Phil Bourjaily Tests Three Reduced-Recoil Shotgun Slugs for Deer Hunting

I shot the slugs at 50 yards off my trusty Lead Sled shooting rest for accuracy, then offhand to get a feel for their kick. My test medium was the very useful Bullet Test Tube (thebullettesttube.com). I'd say anything that goes more than 4 inches into the tube is going to kill a deer very dead. Here's what I found:

FEDERAL VITAL-SHOK TRUBALL LOW RECOIL

Standard Truballs weigh 1 ounce and have a muzzle velocity of 1600 fps. The low-recoil versions weigh the same but depart at a milder 1300 fps, generating about 17 foot-pounds of recoil in an 8-pound gun.

Accuracy: The low-recoil version proved every bit as accurate as the regular TruBalls in my smoothbore Ithaca 37 Deerslayer. I could put three in just under 2 inches at 50 yards with ease.

Penetration: At 50 yards, the standard slug penetrated 8¼ inches into the Test Tube; its counterpart went in 5¾ inches.

Ouch Factor: There was a perceptible lag between the boom of the gun and the thump of the low-recoil slug 50 yards away--almost enough time for me to think, Hey, that didn't hurt.

Conclusion: TruBalls are ideal if you hunt deer with a smoothbore. Figure 75-80 yards as the maximum effective range of the low-recoil ones, which I believe is about the maximum range for Foster slugs and smoothbore guns anyway.

REMINGTON MANAGED-RECOIL COPPER SOLID

This is an all-copper sabot slug designed for a rifled barrel.

Accuracy: Both the regular and the Managed-Recoil types turned in tight groups, with all the holes touching at 50 yards, when shot from a fully rifled Ithaca 37.

Penetration: The regular copper solids have a muzzle velocity of 1450 fps. When I shot one at the Test Tube it passed all the way through, popped the lid off the bottom, and fell into the dirt of the backstop. The lower-velocity version penetrated 7½ inches. Both slugs expanded perfectly.

Ouch Factor: At 1 ounce and 1200 fps, the Managed-Recoil Copper Solids were the softest-kicking slug I tried. The sensation wasn't much different from shooting a light target load.

Conclusion: It's a great choice for the recoil-conscious shooter who wants the utmost accuracy from a rifled gun. I wouldn't hesitate to shoot a deer at 100 yards with a Managed-Recoil Copper Solid.

REMINGTON MANAGED-RECOIL BUCKHAMMER

A full-bore, attached-wad slug designed for rifled barrels, Remington's standard 2¾-inch BuckHammer weighs 1¼ ounces with a muzzle velocity of 1550 fps and generates well over 35 foot-pounds of recoil. This puts it in the same class, kickwise, as a midbore magnum rifle like a.338. The Managed-Recoil BuckHammers shoot a 1 1/8-ounce slug at 1350 fps and produce about a third less recoil.

Accuracy: The light BuckHammers grouped around 1 5/8 inches at 50 yards.

Penetration: The standard BuckHammer blasted a cavity about 4 inches wide upon hitting the Test Tube before passing all the way through. The Managed-Recoil BuckHammer didn't make nearly as violent an entry, but it, too, zipped out the end of the Test Tube.

Ouch Factor: While these Managed-Recoil loads are lighter and slower than the regular BuckHammers, they still kick much harder than the other two low-recoil loads I tested.

Conclusion: It's a devastating and accurate performer from rifled-barrel guns but not a light kicker. These are definitely 100-yard slugs with power to spare.

Any of these low-recoil slugs will kill deer at reasonable ranges. They might even kill better than faster slugs, because it's easier for the average shooter to put them on target. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race after all.

IMPACT PHOTOS: See how these slugs penetrated and expanded at fieldandstream.com/slugfest