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As a born and bred Texan, I am unfamiliar with places in this fine country devoid of hills, trees, and obstructions. West Texas is about as close as we get, and even Lubbock has some bumps in the ground. Our readers who live in what politicians and media types deem flyover country — specifically the fields of the midwest — know a different reality. Up there, a misplaced shot during deer season can travel miles, or so I’ve been told. As such, some of their local governing bodies have deemed rifles unwelcome. They make do, hunting monster corn-fed deer with a shotgun. Necessity being the mother of invention, turning a shotgun into a passable rifle is the natural result. I recently had the opportunity to spend several months with Stoeger’s contribution to the field, the M3000 R – Rifled Slug . . .

Normally a long gun review wouldn’t take me the better part of six months to complete. I pride myself on being slightly more prompt than that. The issue with the M3000R was that shooting this gun was unlike anything else I’ve ever gotten to put my hands on. And by that I’m referring to its punishing recoil.

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This is the time when you burly midwesterners will likely question my manhood. Go ahead, friends. Keep in mind that I spend most of my hunting season in a light shirt and occasionally a pair of shorts. Hunting in the snow, as I understand it, usually means several layers of down helping to cushion the blow of this mighty hellcat.

As such, I only took the M3000 out on a few occasions, all of them ending in me throwing the gun back in the case after twenty or so rounds whilst cursing. This is the only gun that has managed to scope-bite me no matter how hard I held it to my shoulder. Hence the red dot you see in the photos.

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The Rifled Slug edition sets itself apart from the rest of the M3000 line with the addition of this very fancy barrel with, you guessed it, rifling. The other addition is the large chunk of Picatinny rail screwed to the barrel and cantilevered back over the receiver. Said rail allows the addition of whatever optics your heart desires, but this design really lends itself well to unmagnified red dot optics. See above re the scope bite problem.
Wichester Rifle Slug Processed

If, like me, you’d never given consideration to a slug gun before, know that ammunition manufacturers produce two different types of slug loads. The first is referred to as a rifled slug and is really optimized for those shooting non-rifled smoothbore guns who want the ability to launch several hundred grains of lead in the general direction of their target. I tested several types of rifled slug ammo and could never get anything better than palm sized groupings at fifty yards.

Whinchester Bri Sabot Slug

The second type is the sabot, and that’s where I found much better luck. Typical groupings at fifty yards with an unmagnified red dot were on the order of half that size. I managed to eek out several sub-3-inch groups which would make this a very deadly weapon when fired at the vital zone of a whitetail at distances nearing one hundred yards. Past that, physics catches up with your projectile and it quickly starts to succumb to gravity, negatively affecting accuracy.

The terminal ballistics, though, are something fearsome to behold. I actually managed to bend an AR 500 plate, something I’ve never before managed to do. I shudder to think what this would do to an animal of any size. Stopping power is not something I think slug hunters worry about much.

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Ergonomically speaking, the M3000 is a bit of a trainwreck. That rail, while solidly screwed to the barrel, sits so far above the receiver — and the stock comb sits so far below — that you really do have to assume more of a chin weld than a cheek weld to get a look through your optic. Add in the ferocious recoil and you find yourself with a gun that will only get shot a few times a year.

There’s good news though. The receiver is tapped and my online research indicates that you can find a base that will mount to the receiver to bring the height above the bore down to a more manageable level. Toss in a Karsten Riser and you might have yourself a totally workable solution.

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Shooting ergonomics aside, I found the controls to be fairly crisp and the bolt moves very smoothly inside the action. The trigger is on par with most shotguns I’ve fired. It’s stiff with a bit of grit, but it breaks fairly cleanly around five pounds or so.

On the reliability front, I managed to induce several failures to feed and eject early on. I happened to see the Stoeger guys at SHOT and they sheepishly admitted that their guns come packed pretty well with grease and that their first fix for any reliability problems is to remove the barrel, degrease the action spring and mechanism, and reassemble. Sure enough, once I did that, my issues disappeared completely letting feeding and extraction resume uninterrupted.

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Unfortunately, I was never able to get the M3000 in the field for any actual hunting opportunities. Where I can easily reach out and touch any deer I see (within reason) at my ranch with my trusty rifle, a gun that shoots a slug puts you more on the level of a bow hunter, and requires a bit more finesse.

Having never shot an animal with a 385 grain projectile I was curious more than anything about the terminal ballistics. My research on the topic will have to continue at another date as Stoeger would very much like their gun back. Anyone want several boxes of unused slug ammo? Never fired, cursed at only slightly.

