I happen to like slug guns, probably because I carried one for many years when I worked as a black bear specialist for Saskatchewan's game agency. That old Remington Model 870 pump accompanied me on some hair-raising experiences, usually at night, and I can recall a couple of times when that gun saved my skin.
Back in those days, slug guns had short barrels, rifle-like open sights and no choke constriction. My coworkers and I shot whatever slugs we could find, and accuracy was measured in "minute of black bear" at 25-50 yards. Part of my job entailed shooting a significant number of cattle-killing bears annually, and my Model 870 did the job well. It shot Browning Legia brand Brenneke slugs very accurately out to 65 yards, so they became my standard work load.
Nowadays the term "slug gun" is likely to signify a shotgun that's specifically designed for deer hunting. These guns have rifled barrels, superb open sights and/or cantilever scope mounts and special stocks designed for shooting with a scope. The most preferred slugs are now saboted projectiles that shoot consistent groups out to 150 yards or even slightly farther. In fact, ammunition manufacturers have concentrated their efforts on extending the capabilities of slugs with great success.
An Array Of Choices
Benelli's top-of-the-line slug gun is the Super Black Eagle II, a 12 gauge semiauto in Advantage Timber HD camo, black synthetic or satin walnut stock. It features a 24-inch rifled barrel and will handle 3-inch shells. The M2 Field 12 gauge semiauto is available in black synthetic or camo and features the standard 3-inch chamber and 24-inch heavy-walled barrel. All of these slug guns have adjustable sights and receivers that are ready for a scope, as well as recoil-reducing ComforTech stocks that absorb almost 50 percent of the kick from magnum loads.
If you prefer a pump, check out Benelli's Nova. It's available in 12 or 20 gauge with a rifled barrel and adjustable sights, or as a combo rig complete with a field and slug barrel. The latter features a cantilever, rifled barrel.
Beretta offers its A391 Xtrema2 KO synthetic rifled slug model for deer hunters. This gun has a 24-inch rifled barrel and is available with a cantilever base for scope mounting. The action handles up to 31/2-inch shells and recoil is greatly reduced thanks to Beretta's Kick-Off recoil reducing stock.
The Browning Gold gas-operated semiauto shotgun is offered in three slug models, the Rifled Deer Hunter (12 and 20 gauge), Rifled Deer Stalker (12 gauge) and Rifled Deer (12 gauge). All models have 3-inch chambers, and rifled slug barrels are 22 inches long with a 1-in-28-inch twist rate. The barrels are thick-walled and have cantilever scope mounts attached, and none of the barrels has open sights.
The Rifled Deer Hunter has a satin-finished walnut stock/blued barrel, the Rifled Deer Stalker a black composite stock/blued barrel and the Rifled Deer has a Mossy Oak camo composite stock/ camo barrel.
Harrington & Richardson offers three single-shot break-open-design slug guns. The top of the line is the Ultra Slug Hunter Deluxe in both 12 and 20 gauge. The heavy 24-inch barrel is fully rifled, and the gun has a checkered, laminated Monte Carlo stock, recoil pad and factory installed scope bases and nylon sling.
The Ultra Slug Hunter is similar to the Deluxe except the stock is made of walnut finished American hardwood. This slug gun is available with a shortened stock for small-framed shooters that drops the length of pull from 141/4 inches to 131/8 inches.
Mossberg offers a pair of slug guns called the 500 Slugster and 535 ATS Slugster. The 535 ATS is a pump action in Mossy Oak camo or black synthetic stock featuring a 24-inch rifled barrel and adjustable sights. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope. The 535 ATS will handle 31/2-inch shells, and the 500 is similarly equipped but chambered for 3-inch shells. Mossberg's pump shotguns are reliable, rugged and feature easily accessible top-mounted safeties and twin action bars.
Remington's Model 870 pump shotgun is available in three slug models, the Express Deer, Express Synthetic Deer and Express Slug, all with 20-inch rifled barrels. The Express Deer has a Monte Carlo style wooden stock and choice of the standard 12 gauge 20-inch rifled barrel or a 20-inch Improved Cylinder barrel that will handle both slugs and buckshot. The Express Synthetic Deer has a 12 gauge rifled barrel and Monte Carlo style black synthetic stock.
The Express Slug is available in both 12 and 20 gauges, with heavy contoured rifled barrel that increases gun weight slightly, thus reducing recoil. The barrel doesn't have open sights, instead a cantilever scope mount is factory mounted.
All Remington Model 870 slug guns feature twin-action bars and receivers milled from a solid billet of steel. From experience I can say with confidence that there are few shotgun designs that are as reliable as the Model 870.
Remington also offers the Model 11-87 gas-operated semiauto slug gun in two 12 gauge 3-inch magnum models. The Premier Cantilever Deer has a Monte Carlo style satin walnut stock and 21-inch rifled barrel complete with a factory mounted cantilever base. The Sportsman Deer has similar specs but comes with a black synthetic stock.
Savage offers a unique bolt-action slug gun that looks more like a heavy-barreled rifle than a shotgun. The Model 210F Slug Warrior is one of the nicest-handling slug guns on the market and features a 24-inch rifled barrel chambered for 3-inch shells. The composite stock is available in black or Realtree camo. A one-piece scope mount is included with each slug gun because there are no open sights. The 210F is intended for accurate shooting, pushing the envelope for slug gun performance.
Weatherby offers deer hunters its SAS Slug Gun featuring a unique adjustable butt-stock that has a shim system for changing the cast or angle of the stock. The SAS is available in 12 gauge 3-inch with a 22-inch rifled barrel and comes with a cantilever mount installed, as well as sling swivel studs.
Winchester offers its Super X3 Cantilever Deer gun in 12 gauge, 3-inch magnum with 22-inch rifled barrel. Winchester's cantilever is unique because it incorporates a Truglo front sight and folding rear sight in its design, which enables a hunter to easily install a scope. The Cantilever base even has a full-length groove that can be used for open-sight aiming if the rear sight is folded down. The Super X3 has weather-proof coatings on the metal and stock. I've shot the Super X3 and was impressed with the accuracy I achieved with Winchester's saboted slug.
Although I've listed these gun manufacturers in alphabetical order thus far, I had to break that rule to save the most accurate and best-built slug gun for last. Tar Hunt Custom Rifles offers two slug guns, a worked-over version of the Remington Model 870, and a bolt-action model that's essentially a custom rifle that shoots rifled slugs. The 870 modification in 12, 16 and 20 gauge sizes involves installing a threaded sleeve and barrel. This means the barrel is more or less permanently installed rather than having the original take-down design. The permanent installation makes for far superior accuracy.
The Tar Hunt is truly a custom built slug-shooter. It utilizes a proprietary action, McMillan stock, E.R. Shaw 12 gauge rifled barrel and all the tricks used in building custom rifles. This is a minute-of-angle slug gun, right from the first group fired. This is particularly true if you use specially developed Lightfield slugs, which have a unique post wad that wedges forward. This ensures a perfect fit of the slug within the plastic sabot and optimal accuracy.
As I stated earlier, modern shotguns fitted with scopes, rifled barrels and loaded with saboted slugs are deadly on deer at ranges up to 150 yards. Yes, most deer hunters will tote a centerfire rifle where it's legal to do so, but they shouldn't feel like they've drawn the short end of the stick when regulations mandate the use of a slug gun.