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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gear Review: These Slugs Suck

Here it is; the very first Bumbling Bushman gear review.

For non-hunters and hunters who do not use sabot slugs for deer, here's the bottom line of this post, right up front so you can close out and get back to work: Lightfield's 2-3/4 inch Hybred-EXP ammunition sucks. 

After finishing the post mortem on the 2010 deer season (unless I sneak back out there sometime before Christmas for one more try) I have come to the conclusion that I need to make an ammunition change.

A brief background:
I and many of the guys I hunt with take full advantage of North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission's special permit hunting opportunities. Because many of these deer hunts take place in small gamelands areas with maximum hunter densities, the NCWRC requires the use of shotguns and/or muzzleloaders as opposed to rifles, which can send lethal doses of lead a long, long way. In my search for a dedicated permit hunt shotgun, I immediately decided to go for a platform with a rifled barrel that would shoot heavy lead slugs with accuracy. I tried my uncle's Remington 870 slug barrel in 12 gauge with some success over two seasons. Two mature does were felled where they stood at ranges inside 25 yards. A third doe received a flesh wound when I fired at 50 yards and grazed her belly. When that happened, I decided I needed to look into some options that would allow me to shoot 50-75 yards with confidence (and without having to spend hours and $$$ at the range).

In  2008 I borrowed my neighbor's Harrington and Richardson Ultra Slug Hunter in 20 gauge. His experience with the single shot weapon made expressly for deer hunting at farther distances than traditionally acceptable for shotguns was very positive. I can remember one of his kills being a nice 8-point at 110 yards. Needless to say, I was impressed by the story and thrilled to take it into the field. He told me the gun was zeroed at 100 yards with Lightfield Hybred-EXP sabot slugs and would perform flawlessly with that round. I bought a box (about $15 for 5 rounds) and a-hunting I did go. Coming out of the woods at mid-morning on the second day of the hunt, I and two companions blundered into a basket-racked 7-point buck standing off the side of the trail. Since I was the only one ready to shoot (they had their weapons slung over their shoulders) I did. The deer was walking slowly at 30 yards and quartering toward me. I hit him just in front of the shoulder, right where I was aiming. The buck stumbled off and fell 20 yards from where he'd been shot. There was an excellent blood trail to the deer and during the course of quartering him out that night, I recovered the expanded slug lodged in front of the opposite ham. It was a perfect lead mushroom and I was in love.

The following offseason, I bought my youth model H&R Ultra Slug Hunter in 20 gauge. Despite measuring just under 6 feet tall, for some reason I prefer my long guns to have short stocks. The H&R youth model feels like a sidearm to me and I love it for still hunting in heavy cover. I dutifully purchased a couple of boxes of the prescribed Lightfield ammunition, and also a box of Hornady SST slugs on the recommendation of my friend, Brian, who had bought the same gun a year earlier and found it to shoot more accurately with the Hornady ammo (which was also slightly cheaper). After an excruciating session at the gun range, I left with a weapon I was comfortable shooting out to just 50 yards (well under the 100-200 yard ranges both companies boast of) and convinced my shotgun performed better with the Lightfields.

Over the course of the 2009 North Carolina deer season, I fired the gun four times and brought home three kills. Though I initially chalked up the fourth shot as a miss, now as I look at the big picture of my experience with this ammunition, I'm not so sure. Of those three kills, all shots were within 40 yards. One doe dropped in her tracks. Another doe and a spike buck required tracking over a very poor blood trail (the buck did not bleed at all over the course of a 50-60 yard recovery, despite being hit squarely in the shoulder). The Lightfield slug did not pass through any of them (which is why the blood trails were so sparse) and fragmented in every situation (broke apart into many smaller pieces inside the deer). The "miss" occurred at 15 yards on a big-bodied buck. I shot at an awkward angle, but was absolutely confident I'd hit him either in the the shoulder or right behind it. The deer reacted as if it had been hit hard, but I could not find a speck of blood or a follicle of hair in more than an hour of searching on my hands and knees.