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Specifications: Stoeger M3000 R – Rifled Slug

  • Barrel Length: 24 inches
  • Chamber: 2-3/4″ & 3″
  • Colors: Black
  • Stock Material: Polymer
  • Weight: 7.3 lbs
  • MSRP: $649 (about $100 less in the wild)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * *
There are some rough edges all around befitting a gun in this price class. That said, the action is smooth and various levers and switches operate crisply and without fail. This is very much a utility gun and won’t be impressing your hunting buddies around the campfire with its looks.

Accuracy * * *
Its no rifle, but it doesn’t really need to be. It holds accuracy to practical standards at the distances at which it was designed to be shot. I’m sure a magnified optic and a good sabot load could yield better results than I was able to achieve, but your shoulder will hurt getting to that point.

Ergonomics * *
It looks like a gun, and for that I must applaud Stoeger. Beyond that, the rail is too high above the bore to be functional with the stock drop at comb. As Stoeger didn’t include a front bead, this is definitely a gun designed to use an optic, but doing so effectively isn’t easy. If this were my gun, a Karsten cheek riser and a receiver-mounted rail would be on order post haste.

Reliability * * *
We do our best to run guns as they come out of the box and out of the box, the M3000 R wouldn’t reliably feed or cycle. Once I cleaned the grease out of the action and applied a lightweight oil, things got much better. I was able to resume beating my shoulder up with reckless abandon.

Overall * * *
Since I can hunt with a rifle, I wouldn’t go out of my way to pull the M3000 R out of the safe unless I knew I’d be facing a very large, very dangerous animal. That said, this is a fairly workable firearm that can be had at a very reasonable price. With a few minor changes that should set you back no more than $100 and an hour of your time, you could have yourself a fairly ergonomic hunting gun capable of taking down pretty much anything in North America that lets you get within a 100 yards or so of it.

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40 Responses to Gun Review: Stoeger M3000 R Rifle Slug

  1. Perhaps if you had chosen a lower base for your red dot, instead of the AR height base, you would’ve gotten a better cheek weld.

    • My thoughts precisely. He’s using an AR-height mount with a cantilevered rail above the receiver. What exactly did he think was going to happen? He had the right idea by using a Micro, though.

  2. As someone who has hunted deer with a shotgun for several years, I can attest to the effectiveness of a shotgun slug on whitetails. I’ve taken about ten and never had any issues with losing deer. It’s not quite the meat destroying blow-up you would expect, but it does put a good solid hole through both sides of even the mountain deer we have around southern Oklahoma. My wife’s .223 actually does more meat damage than my 12 gauge slugs, at least the deer we’ve dressed.

    • It’s not surprising – small and fast rounds tenderize meat at a significant distance from the wound channel because of high velocity induced shockwave, making it weaker; and then they tend to fragment a lot as well. Slow rounds, even when they pack a punch due to mass, don’t have that effect – they just drill a large hole.

  3. Just use a ar15 pistol in shotgun only zone in MN. 65 gr. gameking to the vitals works fine and a lot easier to carry then my mossberg 590.

  4. I’ve got a camo 24″ M3000 with a tube extension for 10+1. Love it. There’s just something soothing about loading up a tube of slugs and then bracing for the horrible shoulder punishment. I’ve got the pistol grip stock for it, but I actually prefer the traditional stock after a couple hundred rounds comparison.

  5. As someone who hunts in the snow with plenty of padding, three inch slugs only hurt the shoulder and your pride when you miss (or so I am told ;)). I would pay for the shipping if you need some one to take the slugs off your hands.

  6. What is the recoil between a semi-auto slug gun and a pump gun? I’ve only hunted with a pump gun and can attest to how stout the recoil is on those. I’ve never gotten scope bit from my 870 slug gun, but my thumb raked across the bridge of my nose several time when firing at running whitetails. That experience makes you think twice about pulling the trigger for a follow-up shot (not to mention clouds your vision with tears).

    • In general semi-autos exhibit slightly less recoil than their counterparts in pump action. Notice my choice of word “slightly”.

      • That is somewhat disappointing. As a 13 year-old with a 12 gauge slug gun I dreamed of a recoil-free world. Now we can hunt pretty much anywhere with rifles in Wisconsin so my dream has come true. I’d still like a slug gun with less recoil though. Oh well. My 300 BLK takes deer just as well and is a pleasure to plink with!

