When we talk deer hunting guns, it’s usually centerfire rifles and, on occasion, handguns. Yet many hunters opt for the more limited range but potent power of shotguns by either personal choice or local regulations.
While the effective range may be limited, slug guns are reliable and capable, especially those with rifled barrels. Though there are many slug launchers, here are our favored single shots, pumps, bolts, and semi-automatics that are largely affordable and readily available either on the new or used market.
Henry Single Shot Slug Barrel Shotgun
The Henry Single Shot Slug Barrel Shotgun. That’s a long name for the company’s first dedicated 12-gauge slug gun. The break action sports a 24-inch fully rifled barrel with 1:35 twist rate and chambers 3-inch shells. Though the gun is easily scoped, it's fully adjustable red fiber-optic rear sight lines up quickly with the green front. The dual-directional pivoting locking lever makes the gun even more friendly for lefties. There’s a rebounding hammer safety, but no external manual safety. The gun includes swivel studs and is topped with a solid black rubber recoil pad. It measures a compact 39.5 inches overall and weighs 6.88 pounds sans scope.
Savage 212 and 220 Slug
Just when you thought bolt-action shotguns had gone the way of the Dodo, Savage comes back with a hard-hitting pair of 12 gaugers and 20 gaugers in not only a Turkey configuration but also rifled slug guns as well. They feature a fully rifled 22-inch barrel, detachable box magazine, and the company’s adjustable AccuTrigger. With two in the mag and one in the chamber, the reliable bolt guns offer three rounds of slug firepower. Both guns will chamber 2.75 and 3-inch shells. Savage’s AccuFit stock allows easy adjustment of the length of pull and comb height for a customized fit. There’s an oversized bolt handle and optics-ready Picatinny rail. The 212 Slug weighs 7.85 pounds and can be had in a number of configurations, including blued, stainless, black synthetic, camouflage, and even left-hand variants. The 220 is slightly lighter at 7.34 pounds.
Mossberg 500 Slugster
Pump actions have a reputation for being both affordable and reliable, and few epitomize that better than Mossberg’s Model 500. Deer hunters can simply add a slug barrel to their existing platform. Or, better yet, grab a devoted Model 500 Slugster. These deer and bear hunting machines can be had in either 12 or 20 gauge, each with a 24-inch fully rifled barrel, 3-inch chamber, and 5+1 round capacity. There are dual extractors, twin action bars, and an ambidextrous tang safety. Depending on chambering, they weigh 6.75 to 7.25 pounds.
The newer Model 500 Field/Deercombos make an excellent and affordable bird and slug hunting setup, with most using the company’s Dual Combo stock. Those with the FLEX stock gain even greater adjustments. Mossberg’s 500 slug-shooting models can be had in either wood or synthetic with the blued steel metalwork.
Remington 11-87 Cantilever Slug
While Remington’s 870 may be the more popular choice from Big Green, it’s the semi-automatic Model 11-87 that’s an unsung hero of the deer hunting shotgun world. Though out of production at the time of this writing, there are plenty of these boomers on the market. The gas-driven guns could be had in either 12 or 20 gauge with cantilever, optics-ready barrels.
With a self-adjusting gas system, they gobble through 2.75 and 3-inch shells with ease, and the action helps reduce the hard-hitting recoil of heavy slug hunting rounds. The 21-inch rifled barrel model was most common and could be had in either black synthetic or camouflage. Both the 11-87 Sportsman and Special Purpose variants were available as slug guns, many of them coming as combination sets with both bird and slug barrels.
Winchester 1300 Deer
One of the most underrated, affordable hunting combos has been Winchester’s pump-action Model 1300. Shooters could purchase a bird and deer barrel combination for one do-all gun. The 1300 Deer, specifically, was factory ready to fire slugs. The most common was the 22-inch rifled slug barrel, though plenty of smoothbore slug shooters are around as well.
The Model 1300 was not an aesthetic marvel, but that utilitarian blued steel and plain wood got the job done. Most 1300s came dressed with iron sights but were drilled and tapped for easy optics mounting as well. Though out of production for some time, the 1300 still represents a solid, reliable, and affordable used buy, with good numbers on the secondhand market. Fans of new Winchester slide actions can look to the SXP Deer for modern pump slug hunting.