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Increasingly more slug-gun states within the Midwest and East have legalized the usage of straight-wall rifles throughout deer season lately. Straight-wall cartridges, just like the .350 Legend and .45/70, give whitetail hunters superior accuracy at shorter ranges, making them safer to shoot than necked cartridges in densely populated areas. However rifled and sabot (pronounced “say-bo”) slugs are removed from outdated. Numerous hunters in the midst of this nation take smoothbore and rifled-barrel shotguns afield every fall, hoping to punch a tag with these short-range projectiles.

Each rifled slugs and sabots are perfect for the distances hunters purpose to kill whitetails—sometimes inside 150 yards—in shotgun-only states. Their lethality has been properly documented after a long time of profitable use within the deer woods. However there stays a long-standing argument amongst slug-gun hunters: Which projectile is greatest suited to killing whitetails? Through the years, the editors of Outside Life have shot a wide range of rifled slugs and sabots from the bench and within the area and know properly the capabilities of every load. In case you’re making an attempt to resolve which spherical is good on your looking type, listed below are the realities of taking pictures rifled versus sabot slugs.

The Distinction Between Rifled Slugs and Sabots

A rifled slug has cut grooves in it.
The grooves reduce into rifled slugs give the looks that the projectile spins, however there may be some conjecture about that. Payton Miller

Hunters utilizing shotguns for deer—both by desire or mandate—can choose between a smoothbore that makes use of rifled (also called Foster-style) slugs or a rifled bore for sabot masses. A rifled slug has small helical grooves reduce into the bottom of the projectile, however the slug doesn’t have a specified twist charge like a centerfire spherical does.

There may be some conjecture as as to whether the vanes in a rifled slug trigger the projectile to spin in any respect. So, I talked to long-time gun author Dave Henderson, who has a long time of slug taking pictures expertise and a wealth of data after a 55-year profession of interviewing a number of the foremost ballisticians within the nation. He additionally authored a e book, Shotgunning for Deer: Weapons, Hundreds, and Strategies for the Fashionable Hunter, which particulars the improvements in slug know-how.

“Rifled slugs haven’t any twist charge,” Henderson says. “The slugs transit the barrel static and exit that approach. There are photographs from a producer in my e book that clearly present the rifling on the slug is worn easy within the barrel and the slug by no means rotates. The slug’s accuracy comes from the intense nose-heavy design, giving it the ‘rock-in-a-sock’ or [badminton] shuttlecock flight attribute.” 

The cuts are additionally there to permit the slug to go by a choke tube safely. If the grooves weren’t in place, there could be extra friction between the barrel and cargo, which might trigger a substantial drop in efficiency or presumably lead to a failure. The benefit with rifled slugs, after all, is that you simply don’t have to purchase a particular rifled barrel. You should utilize one shotgun to hunt deer, birds, and different small sport.

“Rifled slugs could also be fired in smoothbores or rifled barrels, with no benefit in both,” Henderson says. “The rifled slug kind of skids throughout the rifling within the barrel and exits the best way it might a smoothbore.”

Sabot-style rifled barrels sometimes have twist charges that may fall between 1:18 to 1:36. As an illustration, the favored Ithaca Deer Slayer III and Savage 220 have a barrel twist of 1:24 (that’s one full rotation of the slug each 24 inches). However the Savage 212 has a 1:35 twist. Curiously, former OL taking pictures editor Jim Carmichael discovered no statistical distinction in accuracy between utilizing a 1:28 and 1:32 rifled barrel in a 2008 slug gun take a look at (extra on this later).

“It’s the sabot slug that advantages from—in actual fact nearly requires —a rifled bore,” Henderson says. “The rifling grips the polymer sleeve(s) on the slug, imparting a stabilizing spin on the projectile whereas nonetheless within the barrel. Normally the sleeve is discarded after exiting the bore.” —J.G.

