It’s time for the slug fest

Roger Lait continues his quest to find some airgun slugs that can shoot – and remain accurate – out to 100 yards and more.

So here is part two of my Quest for Slugs. Sounds like a film, but not a good one! So did I actually find one that works? Was this a total waste of time? How much did I need to clean my gun?

But before getting into all that, I had to gather some slugs to test and that meant waiting. After lots and lots of time spent waiting for as many slugs as I could muster, supplies eventually arrived from abroad and it was finally time to put them to the test. But were there any more?

Now – and this was very, very lucky – I had to buy some .22 LR bullets, and just my luck my local shop had none in stock. I needed them ASAP, so I went to the other gun shop in Chelmsford and luckily they had some. I got chatting to this guy whose dad was into FAC airguns and wouldn’t you know it – he made his own slugs! How fortuitous was that?

I suggested that his dad give me a call, as maybe I could try some out for him. Now at this point I did not hold out much hope because up to now nothing had really worked that well.

Nothing was really blowing my hair back. So far I had 27 grain NSA slugs, H&N in a few different weights and some South African ones called Inferno, also in a few different weights.

Again, I was not holding out much hope. Nothing really grouped that well and the point of impact changed constantly. Was it my LOT (Lack of Talent) or was it the gun? I knew it needed cleaning a whole bunch more as the surface area of the slugs made the barrel really dirty.

Homegrown slugs from a company called Pro Hunter

That surely was the answer? Well it helped after a clean, but did not solve the problem. Was I ever to make these things work in my gun? Time was running out. My patience was certainly running out, and I kind of wished that maybe I had not started this after all.

Then the phone rang. It was the dad of the guy at the shop, This chap called Graham and I chatted about what he had been doing and to my surprise he knew his stuff alright and said that there was a good chance that his slugs would work in my gun. I was very happy, but at the same time ready for yet more disappointment.

Local slugs

Graham very kindly sent me some slugs that he had made. He sent two different weights, 22.8 grain and 24 grain. Both looked the same and I presumed (wrongly) that the 24s would be the better of the two as they weighed a little more.

Now because I did not hold out much hope, I had only asked for 40 of each to try. I thought that after shooting 20 or so I would have a clear idea of whether they worked or not.

I tried the 24s and they were so-so. And after I’d shot all 40 of those it was on to the 22.8 grain slugs. With 30 of those sent down the barrel they were all over the place – and then suddenly things changed – drastically! The last 10 shots were on top of each other, and this was at 50 yards with a crosswind. Hang on, I needed more of these slugs – right now!

For comparison, the pellets on the left are the JSB 34 grain Beasts, while the slugs on the right are Pro Hunter 22.8 grain

After a groveling call to Graham, he very kindly sent me another 100 to try. It was time to clean, clean and clean the barrel. I hoped this would help make these slugs work right off the bat. If I didn’t have bad luck, I would have no luck at all! 

They were everywhere, and the groups were almost the worst yet. Another setback, all the time watching my buddies is South Africa shooting these slugs out to stupid distances to massive effect on YouTube! What was the problem this time?

It was back to JSB 25 grain pellets to see if the gun still worked with them. Perfect as ever – sub-one inch with ease at 50 and 100 yards! The gun worked fine, the pellets were amazing. That was good, so I thought ‘let’s have another go with these Pro Hunter slugs’.

I shot them at 50 yards to start with. Hang on, my groups were getting better. Another 10 down the barrel and my groups got better still, so it was out to 100 yards.

What on earth was going on now? They were stacking on top of each other. Had I found it? Had I done it? Then off they go again, all over the place. What had changed? Air of course! The pressure was down, so after a fill up they were bang on again.

The Pro Hunter slug has a totally different construction to the JSB pellet, having a far bigger contact area with the bore

It was time for some coffee – and lots of head scratching. Next was a shot string with the JSBs. Sixty-two shots later, with them running at 974 feet per second, everything was fine. OK, it was time for another fill up and another attempt with the slugs.

Forty-five shots later and off they go. These things need high pressure all the time it seems. A quick glance at the packet showed, to my amazement, that there were hardly any slugs left again! How had I got through so many so quickly? That’s testing for you!

The slugout final

Let’s put them up against each other now. So a calm day was needed to finally see what’s hot and what’s not! It would be a 50-yard group, then on to 100 once it passed the group test.

Now here is another thing I have learnt – did you know that a pellet shot from a barrel that is not flying correctly will not right itself and get back on track as it were? But a slug does. So you may have a terrible group at 25 yards, but a much better one at 50. Who knew? So at 50 yards they should be on track.

