Deer Hunting: Rifle or Shotgun? – Part 2

Shotgunning for Deer – Fully Rifled Barrels

By Steve Sorensen


teaser box 3a 336x336You can spray buckshot at a close-range running deer, or you can throw punkin balls at them. Or, you can upgrade to a shotgun with a rifled choke tube. All of these have accounted for many deer through the years.

But today, it’s possible to have a shotgun with a fully-rifled barrel that behaves much like a rifle.

Fully Rifled Barrels

In an effort to improve shotgun capabilities for shotgun-only areas, many manufacturers now offer shotguns with fully rifled barrels. Your granddad never dreamed of a rifled barrel on his old shootin’ iron.

Barrels engraved with rifling impart rifle-like accuracy, carry a truckload of energy with today’s modern slugs, and deliver deep, bone-busting penetration. While prevailing wisdom still holds that shotguns are short-range weapons, but some of them can reach out and touch the boiler room of a whitetail at distances unheard of for shotguns.

None of this should be surprising when you look at the new Savage Model 220F and the re-introduced Browning A-Bolt. Both are based on the respective company’s rifles. The 220F is built on the proven and popular Savage Model 110 rifle action, and the A-Bolt configuration is a staple in Browning’s rifle line. You can’t go wrong with either one.


In building the Savage 220F, Savage started with their accurate 110 bolt action.

A buddy of mine has the Browning A-Bolt, and I have the Savage with a camouflage synthetic stock. Savage understands that a lot depends on the trigger, so they install the Savage AccuTrigger on this gun, which is set to break at about 3 pounds. If there’s any creep associated with that trigger, it’s the one who owns the finger that squeezes it.

I also like the Savage because it’s lighter than most slug guns, and the bolt action with a detachable magazine handles and feels like a rifle. Target acquisition is rifle-like – when I shoulder it the scope is perfectly centered in front of my eye. Scopes, incidentally, are something shotguns of yesteryear virtually never wore, but today’s shotguns use them to wring out all the accuracy that’s built into these guns.

Testing Ammunition

And, speaking of accuracy, I tested six different loads. All fire saboted slugs – bullets encased in a plastic shield that is shed once the bullet leaves the barrel. The first groups I shot were marginally satisfactory, but I loosened and then tightened the stock bedding screws a bit, and the groups shrunk.

testing ammo chart
The Remington 2¾” gave me the best three-shot group – an astonishing .61″ center-to-center at 100 yards. It’s only 50 feet per second slower than the 3″ Remington, which consistently grouped at 1½” to 2″. This AccuTip bullet has a great reputation for accuracy from the Savage 220F, and for deadly terminal performance. All others grouped plenty tight enough to make me comfortable with any of them.


This surprisingly small 3-shot group of .61″ would be impressive even from a rifle.

Virtually every review I’ve read of the Savage 220F showed similar accuracy results, all more than adequate for deer hunting, and the best loads make this a 200-yard gun.

I toted the Savage a few times last fall in New York, and always felt like I was carrying a rifle. Unfortunately, the days I carried it were the same days deer made themselves scarce.

I look forward to taking it out again this year, and it might accompany me to Todd Frank’s Clear Creek Outfitters in Lancaster, Ohio. Todd and his family run a great operation, and will do their best to put you on a great buck.

If you’re looking to hunt a shotgun state, or want one gun that will perform equally well in shotgun or rifle states, you need to consider a shotgun with a rifled barrel. It’s a far better deerslayer than granddad’s old smoothbore, and it will bring home the venison without needing the luck he sometimes depended on when he launched punkin balls.


About Steve Sorensen

steve-sorensen-head-shotAward-winning outdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen loves the Havalon knife, and has been a fan of knives since he begged his dad for a hunting knife when he was six years old. His articles have been published in Deer & Deer Hunting, Sports Afield, and many other top magazines across the USA. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow his writing on his website,


For more atricles by Steve Sorensen, click here.
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6 Responses to Deer Hunting: Rifle or Shotgun? – Part 2

  1. roger buison says:

    hi steve, my name is roger from san jose, california; i just got my savage 220f and i’m so excited; the reason of my email is I want to know if what of mount base, scope ring and scope did you use on this picture? it looks perfect. hope you have time to answer my questions.

    thank you,
    san jose, california

  2. Roger:
    The scope mount is from Talley; I think it was the aluminum version. They do not use a base — they screw directly into the screw holes in the top of the action, so they’re much stronger than using a base/rings combination. The action in the 220F is longer than normal to accommodate the length of a 3″ shotgun slug, so you need a scope with a long tube between the objective and ocular bells. I chose an Alpen Apex XP, model 4053, 2-10×44. Right now Alpen has them on sale for $220. Here’s the link:

    Hope that helps. I think you’re going to like that gun.

    Steve Sorensen

  3. Jason paulson says:

    Im all set to purchase a savage220f..I have no experience with scope,mounts,etc..any guidance would help me..Also not sure if I should get stainless barrel or not..Any suggestions from a stainless owner?Thank you

  4. You’re making a good choice in the Savage 220F. I love mine, and am glad I made the purchase. When I bought mine the stainless model wasn’t available yet or I would have bought the stainless. I’ve written a post on the Havalon blog about it. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out:

    The Talley rings I bought are reasonably priced, and you don’t have to buy a mount — the rings screw directly to the action so it’s a stronger arrangement than when mount and base are separate. When you buy a scope, make sure the straight section of the tube is long enough tube to fit the rings. The shotgun action is longer than most rifles, so the rings will be a little farther apart than you might expect.

    Good luck with it, and if you kill a nice buck, send us a picture.
    Steve Sorensen, Editor, Havalon Sportsman’s Post

  5. Jason paulson says:

    Thanks for your help,like I said I have zero experience with scope so this will help me alot.Thanks

  6. Jason paulson says:

    Does a bushnell trophy xlt fit on a savage220 bolt action slug gun? It measures 10.8inches in length

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