Rifled Choke Tubes

Sabots may also be shot by a smoothbore with a rifled choke. Shopping for a rifled choke tube is an economical approach to make use of sabots in a smoothbore with out incurring the expense of a very new barrel. Sabots are streamlined bullets encased in plastic very similar to hen shot is loaded right into a wad. When the spherical is fired, the slug stays within the plastic casing and spins down the barrel till the projectile leaves the muzzle. At that time, the sleeve and slug separate, and the projectile continues to spin because it travels downrange. Sabots are sometimes polymer-tipped and sub-caliber, which interprets to .50 in 12-gauge weapons. By comparability, normal smoothbore slugs are between .72- and .75-caliber. —P.M.

Sabot vs. Slug Trajectory

Most 12-gauge rifled slugs weigh both 1 or 1⅛ ounces. Sabots weigh below an oz, or 437.5 grains, and might vary from 250 to 376 grains. Each hit laborious sufficient to anchor any whitetail at an affordable distance. However you will notice extra sustained velocity from sabot slugs. Sabots proceed to journey at larger speeds for longer as a result of aerodynamics of the projectile.

To verify this, all you have to do is have a look at the trajectory of two 3-inch masses—Federal TruBall rifled slug and Federal Trophy Copper sabot—with a zero of 100 yards. The bodily make-up of the projectiles is sort of completely different, which drastically impacts their efficiency downrange. TruBall has a weight of 438 grains and a muzzle velocity of 1,700 fps. Trophy Copper is lighter (300 grains) and leaves the muzzle 300 fps quicker, at 2,000 fps. Within the desk beneath, you will notice that TruBall’s trajectory dissipates extra quickly than Trophy Copper when each masses are shot out to 200 yards below the identical situations. —J.G.

This table shows that rifled slugs drop faster than sabots.
Look intently at this easy desk and you may see that rifled slugs drop a lot quicker than sabots. Joe Genzel

Rifled Slug vs. Sabot: Which Load Affords Higher Accuracy?

Rifled slugs drop faster than sabots.
The rifled slug (left) is slower and heavier so it should drop quicker than a sabot. Payton Miller

A couple of years in the past, throughout a prolonged vary session, I shot 2¾-inch 1-ounce Federal TruBall rifled slugs from an open sight Benelli M2 and Winchester 2¾-inch 375-grain Twin Bond sabot slugs from a scoped Browning A-Bolt. At shorter ranges (out to 75 yards), there wasn’t a lot of a noticeable distinction between rifled and sabot slug accuracy. However once I began taking pictures out to 100 yards and past, the sabot excelled.

Throughout my day on the vary, I used to be not taking pictures rifled slugs by a scoped smoothbore, which may have contributed to the inaccuracies. However I’ve performed so many different occasions and located that the rifled slug merely gained’t carry out at distance like a sabot can. As an illustration, that 12-gauge 1-ounce Federal TruBall slug weighed 437.5 grains, in comparison with the 375-grain Winchester Twin Bond sabot. The TruBall slug additionally had a muzzle velocity of 1,300 fps in comparison with the Winchester’s 1,800 fps. Slower, heavier projectiles are going to drop quicker and have a much less efficient vary than a barely lighter, however a lot quicker one. —P.M.

Jim Carmichael’s Slug Gun Check

Rifle-barreled slug guns offer more accuracy.
Rifled slug weapons like this Savage 220 supply extra accuracy at distance if paired with a sabot. Savage Arms

Miller’s findings have been confirmed by the ballistic information I gleaned from Carmichael’s take a look at printed within the October 2008 subject of OL. With the assistance of Randy Fritz, who builds the extremely correct Tar-Hunt slug weapons, Carmichael examined 27 rifled and sabot slugs, taking pictures over 1,000 rounds from a 50-pound, remote-operated slug gun engineered by Fritz. Carmichael’s testing protocol known as for 5 three-shot teams of every load out to 100 yards, although he did hearth just a few five-shot teams to verify load consistency and the accuracy of the gear.

