The 12-gauge shotgun is a legendary manstopper and a storied staple of frontier home defense. The reputation behind a load of 00 buckshot is well-deserved. Blasting eight or nine holes .33 caliber holes in a bad guy, each delivering its own wound path, is perhaps the surest bet among all “one-shot stops.” But shotguns also fire slugs and slugs are outrageously devastating too, in their own way. Slugs create one wound path, but boy oh boy, what a wound path it is . . .
A shotgun slug is typically about 435 grains or so of lead, and around .73″ to 1″ in diameter (softer lead slugs can flatten some to increase their diameter a little). Slugs are frequently used in hunting or in defense against large predators, but I usually consider them a bit of overkill for defending against a human attacker.
Which brings me to today’s test — a segmented shotgun slug showdown. I’m testing two different approaches to the idea of getting multiple wound paths out of a shotgun slug. The candidates are:
1) Winchester PDX1 Segmented Rifled Slug, a 1-ounce slug that separates into three pieces upon contact with a soft target, and
2) the DDupleks Hexolit 32, a lead-free and unique slug design which merges a 300-grain slug with six detachable fragments
In both cases, the general idea is that the slug stays as one monolithic piece until it hits the target, at which point it breaks apart and the segments create their own wound paths (sort of like buckshot). But because the slug stays integral until encountering that soft target, you could potentially use these slugs at much longer ranges than buckshot.
In my testing, I found both to be outstanding performers, and about as far apart as you could imagine in design. The PDX1 hit the gel block much harder, destroying the sawhorses I had set up and throwing the gel block high in the air, end over end. From the 18″ barrel, the PDX1 hit 1450 feet per second, for 2,044 ft/lbs of energy.
The temporary cavity was massive, and the slug performed exactly as designed, breaking into three separate chunks (each weighing approximately 140 grains) and creating three distinct wound paths. Only one chunk was found in the block, at 15″ penetration depth. The other two chunks exited the sides of the block (meaning the 6″ x 6″ size of the block was too small to contain the spread of the three segments).
Watching what this slug did to 20 lbs. of gel was, in some ways, terrifying, but also mesmerizing. This PDX1 is a tremendous round.
Next up was the DDupleks Hexolit 32. It’s a noticeably heavier slug, and as such it didn’t travel quite as fast. I clocked it at 1228 fps (meaning about 1,674 ft/lbs of energy). It also blasted the bejeebers out of the gel block and threw it in the air, but not quite as forcefully or spectacularly as the PDX1 did.
However, looking at the resulting damage was perhaps even more impressive. The Hexolit did what it said it would do on the box, sending six 35-grain fragments out in a circular pattern in about a 5″ radius while a central slug penetrated straight on. What I wasn’t expecting was just how obscenely gigantic that central slug would be.
Even after separating off the six fragments, the remaining slug still weighed nearly 300 grains (291.8, to be exact). And it’s huge. Best of all, its penetration was reined in to just over 16″ (I couldn’t get an exact measurement because the slug was actually found between the two gel blocks; the impact pushed the second block back but the slug didn’t have enough energy to penetrate it, so it fell between them).
In both cases, these segmenting slug designs pulled down the overall penetration to fit nicely and ideally within our minimum 12″ to maximum 18″ desired window, and that factor alone would make them a more responsible home defense choice as compared to a conventional slug. The PDX1 created three wound paths, each with a chunk of lead about the size and weight of a heavy 9mm FMJ, although in my opinion the wound would be a lot worse than any FMJ; the initial stretch cavity was so large and the sharp edges on the fragments so ugly, I’m sure that we’re looking at far more damage than would have been caused just by three 9mm ball rounds.
With the Hexolit, the slug by itself was a nearly ideal defensive projectile, being nearly 300 grains with a 16.5″ penetration depth and about 3/4″ diameter. In addition, it adds six 35-grain projectiles which are much larger than you might expect. The Hexolit 32 is a lead-free projectile and whatever metal it’s made of, it’s lighter than lead. That means the resulting projectile is a lot bigger than you’d expect a lead projectile would be.
Even though each fragment is only about the weight of a .22LR bullet, they were about as large as the shards from the PDX1 bullet. The dispersion pattern was a perfect hexagon, and the penetration depth on the fragments was shallow but respectable, at 6″ to 7.5″ per projectile. That may or may not be enough to really reach deep into the body and disrupt vital organs, but it’s plenty respectable.
While I’d have been over the moon if they’d gone 10″ deep, at least they vastly exceeded the 3″ to 4″ of some fragmenting handgun rounds. And on a front-on unobstructed shot I’m sure they’d smash through ribs and cause havoc on the internal organs. Oh, and don’t forget…there’s also a freakin’ 300-grain monstrosity of a slug there, too!
I don’t know if it’s coming across quite as emphatic as I mean it, so let me restate it here: the Hexolit 32 is one bad, nasty, vicious, savage, effective round. It may be the ideal shotgun slug for defense use against a human, and I’m sure it’d be a devastatingly effective hunting round for medium game too. Although, if I needed to defend against something like a brown bear, I’d vote for the deeper-penetrating power of the Brenneke instead.
So how do we determine a “winner”? Well, the way I look at it, any 12-gauge slug is going to be a devastatingly effective round. The Slugger is a great load. The Brenneke Black Magic is a tremendous load. And both of these segmented slug options are fantastic, too. I do think that if you want to use a 12-gauge slug to protect your home, that these segmented slugs offer a more responsible choice than a conventional slug.
I think the PDX1 clearly hit harder and I think it did excellent damage. If I have any hesitation at all about the PDX1 it’s that none of the fragments are likely to hit exactly where I aimed them at. Because they all spread out, that could mean a situation where I placed a shot perfectly, but “missed” the exact spot I was aiming for because the fragments would have spread away from it.
I consider the chances of this happening to be extremely low, though. A shotgun after all isn’t usually used for precision aiming (heck, my Remington 870 only has a front bead and doesn’t have a rear sight at all). So I don’t think it’s a problem. I’m just thinking that while those three fragments spread away from where I would have aimed, the Hexolit would be delivering a nasty 300-grain hunk of slug to the point of aim, while additionally giving six shallower-penetrating wound channels. And that’s highly appealing. Admittedly, it didn’t hit as hard as the PDX1 (1,674 ft/lbs vs. 2,044 ft/lbs), but what it did do, it did excellently.
So I can’t tell you to choose one over the other. All I’m going to do is show you the results (in the video above) and let you choose whichever suits your preferences better.