        • I would dare say that 20ga makes more sense for a slug gun, anyway. It will take all the same game, it has less felt recoil, and its terminal ballistics are better (surprisingly good, in fact – sufficient to pull off 200 yard shots).

    • Depends on the semiauto’s action type. Inertia guns basically fire from a fixed breech IIRC, and so exert similar recoil to a pump. Gas guns are very different- the softest-shooting shotgun I’ve ever shot was a rented Beretta AL390. The movement of the action generates a counter-impulse that dramatically reduces felt recoil. Pumps aren’t even that bad; in one afternoon I can shoot twenty slugs, a substantial quantity of buckshot, and a fair bit of practice birdshot with absolutely no bruising or discomfort. It’s all in shooting technique- run a pump regularly enough for some time and it will likely work the same for you.

  7. Tyler Kee,

    You have nothing to be ashamed of with respect to recoil: 12 gauge shotguns shooting big sabot slugs at maximum velocities produce punishing recoil that far exceeds the recoil from common deer rifle calibers … including the Magnums.

    Case in point: Hornady’s 12 gauge, 300 grain SST slugs exit the barrel at 2,000 feet per second. That is twice the weight of common .30 caliber bullets at about 70% of common .30 caliber muzzle velocities. In another discussion here on TTaG in the last few months, commenters concluded that this recoil level is nearly identical to shooting a 27 pound rifle with the best available muzzle break chambered in .50 BMG.

    By the way my limit shooting that combination is about 15 rounds. And even shooting only 15 rounds, I will have slight bruising of my shoulder the next day and it WILL be sore.

    • By the way I tried adding a really nice recoil pad to my 12 gauge slug gun to help with that monster recoil. I held the shotgun against my shoulder as tight as I could and took the first shot. While that extra recoil pad definitely removed the pain of the recoil, it also enabled the shotgun to attain enough recoil velocity for the scope to bite my eyebrow and cause a small gash that produced a tiny amount of bleeding.

      Needless to say, I removed that extra recoil pad and have never again experienced scope bite to my face.

      • Would one of those rubber accordion-pleated ‘boots’ on the scope allow enough offset of the scope to reduce the eyebrow-bite?

        • That would prevent scope bite … however my scope doesn’t have that much eye relief to accommodate moving the scope forward so it would be a no-go.

  8. My understanding is that fully rifled slug barrels shooting sabot slugs can attain astounding accuracy for that platform with a suitable scope. (I have a Swift Optics scope that actually has a reticle lock feature to prevent reticle drift from punishing recoil.) I have had holes touching each other on a target at 100 yards.

    Various people (and Hornady) claim that SST sabot slugs will deliver amazing accuracy well out to 200 yards (more than enough to reliably hit a deer’s vital zone). And bullet drop out to 200 yards is manageable if you set your zero to something like 125 yards.

  9. For deer hunting down here in southeast Pennsylvania I use a SBE2 with the factory rifled slug barrel. The nice thing about the SBE2 is that the upper receiver is also part of the detachable barrel assembly, so you can mount a scope right the receiver, which is preferable to a cantilever mount. The downside is that you have to use a different forend for the slug barrel, and the whole assembly is overpriced, IMO. I use 2 3/4″ SSTs as they “group” the best out of the barrel of all the sabot slugs I’ve tested to date, and all the 3″ sabots have been less accurate in my experience. One sight-in session took me 35 slugs due to an extremely lousy boresighting job at the gun shop – both my shoulder and wallet were hurting a bit after that one. If I had any sense at the time, I would’ve put the money on the slug barrel kit towards a 20 gauge bolt action – that would get the job done as well as a 12 gauge and be easier on the shoulder, too.

    • “If I had any sense at the time, I would’ve put the money on the slug barrel kit towards a 20 gauge bolt action – that would get the job done as well as a 12 gauge and be easier on the shoulder, too.”

      This! So . much . this.

      For anyone who plans to acquire their first shotgun for deer hunting, I strongly encourage you to forego the 12 gauge and go with 20 gauge. Your shoulder will thank you.

      Bonus: 20 gauge shotguns provide more than enough “stopping power” in case you need them for home defense as well!

    • If using sabot slugs, then by all means go with the 20. I believe that the saboted projectile as actually the same as in a 12. If using Foster slugs, stick with the 12. 20ga Foster slugs just don’t have enough mass behind them for comfort.

      When funds permit, I really, really want to pick up a Savage 212. I don’t even live or plan to live in a shotgun-only state; I just love shooting slugs. I would love to take my cast reloads out further with a rifled barrel.