Nonetheless, I brought the H&R Ultra Slug Hunter (outfitted with a better scope) and Lightfield ammo with me to the first permit hunt of this year, around the Halloween weekend. Again, I had trouble sighting the gun in in the days leading up to the trip and felt confident out to just 30 yards with it - no more. On the first afternoon of the hunt, I stalked to 20 yards of a grazing button buck and dropped the hammer on him. The deer was standing broadside and I aimed right behind its shoulder. The slug went where it was supposed to and the deer dropped in its tracks. Despite the close range and frail body of the tiny buck (35 pounds on the hoof!) the Lightfield slug did not hold together and a fragment broke off and ripped through the stomach and intestines. The resulting mess meant that I had to throw away some tainted meat (including the tenderloins) that should not have been affected had the slug performed the way it should have.

Two weeks later, I traveled back east for another permit hunt and stopped at the gun range on the way out to see if I couldn't at least solve my distance accuracy issues. I tweaked the rig and the gun was shooting acceptably at 50 yards again. I also bought another box of Hornday SSTs just to see how they'd do a second time around, as my frustration was mounting with the Lightfields. To my surprise, the Hornady ammo shot just as well as the Lightfield, so I tucked three rounds into my fanny pack, just in case.

On the second evening of my hunt, I shot a doe and her yearling doe at 40 yards with the Lightfield slugs. The doe was hit behind the shoulder and died 40 yards from the spot she was hit. The blood trail was good, but again, the slug fragmented and there was no pass-through. The yearling was gut shot and went some 200 yards with scant blood. That one was my fault. I cannot complain about Lightfield's accuracy once it's been sighted in. The slugs have always gone where I aimed them.

I had finally had enough. The next afternoon, I loaded up with a Hornady SST and clobbered a 115-pound 7-point through the shoulder at 30 yards. The buck didn't go 20 yards on his death run and I heard him fall over, but unbelievably, I later found that even the Hornady slug fragmented and did not pass-through the deer's body. The blood trail was sparse and hard to follow. I am now at my wits end, though I have more confidence the Hornady's will prove to be a quality round in the future, as Brian has had great performance on five out of six deer he's shot with them so far.

As for Lightfield, I'm done. I'm convinced their ammunition is inferior - certainly not up to the performance I expect for the cost and not worthy of being loaded into any of my guns.

23 comments:

  1. Wow! You're quite evidently not too impressed!

    The only deer size animals I ever shot were with a Remington 700BDL in 30-06, apart from the one time I could not resist taking my S&W .357 Magnum onto an Army excercise area (which was also a nature reserve) just to give it a highly illegal pop in a natural, non range environment.

    I had just loaded it, looked up and standing not twenty paces from me was a beautiful buck and before I knew what I was doing, I raised the gun and shot it a tiny fraction behind the shoulder. It jumped about three feet into the air and came down on its back legs and then ran over itself as the forelegs just collapsed.

    It was an awesome moment, not least because I realised I, as a serving Officer holding the Queen's Commission had just poached one of Her Majesty's deer, an offence I understand, that according to some archaic English law is still classed as treason, the only crime remaining on the statute book technically carrying the death penalty.

    In the Army, we were issued with 5 shot semi-automatic 12 bore Brownings and amongst the selection of Ely cartridges were solid shot the makers of which claimed were good out to one hundred yards. We, though, used them at rather shorter ranges, about six inches to shoot the door locks out of cars so that we could get into them and disarm any terrorist devices they may have contained. At that range, we rarely missed...

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  2. I don't like 'em either, but each gun has its own preference of ammo. Even though I've been using the 20ga Hornady SST's in my Adult Ultra Slug Hunter, I'm not comfortable past 100 yards. Yes, 100 yards is a long ass way, but far from the 150-200 yard proclamation the gun and ammo advertise. I'll be reevaluating my ammo this off season for sure.

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    Replies
    1. Lead on Deer only, sst, and platinum, and barne bullets often wound deer. Lead has more energy and knock down power. Only in a high powered rifle can you get away with bonded bullets. USE LEAD ON DEER OR QUIT HUNTING PERIOD.

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  3. Excellent write-up. Found your blog today on OBN. Good stuff. I will follow along.

