Slug load for Elk


November 3, 2010, 01:20 AM
Hey all,

I'm new to elk hunting, but planning to go out this year. To avoid having to buy a rifle I'm planning on using a shotgun and keeping the range under 100 yards. I'm going to do the due diligence to see which load/loads are most accurate in my gun.

My question is - will just about every slug load have enough penetration for elk within 100 yards? What about 75 yards? I know that reduced recoil loads will typically have better accuracy. Would Remington's managed recoil 1 oz. 2 3/4" slug (for instance) penetrate enough? Or is it wiser to go to some of the 1 1/4 oz slugs?

Also, just about all the slugs I see in the nearby stores are HP. But the HP isn't much - more of a little tiny divot. How much will that cause the slug to expand? I would think that for my purposes I wouldn't need or want expansion (it's already .73 caliber).

I'll likely be shooting through an 870 with either an improved cylinder or a modified choke.


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November 3, 2010, 01:22 AM
I just realized that I posted this in shotguns. Would someone mind moving it to hunting?



Carne Frio
November 3, 2010, 11:54 AM
3 inch Brenneke slugs are preferred for bear
defense, up here. That should be ok for elk.

November 3, 2010, 02:15 PM
You might want to check with the state officials to see if a shotgun is legal for elk.

November 3, 2010, 02:24 PM
I know you want to avoid buying a rifle, but it really would serve you better than a shotgun and slugs. Can you borrow one from anyone you know? Not saying it can't be done, but a rifle would make life much easier.

November 3, 2010, 05:55 PM
You don't say if you are using a smooth bore rifled barrel. If using a rifled barrel and are 100yds and under I would use the Lightfields, Brenneke or Remington Buckhammer. Face it, with a slug like that you don't really need expansion, and the penetration of those types will work.

November 3, 2010, 06:04 PM
I'd suggest a rifle; you can find one cheap if you look around. Think about this: say the longest range that you can shoot your shotgun accurately at is 75 yards. That means that with a shotgun you can hit anything accurately inside a 2200 square foot area. Lets say that you can accurately shoot a rifle 300 yards. That means that with a rifle you can hit anything accurately inside a 8900 square foot area. That means that with a rifle you can cover 4 times the area, thus being more likely to bag your elk. Buy a rifle.

November 3, 2010, 06:21 PM
Winchester Super x 2&3/4 1oz slugs. They are rated at 1600 fps and have been my 'back up rifle' for elk for years. You can often buy them in 15 packs at Wal-Mart during hunting season.

With an 870, a 20 inch deer barrel and a rifled tube I can cloverleaf 3 slugs at 50 yards and can bullseye a 100 yard target. Yes thye kick like a mule off the bench but they will do the job.

November 3, 2010, 09:46 PM
Probably smooth bore with a choke - I'll try to find a rifled barrel locally, but don't have a lot of hope.

I've decided that a rifle is out. For the terrain I'll be hunting a shot over 100 yards will be unlikely to come up. I'm also much more familiar with SG's and don't feel comfortable knowing what to look for in a rifle.

In the stores in my area I can't find any Brenneke, lightfields, or buckhammer. Just big-names like Federal, Remington (no buckhammers), etc. I don't have time before the season to wait for anything online. Here are my options for 2 3/4"

Remington slugger 1oz (1560 FPS)
Remington managed recoil 1 oz. (1200 FPS)
Federal 1 oz. (1610 FPS)
Federal 1.25 oz (1520 FPS) (this could be 3", I'm not sure from my notes)
Federal 1 oz. (1600 FPS)

So the above won't work for elk? I'd have to go 3"? What about 3" with just a 1 oz. slug? Do you need 1.25 oz. for the penetration?

November 3, 2010, 11:56 PM
I d say a 3 inch slug willl be the minimum. More powder to drive that slug into deep tissues of elk. I grouped 4inch at 50 yds using my Remington 870 with IC rifled sight barrel. This was with Walmart's Winchester combo pack 2 3/4 inch rifled slugs HP.

November 4, 2010, 07:46 PM

I've read about some unhappy results with reduced recoil slugs on game. Lacking in penetration.

If you can't find it locally, surf on over to,, or any of a number of online retailers.

From the (limited) slug tests I've done, the Brenneke slugs will out-penetrate any of the foster slugs. I usually prefer fosters for my applications, though.

Thing is, these shotguns are finicky buggers. Never can tell what load they're gonna like and which one they're gonna hate.

What I have done for each of my guns that might be stoked with slugs:
1. Buy up a box of every brand Wal-Mart & Academy Sports has to offer. These will all be foster slugs. I have always been limited to 2 3/4" shells in my guns. This means 3-4 boxes/types.
2. Buy up a box of some of the more premium siugs that some folks have bragged on around here. The Federal something-or-other fancy foster slug comes to mind.
3. Go online to find a few different styles of Brennekes.

This results in 5 or 6 different 5-packs of slugs. (for me, anyways)

Clean your bore clean as a whistle and bring some cleaning gear with you to the range, especially lead remover gear like those stainless steel "Tornado" brushes or bronze choreboys.

