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.
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 20 or so rounds whilst cursing. This is the only gun that has managed to scope-bite me no matter how hard I held its synthetic stock to my shoulder. Hence the red dot you see in the photos.
The Rifled Slug edition sets itself apart from the rest of the M3000 line with the addition of this very fancy rifled barrel. The other addition is the large chunk of cantilever Picatinny rail mount. 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.
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 50 yards.
The second type is the sabot, and that’s where I found much better luck. Typical groupings at 50 yards with an unmagnified red dot were on the order of half that size. I managed to eek out several sub-three-inch groups which would make this a very deadly weapon when fired at the vital zone of big game at distances nearing 100 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.
Ergonomically speaking, the inertia-driven M3000 R slug gun 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 comes with a cantilever scope base for scope attachment 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.
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 the SHOT show 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.
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 semi-automatic gun that shoots a slug puts you more on the level of a archery 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 semi-auto shotgun back. Anyone want several boxes of unused slug ammo? Never fired, cursed at only slightly.
Specifications: Stoeger M3000 R – Rifled Slug
- Item number (SKU): 31851
- Action: Semi-auto
- Barrel Length: 24” rifled slug barrel with 1:35 rate of twist, matte finish
- Gauge: 12 gauge
- Chamber: 2-3/4″ & 3″
- Colors: Black synthetic
- Stock Material: Polymer
- Weight: 7.3 lbs
- MSRP: $649 (about $100 less in the wild)
- Length of Pull: 14-3/8″
- Drop at Heel: 2-1/2″ The stock drop is user-adjustable. Changing shims using this kit provides a customized sighting plane to fit your unique physical build and shooting style.
- Drop at Comb: 1-1/2″
- Minimum Recommended Load: 3-dram, 1-1/8 oz.
- Receiver drilled and tapped for scope mounting.
- Cantilevered Picatinny optics rail. (Burris Droptine scope and rings not included.)
- Optional features: 13-ounce mercury recoil pad, pistol grip and field stock
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 (such as Leupold) 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.