Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (2023)

Shotguns may be the most versatile weapons on the face of the planet. When loaded with the right ammunition, the modern scattergun can effectively drop everything from tiny upland quail to charging, big-bodied bruins.

By using the best 12-gauge slugs, you can turn a simple shotgun into an impressively accurate powerhouse. The trick is matching your slugs to your shooting application.

Whether you’re looking for slugs for whitetails, dangerous game, home defense, or high-stakes competition, we’re here to help.


Most modern shotgun slugs fall into one of two categories – rifled slugs and sabot (pronounced “SAY-bo”) slugs.

Rifled slugs are designed to be used in smoothbore shotguns. The rifled slug’s defining feature is a set of exterior grooves that resemble barrel rifling. Unlike barrel rifling, the slug’s grooves do not spin the projectile. Instead, the channels allow the slug to compress slightly so it can fit through a shotgun’s choke tube.

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (1)

Sabot slugs lack the rifled slug's exterior grooves because they are designed to be used in shotguns with rifled barrels or with a smoothbore paired with a rifled choke.

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (2)

The sabot isn’t the slug at all. The word actually refers to the plastic sleeve surrounding the projectile. As the slug travels down the barrel, the sleeve contacts the rifling, causing the whole package to spin. After the slug exits the barrel, the sleeve falls away, but the projectile continues to spin like a football, which results in better in-flight stability.

Accuracy and Energy

Sabot slugs, with their gyroscopic spin, are generally more accurate than rifled slugs – but not by much. A rifled slug can travel a good 400 yards, but it drops pretty rapidly once it passes the 100-yard mark. Hitting a target beyond that is tricky, and a rifled slug isn’t carrying a ton of kinetic energy past that point anyway.

(Video) Which choke is best for slugs?

Sabots have a slightly longer effective range, typically around 125 to 150 yards, although some designs can stretch to 200 yards. The sabot’s football-like spin and higher ballistic coefficient make it slower to shed speed.

Rifled slugs, with their blocky cylindrical profiles and exterior grooves, aren’t nearly as aerodynamic as the sleeker, more pointed sabot slug. Because it holds velocity better than a rifled slug, sabot slugs also retain more energy as it travels down range.


While a rifle will always be ballistically superior to even the most cutting-edge shotgun load, slugs do have a place in the hunting world. They are highly effective at typical whitetail ranges, especially when hunting big woods (think inside of 100 yards).

Also, because slug velocity and power peter out past 200 yards, slugs are a safer option than a rifle when hunting in populated areas. In fact, several Midwest states limit deer season to shotguns only for that very reason.

If you plan to use your 12-gauge to punch big game tags this hunting season, here are some of the best options on the market.

Federal Premium TruBall Rifled Slug

Federal TruBall slugs have been putting venison in family freezers for decades. Designed for smoothbore scatterguns, the TruBall system features a plastic ball positioned between the wad and the slug. The design helps keep the slug centered in the barrel. The components separate at the muzzle.

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (3)

The TruBall system helps these rifled slugs perform more like a sabot, and the company claims they deliver 1.4-inch groups at 50 yards, which is pretty freakin’ impressive for rifled slugs.

Hornady American Whitetail Slug

Loaded with a 325-grain Hornady InterLock bullet, American Whitetail slug loads deliver excellent weight retention and massive expansion. The hollow point projectiles feature a tough copper jacket surrounding a serrated lead alloy core. These babies are tough enough for the biggest-bodied whitetails in North America. They can even be used to bag close-range elk and muleys.

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (4)

The loads also feature a rigid polycarbonate sabot with a unique buffer disc that delivers serious accuracy. If you need to stretch the effective range of your shotgun, this is the way to do it. Hornady says their American Whitetail slugs carry enough power and accuracy to drop bucks beyond 200 yards.

Winchester Super X

Winchester Super X loads have a reputation for offering reliable performance at a super-affordable price point, and their slugs are no different. The line-up includes 12-gauge rifled slugs and sabot slugs.

(Video) No Other Shotgun Slug Comes Close!! (Most Powerful)

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (5)

If you don’t want to invest a ton of cash, but still want serious knock-down performance, these are the loads you want with you in the deer woods.

Brenneke Black Magic Magnum Slugs

Sometimes when we’re in the woods, we run into things bigger and more dangerous than whitetail deer. These 602-grain slugs are designed for just such an encounter.

