A report from John Tate.

Winchester “WinLite” slugs fired at 50 yards from non-rifled barrels resulted in ~50% scattered keyhole impacts or complete misses of the standard New Mexico DPS targets.

Projectiles with no spin-induced stability tend to wander. This is true of baseballs’ infamous knuckle ball, shotgun slugs, and pistol or rifle bullets.

Recently, an officer shooting the NM DPS shotgun (slug) qualification course arrived with Winchester “WinLite” slugs. The Winchester “WinLite” slugs are a .50 caliber, 400 grain (9/10 oz) jacketed-core projectile set in a .74 caliber plastic sabot. The sabot wings are parallel to the barrel; therefore there is no spin generated by the sabot. When fired from a normal, non-rifled shotgun (e.g., Mossberg 590 or Remington 870 riot guns), the projectile wanders randomly through the air with essentially no effective accuracy, reliable penetration or expansion.

These cartridges come in an attractive black box of 5 with an attention-getting diagonal banner saying, “REDUCED RECOIL.” This may be true; I didn’t notice any remarkable difference. In quite small print on the back of the box is the (under)statement: “NOTE: For optimum performance, Winchester recommends using product in fully rifled slug barrels.”

Above I said “(under)statement).” Change that to GROSS understatement. Based on our experience, when fired from a barrel/choke without any rifling, these rounds are worse than worthless – they are truly dangerous to downrange objects that are not intended as acceptable targets.

I do not have a rifled shotgun barrel nor have I tried a rifled choke,* so I could not and did not test that option. But since I found no benefit to the sabot round (its advertised muzzle velocity is only 1450 fps), if you don’t have rifling in your shotgun’s barrel, I’d say stay away from them.

A rifled choke may be sufficient to solve this. Here’s a test article worth considering:

Lesson learned: Never go in the field with equipment that you’ve not tested and verified to be functional.

Certainly highpower rifle shooters know that most any change in projectile, powder lot, case preparation, etc. most likely will change the point of impact – so these must be tested before serious use. The same is true to a lesser extent with pistol ammo. But I’ll admit, I’ve never considered a need to test shotgun ammo functionality … until now.

The same is true for optical sights and iron sights – they can get bumped out of alignment; thus periodic function checks are prudent. And for a hunting rifle which is expected to be dependable, what’s that saying: Trust, but verify!