Hunting big game with a rifle is not permitted in many parts of the country, which means that all too often, hunters are left toting shotguns that are usually better suited for grouse at close quarters than venison at longer range.
A modern saboted shotgun load is perfectly capable of delivering lethal performance at distances well beyond 100 yards. But can you put that projectile where it needs to go? According to Dave Klotz of Da Mar Gunsmiths in Weedsport, NY, with just a few modifications to your shotgun, you sure can.
1. Pin the Barrel
Shotguns are not rifles. Barrels are easily removed and tolerances aren’t tight where it slides into the receiver. If the barrel moves and vibrates, it won’t deliver consistent accuracy. To fix this, Klotz drills a hole through the side of the receiver and through the shank of the barrel, then inserts an Allen head screw to about five threads deep. The result is a barrel that doesn’t wiggle.
2. Improve the Bore
Shotgun barrels usually don’t leave the factory in a condition that leads to really accurate shooting,” says Klotz. “We lap the bore, lengthen the forcing cone, and crown the barrel.” The high polish in the bore after lapping helps minimize plastic buildup from sabots, which can degrade accuracy. Extending the forcing cone gives the slug a better transition into the rifling.
3. Fix The Trigger
It’s nearly impossible to shoot well with the creepy 8-pound triggers typical of most production shotguns. “You can’t shoot accurately with a trigger like that,” Klotz says. His shop used to be a Remington Service Center, and he refitted my model 870 with a trigger that breaks crisply at 2 ¾ pounds.
4. Use A Better Scope Mount
Klotz doesn’t believe in barrels with cantilever scope mounts. “On a shotgun, you need a mount that does not shoot loose and will not bend or break. There wasn’t one available, so we designed our own,” he says. The Da Mar mount uses six screws (three per side), and each screw is located on the sides of the receiver where the metal is thickest. It features a Weaver-style rail and rings.
5. Reduce Recoil
To take the sting out of my slug gun, Klotz did some bonus work and installed a Remington SuperCell recoil pad and put a steel plug in the stock to increase its weight. Slug guns are never a pleasure to shoot, but these alterations made a big difference and were no doubt part of the reason my groups improved.
A Short History of Slugs
The shotgun earned its name by firing a charge of shot, but it was always also able to launch a single large projectile—and it frequently did, although when a round ball was launched from a smoothbore barrel it was anyone’s guess as to where it would go.
The first modern conical lead shotgun slug that could be fired accurately was invented by Wilhelm Brenneke in 1898 and is still in use today. In 1931, Karl Foster invented a solid soft lead slug with a hollow base, rifling grooves on the sides, and a weight-forward round nose. This design formed the basis for the most popular lead slugs in use today. In the early 1960s, Ballistic Research Industries created the first sabot slug—a smaller-than-bore projectile encased in a two-piece plastic sleeve that guided the slug down the bore, then split to fall away when it left the muzzle.
Slugs were popular in many parts of the world, but in the early 1960s, they finally gained a large following in America. Many states east of the Mississippi River began mandating that shotguns be used on some, or all, of their public hunting lands for deer. The reasoning was that shotgun projectiles had less range than a rifle—an important factor in populated areas. That impacted a lot of hunters and, given the minimal effective range of buckshot, prompted a serious interest in slug guns.
Current slug guns are available in both smoothbore and rifled barrels. The latter can rival the accuracy of a rifle and can be had in single shot, bolt action, pump action and semiauto models. Pumps and semiautos feature a cantilever scope mount on the barrel itself that allows the barrel to be removed without changing the point of impact.