      • I believe the 20 gauge Hornady SST sabot slugs shoot a 250 grain, 45 caliber bullet at 1900 fps versus the 12 gauge Hornady SST sabot slugs that shoot a 300 grain, 50 caliber bullet at 2000 fps.

        So, there is a difference in terms of generating recoil. In terms of terminal ballistics, the difference will not matter out to 200 yards shooting white-tailed deer. If you are hunting a moose or grizzly bear, then the larger bullet of the 12 gauge sabot is an advantage.

  10. While I am all in favor of another gun in the safe, I don’t see a great advantage over changing out barrels on and 870 or 500 for well under half the price. Am i missing something? I have only shot two deer with a slug one at 45 yards the other at 85 yards.

    • Michael,

      I suspect a Stoeger shotgun is intended for people who are more concerned about a name than value. Also, the Stoeger shotgun of this review is a semi-automatic … that increases the price significantly over pump-actions as well.

      Otherwise, I am with you on the Mossberg 500 series or Remington 870 series.

      Speaking of, there is a HUGE advantage to the Mossberg 500 series by the way: mine came with a special check riser for the butt stock that adds the height you need to get proper cheek weld with a scope on the cantilevered scope mount.

  11. It should come as no surprise that shotgun slugs of all varieties are typically devastating to deer. What will come as a surprise, however, is how often deer run away after taking slugs to vital areas.

    I once hit a 1.5 year old buck in both shoulders with a cheap rifled slug at something like 50 yards. It broke both arms, going through the very front of the thoracic cavity, and dropped him on the ground like a sack of potatoes … for about 1 second. Then he started rearing up on his hind feet and leaping about 8 feet at at time. After he did this three or four times with no end in sight, I put another slug through his neck. At that point he dropped, spun around on the ground for about 5 seconds, and never moved again.

    My father-in-law used a 20 gauge shotgun and put a perfect heart and double-lung pass through shot on a white-tailed deer. That thing ran well over 200 yards before keeling over. The entire path was covered in blood.

    And my cousin put a nice 12 gauge slug through a buck at 70 yards. It dropped to the ground and spun around a couple times. Then it started rearing up and jumping. So my cousin loaded another slug to put it down and “click”, he had a DUD! Before he could eject that dud and load another slug, that buck managed to get running again (probably on three legs) and ran more than 100 yards to cross a road and disappear on another property.

    So, yes, slugs are usually devastating to white-tailed deer. But don’t count on them to always yield “dead right there” carcasses even with textbook perfect shot placement. Be ready to follow up with a finisher.

  12. Important note on sabot slug accuracy:

    I found that my groups get larger and larger the more sabot slugs I shoot. I finally discovered the apparent reason: plastic fouling in the barrel from the sabots. In my case it seems like I only get about 5 shots before the pattern starts to open quickly. If I clean the barrel (with brake cleaner if I recall to remove the plastic fouling), the pattern tightens up again.

  13. As a side note, shooting rifled slugs through a rifled barrel can plug the rifling and cause accuracy issues. Using them fancy sabot slugs works better.
    But my 590 works pretty well all the way out to 50-60 yards and I like using cheap slugs…
    No use for 3″ slugs though. They hurt too damn much.

  14. Tyler, If you want some bad recoil tryout a stock Rossi single shot 12ga with a 5 round box of Winchester 1oz 2-3/4″ slugs. If you can shoot all 5 slugs your a better man then I am.

    FYI: DON’T DO IT!!! I only took three shot’s and I was done at two.
    The only time I’m going to shoot any more than one or two slugs out of that thing
    is if my or someone else’s life depends on it.

  15. My first deer gun was also my all purpose hunting shotgun. A 12 ga. H&R single shot. We didn’t have rifled shotguns or sabot slugs back then.

    We had foster type slugs that looked like a minie ball on roids and a round lead musket style ball we called punkin’ balls. Paint them orange and they’d pass for pumpkins.

    They both kicked like a mule out of a fairly light gun and the best accuracy I could get at fifty yards was minute of 1 gallon anti freeze jug with 3 shots.

    You want a new experience in pain? Get a youth model 20 ga. and load it with 3 inch mag bucksshot or slugs. Never again.

  16. in the movies… the good guy shoots a bad guy RUNNING toward him and actually blows him backward a few feet. This gun could probably do it for real.

  17. You don’t want a receiver-mounted rail. Cantilever mounts exist to remove the possibility of altered barrel position after cleaning or swapping barrels. With a receiver-mounted optic, you will have to rezero every time the barrel is removed for cleaning. That’s on top of issues incurred by the barrel shifting minutely.