Shoot 5-shot groups with each slug type at your max expected range. Record group size and location relative to POA. Recoil-reducing gear is helpful, here. PAST pads, recoil pads, etc. Might want to keep note where #1 slug went out of the clean, dry bore.

Clean bore between groups, making sure to get out any lead fouling, which will make follow-on slugs inaccurate as heck. If you use solvents, be sure to swab them out before beginning the next string.

Compare your results as to both group size and how POA matches up to POI. Buy more of what worked best.

This is not statistically sound, but shoting enough slugs to get that sort of data would likely make me swear off shooting.

November 5, 2010, 02:51 AM
I appreciate the replies. I guess I'm trying to get a sense for how limiting it would be to shoot a non-magnum 2 3/4" 1 oz. slug. Could I still take a 'quartering towards' shot without risk of the bones deflecting it from the vitals?

November 5, 2010, 03:35 AM
I'll be interested to hear whether or not anyone has tried hunting elk with slugs. I actually considered trying this myself, given that I originally moved to Colorado from an eastern state where you hunted big(ish) game with ONLY shotgun slugs.

Obviously slugs are a limited range projectile, but I am guessing that the penetration from slugs is probably well in excess of what most people estimate. Slugs really seem to be a wrecking-ball of a projectile, and I imagine that a good slug load would easily reach the vitals of an elk (at least based upon gelatin tests I've seen firsthand with slugs in the past). In most cases I believe that a quality slug load will actually penetrate more deeply than a projectile from a .308/.30-06.

Here is a link that shows a gelatin test that someone else performed with a variety of shotgun loads:

Al Thompson
November 5, 2010, 08:07 AM
Coloradokevin, read post #8 - Denver is in Colorado, no? :D

abaddon, I've killed a bunch of deers and hogs with slugs. The Brenneke are the first choice and then the standard forster slugs. I would not try a quartering away shot with a forster, maybe with a Brenneke.

Of your slugs mentioned, I would get the Remingtons and a box of the Federal and see if your SG has a preference. I would not use any form of reduced recoil slug for hunting.

Big key to effectiveness will be your sight system. While a bead on the front works fine for the range, in the woods it's a problem. IME, most any sort of rear sight on that shotgun helps bunches. With a bead only, your eye becomes the rear sight and if your head moves off that stock, your point of impact will move a bunch. :uhoh:

November 5, 2010, 10:28 AM
Thanks for the replies - one question for Al...

I would not try a quartering away shot with a forster, maybe with a Brenneke.

You mean "quartering towards" right? Quartering towards is where the animal is looking towards you at an angle. For quartering away I think the vitals are right behind the front leg 1/3 of the way up. My understanding is that that's one of the best shots to take. The internet stuff I looked at even recommended it for bow.

Anyway, if "quartering towards" is what you mean then that's exactly the advice I'm looking for. It gives me a sense of the limitations.

Al Thompson
November 5, 2010, 11:05 AM
AB, my issue with quartering away (butt closer to you than head) is the amount of meat that the slug would have to traverse to get to the heart/lungs. Elks are big tough critters and the best penetration I've witnessed with a slug is on the order of 24 inches or so. Slugs deliver a bunch of smack, but relative to tough rifle bullets, not as much penetration.

Maybe the bow guys are concerned with the critter seeing the movement of the hunter drawing his bow. In that case, perhaps, I don't know much about bow hunting. :confused:

FWIW, I like to break the upper leg or shoulder, either on the way in or the way out. The bone fragments help put the critter down and transmit that smack into the skeleton. I have never had a critter remain standing when shot with a slug, though I've never killed anything bigger than a hog with slugs.

Some good shot placement info here. I agree with H&H about where to hit'em. :)


November 5, 2010, 07:21 PM
The bowhunters prefer a quartering away shot so they don't have to try to penetrate the shoulder. Same thing with hogs. A scapula on an elk is like trying to penetrate a piece of plywood. A slightly quartering away shot is nearly perfect, but I wouldn't be afraid to take a shoulder shot on an elk when using a slug. Out to 100yard, anyway.

November 5, 2010, 11:22 PM
If you're using rifled slugs in a smoothbore barrel, accuracy will be pretty iffy past 50 yards. It may be better today, but years ago you were lucky to hit a pie plate at 50, what with the slug yawing in the barrel, or what have you. I don't think there would be much difference between the ones you have available, other than I'd recommend get a couple boxes of each and see which one feeds best through your barrel out to 50 yards.

If at all possible, get a rifled barrel for sure, and check out the Remington 3" premier copper solid sabot slug. It is the most devastating projectile I have ever witnessed. They are highly accurate too. I can get a single hole (granted they are larger) at 50 yards.

They would easily go to 150. There would be some drop to contend with, but that is part of it. Powerful, accurate and deadly.

They are a hollow point. Good expansion.

The size of the hollow point doesn't matter so much. Look at rifle rounds. The speed and mass behind it are what really do the trick. The hole just gets it started.

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