Two 12 gauge slug offerings in the Defender line of ammunition from Winchester broaden the shotgun's versatility by providing potent payloads, with built in compensation for aim and impact error.
Winchester's Defender Segmenting Slug utilizes bullet technology similar to CCI's Segmenting Hollow Point load for the .22 LR. The 2.75-inch 12 gauge shell is loaded with a 1-ounce slug. This hunk of lead has a slight hollow point and a muzzle velocity of 1,600 fps. The slug has been pre-scored so that after impact with soft tissue, it will break into three equal sections weighing about 145 grains each. These chunks of lead, as heavy as the heaviest 9mm bullet, radiate away from the original path of the slug. You can expect all three sections to penetrate about 12 inches in 10 percent ordnance gelatin.
Winchester's Segmenting Slug breaks apart upon impact and will drive three ragged segments (weighing about 145 grains each) to a depth of about 12 inches.
What's the point? Anyone who has fired slugs from a smooth bore shotgun knows that accuracy isn't always optimal and that your aim can sometimes be a little bit off, too. With the segmenting slug, aim or impact error is slightly compensated for by the dispersion of the slug segments inside the target. Aim center mass and hit a bit low; a segment of the slug might still pass through a vital organ.
The other Defender shotgun load is called the Slug and Buck. This one really got my attention. The 2.75-inch 12 gauge Slug and Buck load utilizes a 1-ounce slug loaded behind three, 0.33 caliber, 00 Buck pellets. Muzzle velocity is 1,150 fps. The idea is to offer correction for aim and/or impact error. Unlike the Segmenting Slug, which disperses fragments after impact, with the Slug and Buck load dispersion comes before impact. It's possible to miss the target with the slug but still get a hit with at least one 00 Buck pellet.
Inside 20 yards the Winchester Defender Slug and Buck load delivered what might be considered perfect results.
What's the effective range of these interesting shotgun loads? With a 20-inch barreled Mossberg 500 utilizing a cylinder bore choke, and nine Gunsite Option Targets, this was easy to sort out. Using the Slug and Buck load, targets were engaged with one shot, at 3-yard increments, from 7 to 31 yards. All four projectiles hit every 14.75-inch-wide target out to 19 yards. At 22 yards and beyond, the targets were hit with the slug and only one of the 00 pellets. Remember: Expect variations in pattern size with different shotguns, barrel lengths and chokes.
Out to 20 yards or so you should expect to deliver a wicked punch with the Slug and Buck load. Obviously, as patterns widen, the worry of collateral damage beyond the target might be a concern depending on the situation. By the same token, stand two felonious fiends shoulder to shoulder at 35 yards and you can hit both with one shot. The long-range precision of both of these slug loads were not affected by the unique payload they deliver; consistent slug hits on a torso-size target at 50 yards were easy to obtain.
For home defense, I'm kind of partial to bird shot, particularly when the range is at bad-breath smelling distances. However, for rural outdoors work where worry of over penetration is less of a concern, the Slug and Buck load or maybe even a combination of it and the Segmenting Slug is an option worth considering.