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (6)

Brennecke's hefty slugs have notched ribs and a lead point to guarantee seamless passage through your shotgun choke. These slugs leave the muzzle at over 1500 fps and are still packing 1219 foot-pounds of power at 100 yards.


Slugs are regularly used for deer hunting, especially in rifle-restricted states. Deer and humans aren’t all that different. They share similar body weights and depth to vital organs. When we boil defensive shooting down to pure biology, if slugs are effective for deer, they should be just as effective on nefarious bad guys.

However, there are a lot more factors to consider in a home defense scenario than basic biology.

While you might use a slug to drop a monster buck at 75 yards, most home intruders are engaged at close range, usually inside five yards, which is about the typical length of a suburban hallway.

A heavyweight slug has tons of penetration power, which is the main reason big game hunters use them. While penetration is a positive when you’re hunting whitetails, it can be a major liability in a home defense situation. At close range, a 12-gauge slug will smash through anything in its way, plowing through furniture, doors, drywall, and wall studs, and still have enough energy to eff up a body standing on the other side.

Needless to say, shooting a slug inside your home could cause serious collateral damage.

With all that said, modern ammo technology is a marvelous thing. Ammo engineers are constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to defensive ammo, and a few companies offer shotgun slugs designed specifically for defensive shooting. These loads are made to deliver effective stopping power, while minimizing the chance of dangerous over-penetration.

(Video) 12 Gauge SLUGFEST! Which Shotgun Slug Is BEST???

Still, this isn’t our top choice for home defense. But if you want to use slugs, here is what we like.

Winchester Elite Defender Segmented Rifled Slug

Winchester has several innovative loads for home defense, and one of the most appealing is their Defender Series segmented rifled slug. This one-ounce piece of lead has strategic notching on both the exterior and inside the hollow-point cavity. On impact, the slug separates into three segments to compensate for aiming errors and maximize internal damage.

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (7)

The fragmentation slows the projectile, which helps minimize over-penetration, making them a somewhat safer option when confronting bad guys, especially in situations where your kids are sleeping in the next room.

Winchester PDX-1 Defender Rifled Slug/Buckshot Combo

Winchester’s Defender line also includes a unique load that contains both a one-ounce rifled slug and three pellets of 00 buckshot. The load is engineered to compensate for aiming errors that often occur during adrenaline-pumping encounters, especially for inexperienced shotgunners. Because the load has extra pellets, it is still possible (at least theoretically) to hit the target even if the slug misses.

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (8)

There are still some penetration issues with this load, so it may not be the best option for defensive shooting in populated areas like apartment buildings or cookie-cutter suburban neighborhoods.


Most 3 Gun matches require shooters to use both birdshot and slugs. However, using a run-of-the-mill hunting slug is going to bruise your shoulder and leave you frustrated. Low-recoil options designed specifically for competition will help increase accuracy and speed up your shot times.

Here are some options to get you started.

Fiocchi 3 Gun Legacy Series

Italian-owned Fiocchi makes a low-recoil slug designed specifically for 3 Gun competition. Fiocchi 3 Gun Legacy Series loads were engineered with the help of American professional speed and competition shooter, Jerry Miculek.

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (9)

Packed with a 7/8-ounce rifled slug coated in red Teflon, these loads are designed to produce minimal smoke so you can pop off quick-succession shots with an unobstructed view of your target.

The slug works best in a smoothbore and leaves the muzzle at a healthy 1300 feet per second.

(Video) How Accurate Is A Rifled Slug Out Of A Smooth Bore Shotgun?

Fiocchi loaded these slugs in clear, easy-to-identify hulls, so you won't mix them up with your buckshot loads on the competition field. They also feature a radiused crimp for super-fast reloads.

B&P Competition 3 Gun Slug

Baschieri & Pellagri have been producing top-quality shotgun ammo since 1885. To say these guys know their way around a shotshell is a major understatement. The company’s 3 Gun slugs are specially engineered to deliver consistently reliable performance, pinpoint accuracy, and reduced recoil.

Slug It Out: Best 12 Gauge Slugs (10)


With the best 12-gauge slugs, you can increase the accuracy, power, penetration, and range of your shotgun. As with all shotgunning applications, the key is pairing the right type of slug with your shooting needs.


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What are the most accurate 12-gauge slugs? ›

Sabot slugs, with their gyroscopic spin, are generally more accurate than rifled slugs – but not by much. A rifled slug can travel a good 400 yards, but it drops pretty rapidly once it passes the 100-yard mark.