  18. The Savage 220 slug gun with Hornady 250 gr. sst slugs are the way to go in hunting for whitetails. Alot less recoil than the 212 savage with the same accuracy and range. As a slug hunter for about 30 years this is the best combo I have hunted with.

  19. I bought a Mossberg 500 cantilever-scoped 3 inch 12 gauge WAY back in the late 80’s . It was state of the art at the time with it’s monte carlo style stock and fully rifled barrel. It was a thing of beauty, with it’s cheap Bushnell scope, already mounted and bore-sighted. I took it to the range with a few boxes of magnum sabot slugs, ready to get it all sighted in for the upcoming WI gun deer season. I placed the barrel on a sandbag, chambered a round, tucked the recoil pad into my shoulder, looked through the scope, and touched off a round. The muzzle blast was deafening, even with hearing protection, but the stars I was seeing were even worse! The scope came back and put a deep gash in my forehead and it was gushing blood all over. I’ve had other 500’s before that one and still have one today. I sold that beast shortly after my face healed, and still have that crescent shaped scar. I have shot thousands of rounds of 12 gauge since then, as well as many 7mm mags .300 WM, etc. Nothing has ever kicked like that gun. One of my favorite slug guns was a browning bps deer/turkey special, and the remington 870 slug model with a monte carlo style stock is also a good choice. I have taken many deer with shotguns here in southern WI before rifles were finally allowed a few years ago, and decided that open sights, 2.75″ foster-style slugs with a smooth bore is the best way to go. I’ve taken accurate shots out to 100 yards and never lost an animal. Recoil with pump guns and regular slugs is very manageable. Bolt-action slug guns are certainly capable of longer shots with sabots, but they are pricey.

  20. Since I live in the People’s Republic of Illinois, I’ve been a slug hunter for 40 years and have gone through the evolution of the slug hunting rig from then to now. Like my friends, I began by shooting Federal 3 inch Foster-type slugs out of an unmodified 870 bird gun and progressed to the current state of the art: a Savage 220F with a 3×9 Weaver and Remington Accutips. 75 yards was way out there when I started and now 225 means a dead deer if the conditions are ideal. There were many stops along the way and I have 6 or 8 different slug launchers gathering dust in the basement safe to prove it.

    As impressive as the power of a 12 gauge slug gun seems to be, I can tell you that it is certainly no death ray on deer. I’ve had few DRT shots and lots of runners with many blood trails to follow, even with massive internal damage. Rifles generally kill deer much quicker.

    That Stoeger rig is where I was about two steps ago, only I would have put a fixed 4 power scope on it. If you opt to go with a receiver mount instead of the cantilever scope mount, you’ll regret it. Every time you break down your gun, you’ll lose your zero. On that gun, you must pin and shim the barrel to the receiver mount to have any accuracy and it still won’t best the barrel mounted scope.

    Nothing like a 12 gauge slug gun to teach you not to crawl up on the stock while sighting in. Adjust your bench setup to permit an upright posture and you’ll notice much less recoil as you body can flex and soak up some of the shock. Synthetic stocks on some shotguns may have fewer square inches of surface area against your shoulder and can seem to kick harder. At least it wasn’t a pump.

    Since you’re in Texas, put a low red dot on it, like a Burris Fast Fire, and use it for walking up hogs or for close in hogs over a feeder. Plenty of power and fast follow up shots. As far as recoil goes, apply the fundamentals and it is easily bearable. I agree that the Stoeger stock design doesn’t favor optics use. Maybe shim the stock or lace on a cheek piece. You never notice recoil while hunting anyway. It hurts them a lot worse than it hurts you, so update your man card and you’ll be fine.

  21. Having been – until recent years – a slug gun only hunter in IN I agree with the fully rifled barrel 20 ga w/ sabot slugs as the “deer magic” out to about 200 yards (150 is easy with proper zero but 175-200 yards IS doable if from a tree stand rest and with practice). I have recently moved home and acquired a mossy 500 in 12 ga with fully rifled barrel and went 3 shots for 3 deer in last 2 years. Longest shot was 197 yards and closest was an in the brush jump-shot at about 12 yards. I never knew the limitations of an open sighted shotgun with correctly matched up slugs until I spent a spell out west in WA state hunting big game at true rifle ranges. That being said do not discount the midwest “one rifle man” to put venison in the freezer even if that man’s one rifle is a simple pump shotgun with open sights and a lot of practice behind it…

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