Bourjaily: Bucking Slug Recoil

Judging by the number of replies, my recent rant against the painful recoil of 3.5-inch lead turkey loads touched a nerve, so to speak. Some of you wondered about the recoil of shotgun slugs by comparison. The answer to that question is, there is no comparison. Shotgun slugs kick, but they can't touch a 3.5-inch turkey load when it comes to bringing the hurt.

Nevertheless, perhaps because we aim slugs even more carefully than we do turkey loads, we (I anyway) feel their recoil, which is not insignificant. I can remember when 3-inch slugs first came out and a friend of mine who was a recoil nut bought some. He sat down cross-legged, elbows on his knees and let fly. The first shot rolled him right onto his back. "Want to try it?" he asked with a crazed grin on his face.

"No," I said.

Not long ago, I broke the reticle of a very nice scope with slug recoil, and I've been saved from a couple of scope cuts over the years only by my shooting glasses.

Since the question is, how do slugs stack up in the recoil department, I dissected a sampling of slugs, weighed the parts, and crunched some numbers with a recoil calculator. From crunching my own shoulder, I would have picked Remington Buckhammers and Winchester Partition Golds as the hardest kicking. Interestingly, they tied. Both the heavier, slower Remingtons and the lighter, faster Partition Golds generated 47 foot pounds of recoil in an 8-pound gun.

Although that's nearly a third less recoil than a 3.5 inch turkey load, it's a few foot-pounds more than a 300-grain bullet at 2600 fps in a 10-pound .375 H&H. The 1700 fps, 1 ounce Winchester Power Point - an Old School Foster-type slug - only managed 35 foot-pounds of recoil; a punch in the shoulder if you're shooting from a bench but a love-tap in the field.

I didn't have a 3-inch Lightfield Hybred to cut up, but based on its specs (1 1/ 4 ounce slug, plus sabot, at 1730 fps) it should be the slug recoil champion, kicking almost as hard as .458 Win Mag.

Since deer aren't very big and eat only a few people a year, why put up with so much recoil to kill them when lighter, slower loads will kill them equally dead? There is the matter of flatter trajectory for "long range" shooting (anything over 100 yards is long range with a slug) but I'll give the last word to Randy Fritz, who makes the supremely accurate Tar-Hunt shotgun and shoots Lightfields out of it. I asked him once why he felt the need to endure the recoil of fast, heavy slugs. "I hunt in Pennsylvania," he said. "The woods are so crowded here if I have to trail a deer at all, I'll find somebody else gutting it. I want something that knocks them flat."

It's hard to argue with that kind of logic.