What are the hardest hitting slugs? ›

Our Hardest Hitting Slug:

So the name Crush comes obvious. The Magnum Crush is designed for 3” rifled barrels. It weights a full 1½ ounce / 666 grains. Because of the flat trajectory the Magnum Crush is an ideal choice for hunters who may encounter bigger game at a variety of ranges.

What is the flattest shooting 12-gauge slug? ›

In both 12 gauge and the 20 gauge cartridges, Hornady® SST® Shotgun Slugs deliver sub-2" groups at 100 yards and feature the flattest trajectory on the market.

What is the drop of a 12-gauge slug at 100 yards? ›

A slug also becomes increasingly inaccurate with distance; out to 100 yards, it drops approximately five inches and has a maximum range of approximately 400 yards. In contrast, centerfire projectiles from rifles can travel anywhere from 300-1000+ yards. Shotgun slugs are best suited for uses over short ranges.

How far can you shoot a 12-gauge slug accurately? ›

Your expected range of accuracy for any box of slugs you grab in a store should be about 50 yards. This is an average range for the typical field gun with a smooth barrel and bead sight, shooting any brand of ammunition picked at random.

How far does a slug drop at 100 yards? ›

The ballistic chart for one Winchester sabot lists a drop of only 2.2 inches at 100 yards. Note that sabot slugs can only be used in fully rifled barrels.

How much does a 12-gauge slug drop at 50 yards? ›

Average Range: Trajectory for a 50 yards zero with a sight height of 0.5 inches.
Ballistic Coefficient: 0.11.
1 more row

What hurts more buckshot or slug? ›

A slug will generally penetrate deeper into a target than buckshot as it focuses all its energy into a smaller area. This can be a good or bad thing as shotgun slugs are known to over penetrate. For close range shots, buckshot is a better choice while slugs are more effective at longer distance shots.

What is the deadliest shotgun ammo? ›

Buckshot. The most effective round for home defense in a shotgun is buckshot. Buckshot penetrates deep, hits hard, and hits with a multitude of projectiles per trigger pull.

How far is a slug lethal? ›

Many such readymade slug guns perform more like a rifle than a shotgun, with effective ranges in excess of 200 yards.

What slugs to shoot out of a smooth barrel? ›

There are two major types of shotgun slugs: rifled and sabot. Rifled slugs are designed for shotguns with smoothbore barrels. Sabot slugs are designed for shotguns with rifled barrels, like the Benelli M2 Field Rifled Slug Shotgun. – i.e. barrels with grooves and lands, just like what modern rifles and handguns have.

What's the most powerful 12-gauge round? ›

Hornady 12 Gauge 2-3/4 Inch Shell, Slug, 1575 Velocity, Shot At 25 Feet. A shotgun bullet or a slug is a solid piece of lead. It makes them the most powerful ammunition for 12-gauge shotguns.

What is the least lethal shotgun shell? ›

12 Gauge Rubber Slugs are non-lethal wildlife control ammunition.

Is it OK to shoot slugs in a smooth barrel? ›

In addition to shooting shot, you can also shoot slugs out of a smooth bore barrel. If you are taking closer shots (less than 100 yards), a smooth bore may be sufficient.

Can you shoot a deer with a 12 gauge slug? ›

Scott Brasher of Clay County, Ala., shoots a fully-rifled barrel on his 12 gauge Mossberg pump. He has taken large bucks with slugs out to the 80-yard range and beyond. “I use a standard 2 ¾ inch Winchester slug,” Brasher explains. “With my red dot scope, I feel confident in shooting deer at 100-plus yards.

How far should you shoot a deer with a slug? ›

Slugs are good to go up to about 100 yards: both because they carry their energy further than pellets and because they put all their energy in one spot.

How far can you shoot a deer with a slug gun? ›

Rifled slug barrels are providing hunters the ability to consistently and accurately hit targets ethically out to 150 yards or more.

Are slugs accurate at 100 yards? ›

at 100 yards, which is below the minimum recommended energy threshold for big game. And, because slugs are made of soft lead so they will expand to fit the bore upon firing, they flatten out and become horribly inaccurate at ranges greater than 50 yards.

What distance should I zero my 12-gauge slug? ›

Slug guns must be zeroed (sighted-in) at a distance where the slug will impact the target while still in the supersonic phase of its flight. Most slugs become subsonic, travelling less than 1220 feet per second, slightly beyond a muzzle distance of 50 yards, thus making 50 yards the ideal zeroing distance.

