites. Find zones connecting thicker sanctuaries to agricultural land, oak groves, meadows, or pine savannah.

Set up an elevated box stand if possible or lean against a wider tree 20 yards back within the woods to conceal movement and silhouette. Then ambush all traversing deer movement in the evening or dawn. Funnel zones place appetizing shots well within conservative distances.

Scout Early Season Sign

Spend several weeks before season glassing transition zones to learn deer tendencies. This also helps formulate stand locations to intercept projected opening day movements or early rut restlessness.

Identify where bucks patrol for ladies while feeding. Their mind is on one thing, allowing sneaky approaches. Consider hanging multiple lock-on stands along these aura lines for prime encounters all season long.

Homework hooks venison! Do yours and slug gun success follows.

shooting, shoot, gun

Legal Considerations

In addition to common concerns like licenses and tags, using slug guns often involves specific regulations regarding firearms and ammunition types in shotgun-only areas. Keep up to date on all governing laws for the state and region you’ll be hunting including:

Firearm Restrictions

Certain zones prohibit use of rifles or ammunition types for safety reasons. Typical language requires “shotguns shooting single projectiles” which allows slug guns but bans saboted bullets or standard rifle cartridges.

Some states differentiate between smoothbore barrels and those with land-and-groove rifling. Others specify cases where only foster style slugs are permitted. Know standards backwards and forwards to remain legal.

Contact regional game wardens also to clarify any gray areas if questions remain. They stay most current on policies in flux compared to brief regulation booklets alone. Reach out early to confirm what’s acceptable in the areas you’ll be.

Ammunition Specifications

In addition to firearm formats, some jurisdictions forbid lead slug ammunition or place minimum caliber diameters on cartridges. Several states outlaw tracer rounds or incendiary shells which could spark forest fires in dry conditions.

Regulations also cover allowable shotgun shell length for slugs. Typical deer rounds span 23⁄4” to 31⁄2” based on typical break action gauges. Again, confirm any ammo doubts before buying shells or loading magazines to remain above board.

Ignorance costs much more than asking a few clarifying questions upfront. Do your due diligence well in advance.

Safety Measures

While easily managed with sound fundamentals, slug guns demand diligent safety practices ensuring unintended outcomes are avoided. Their projectiles pack immense power to rattle targets as distant as foothills. Manage associated risks by:

  • Identifying visible backstops before shots. Know precisely where slugs stop given misses along likely flight paths.
  • Wearing blaze orange when moving through autumn woods to avoid fellow hunter mishaps
  • Unloading and physically inspecting vacant chambers when traversing fences or hazards
  • Stowing slug ammunition separately from rifles inside padded, protective cases until preparing for immediate use
  • Ensuring adequate ventilation in tight spaces like box blinds where smoked residue accumulates
  • Recognizing hearing protection prevents transitioning harmless concussive reports into permanent high pitch ringing damage
  • Carrying a proven less lethal bear deterrent backup like pepper spray to halt overly curious bruins

Respect coupled with responsible handling keeps woodlands safe when hunting deer, elk, or feral nuisance beasts. Never lose sight of this goal above garnering trophies or bravado behavior.

Each season countless sportsmen discover big game prowess using these straight shooting slug guns. While high velocity bullets own long distance domains, mastery moving through tangled terrain places pump guns and bolt actions on target within 150 steps. That’s been the recipe driving venison production across whitetail ranges for over a century now.

Hopefully this walkthrough better prepares you to select, configure and wield your chosen slug hunter starting next autumn. With sound information as a guide, larders and trophy halls soon brim with fruits from the forest. Now pick your firearm, pattern your slugs, then own opening day once regulations permit. You’ll be glad you did.

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

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