    The Average Joe Fisherman
    http://averagejoefisherman.blogspot.com/

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  4. I killed my first deer with these slugs.... but I agree. They do suck. But the ones I bought went to good use... We shot them off a couple of days ago and put Christmas lights in them. Ta-daaa! Shotgun shell Christmas decorations! Our tree has never looked so hunter friendly!


    Happy Hunting!

    HLYH

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  5. Hippo - I won't blink if you tell me you are in Her Majesty's Secret Service, though poaching one of her harts may have black balled your eligibility. I hope to meet you one day.
    Brian - I don't know where to go next. If Hornady won't hold together at 30 yards, I can't imagine it'll hold at 100. Maybe my expectations are too high.
    Ryan - Awesome. Thanks for commenting.
    Hunt Like - That's a great idea! I was just going to chuck my last one in the duck pond, but now I'm inspired.

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    1. Is this a scientific review on slugs or just a brag post? Pretty arrogant of the author to think every one of his shots were sure kill shots. Shotgun triggers are creepy and heavy and most will flinch when they know they are about to touch off a gun that kicks like a mule. As far as not getting penetration you might want to man-up and buy a 12 gauge.

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  6. I'm going to trying these rounds out:
    Federal VitalShok
    Remington AccuTip
    Winchester Supreme Elite
    Brenneke...not sure which round

    Any others?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, try Lightfield EXPs. The author has no clue what he's talking about. Lightfields are non-jacketed lead slugs and the hit like a ton bricks and fly well. SSTs fly well also but have a nice day tracking wounded deer all day.

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  7. I'm curious what the $6.99 Buckhammer will do in your guns Jamie/Brian. We've seen what those things can do once they get inside an animal. Tremendous knock down power too, which I feel gives you a great opportunity for a follow up shot...if needed. I've shot em' up to 70 yds so far and been extremely satisfied...I can only think they'd be better in your heavier barrels.

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  8. Brian - "Deer and Deer Hunting" magazine has an article in the January issue on 20-gauge slugs and how they've come of age. They look at all those you mention and a few more. They've got all the ballistics you'd care to read, but say nothing about the ability of the round to hold together. Anyway, it's a nice list of what's out there.
    Mark - Those Buckhammers you shoot are awesome, and they do make them in 20 gauge. We'll have to see how they shoot through the H&R Slug Hunter. I'm definitely going to try them.

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  9. My friend/old supervisor from the Eastern Shore of Virginia has a H&R single shot 20 gauge and it is his go to gun for deer in that region. They primarily deer drive and tree-stand hunt. I cannot attest to their impact on deer, but he shoots the Winchester Partition Gold and it is a heck of a slug. I have seen him drop at least six pigs with them and none ran more than 10 yards. The last was an accidental 2 for 1 drop on some pigs in the orange groves. The slug passed through the first animal, double lung, and then went through the second and imbeded on the medial side of the outward breast shield. I found it while cleaning the boar and it was a perfect un-fragmented mushroom. Seeing what he, Carolina Rig and Bret has done with that gun.... I am in the market for one down the road.....

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  10. BB,

    have you tried the good old fashioned forster slugs? Maybe they'll do better with respect to terminal performance, and they can be no worse in terms of accuracy!

    Who's to say it's not from the Narco-Terrorists? It's not that hard to get a complete set up now-a-days...


    Best Regards,
    Albert “Afghanus” Rasch
    Albert Rasch In Afghanistan: She had Beautiful Green Eyes…

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  11. Sausage Gene - I like that kind of testimonial. If Winchester Partition Gold will shoot out of my gun, I'll give them a whirl next fall.
    Albert - what I need is one of the narco-terrorist straw buyers to hook me up with something that'll get the job done.