Where do slugs go during the day? ›

Slugs and snails hide in damp places during the day. They stay under logs and stones or under ground cover. They also hide under planters and low decks. At night they come out to eat.

Where do slugs go when its not wet? ›

When there is no moisture outside, garden snails and slugs go into hiding to prevent water loss and avoid predators. Snails find cool spots such as empty plant pots, under window-sills, rocks, or in piles of firewood. To reduce water loss, they seal themselves using dried mucus.

How far can a slug travel in a day? ›

These gluttonous creatures consume several times their own weight in plant material every day, traveling as far as 40 feet to feed. Moist, moderate weather in spring and late fall signals prime time for slug and snail damage.

How far can a 12-gauge shotgun go? ›

Shotguns are typically considered close-range firearms, especially when loaded with buckshot. Beyond about 30 to 50 yards, the spread from most shotguns becomes too unpredictable to reliably guarantee that any of the pellets will hit the intended target.

How accurate is a 12-gauge slug at 100 yards? ›

How accurate is a 12-gauge slug at 100 yards? To consider that a 12-gauge slug could travel a mile ish, depending on how well trained the shooter, a 12-gauge slug is accurate and deadly between 100 to 120 yards with an effective range of around 400 yards.

Are slugs or buckshot better for deer? ›

The big advantage of using a slug is that it has a much longer effective range than buckshot. A 50-75-yard shot on a deer is usually well within the performance capability of a shotgun shooting slugs.

What size slug is best for deer? ›

A look at the gun rack in the average deer camp shows that 12-gauge slugs dominate the hunting community, but in many ways 20-gauge slugs are a better choice.

Should I hunt with buckshot or slugs? ›

For the majority of hunters, using a slug is probably the best choice due to the superior range and flexibility of the slug vs buckshot. However, if you hunt thin-skinned game (like deer) in an area where you are likely to only take extremely short range shots and where it is legal to do so, then use buckshot.

Do police use buckshot or slugs? ›

Buckshot remains the most commonly utilized police shotgun ammunition. The typical round of 2-3/4 inch 12 gauge buckshot contains 9 pellets approximately .

What is the killing range of a 12 gauge buckshot? ›

The second lesson I learned was that the effective range of buckshot was less than 50 yards. In all reality, it was more in the 30-40-yard range. Shot shells, barrels and chokes have progressed since I was a youngster, and these days longer, more accurate shots are easily achieved.

What is the best shotgun ammo for deer? ›

There are two primary choices for a deer hunting shotshell. You can go with a slug or buckshot. Shotgun slugs come as sabot slugs or rifled slugs. Buckshot loads come in multiple sizes, but the most popular is double-aught.

What shotgun was called the Widowmaker? ›

In this position, the muzzle of the weapon would be pointing towards the face of the user, and the swelled shell could fire, injuring or killing the user. This safety issue led to the Model 1911 being nicknamed "the Widowmaker".

What is the hardest ammo to find right now? ›

What Is the Hardest Ammo to Find?
  • 30-30 Winchester: Popular among hunters, this caliber is in high demand and difficult to track down. ...
  • 308 Winchester: Another popular choice among hunters and tactical shooters, people around the country are snatching up .
Mar 15, 2022

Whats better 00 or 000 buckshot? ›

As for 000 buckshot vs. 00, the size difference is about 0.03 inches, but the weight of an individual pellet can be as much as 30 percent more with the 000 buck – resulting in more energy per pellet and deeper penetration.

Is it OK to touch a slug? ›

Don't eat raw or undercooked snails or slugs, frogs or shrimp/prawns. If you handle snails or slugs, wear gloves and wash your hands. Always remember to thoroughly wash fresh produce.

Where do you hit a deer with a slug? ›

Aim at that height and 3 inches behind the crease where the deer's shoulder meets its midsection.

Can slugs hurt you if you touch them? ›

Slugs also sparked a debate over whether they are dangerous to touch and harm humans. The answer is yes. They might appear to be innocent and touchable, but they carry a variety of parasites. The most common is the rat lungworm or Angiostrongylus cantonensis, and its infection can lead to severe issues.

