I can't explain it, but it is an indisputable fact that some of the biggest whitetails are shot in states that only allow shotguns during their firearm deer seasons. Don't believe me? Just look at the record books. Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, parts of Wisconsin, and shotgun-only urban zones back East are well represented.
If you're gunning for the record books in one of these areas, or just meat hunting where shotguns are mandated, slugs trump buckshot in both the accuracy and performance categories. From fin-adorned Foster-style slugs to felt-backed Brennekes and sleek saboted bullets, there are a myriad of offerings on the market, all of which have their place.
Which are the best for big Midwestern bucks? The answer: It depends. A lot of factors go into the ideal bullet, from shot distance to shotgun selection.
I have, however, tried to make the buying process easier by selecting four of our favorites to fit a variety of situations.
Federal Premium TruBall Rifled Slug HP
12-gauge, 3-inch, 1 oz.
For 2014, Federal
has added a 3-inch shell in both 12 and 20 gauge to their popular TruBall
line of rifled slugs, asserting that size does matter for some deer hunters. Pain-tolerant pump gunners shouldn't mind the additional recoil the extra powder delivers, but these shells really shine when fired from an autoloader.
Just like their smaller siblings, the 3-inch shotshells offer some of the best accuracy available out of smoothbore shotguns, flirting with, but not breaking, the 2-inch mark at 50 yards. Packing a 1-ounce Foster-style rifled slug, the 12-gauge load speeds along at 1,700 fps and delivers some serious energy downrange. The 20-gauge version is loaded with ¾ ounce of lead.
Our choice for the accuracy-obsessed, or as obsessive about accuracy as one can be when shooting slugs from a smoothbore.
5 per five
Hornady Custom Lite
20-gauge, 2¾-inch, 250-grain
I'm fond of reduced-recoil loads for many reasons, but they do sacrifice a bit of trajectory and downrange energy in exchange for being softer on the shoulder. Hornady
claims their 20-gauge Custom Lite
shotgun slugs deliver up to 40 percent less felt recoil than standard loads, not an insignificant amount. Yet they still offer a velocity in excess of 1,600 fps at the muzzle and nearly 1,100 fps at 200 yards.
Hitting the vitals at that distance might be a bit of stretch for the 20-gauge, but shooters should expect three-inch accuracy and nearly 800 ft.-lbs. of downrange energy at 150 yards. Hornady loads their Custom Lite shotshells with a heavyweight version of their flex-tip expanding (FTX) bullets in an accuracy-inducing plastic sabot.
Rifle-like technology and performance, in a slug that won't punish your shoulder.
16 per five
Remington Premier Copper Solid
12-gauge, 2¾-inch, 1 oz.
Originally developed to comply with California's laws mandating non-lead projectiles, Remington's Copper Solid
line of bullets have been adopted around the country. Unlike their polymer-tipped centerfire siblings, Copper Solid slugs feature a cavernous hollowpoint that folds back upon impact into six distinct and devastating petals.
This controlled expansion equals twice the bullet's original diameter, and because the copper gilding metal construction maintains up to 100 percent of its original weight, it penetrates deeply and all but ensures complete pass-throughs. These loads clock in at just 1,450 fps, but still deliver more-than-adequate energy at ranges in excess of 150 yards.
Even considering the cost, it's easy to make the case for a saboted copper slug when you see what kind of wound channel these heavy-hitters create.
20 per five
Winchester Supreme Elite Dual Bond
12-gauge, 3-inch, 375-grain
Looking like a medieval torture device after expansion, these heavy hunks of lead cut a wide, jagged path through flesh, muscle, and bone thanks to what Winchester
calls the 'bullet-within-a-bullet ' construction. Upon impact, the deep and wide hollowpoint peels back the heavy gilding metal outer jacket and the inner jacketed lead bullet, creating 12 offset petals.
The 375-grain saboted slugs exit the muzzle at a blistering 1,850 fps, reducing bullet drop and all but eliminating the need to hold over at standard slug-worthy distances. That kind of velocity combined with a heavy bullet also hits hard, transferring maximum energy to the animal. Dual Bonds
are plenty good enough to get you three-inch groups at 150 yards.
With 12 fang-like cutters slicing deer like a deadly drill bit, it's the bloodiest of the bunch.
12 per five