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  12. I think I am the former (not old) supervisor/friend Sausage refers to. I will attest that he is a great friend, fantastic host and up-and-coming waterfowler! I gotta add that there is no one else quite like Mr. X! I will attest to the H&R slug gun coupled with the Partion Gold .20 gauge 2 3/4" load. I have used it consistently over the past 8-10 years with outstanding results. Our 10-12 member Eastern Shore VA hunt club takes about 120-150 animals a year from a few small farms. We practice QDM and routinely take early 1900's Midwest transplanted whitetails in the 200 lb range for bucks and pushing 180 for does. The slug gun/ammo combo I refer to outperforms any other I've seen used. With the exception of one nice buck I shot a few years back that ran 30-35 yards, most animals drop in their tracks or pretty darn close to it. Good shot placement, awesome ballistics and slug performance coupled with keeping shots within my range ensures success (9 for 9 shooting this year, no misses over the past 3 years). Furthest shot I've attempted was this year at a laser ranged 158 yard "tank" doe that dropped where she stood and ended my season. Great blog, sorry I missed the January hunt. Next time around we'll talk smokepole loads?

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  13. Walkabout - thanks for stopping by and your testimonial on that Winchester ammo. I'll run some through my rig this off-season and, if it'll group I'll be more than happy to field test it on your recommendation. I have in-laws on the Eastern Shore (Cape Charles area) and I've seen some of the deer you speak of. Mind-blowing compared to the southeastern strain whitetails I'm used to. Any friend of Sausage's is a friend of mine. C'mon back soon.

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  14. Get the Remington Accutips. They are great in my H&R. I took four deer with them last year. 2 3/4 are fine to 60 yards and go 3 inch for longer shots.

    Sc

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  15. I've been reading your blog here and there, and I like that you are frank ~ and willing to entertain folks with your pathetic excursions into the outdoors ..HOWEVER, you've taken to a new level with this account..YOU SHOULD STOP HUNTING if you can not take game in a cleaner manner. Its guys like you that can't hit the broad side of barn, who give hunters a bad rap~ this whole sequence of recounting gut shots has turned my stomach~NO PUN INTENDED!..you go and you gut shoot animals let them suffer and then write about it...YOU ARE NO SPORTSMAN!..YOU NEED TO STICK TO FISHING WITH GUIDES AND KEEP YOUR PANSIE COASTAL ASS AT HOME!
    AT LEAST POST WHERE YOUR GOING TO BE IN THE FIELD SO THAT OTHERS CAN AVOID YOU TRIGGER HAPPY DUMB ASS!

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  16. I agree with the other "Anonymous"... by the way, what in the heck are you doing taking a yearling doe? Spike bucks? That doe with a yearling I would let both go. Come on, man. It is guys like you who over-harvest or poorly harvest, and then complain that there are no big deer.

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    1. NY HUNTER was sick reading that story!! Gut-shot, Mommy-baby kills!!!Trouble shooting at 50 yds!!!!! My smoothbore mossberg 500 is deadly at 70 yds and beyond! Thought i was going crazy!! Thank god I am not the only one thinking this guy should stay with the cork guns at the carnival!!!

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    2. I have a H&R ultra slug hunter deluxe 12gauge. 2 years, 2 bucks and a doe taken. Furthest shot was at 163 yards(ranged with finder). Remington accu-tips my friends. 1 shot, 1 kill. This gun is beyond amazing for the money spent. 3x9 Nikon slug hunter scope. perfect setup. I wouldn't hesitate at a 200 yard shot with this setup. Put in the work during the off season and the rest speaks for itself.

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  17. I don't know about the H&R but my Mossberg 500 really likes the Lightfields I just killed two does on sunday
    with one shot each. One at 30 yards and the other at 80 yards. Both where adult does about 130# apiece the 30 yard shot the slug entered high in the shoulder (dropped on the spot) and was found just under the hide on the otherside. The 80 yard shot was a complete pass though slightly quatering way took out the liver, lungs and top of the heart that deer traveled about 40-50 yards with a blood traid a blind man could follow Blood from the ground to 4 foot high on the trees. these deerwere killed 20 seconds apart
    in Michigans late doe season.

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  18. Light field has the best ammo on the market. I can drop deer out to 200 yds with my browning Gold cantiler scope rifled barrel. In fact i can shoot same hole at 125 yards free standing. No deer has ever taken more than a few steps after being hit with a 3 in mag sabot 1 1/4 oz lead. Invest in a good shot gun and you will see what this ammo can do. Browning, or Benilli is my only choice. throw your remington and mossberg on the trash.

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