Effective Shotgunning for Deer:
A penetrating argument for using quality slugs
The buck steps from behind a tree. There’s your shot—broadside, a mere 50 yards away, a clear path. Your shotgun barks, and the big deer drops in its tracks, perfect shot placement just behind the shoulder…exactly the way it’s supposed to be.
Trouble is, few things in hunting turn out the way they’re “supposed to be.” More likely the buck is quartering away from you. Maybe its vitals are obscured by brush. Perhaps it takes a step just as you fire, and your shot hits too far back. Do you have a deer down? Or a big problem?
If you hunt deer with a shotgun, knowing how a slug or sabot actually kills a deer can help you avoid the misery of wounded or lost game, because there are some substantial differences between how rifle bullets and shotgun projectiles function.
The obvious goal with any projectile is a large wound that results in a quick, humane kill. Shot placement is the first priority, as a heart or lung shot with any decent projectile will be fatal. Perfect shot placement doesn’t always happen, though. Plus, those organs are protected by bone, muscle, and sinew. A projectile must first be able to penetrate sufficiently to reach vital organs, and still transfer sufficient energy to do serious damage.
While other factors come into play, penetration is primarily achieved by a combination of projectile weight, design, and the velocity at which it is traveling. Rifle shooters can enjoy velocities well in excess of 3000 feet per second in a deer caliber, whereas the average shotgun slug travels at half that speed. So, the shotgun shooter cannot rely upon sheer velocity to increase penetration; he has to look elsewhere.
One of the best places to look for information is to Brenneke®, the German company that invented the modern shotgun slug in 1898 and has been perfecting them ever since. “A few years ago we contracted with a renowned ballistics expert for a series of independent, unbiased tests,” said Dr. Peter Mank, director of Brenneke and great-grandson of its founder. “We were shocked at the differences we found between shotgun slugs.”
Brenneke’s popular Green Lightning® 12-gauge, 2 3/4” slug was tested against five well-known competitive slugs, each being tissue flesh). Each slug’s path was photographed to determine if it maintained a straight and true line and to see if its structural integrity was affected, while total penetration was carefully measured.
The Brenneke® Green Lightning® penetrated 34.9 inches of gelatin. The closest competitor penetrated slightly over 29 inches. It dropped rapidly from there, the other brands penetrating 17.75, 15.5, and a mere 11.12 inches respectively.
Equally disconcerting was the condition of several of the slugs when retrieved from the gelatin. One had disintegrated into pieces. A second was completely flattened. All but the Green Lightning had lost a substantial amount of their original weight, greatly dispersing energy. The Brenneke slug retained 88% of its original 1 ¼ ounces, with no excessive expansion or deformation.
“Rifle bullets rely upon controlled expansion to create fatal wounds,” Dr. Mank said. “That is why a relatively small projectile—such as a .30 caliber—can be very effective on deer. Shotgun slugs do not have the velocity to produce reliable expansion and penetration both. Our Brenneke design has always relied upon a massive frontal area (.73 inches in 12 gauge), a hard alloy, and tremendous mass and weight-forward construction to create a devastating wound channel, extreme energy transfer and virtually no chance of deflection by bone, muscle or even foliage.”
What about saboted slugs, popular among many shotgunners because of their higher velocity? “You give up a substantial amount of weight and frontal area with a sabot, because the plastic sleeve containing the slug means a much smaller diameter projectile,” Mank explained. “We refused to make a sabot for many years, until we finally created one with the same characteristics as our traditional slugs. Sabots can be very effective, but a poorly made projectile is going to cause a lot of problems for the hunter.
“In the German hunting tradition,” Mank said, “one of the worst things that can happen to a hunter is to wound and lose an animal. So, we have always insisted upon the highest quality ammunition that will penetrate completely and drop a deer instantly, or at worst, allow it only to travel a few yards.”
That’s not bad advice for American deer, either.
Visit Brenneke today for more Information