Making 12 Gauge Slug Rounds

What do you do with old shotguns with lead-only barrels? I intend to use one for killing deer with 1 ounce slugs and killing grouse with 1 ounce loads of shot. The latter is easy. There’s lots of data around. Slugs are a different matter. One can use the Lee 1 ounce slug in place of shot and do pretty well (~1250 ft/s for 1500ft-lb of energy), but with heavier charges of slower powders, one can do a lot better (~1600 ft/s for 2400 ft-lb of energy), 50% better. These slugs have a ballistic coefficient ~0.06 so they are devastating to about 50 yards and useful to ~100. Lee gives a bunch of loads:

How about that Blue Dot stuff? That’s a very stiff load. See it on YouTube:

I don’t have Blue Dot powder (tm Alliant) but I do have some old HS-7 which is the same as WW571 (Winchester) which has very similar data for heavy shot loads as Blue Dot in identical cases (WAA) with identical wads.

The Alliant data is for 1150 and 1200 ft/s going left to right. Likely the 1250 ft/s charge would not fit in the case because Blue Dot is more bulky than HS-7. The CB wad is a substitute for WAA12R. Lyman data for a 525 gr slug (1.2 ounce):

Hull Powder Charge Primer Wad Velocity Pressure
Federal Gold Medal Blue Dot 46.5 Win 209 WAA12R 1544 9,900
Federal Gold Medal 571 42.0 Fed 209A Fed 12S4 1429 10,700
Federal Plastic Hunting Blue Dot 44.0 Win 209 WAA12R 1408 7,300
Federal Plastic Hunting 571 42.0 Fed 209A Fed 12S4 1405 9,900
Winchester AA Blue Dot 44.0 Win 209 WAA12R 1474 9,200

The Lee one ounce slug is about 0.64″ long and 0.68″ in diameter so it will pass through a full choke in a plastic wad. Unfortunately, the HS-7 is much more dense than Blue Dot, so I have to improvise. I could just add a bit of wadding to take up the 0.32″ missing from the 1.5 ounce of lead shot but the pressure would likely be far too low. HS-7 and Blue Dot like higher pressures to burn reliably or they leave a lot in the barrel. For a semi-auto that’s very bad because it will rapidly gum up the breach or gas-system. So, I need to increase the charge above 36.5 grains by at least 10%. I have tried as low as 34 grains in a 1 ounce wad but get rather loopy trajectories and the occasional squib. With more than 34 grains of HS-7, I begin to have trouble crimping the cases. One guy solved the space problem by shortening the hulls… He found 42 grains HS-7 worked very well with WAA12R in Remington hulls. I don’t have any of those hulls but 42 grains should be good in my hulls using some corrugated cardboard wadding. More space, less pressure… With such a slow-burning powder this space should not affect the ultimate pressure versus distance relation but it may reduce the peak pressure.

In my digging on the web, I found an article about loading the Lee 1 ounce slug in a WAA12R wad with a 1/8″ nitro card over the powder with a mysterious “powder X” that occupied 3cc. No mention of the charge. Only that 3cc of powder made a good crimp in “Winchester AAHS 12 ga hulls”, two-piece hulls… I find plenty of those at the range. Folks recommend against using those because the base-wad may separate and cause an obstruction of the barrel. Oops! 3cc charges are not listed in Lee’s table, above, but it’s in the range of 44 grains of 571 powder (44 X 0.068 = 2.99) or 42grains of HS-6 (42 X 0.0712 = 2.99). He got decent accuracy. Something the size of Federal 12s3 wads might do. I have to experiment.

I conclude that the only wad I have that is usable with HS-7 for a heavy hunting load is WAA12R which is too short so I will have to add wadding. For safety, I will try crushable corrugated cardboard wads which give the powder more room to expand promptly. I tried to make a 20 gauge cutter by heating the head of a defective 20 gauge hull to soften the plastic for removal. Two or three discs cut from cardboard boxes should take up the slack until firing. That worked well but the tool was too fragile for punching with a hammer. Others have made similar cutters for turning in a drill-press. A brass head failed on the third wad. A copper head lasted about a dozen wads. I’ll have to buy a better wad-cutter ( less than $10 ) or buy some 20 gauge fibre wads. They are less than 1₵ per card. While I am at it, I could also buy some Blue Dot and WAA12 wads. Blue Dot is only $40/pound, here, and ~$20 in other places, which comes to about 12-23₵ per shot. The end result will save more than $0.50 per round compared to retail slug rounds.

