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"Slug" doesn't just mean "couch potato" anymore.

The slug gun of tomorrow: Tar Hunt's bolt-action, rifled-barrel shotgun has increased the range of the slug hunter by 50 percent.

I just finished doing a rather lengthy review of the current crop of slug shotguns and ammunition. The "slug scene" is a very geographical business. I mean, if you're a dealer based in Texas, Colorado, or any state where you needn't concern yourself with state-wide or regional restrictions banning the use of centerfire rifles, what's happening on the slug scene probably tweaks your curiosity about as much as how many dwarves you can fit in the trunk of a '56 Buick.

If you're based in the populated east, however, where many states do have such regulations -- and where more are being contemplated all the time -- it's a subject that generates keen interest.

The rationale behind these slug gun-only regulations, of course, is safety. Until quite recently the abysmal ballistics of a typical smoothbore shotgun firing the rifled slugs of Federal, Remington or Winchester was such that beyond their 60- to 75-yard effective range, unseen hunters, livestock, buildings, and what have you, were relatively safe from errant or ricocheting slugs. The rapid loss of velocity and rainbow-like trajectories of the Foster-type slug (named for the guy who developed it back in the '30s) makes the "accident zone" much smaller than that of a high-powered rifle.

About 10 years ago, however, some dramatic changes started to occur thanks to the development of the .50-caliber sabot slug by Ballistic Research Industries (BRI) and the seemingly contradictory "rifled shotgun." This past decade has seen the performance of slug guns and ammo improve so dramatically that we're in danger of losing some legislative battles through ignorance.

Slick Slugs

When I say that slug performance has improved dramatically, I mean it's nearly double what it was a generation ago, and while doubling the performance of anything is a big deal, it is an accomplishment which must be viewed within its own relative merits. Today's best-performing guns and ammo are capable of taking deer out to 125 yards or more, whereas that limit used to be 75 or 80 yards.

Unfortunately -- and I may be more guilty than any of my colleagues here -- we've been so laudatory in our praises of this new ammunition that we may have given some of our legislators and game management people the impression that today's slug gun has become some kind of formidable killing machine as deadly as a .300 Magnum.

Like they say, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially in the political arena. Hunting advocates may soon find themselves explaining to disinterested lawmakers and range wardens that these new, efficient, state-of-the-art slug guns have really only increased their accuracy, not their power.

Better Performance Package

There was a time not long ago when a buck standing 125 yards away did not have a helluva lot to worry about if faced with the typical slug gun. Today that's no longer true. With any of the slug-shooting guns now offered by Benelli, Browning, Ithaca, Mossberg, Remington, Tar-Hunt, or Winchester -- guns with fully rifled barrels or rifled accessory tubes that interchange with screw-in chokes -- that same buck is in deep trouble.

Even with the worst of today's slugs -- the Foster types of the Big Three ammo makers -- these guns are capable of shooting 4-inch to 5-inch groups at 80 yards. The Brenneke slugs as loaded by RWS, Fiocchi, and Activ, will do the same at 100 yards through most guns.

While this improved performance makes it possible to take shots today that no prudent hunter would have attempted 25 years ago, that "danger area" we spoke of has increased only marginally.

As for the more efficient sabot loads of Winchester and Federal, these truly have extended the effective range out to 125 yards. Compared to the Foster and Brenneke rounds, that's a significant increase all right, but in absolute terms the ballistic realities of the sabot still make it a relatively safe means of harvesting deer in more populated areas.

I just hope we gun writers haven't done such a good job selling these things that game legislators now consider them the next best thing to an assault rifle."
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Title Annotation:Special Intelligence; slug shotguns
Author:Sundra, Jon R.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:699
Previous Article:ATF update.
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