Lyman Sabot Shotgun Slugs-My Quest for Bear Stoppers
From time to time I see threads about thoughts on shotgun bear stoppers. I read one awhile back where the opinions ran the gamut from slugs to buckshot (all sizes) and birdshot. Some guys touted alternating slugs and buckshot.
I guess I wind up in the 'slugs for bear' category. I've always been a do it yourselfer and I chanced upon the Lyman 12 gauge slug. It looks like an overgrown air rifle pellet, but it weighs in at 518 grains when cast from wheel weights. After sizing, priming, and powder charging, you seat a wad, then insert the slug manually. Then a it's a 6 or 8 point fold crimp, and slug load is done. No need to roll crimp this well over an ounce slug. Sure makes loading easy from my el cheapo (yet darn good) Lead Load All press!
All my research (about two months worth) always said this slug was best when thrown from a rifled barrel, and I don't doubt that. However, I was curious what it would do out of a smoothbore. Turns out they do fairly well.
I recently bought a Rem 870 Express Tactical and love it. I have heard that Express shotguns from Remington were suffering from lack of QC at the factory, but mine seems quite good. I've owned 3 870s in the past and am thoroughly familiar with them, thus my preference over, say, a Mossberg. Mossbergs are fine shotguns, but I know the 870. So, I bought one.
Anyway, with a charge of Blue Dot in a 2 3/4" AA shell, the Lyman Sabot shot well at 7 yards, all four shots touching each other. Velocity was 1456 fps. Moving out to 22 yards and the next four shots spread out a bit, about a 3" group. It was also evident that the slugs 'flutter' just a bit, but still flew nose first. So far I'm pleased with the results from a smoothbore. I will try some Remington shells next time to see if things improve. I may also get a rifled Rem-Choke tube and give that a go.
Isn't 22 yards kinda the outside range for bear stopping.I'd think a false chage usually stops a bit closer than that.
I would that a couple of inches at 15 to 20 yards would be fine for tuning a charge, no?
I must say that I have never been charged in any way, bluff or otherwise so this is strictly conjecture.
I used 22 yards as a measure of how far out were the slugs still accurate (from standing, off-hand) enough for actually being able to call the shots as a group and not a pattern. Turns out they were still accurate enough for me to be confident with them. I also suppose that my 'circle of comfort' will vary. If I'm by myself and I come across an agitated bear, at, say 20 yards and it doesn't run off right away, then I'll hold fire. If he's at 12 feet, then it was that bear's day to get shot. If I have my kids with me and that same bear is at 20 yards, then it was that bear's day to get shot. I won't play around with bears. I know there are all kinds of opinions out there on the "when is it ok to shoot and when isn't it". Every situation is different and calls for a different decision. If they're close and not running away: Blam! If they're kind of close (with kids) and not running away: Blam! If they're kind of close and running away (with or without kids): hold fire. Oh and by the way, no warning shots. The first one goes through the shoulders. Same for the second, third, fourth......until it is done.
I too have not actually been charged. But I have had on two occasions had them at 27 yards (paced) and 51 yards (paced). On each time I was by myself and they stood there pondering me. The 27 yard bear was a blackie. He eventually moseyed into the woods. The 51 yarder was a grizzly sow with cub. I never saw her until she whoofed at me. I was actually hunting for grizzlies at the time, but I saw her cub right away and simply held the .338 on her for about 20 seconds. Then she made another wheeze/noise and she and the cub ran off across the tundra. she had been bedded down in a hole on a warm day on the tundra and she popped up out of it.
Anyway, those two experiences have given me enough reason to think it all through and come to my conclusions about what I'd do and when, with or without kids.
Just my two cent's worth.
When it comes to bear defense with a shotgun, I personally don't care to mess around with handloaded slugs. I guess part of it has to do with me not knowing anything about handloading shotgun slugs and knowing that weird shaped and sabot-slugs are marketed more toward L48 deer hunters looking to extend their range in areas where they're restricted to shotguns only.
For anyone who asks, I always recommend using Brennekes in the Classic Magnum (1 1/8oz) version. We do on average, three DLP kills a year and in my experience the Brennekes act similar to a hardcast bullet. Because they are still of a weight-forward design and with the wad mechanically attached to the slug, they fly true out out of smoothbore barrels. The longest shot i made was about 40 paces out of a bead-sighted gun and rolled him with the one shot. However, I recommend rifle or ghost ring sights when using slugs.