Pouring Your Own Slugs

Get started chunkin’ DIY lead
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A sampling of targets from Tank’s slugs: (left to right) MP sabot, Lee 7/8 oz.,
Lyman 0.674" RB, Lee 1 oz. drive key slug. Doing it yourself is easy and fun.

As a bullet caster, nothing beats heaving large hunks of cast lead projectiles at a target and watching the results. These heavy projectiles get their power from weight, which is the main component of momentum, but speed — not so much. The heavier an object, the more resistance it takes to slow it down once in motion, like plowing through bone and muscle of some animal you want brought down.

While we all dream of having expensive big-bore rifles capable of shooting large, heavy bullets, most of us already have a big-bore boomer in our arsenal. Your 12-gauge shotgun is nothing more than a .72 caliber rifle when loaded with slugs.

Why Slugs?

You may be asking yourself, in this day of modern, high velocity rifles, why even mess with a slug gun? The answer is simple — for those living on the East coast (uggh, me), it’s the only “modern” gun allowed during firearms season. These limitations stretch out to the Midwest as housing developments encroach into once open hunting land.

Being a self-proclaimed DIY type, I never had a desire to use shotgun slugs because I never loaded a shotgun slug in my life. Sure, I’ve cast bullets by the thousands and then handloaded them in pistols and rifles for my own hunting and shooting purposes, but never a shotgun shell.

The Lee Load All II makes loading simple and economical. Here it’s flanked
by some of the other components Tank used for his handloaded slug rounds.

Getting Started

Solid projectiles for slug loads include roundball, Lee drive-key slugs and sabot style slugs, hourglass in shape and looking like gigantic air gun pellets. Roundball (RB) molds are available from many mold makers. For our purpose we’ll need a mold dropping an RB at 0.674″ to be used in 12-gauge guns.

The Lee drive-key style slug mold has very competitive pricing (around $25) and works like a charm. Last is the MP Molds sabot-type slug mold. It casts two slugs at a time and is the Cadillac of molds in my opinion.

Load ’Em Up

Loading shotgun shells with slugs is not too different than loading metallic cartridges. With used shells, you need to de-prime, size the brass and prime. A measured charge of powder is added, followed by a wad, your projectile and then a crimp is applied to the hull.

Crimping

Shotgun shells have two basic crimping methods: a fold crimp and rolled crimp. The fold or star crimp requires the use of some sort of press. I used a Lee Load-All II as it was the cheapest, costing just over $50 and does a great job. I love Lee equipment for the very fact you don’t need to put out a lot of cash to get started in a new handloading adventure.

For a roll-crimp, look no further than Amazon to order an antique looking “apple peeler”-style gadget. It clamps to your table and works perfectly to apply a roll crimp to your shells the way they did the beginning of the last Century with black powder paper-hulled shells. It adds a touch of nostalgia doing it this way, something we all love.

Here’s a close-up of the molds and projectiles Tank cast, loaded and shot.
Molds from Lyman, Lee and MP-Molds worked exceptionally.

Load Data

Another nice benefit of using Lee equipment is they always provide load data with their products for beginners. Sure, as you gain experience and knowledge, you’ll want to venture off, buying more books on the subject, but for the time being, Lee will let you dip your toe into the basics of loading functional ammo.

And this is exactly where we’re at with this article. I’m dipping my toe for the first time into slug/RB loading so we can learn together and see how easy it really is to load up some solids for your shotgun.

The use of 20-gauge fiber wads allows the same plastic wad to be used for different
sized slugs. Shown left to right, MP sabot, Lee 7/8 oz., Lee 1 oz. and Lyman .674 RB.

My Loads

I used Accurate Arms #5 from the Lee load data sheet. Maximum charge was 42 grains for the 7/8 oz. slug so I started at 40 and worked my way up, just as I would for any other load data for loading metallic cartridges. For hulls I ordered Fiocchi 2-3/4″ 12-gauge primed hulls. They are clear, making it easy to see what projectile you’ve loaded.

Claybuster CB1138-12 12-gauge wads were also ordered through Amazon. This hull is a replacement for Winchester WAA12R.
For the Lee 1 oz. slug and MP-Molds sabot slug I stayed with 40 grains of AA #5 with the same components used above.

I also used Hodgdon Longshot for my loads, staying with 36 grains for all slugs, again using the same components listed above. I used both fold and roll crimp, for comparison’s sake. I really didn’t notice a difference accuracy wise. Fold crimp with the Lee Load All II is easier and quicker.

Fiber Wad Boost

I use both 12- and 20-gauge fiber wads as filler to give the ability to use the same plastic wad with the different sized slugs. Since slugs are of varying heights, they often need a little boost to bring them to the top of the plastic wad and the 20-gauge fiber wad fits perfectly inside the 12-gauge plastic wad. You can simply peel these fiber wads to the height you need with your fingers. You’ll figure out how thick you need it pretty quickly.

The MP-Molds sabot slug was the perfect height for the plastic wads I used. I could have ordered different ones, and may do so in the future, but the fiber wads worked fine in a pinch. I used the 12-gauge fiber wads to boost the plastic wad over the powder charge. Again, this method worked wonderfully.

The Gun

I used my TC Encore frame with a rifled TC 12-gauge slug barrel. Being a break-action design, it gives the looks and feel of a big-bore single-shot rifle if you have enough imagination. I mount an old Weaver 2.5X fixed scope on the barrel for a sleek, compact carrying slug gun.

Too bad it’s not a double, eh? Then we could really pretend it’s an African double rifle!

This photo shows how the Lee Drive Key mold works. A bargain at $25, you don’t need to spend a lot to cast your own slugs.

Shootin’

Shooting was done at my range at 50 yards. Targets consisted of 2″ orange squares as aiming point.
For a first-time loading slugs I think my results were pretty good. All 3-shot groups ran between 2″ to 2.5″ with the MP-Mold sabot being the most consistent and accurate, averaging 2″ or better.

Roll crimp vs. fold crimp didn’t appear to make a difference but I will experiment more over time. The majority of loads would snug the first two shots close together while the third shot would wander a bit. If I stuck with two shot groups, most groups would be in the 1.0″ to 1.5″ range — not too shabby!

The Lee drive-key slugs were consistent, with the 7/8 oz. slug shooting just a smidge better than the 1 oz. slug. The RB brought up the rear accuracy wise but was still in the 2″ to 2.5″ range and would easily be MOA whitetail out to 50 to 60 yards.

Conclusions

I’m definitely hooked on casting/loading my own shotgun slugs. It’s just another tool to hang on my tool belt to be a more independent, and hopefully, knowledgeable shooter when it comes to shotgun shell loading.

More importantly, it is a fun activity and economical to boot. You should give it a try. Lee makes it very economical to do so. You’ll be free to sling huge hunks of lead with your shotgun with the self-satisfaction of doing it yourself.*

www.leeprecision.com

www.mp-molds.com

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