What is the best shotgun slug? ›

What follows is our ranking of the 15 best slug guns of all time.
  • Savage Model 212 and 220. ...
  • Browning A-Bolt Shotgun Hunter. ...
  • Remington 11-87. ...
  • Mossberg 500 Slugster. Mossberg. ...
  • Thompson/Center Encore. Thompson Center. ...
  • Winchester 1300 Speed Pump. Winchester. ...
  • Browning BPS Rifled Deer Hunter. Browning. ...
  • Marlin 512 Slugmaster. Marlin.
Oct 26, 2022

What is the best slug to shoot with rifled barrel? ›

In almost all cases, you should only use rifled slugs in smoothbore barrels. If you have a rifled shotgun barrel, you're going to want sabot slugs. It's counter-intuitive to what the “rifled” slug name suggests and while it may not be a catastrophic failure, you could damage the grooves in your rifled shotgun barrel.

What is the fastest 12-gauge slug? ›

Jeff from TAOFLEDERMAUS is back with an all new shotgun slug test. For this video he's working with the Slap Shot PHD 12 gauge slugs, which are supposed to have a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps.

What shotgun was John Wick using? ›

Wick's heavier firepower doesn't end there, he also uses some top-tier shotguns. In the first movie, he is shown using a Kel-Tec KSG pump-action shotgun. The KSG features dual magazine tubes, making it one of the highest capacity pump-action shotguns around. The Kel-Tec KSG is a truly unique pump-action shotgun.

What 12-gauge does the military use? ›

The most common type of ammunition used in combat shotguns, whether for military or law enforcement purposes, is buckshot, typically a 70 mm (2 3⁄4 inch) 12-gauge shell loaded with nine hardened 00 buckshot, with a diameter of about 8.4 mm (. 33 inch).

What is the best 12-gauge shotgun shell for self-defense? ›

Buckshot is by far the best home defense load because it's less likely to penetrate, you have multiple projectiles to increase your chances of hitting your target, and it's reasonably priced. There are different shot sizes of buckshot.

What is best 12-gauge ammo for home defense? ›

The military and many police agencies favor “00” or “double-aught” buckshot, as it has been proven very effective when used against man-sized threats. This, along with the fact that 00 buckshot loads are generally the most widely available for sale in America, means that it is a very common defensive load.

What is the best shotgun load for self-defense? ›

Best Shotgun Ammo: Home Defense & Target Shooting
  • Lambro Guard 00 Buck for 60 cpr.
  • Federal 3″ Magnum Slugs for $2.20 per round.
  • Fiocchi 1oz #8 Birdshot for 44 cpr.

Are sabot slugs more accurate? ›

Its superior accuracy and harder punch on impact are both why the sabot slug outperforms the rifled slug over longer distances. It stays effective for hunting and self-defense at ranges up to 50% farther away!

How accurate are 12-gauge sabot slugs? ›

In fact, even average-quality sabot slugs fired through a rifled barrel can reliably accomplish 3-inch groups at 100 yards and 6-inch groups at 200 yards!

How far can you shoot a deer with a shotgun slug? ›

(Slugs can drop more than 10 inches over 100 yards.) With practice and accurate ranging, a good shooter could consistently hit a deer-size kill zone at 100 yards. If you don't put in the time to practice at those ranges, keep your shots to a maximum of 50-75 yards.

What is the best sabot slug for deer? ›

The 20-Gauge Sabot Slug

“I think 20-gauge sabot loads are popular because of their reduced recoil,” Swerczek says. “Both of our 12- and 20-gauge sabot slug loads offer honest 200-yard performance, so you're really not giving up any effective range by opting for the 20-gauge.”

How far can you shoot a rifled slug? ›

Many such readymade slug guns perform more like a rifle than a shotgun, with effective ranges in excess of 200 yards.

What can increase the accuracy of slugs in a shotgun? ›

Rifled shotgun barrels and chokes are becoming increasingly popular since they increase the accuracy of shotgun slugs. This style does an excellent job in harvesting game at reasonable ranges. Another key factor for accuracy is the type of slug used.

What is the difference between sabot and slug? ›

Sabot slugs are quite different than rifled slugs. Instead of simply loading a slug into the shell, sabot (pronounced “say-bo”) slugs are fitted inside a small plastic cylinder that covers the projectile on all sides but the front. It's sort of like a wad surrounding birdshot.

Can you shoot sabot slugs through a rifled choke? ›

Given that many slugs—including those featuring a sabot—can be used with fully rifled barrels and rifled choke tubes, it's unsurprising that the twist rate of both are similar, if not identical. For instance, a 1:35-inch twist rate is commonly employed in 12 gauge.


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