The desk beneath particulars the very best 20- and 12-gauge teams from the 4 producers—Federal, Remington, Winchester, and Lightfield— included within the take a look at. Many of the masses Carmichael shot have been sabots, however he did shoot two Winchester rifled slugs as properly. You’ll be able to see from the information that the sabot teams have been a lot tighter than their rifled counterparts. —J.G.

Carmichael's slug test in 2008 revealed sabots group tighter than slugs.
Carmichael’s slug take a look at in 2008 revealed sabots group tighter than rifled slugs. Joe Genzel

Ought to You Use a 2¾-Inch or a 3-Inch Slug?

Most of my expertise with slugs—rifled and sabot—has been with 2¾- and 3-inch 12-gauge choices. It’s my rivalry {that a} 2¾-inch is satisfactory for killing deer, and {that a} 3-inch load merely generates extra recoil with a slight quantity of elevated velocity. I chronographed Winchester’s Elite 3-inch Twin Bond sabot and located the muzzle velocity improve in a Browning A-Bolt to be solely 50 fps quicker than the 2¾-inch providing of the identical weight. Granted, velocities can fluctuate for a wide range of causes, together with the bodily make-up of the bullet, elevation, and climate situations, however I’ve by no means discovered that additional quarter-inch to make a marked distinction.  —P.M.

 The 20-Gauge Sabot Slug  

Hornady's 20-gauge SST is a highly capable round.
Hornady’s SST 20-gauge sabots can kill whitetails out to 150 yards. Hornady

Once I labored in Illinois, a shotgun-only deer state, I seen many whitetail hunters chosen 20-gauge sabot slug weapons. So, I used to be interested in 20-gauge vary capabilities and requested Hornady’s Seth Swerczek about it.

“I feel 20-gauge sabot masses are standard due to their diminished recoil,” Swerczek says. “Each of our 12- and 20-gauge sabot slug masses supply sincere 200-yard efficiency, so that you’re actually not giving up any efficient vary by choosing the 20-gauge.”

A 200-yard shot with Hornady’s 2¾-inch 20-gauge SST sabot is perhaps pushing the boundaries of that load’s effectiveness, particularly if the shot placement isn’t exact. However the 250-grain slug can kill a deer at 150 yards. In response to Hornady’s ballistics chart, the SST has a velocity of 1,331 fps and 983 ft/lb. of power at that distance. Dial your shot again to 100 yards and the identical load produces 1,200 ft/lb. of power.

What helped promote me on the 20, other than diminished felt recoil, was a possibility to hunt hogs with a scoped, rifled-barrel Winchester M1300 pump a number of years in the past. The longest shot I made was near 100 yards, and the longest shot I noticed anyone else join on—with the identical setup—was simply over 120 yards. At 100 yards, these 20-gauge sabot slugs seemingly hit with the pressure of a .250-grain .45/70 (it’s really a couple of 250 ft/lb. distinction in favor of the Hornady MonoFlex over an SST slug in a side-by-side comparability). Regardless, the terminal outcomes on 200-pound hogs, significantly harder to convey down than a whitetail, have been spectacular. —P.M.

Learn subsequent: The 15 Finest Shotguns for Deer Looking

Federal TruBall grouped well out to 60.
Miller discovered that Federal’s TruBall grouped properly out to 50 and 60 yards. Payton Miller

Decide a Slug or Sabot Based mostly on How You Hunt

Which choice you select—rifled or sabot slug—shall be subjective primarily based in your looking wants. From 75 yards and in (with the occasional poke out to 100 yards) a rifled slug holds its personal in comparison with a sabot. However in case you have any probability of a 100-yard-plus shot, a sabot is clearly a better option when it comes to accuracy and trajectory.

I did ask Swerczek which sells higher, Hornady’s SST sabot masses or the corporate’s conventional American Whitetail rifled slugs. He confirmed sabots are rather more standard. That’s not shocking since most hunters are enthusiastic about getting the utmost distance they’ll from their firearm. But additionally, a sabot able to taking pictures 50 to 75 yards farther could be the distinction between killing your goal buck and helplessly watching because it walks out of sight on the final day of gun season. —J.G. and P.M.



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