Calling All Slug Guns

This season our four-person hunting party—which consists of my father, two sons and myself—gained access to a 30-acre parcel of wooded swamp. For the firearms deer season this required a few adjustments, since the property sits smack dab in a shotgun-only zone.

In short, we needed to expand our arsenal to cover the slug scene. One part of our strategy was bringing a one-time standout out of mothballs. The shotgun is an older Remington 870 SPS with iron sights that in my younger days killed its fair share of deer at ranges from 10 paces to more than 75 yards. After borrowing it to another hunter one season, however, old reliable lost its charm and failed to connect on several relatively easy shots. I worried the gun had been dropped or otherwise abused, but never knew for sure.

Since I was hunting largely in rifle zones at the time, I reserved the gun to homeland security duties. But wanting to press it into service this season, I brought the 870 to longtime local gunsmith Kevin Kriesel of Kevin’s Gun Service in Isanti, Minnesota. I’ve known Kevin for years through the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, of which he’s a loyal member, and trust his work completely.

Kevin gave the gun a thorough examination, checking the barrel for bends, bulges and foulings. He also scrutinized the sights, tightness of the magazine cap, and looked for roundness or other damage at the muzzle. Also of concern was any play in the barrel, which could require pinning—but fortunately he found nothing out of order.

Finally, he checked the rifling and receiver. “I can’t see anything wrong with it,” he said. “Have you always used the same ammo?” As much as I wanted to say yes, the fact was I have run a range of loads through the gun, from bargain-priced slugs to top-shelf sabots. Kevin’s brow furrowed. “Try a few different sabots and see what it shoots best, then stick with those,” he offered.

And so I will. And I’ll report back. I know the 870 is a Remington, and it used to throw 1-ounce hollow-point Copper Solid sabots with wicked accuracy. But my Dad retired after 33 years with Federal Cartridge, so I have a soft spot for Federal rounds too, and will give them a shot, pun intended.

Dual-Purpose Player
Another addition to the lineup was a 12 gauge Mossberg Model 500 Combo. With more than 10 million model 500 pumps produced since 1961, it’s truly an American classic. We chose the wood dual-comb stock, which allows you to raise the comb for use with a scope. The combo include 28-inch ported field barrel plus a 24-inch ported, fully-rifled Slugster barrel with cantilevered scope base. We mounted the slug barrel and outfitted the gun with a 3-9 power Cabela’s Slug Riflescope. I’ve used a pair of Cabela’s Alaskan Guide scopes on a .30-06 and .270 for years with great success, and thought another Cabela’s scope was worth a try. Built to handle heavy recoil of slug guns, it features multi-coated, water- and shock-proof lenses, 4.1- to 3.8-inch eye relief, and Slugger EXT reticle. At just $99, I thought it was quite a buy.

Barrel Upgrade
In yet another round of the arms race, we added one of Remington’s fully rifled factory barrels, which features a bore-sighted 2-7x32mm scope, to one of my father’s old 870 Wingmaster pump guns that dates to the Sixties or earlier. At just under $250, the scope and barrel were an economical way to add another slug gun to our lineup, compared to purchasing a new shotgun and scope separately.

With the firearms opener fast approaching, we’ll soon see how our new and improved slug guns—along with the hunters wielding them—perform under pressure.

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