a 12 gauge over and under pointing down range

12 Gauge Slug Ballistics – How Far Do They Shoot?

As a style of firearm, the shotgun is both popular and versatile. It is used in a wide variety of sports, game hunting, and has very common usage in home defense.

It’s a scary looking weapon to an intruder.

Of all the gauges the 12 gauge is the most popular by far, taking 50% of the shotgun market in the US.

This popularity and versatility have bred a wide array of cartridge ammunition, one of which is the slug round. Being considered a short range weapon, the slug is more of a bullet, so this naturally increases distance.

So what exactly are the 12 gauge slug ballistics?

A 12 gauge slug of one-ounce weight fired from a standard Federal cartridge will shoot over 300 yards. The ballistics are flat for around 200 yards and at the 300-yard mark the slug has dropped 4 feet. At 300 yards the slug is still lethal and penetrates ¾ inch plywood. The absolute maximum it can travel is probably around 1200 yards.

Most shotgun shells in common usage for sports are in the ‘shot form’, that is the load is either birdshot or buckshot. Pellets are then dispersed over a wide area when fired.

There is a breed of shotgun hunter, that this isn’t the preferred method cartridge, such as hunters, who may wish to shoot accurately but powerfully at range.

12 gauge shotgun slug

The shotgun is thought of a short range weapon, but by firing a slug you can make a shotgun compete with a rifle for range,

It also vastly increases penetration. With birdshot, the penetration diminishes because of the light weight of the individual weight. Making birdshot rounds into a cut shell increases the power and thus the distance, so a slug round uses the same physics.

What Is A 12 Gauge Slug

A shotgun slug is simply the act of turning a shotgun load into a single projectile. Normally a shotgun shell has many pells, like birdshot, or a few pellets, like buckshot.

It will turn a shotgun into a crude rifle, as the shotgun launches a single slug over the projected distance. 

With the increased weight as a projectile, there is a dramatic increase in range and penetration power.

Each cartridge can be thought of like rifle ammunition in that each round is fired individually, and unlike cut shells, will keep the cartridge intact after firing so it can be ejected normally.

two 12 gauge shotgun slug

Although there are many different slug rounds, as they are more for the distance they are generally tapered to some extent and made to have the aerodynamics of a bullet.

Often they are rifled, and in a rifled barrel, you can improve accuracy at range.

Because of all this, they are extremely lethal, even at range, and as such, they are mainly used by hunters who need the power at distance.

12 Gauge Ballistics Chart

Looking around the internet for some research there doesn’t appear to be too much information, but I did come across this ballistics chart comparing a few different types of rounds.

It compares the ballistics trajectory of the 1oz slug from a 12 gauge to q 9mm round.

12 gauge slug ballistics chart

What it shows is that the 12 gauge slug will travel pretty flat for up to 200 yards with perhaps 10 to 12 inches of drop at 200 yards. At 300 yards the chart shows a drop of about 4 feet.

I also found this chart

a 12 gauge slug distance chart

This was from a firearms study and suggests the absolute maximum a slug can travel is around 3700 feet (1230 yards).

I’d presume that was fired into the air at quite an angle without any thoughts of accuracy whatsoever, let alone penetration power.

Finally, I found this useful little chart.

12 gauge slug velocity chart

It suggests that at 100 yards a shotgun slug fired with a muzzle velocity of 1560 ft/s has lost about 30% of its speed, but is still traveling at nearly 1000 ft/s.

According to the FBI labs, to penetrate the skin a round has to be traveling at 163 ft/s and to break a bone, 213 ft/s.

So at 100 yards, a 12 gauge slug is traveling 5 times the speed needed to break a bone.


How Much Does A 12 Gauge Slug Drop At 100 Yards

As the above ballistics prove, a 12 gauge slug has a flat trajectory out to about 150 yards, so if you are a good shot with an iron sight, then you should be good to go.

So the actual answer is zero. A 12 gauge slug is still traveling at around 1000 ft/s after 100 yards and won’t drop until the 130 yard mark. At 200 yards it’s only dropped around 10 inches.

How Far Can A 12 Gauge Slug Shoot

Ballistics charts are all very well, but there’s nothing like practical experience in the matter.

We know a 12 gauge slug can get to around 1200 yards if fired at the treetops but you have pretty much given up any hope of accuracy and it won’t have the power to break a paper plate.

Which is why I’d like to introduce you to this video,

It’s from IraqVeteran8888 on YouTube and the video walks through the effective range of all types of ammunition, including a slug.

The team tries slugs at 100 yards, 200 yards, 300 yards, and 400 yards to determine their range and lethality.

It’s well worth a watch. The slugs used are 1oz slugs from Federal, birdshot, and 27 pellet buckshot. The slug has a muzzle velocity of 1600 ft/s.

Allow me to summarize the findings.

  • At 15 yards buckshot gives a 10” spread and fully penetrates ¾ plywood
  • At 15 yards a birdshot load did not penetrate the board but has a 24” spread
  • At 50 yards 6 buckshot pellets were on the 36” board and all pierced the board
  • At 100 yards buckshot gives a 6ft group, and 4/27 pellets hit the board and penetrated
  • At 100 yards the rifled slugs and cut shells penetrated the board
  • At 200 yards the slugs didn’t drop out of the Benelli M2 and fully penetrated
  • At 200 yards cut shells severely drop in accuracy (Cut shells good for up to 100 yards)
  • At 200 yards only 1/27 buckshot pellets hit the board and did not penetrate
  • At 300 yards a shotgun slug dropped 4ft but still penetrated the board
  • At 400 yards the slug is inaccurate but makes the distance with about 8-10ft drop

That’s quite a bit of information to take in but the upshot is that 12 gauge slug becomes somewhat inaccurate at 300 to 400 yards as wind factors play a big part.

The round will travel and is still lethal at over 300 yards though.

What’s also interesting is that it does match the information form the ballistics charts in that there is very little drop in a 1oz slug at 200 yards, and drops around 4ft at 300 yards.

Final Thoughts

So, if you’re wondering what a 12 gauge slug can do the answer is quite a lot. It has a decent range, well beyond what you can aim accurately, and is still lethal enough to penetrate ¾ plywood at 300 yards. 

After that, it becomes a little prone to wind and other aerodynamics.

If you are shooting at 150 yards or so, you have nothing to worry about as it has a lovely flat trajectory. There’s very little need to aim off.


  1. Good stuff! Exactly what I was looking for. Reminded me that I have one of the most versatile weapons zmoney can buy, and in that regard, with my variety of ammo, I am prepared for what may come.

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