Another possibility is to buy some Federal 12S4 wads (shorter wad and slug more powder than the Lyman 525) according to the data, but there does not seem to be a local source…

See also “Casting and Reloading 12 Gauge Slugs”

Some results: We went to the bush and checked out several loads with a Remington 1100 full-choke lead shot barrel. The “old” load we used of 34 grains HS-7 under Versatec wads broke clays at 40 yards. We then switched to heftier loads with WAA12F1 and 36 grains. Worked pretty well. We then used 40, 43 and 46 grains of HS-7 under WAA12R wads with hand-cut corrugated cardboard wads under the slug. Point of impact rose a few inches with the increasing charges. With 34 grains, we were aiming at the top of the clay, but with 40+ grains we had to aim for the bottom of the clay. Recoil improved significantly (sore shoulder + headache)… but only 1 petal fell off and most wads fell about halfway to the target close to the line of sight. Hulls were ejected firmly to about 10 ft from the standing shooter, showing that the Remington 1100 was comfortable. The hulls and recovered wads were in pretty good shape. We did serious damage to a bunch of clay targets resting in the snow so the group-size is <5 inches, good enough for deer at that range. Will break out the chronograph and a proper target next time. I will also try to use the proper wad-cutter instead of scissors…

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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13 Responses to Making 12 Gauge Slug Rounds

  1. Probably, Lyman publishes the data you need. That is a very popular combination. The trouble I’ve had is that the old wads are sometimes no longer made.

  2. Dan B says:

    I have not seen any data from slug shooters using a rifled barrel – as in my Rem 1100.
    ! have cast ~ 200 Lyman 12 ga 1 oz hollow slugs and want to load them in my Rem Gun club hulls , and need to know what wads and powder weight to use. I plan to shoot them in my Rem 1100 with its rifled barrel.

    ~45 years ago I shot a group with my Win M 1897 shotgun that had a peep sight- at 50 yards, using a commercial, I think- Winchester shotgun slugs.The gun was a riot model with a 20″ barrel. It got a 2 ” group with that old M 1897 . I still have the group I cut out of the target – in my reloading diary- which I started in 1960.

  3. Rem870 wrote, “It would be interesting to see results of your test, please make sure to post them here.”

    I shoot 30 miles away from home so I don’t make a trip casually. I usually travel with another and we have some particular purpose. I sure would like to test these loads for deer-hunting this season but it just has not happened yet. I will try to chronograph them as well as group them.

  4. Rem870 says:

    Agree, it is possible to make a slug which won’t be accurate. But 100-yard effectiveness is true for most of the factory slugs (except of the low-recoil ones, I think). It would be interesting to see results of your test, please make sure to post them here. Signed up for your posts.

  5. Rem870 wrote, “Shotgun slugs are accurate up to 100 yards without a doubt”.

    Of course that is not always true. One can make a bad bullet/slug and bad things will happen. The slug I have chosen, the Lee “key-drive” 1oz slug is definitely usable to 100 yards. Of course it has lost a lot of energy by then but its accuracy is good enough. I still have to test my latest batch but I expect they will certainly be good enough to 75 yards and others report usable groups at 100 yards.

    Here’s a guy using a rifled barrel who got ~1″ groups with such slugs. I rely just on the natural stability of the slug and expect larger groups out of my smooth bore.

    Here’s a guy who used commercial rounds and got >1″ groups at 100 yards.

  6. dougman wrote, “at –20°C (–4°F) most batteries stop functioning”.

    We compensate for that by having extra capacity. The car I’m looking at works to -35C. My garage rarely gets that low and the battery warms in use. My car started reliably at -40C last time we got that cold.

  7. Rem870 says:

    “anyone shooting at an animal beyond 25 yards with slugs is an asshole. Don’t be an asshole, old man.”

