Sabots shoot flatter than rifled slugs.

Whitetail Slug Shootout: Rifled vs. Sabot Slugs Leave a comment

Increasingly 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 centerfire rifles in densely populated areas. However rifled and sabot (pronounced “say-bo”) slugs are removed from outdated. Numerous hunters in the course 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 many years of profitable use within the deer woods. However there stays a long-standing argument amongst slug-gun hunters: Which projectile is finest fitted to killing whitetails? Through the years, the editors of Outside Life have shot quite a lot of rifled slugs and sabots from the bench and within the area and know properly the capabilities of every load. In the event you’re attempting to determine which spherical is right in your looking type, listed here are the realities of taking pictures rifled versus sabot slugs.

The Distinction Between Rifled Slugs and Sabots

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 choice 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 fee like a centerfire spherical does.

There’s 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 many years of slug taking pictures expertise and a wealth of information after a 55-year profession of interviewing a few of the foremost ballisticians within the nation. He additionally authored a e book, Shotgunning for Deer: Weapons, Hundreds, and Methods for the Trendy Hunter, which particulars the improvements in slug know-how.

“Rifled slugs don’t have any twist fee,” Henderson says. “The slugs transit the barrel static and exit that manner. 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 acute 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 cross by means of 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, in fact, is that you just 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 could a smoothbore.”

Sabot-style rifled barrels sometimes have twist charges that may fall between 1:18 to 1:36. For example, 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 reality just about 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. Typically the sleeve is discarded after exiting the bore.” —J.G.

Rifled Choke Tubes

Sabots can be shot by means of a smoothbore with a rifled choke. Shopping for a rifled choke tube is a cheap manner to make use of sabots in a smoothbore with out incurring the expense of a totally new barrel. Sabots are streamlined bullets encased in plastic very similar to chicken 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, customary 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 underneath an oz., or 437.5 grains, and might vary from 250 to 376 grains. Each hit onerous sufficient to anchor any whitetail at an affordable distance. However you will note extra sustained velocity from sabot slugs. Sabots proceed to journey at greater speeds for longer because of the aerodynamics of the projectile.

To substantiate this, all it is advisable do is take 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 sooner, at 2,000 fps. Within the desk beneath, you will note that TruBall’s trajectory dissipates extra quickly than Trophy Copper when each masses are shot out to 200 yards underneath the identical situations. —J.G.

This table shows that rifled slugs drop faster than sabots.
Look intently at this straightforward desk and you’ll see that rifled slugs drop a lot sooner than sabots. Joe Genzel

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

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

Just a few 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 after 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 means of a scoped smoothbore, which might have contributed to the inaccuracies. However I’ve carried out so many different instances and located that the rifled slug merely gained’t carry out at distance like a sabot can. For example, 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 sooner and have a much less efficient vary than a barely lighter, however a lot sooner one. —P.M.

Jim Carmichael’s Slug Gun Take a look at

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 revealed within the October 2008 concern 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 referred to as for 5 three-shot teams of every load out to 100 yards, although he did fireplace a number of five-shot teams to substantiate load consistency and the accuracy of the gear.

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

Rifled vs. Sabot Slugs: Are You Shooting the Right Whitetail Load this Deer Season?
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 competition {that a} 2¾-inch is ample 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 sooner than the 2¾-inch providing of the identical weight. Granted, velocities can fluctuate for quite a lot of causes, together with the bodily make-up of the bullet, elevation, and climate situations, however I’ve by no means discovered that further 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

After 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 by 20-gauge vary capabilities and requested Hornady’s Seth Swerczek about it.

“I feel 20-gauge sabot masses are widespread due to their lowered recoil,” Swerczek says. “Each of our 12- and 20-gauge sabot slug masses supply trustworthy 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 likely to be 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 accordance with 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, except for lowered felt recoil, was a chance 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 drive of a .250-grain .45/70 (it’s really a few 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 carry down than a whitetail, have been spectacular. —P.M.

Learn subsequent: The 15 Finest Shotguns for Deer Searching

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

Choose a Slug or Sabot Based mostly on How You Hunt

Which possibility you select—rifled or sabot slug—might 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 likelihood of a 100-yard-plus shot, a sabot is clearly a more sensible choice 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 widespread. That’s not shocking since most hunters are concerned with getting the utmost distance they’ll from their firearm. But in addition, a sabot able to taking pictures 50 to 75 yards farther will 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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