I went through all the slugs I had. The results from some were shocking, to say the very least. Now I don’t think for one minute that they are bad slugs, they were just bad in my barrel, and no matter what I did they just would not work.

So I was down to about four slugs that might be OK. The Inferno slugs were doing rather well, the H&N 21 grain (although a .218 size made for FX not for Daystate) were doing OK too. The Pro Hunter slugs, what I had left, were just getting better and better. Last, and by no means least, the VK 26 grains oddly enough got much better at 50 all of a sudden.

I hope you can see the problems I had doing this test, it took over my life and confused me more than ever. So these slugs now needed to go out to 100 yards. I could see the velocity falling rapidly with all of the slugs, so realised that the barrel must be fouled up. I tried a quick clean, but this did nothing whatsoever.

It was a barrel off job and a proper clean. This all takes time, I can assure you. It’s like when you say “I’m just nipping to the pub, back in an hour“ and coming back on Thursday. Nothing is five minutes when you are trying to get a definitive answer to a question.

A lovely clean barrel and a fill up, and off we go again for the final showdown. The groups were shot, but sadly the wind got up, as it always does when you don’t want it to, but to be honest they seem to buck the wind really well, as the ballistic coefficient is just so much better than a pellet’s.

Let the testing begin! Roger zeroes his Red Wolf and Vortex combination to see if the slugs will deliver at longer ranges

I had a 16mph crosswind and had to deal with that. I thought I’d just shoot as if the wind was not there, and this turned out to be the right thing to do. 

The groups could have been tighter, I know, but I was happy with what I had. The Infernos did OK, but opened up at 100 more than I thought they should. The VKs were OK for three shots then went goodness knows where. Next were the H&Ns, three on top of each other, then the obligatory flyers.

Last were the Pro Hunter slugs, and they did the business so, so well. The groups were fantastic and they performed really well. Finally, I shot a control group with the JSB 25s. They grouped OK, but horizontally because the wind changed strength irritatingly often. OK for target, but certainly not for hunting.

So what’s right for my Wolf?

Some slugs worked really well in my gun. But don’t think for one minute that you can just buy some and they will work – it’s not that kind of a deal, sadly. There is a whole bunch of setting up to be done which is difficult unless you have an electronic programmer for your Daystate – which I don’t!

Some people use the tiniest bit of lube on their slugs to keep the speed up and to cut down barrel fouling. I did not try that for this test, as I only found out about this when the test was over.

It’s all in the timing, of course. If you have an FAC airgun that lets you change the velocity, then you will have an easier time than I did for sure, as there will be a specific speed that the slugs might work at.

I know I sound vague, but I have shot the same slug through two identical guns running at the same power and getting totally different results. If, however, you can shoot them with success through your gun, the one thing I have found is that these things go and go and go. You have to shoot them with a different head on your shoulders.

Now this does sound strange, I know, but you can’t shoot them like you do pellets. If you miss what you are shooting at, don’t think these will be slowing down any time soon. Because the BC of slugs is so much better than pellets, they don’t slow down at the same rate at all.

The extended range of slugs is quite an eye opener. It shocked me, let me tell you. Yes, they take wind, but not as much as pellets. As they slow down they will of course take more, but they stay true for a lot longer.

For hunting, could you extend the range? Yes, I am sure you could, but every so often, just like with pellets, you do get the odd flyer and this could cause a problem if hunting at extended ranges. I personally think it’s always best to keep it close.

The way a slug is made means it has a natural hollow point, and as such will expand on impact. They are devastating on small quarry at sensible ranges and that is where I am staying.

For targets? Well that’s another story. You can push these things out to eye watering distances to the point where you will just start to giggle like I did. A buddy of mine shot an exploding golf ball at 300 yards!

He took seven shots to get it. Yes, they really can go that far with not as much muzzle energy as you would think. I nearly fell over when he sent me the video clip!

This is the end result of Roger’s exhaustive testing – a 10-shot group at 100 yards that’s better than many rimfires could achieve

As said, you have to consider your backstop when using these and then do it again. Like all things, you have to be sensible and learn all about them. I know nothing, but am learning as much as possible from the people that really do know. I have been really lucky because I know a good few people that know most of the ins and outs and they have saved me loads of time.

It’s easy to think “more power will sort this and make them group“, but this is not the case at all. Don’t forget you don’t have to run them at warp factor 10 because the BC will keep them flying for a good way past any pellet you might try.

Will slugs take over from pellets?

No, I don’t think so. Pellets don’t cost big money, they are easy to find and almost all guns shoot pellets really well. But if you are lucky and find a slug that works then I am sure you will enjoy them as much as I do. They are so much fun to shoot out at targets at stupid ranges. Have fun

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