    Why do you think so? Have you ever tried to shoots slugs at longer distances? Shotgun slugs are accurate up to 100 yards without a doubt. Thousands of shotgun owners around the world shoot slugs effectively on distances beyond 25 yards.

  8. Slug Dude wrote, “It’s Zerored in at 175 yards and it can shoot 3-4 inch groups at 200 yards when shooting off a lead sled.”

    That’s impressive, but what is the energy of the slug at that range, pretty marginal? The ballistic coefficient of the typical slug is very small and after 100 yards it’s like throwing stones. I’d stick to shorter ranges.

  9. Slug Dude says:

    Slugs only good up to 25 yards?! Hahahahaha! I have to laugh at that! I have a Mossberg 835 rifled barrel, cantilever scope mount, topped with a 1.5-5×30 mm Bushnell From Dusk Till Dawk scope. I shoot Remington Accrutip 3 inch Mag slugs. It’s Zerored in at 175 yards and it can shoot 3-4 inch groups at 200 yards when shooting off a lead sled. I’ll take a 200 yard shot on a deer any day with this rig.

  10. Ivan wrote, “A 7″ group is the difference between a kill shot and wounding an animal at 100 yards, choke is absolutely meaningless when shooting slugs, and slugs start tumbling at 25 yards.”

    The size of the vital zone of a deer here is at least 10 inches diameter. A 7 inch group in the centre of that will drop them promptly. What would cause a slug to tumble if it has centre of mass well forward and a light tail dragging in the wind? I know a keyhole when I see one and very few of my slugs do that. The weather is getting mild again. Once the snow is plowed I will fire a group and film it happening.

    Here’s a guy hitting a pumpking 3 out of 4 times from 100 yards. The one he missed was a different round with a different trajectory. His regular rounds all hit. Here’s a guy hitting a table at 230 yards with a smoothboore. Tumbling? Nope. Look at the holes (about 10 minutes in, close-up). That’s free-hand, too.

  11. Ivan says:

    Nice try Bob, I’ve shot enough slugs to know that you’re dead wrong about this. A 7″ group is the difference between a kill shot and wounding an animal at 100 yards, choke is absolutely meaningless when shooting slugs, and slugs start tumbling at 25 yards.

    So yes, anyone shooting at an animal beyond 25 yards with slugs is an asshole. Don’t be an asshole, old man.

  12. Ivan wrote, “Bullshit. Slugs are only accurate to 25 yards, if you shoot at anything beyond that you are just being an asshole.”

    Nonsense, I was hitting consecutive clay discs five inches in diameter at 50 yards. It all depends on the slug and the barrel. My barrel is a full choke so the slug+wad combination passes snuggly through like a pistol round in a short barrel only the velocity is very high. The wad itself is a modified Foster slug, a hollow “thimble” shape. The tail end is light and easily swings in the breeze if it gets out of alignment. Thus it is like a short arrow, stabilized by fletching. This keeps it going on point-forward. My barrel is long too. That sucker has eyes. Groups size is still decent for deer at 100 yards. I don’t have pictures of my groups but I will get some next time I take the shotgun out. Here is a picture a guy took of a 50 yard group with a different slug/gun combination. It’s a ragged hole. Mine aren’t nearly that tight because I don’t have proper sights, just a front bead.

    Joe Harris got “7” groups @ 100 yds. rifled cantilever scoped mossberg 500″. Is he an asshole? He’s been there, done that.

    There are combinatios that aren’t good at all, like a choke that mangles the wad and randomly rips off petals, breaking the “fletching”. Here’s a guy shooting a similar but lighter slug at 50m. Here’s a guy shooting groups at 25 and 50 yards with no sights, not even a bead. Here’s a guy who replaces lead shot with a slug and gets 2 inch groups at 50 yards. Here’s a guy shooting with rifle sights at 230 yards from a smoothbore with Foster slugs. The group was a couple feet in diameter. Here’s a guy shooting at 50 yards and he gets a group a few inches in size.

  13. Ivan says:

    These slugs have a ballistic coefficient ~0.06 so they are devastating to about 50 yards and useful to ~100.

    Bullshit. Slugs are only accurate to 25 yards, if you shoot at anything beyond that you are just being an asshole.

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