I grew up in a hunting family and we were closer to poor than rich. Before I was a teenager Dad bought his first deer rifle. Prior to that, he’d used a 16-gauge Model 12 Winchester shotgun with slugs for deer hunting. I still remember the story he told about the time he took an 8-point with that shotgun at 160 paces. That’s a bragging shot with a smooth bore. With the fully rifled barrels and modern sabot slugs of today, it’s a chip shot.
In some states where rifles are not legal, slug guns are the best option. Many of those places also allow a muzzleloader, but front stuffers only give you one shot. With a slug gun you have a repeating firearm just in case your first shot is not true. Additionally, some of us still live paycheck to paycheck and have to rely on one gun to get us through all seasons. A shotgun with one barrel for slugs and another for shot just makes good sense.
Firearms manufacturers recognize that deer hunting with slug guns is important to a lot of hunters and in recent years have started catering to this group of sportsmen with better barrels and ammunition, and many are even offering dedicated slug guns engineered specifically for deer hunting. It seems the trend for 2012 will continue to be rifle variations on the AR-15 platform, but there are a number of new slug gun products you should know about. Additionally, there are some that are a few years old that you might not know about. Here’s a look at what’s new and some others that are still viable candidates for your deer stand this fall.
Mossberg 500 Turkey/Deer Combo with LPA Trigger: The Mossberg 500 Turkey/Deer combo is not a new shotgun, but it gets my vote for the best buy out there. Why? It comes with both rifled slug and smoothbore barrels and has a suggested retail price of just $521. If you are looking for a one-gun answer for deer, turkey, squirrel and rabbit like my father relied on, this shotgun is a winner. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope base, both barrels have adjustable fiber-optic sights, and the entire gun is finished in Realtree Hardwoods HD Green Camo.
One of this shotgun’s best features is the trigger. This is the best shot/slug gun trigger I’ve ever pulled! Mossberg’s marketing name for this trigger is the Lightning Pump Action (LPA). It utilizes an actuating lever in the center of the trigger that must be depressed before the trigger can be pulled. MSRP: $521. www.mossberg.com; (203) 230-5300.
Mossberg Flex System: Probably the biggest news in shotguns for 2012 is the new Mossberg Flex System. Building on the concept of the modularity of the AR-15 platform, Mossberg has adapted their model 500 and 590 shotguns so they can be swiftly configured for any shotgun pursuit you face. The heart of the Mossberg Flex system is what Mossberg is calling the Tool-less Locking System (TLS). The TLS is made up of three connectors that allow the end user to quickly change the buttpad and length of pull, the buttstock and the forearm. Combined with the barrel interchangeability of both the 500 and 590 shotguns, the TLS makes going from a turkey gun to a slug gun or upland game gun easy and doable in about 60 seconds.
The downside is you will have to buy a new Flex-style Mossberg 500 or 590 to take advantage of the system — but once you have the Flex-equipped shotgun in hand, you have the ultimate modular shotgun at your disposal. You can come home from your deer hunt and configure your slug gun for home defense in seconds, and with the variety of recoil pads and optional adjustable stocks, you can set the gun up to perfectly fit any of your kids or your wife. Mossberg has, without a doubt, revolutionized the shotgun with this modular and adaptive innovation. Like with all Mossberg firearms, you get quality at an affordable price. MSRP: Between $600 and $825, depending on configuration. www.mossberg.com; (203) 230-5300.
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Remington 870 SPS Sureshot Synthetic Super Slug: Though now two years old, Remington’s 870 SPS Sureshot Synthetic Super Slug might be the ultimate slug gun. Its most unique feature is the pinned-in barrel. Because the barrel is locked into the action, barrel shift between shots is circumvented. This means a cantilever mount is not necessary. It also means you cannot take the gun down for transport or storage. It’s shipped with a scope base.
Even though it looks a little weird, the Sureshot stock is neat; it can be used by a left- or right-handed shooter. I used an 870 SPS Sureshot Synthetic Super Slug on a spring Alberta bear hunt, but more importantly, several range sessions with this slug gun taught me how accurate a modern slug gun can be. Do your part and you can shoot sub 2-inch, five-shot groups at 100 yards all day long. If you are looking for a dedicated and accurate slug gun, there’s not much to complain about here. After all, it’s a Model 870; what would you expect other than rugged, dependable reliability? Suggested retail price: $829. www.remington.com; (800) 243-970.0
Winchester SX3 Cantilever Buck: This shotgun is very similar to the super-fast operating and reliable FNH SLP, which is used extensively in three-gun competitions. The SX3 uses what Winchester calls the Active Valve system for gas management. It self-adjusts, ensuring reliability with a wide range of loads. The gun also has a matte black synthetic stock with a textured gripping surface to give your hands a sure, non-slip grip and a rugged non-glare finish.
Other features include a rifled 22-inch barrel optimized for extreme accuracy with 2 ¾- and 3-inch sabot slugs; a strong, lightweight aluminum alloy receiver; a Weaver-style cantilever rail design which makes it easy to attach a red dot or conventional scope; TruGlo fiber-optic front sight with adjustable rear sight that gathers light for fast target acquisition; and a hard chrome chamber and bore that make the surfaces highly resistant to wear and corrosion. There’s also a reversible ambidextrous safety and an Inflex technology recoil pad. The Winchester SX3 Cantilever Buck is available in either 20- or 12-gauge and has a suggested retail price of $1,149. www.winchesterguns.com; (801) 876-3440.
Savage 220 Slug Gun: Savage has increased the appeal of their model 220 Slug Gun with the addition of two new models. The 220 Slug Gun is a 20-gauge, bolt-action slug gun. This is a dedicated slug gun that is configured like a bolt-action rifle and comes with a detachable box magazine. Those that have had an opportunity to shoot the 220 Slug Gun tell me it is scary accurate. New for 2012 is a stainless/camo version featuring the famous Savage Accu-Trigger, a 22-inch rifled barrel with 1:24 twist, and an oversized bolt handle. It is drilled for scope mounts. Suggested retail price is $704.
Savage has not forgotten lefties. Also new for 2012 is a blued-steel, black-synthetic-stock version of the 220 Slug Gun that is a mirror image of the right-handed version. It also has the Accu-Trigger and comes with a suggested retail price of $549. www.savagearms.com; (413) 642-4262.