How Far Can a Shotgun Slug Travel?

How far can a shotgun slug travel

One of the most popular guns manufactured in the United States, the shotgun, has many reasons that make it so desirable for homeowners and hunters around the country.

However, one of those reasons does NOT include the accuracy of the gun when shot at a long distance. So, how far can a shotgun slug travel?

A shotgun slug can travel anywhere from 200-400 yards. Although the distance varies by gauge, in a 12 gauge shotgun, the slug can travel up to 400 yards. However, the slug becomes inaccurate around 100 yards. Generally, the smaller the gauge, the less range the shotgun slug will have.

Different shotgun ammo and more details on slug accuracy by gauge will be explored further below.

Slugs by Gauge

The gauge of a shotgun refers to the size of the barrel bore, which also indicates the size and type of ammunition that can be used from that gun.

The smaller the gauge, the less powerful the shot from that gun will be. Some of the most common shotgun gauges are the 10-gauge, 12-gauge, 16-gauge, 20-gauge, 28-gauge, and .410.

Each of these is designed for certain ranges, ammunitions, and purposes.

Although it may seem confusing, the smaller gauges are actually the larger numbers.

A shotgun gauge is a specific measurement that measures the size of a lead ball that will fit the bore.

The number indicating the type of gauge correlates directly with how many balls it takes to meet this standard.

This means a 12-gauge equates to a 1/12th pound. The smaller the gauge, the less ground will be covered by the slug of that gun.


Birdshot is the smallest kind of shotgun pellet. It consists of lots of small steel or lead BBs that are packed into a shell.

When fired, the BBs fly in a pattern, making it easier to hit a flying target. This kind of ammo is ideal when hunting small moving animals, as it will be enough to kill them but will not destroy their bodies.

These pellets are most useful in short ranges and close hunting purposes. Birdshot loses accuracy after about 50 yards.

Birdshot can be used to hunt all kinds of small game such as rabbits, squirrels, and most game birds.

When purchasing Birdshot, it is important to remember that the lower the number, the higher the effectiveness of the shot.

A number 2 shot would give you 87 pellets per shell, while a number 10 shot would give you 848.

The higher the number of pellets, the farther they will scatter. It is best to use a lower shot for long-distance shooting in order to improve accuracy. (Source)


Opposite of a Birdshot, Buckshot is typically used for larger game animals, such as a deer, or for self-defense. These shots are larger than Birdshot.

The pellets within a Buckshot are also larger than those in a Birdshot, meaning there are fewer within a shell.

Usually, Buckshot is known for shorter-range shooting. When a shotgun is loaded with a heavier pellet, like Buckshot, its travel range is significantly lower than many would originally presume.

A buckshot’s efficiency and effectiveness start to dwindle past 40 yards.


Different from the nature of Birdshot or Buckshot, Slugs do not have a widespread shot. They are singular, compact projectiles.

They are not a mass of pellets compressed into a shell that disperses when fired. They are much more direct and accurate when it comes to further range shooting.

Slugs are typically extremely accurate up through 110 yards. That is over double the range of a Buckshot.

Slugs are predominately used for medium-sized games, such as deer, in shorter ranges of hunting.

Typically a shotgun slug would not be used in cases where you are hunting from distances over about 75 yards.

Rifled Slugs versus Sabot Slugs

Rifled slugs are designed to be fired out of a smoothbore barrel shotgun. Smoothbore barrel shotguns are typically used for home defense or for field practice.

Rifled slugs are named as such because of the rifling that is already grooved into their bodies.

The body-rifling causes the slug to spin through the barrel and maintain trajectory and accuracy when fired.

Having a smooth body in a smooth barrel would cause the bullet to create a path of its own with no predetermined course of the trajectory. This would negatively impact accuracy for the end-user.

Sabot slugs, on the other hand, are designed specifically for rifled barrels. These slugs are not rifled, but smooth. The rifling that is already grooved in the barrel of the shotgun causes the spin on these slugs.

A sabot slug is known to travel around 150 yards accurately. Depending on the size of the slug, the slug can travel further.

For example, a 3-inch grouping would be accurate at 100 yards while a 6-inch grouping would hold accuracy up to around 200 yards.

While a rifled slug can travel up to 400 yards, it loses its efficiency at around 100 yards.

Best Way to Utilize Accuracy With Shotgun Slugs

Whether you decide to use rifled slugs or sabot slugs, a 12-gauge or a 28-gauge, the best way to maximize the accuracy of your shot is to stick within 100 yards of your target.

Shotguns are not meant to be long-distance guns. A rifle would be a much better option for distance shooting and hunting. Shorter range shooting is prime for a shotgun.

If you are concerned about the accuracy of your shot at long distances with shotgun slugs, don’t worry!

It is simply because shotguns are not wired to function at long distances like a rifle would be.

Shotguns are made for short-distance hunting, home defense, target practice, and sport.

While it has been shown possible for slugs to travel upwards of 300 yards, losing accuracy would prove to be a valid reason to lose hope for distance shooting with slugs.

If you are looking for the best distance shooting guns, steer away from shotguns and slugs, and look into rifles!

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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