Airgun slugs - tested in the field

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field - Credit: Archant

Mick Garvey finally gets down to testing a batch of slugs - a change from his usual pellets - provided by Wildman Slugs, and comes away highly impressed

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field - Credit: Archant

For so long now, I have resisted the temptation of the airgun slug. Pellets have always served me well and do everything I ever ask of them, but a recent connection with Liam at Wildman Slugs and a request to ‘try them out and give me your honest opinion’ gave me the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. I had been given a handful, of another make, from a mate some time back, and I tried them in the sub-12ft.lbs. FX DLC Tac with less than impressive results. It is well noted that slugs generally work best in high-power air rifles, but I was keen to use them in the sub-12 along with my FAC airguns. I had some lengthy conversations with Liam and he assured me that the Wildman slugs would work in the .22 sub-12 Tac and work well.

Liam and I hit it off well from the start and I explained my hesitation to try out slugs because the Air Arms pellets did everything I needed. ‘Just try them’, was his reply and be honest in your findings. No problem, there! For me, there’s no point me telling you that something is brilliant when it isn’t. You’d soon find out and be all over me for recommending something that isn’t exactly what I said it was – no good for you, and no good for me.

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field - Credit: Archant

OFFICIAL SECRETS

Wildman Slugs had developed a 19gn slug, which worked very well, but the manufacturing and swaging process made them unviable, for the time being, so watch this space. The whole process is top secret and rightly so. Liam has put far too many years into the development, along with plenty of financial investment, to let anyone come along and steal his secrets. I did ask if it would be possible to check out the process, and was told that only three people know about it, and that wasn’t about to change anytime soon. Can’t blame the guy one bit, but maybe in the future … although I might have to sign some official secrets act.

My slugs were being hand swaged over the next few days, and I had been promised them later that week. I had decided to run them through the sub-12 .22 FX DLC Tac, the FX Wildcat Mk1, and either the Impact or the FX Wildcat Compact, both in .25, or if things worked well – both. The slugs are not a replacement for my AA Diablos, but I’m hoping they’ll fit into a specific area of my pest control.

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field - Credit: Archant

SMOOTH LOADING

We had a bit of a moment when the delivery company left the slugs, without knocking at the door, in the bin and the weight of the package dropped the package halfway down, but after much fretting they were found and brought safely to the gun room. The first thing you will notice is the superb finish to the slugs, smooth and shiny, and they look huge, so much so that I thought I had been sent the wrong ones. ‘They’ll never fit in the mag’s’ I thought, but they did. They fitted perfectly, no protrusion, so there was no interference with indexing. The single most noticeable thing, pre-shooting, was the smooth and slick feel as they loaded into the action. I actually thought the slug hadn’t loaded a couple of times, it was that smooth.

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field - Credit: Archant

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WORTH THE WEIGHT

Next, was the weigh-in, and this really did surprise me, although it shouldn’t have after speaking with Liam. First up were the 30gn .25 FBs (Flat Back); 1 slug 30gn, 2 slugs 60gn, 3 slugs 90gn, and so on … the 21gn .22 DBs were next, with the same result – 1 slug 21gn, 2 slugs 42gn … and guess what? The 23gn .22 FB slugs were the same – very impressive! I was expecting a slight deviation maybe 0.2, but not so. Closer inspection revealed an extremely well-formed hollow point, with no burrs or damage, and the hollow was a good depth that would expand nicely on impact.

The weather had not been good and getting out had been problematic, so I resorted to a short-range zero and power check at home. This required anyone not involved intimately with the test (me) to either vacate the building, or spend an hour or so upstairs out of the way because I had to shoot from the lounge, through the kitchen, the extension, and out into the garden to get somewhere near 25 yards. That would work for now, but once the weather sorted itself out, longer range checks would take place. The promise is that if they group at 35 yards, then they will group at 100, a pretty bold statement, I think, but one that is backed up by a few friends that have succumbed to the ‘Slug Life’.

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field - Credit: Archant

SLUG ADDICTION

I really didn’t want to waste too many of these little jewels in power testing, so I opted for four-shot groups with each slug. First up was the FX DLC Tac with the 21s; this gave a spread of 6fps over the four shots, ranging from 11.36 to 11.63 ft.lbs., and was single-holing as expected at this distance.

Next, was the Mk1 Wildcat, which with the 23s gave 747-757fps and 28.53-29.28 ft.lbs., and still single-holing.

The .25 Impact gave an average of 875fps/50.9 ft.lbs. on max and 822fps/45 ft.lbs. on 3, which is my 25gn pellet setting. Some tuning needs to be introduced to the Impact for some of the long-range shooting, and I was using the crombo 625 which can be suspect in bad light conditions, but as an initial test I was happy. The ‘schwack’ from the 30gn slugs was extraordinarily pleasing, and I can see why so many hunters are becoming addicted to the Wildman slugs.

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field

Mick Garvey tests airgun slugs in the field - Credit: Archant

OUT ON THE RATS

One evening, there was a break in the weather, so I managed to get out foxing and took the FX Wildcat with me, along with the foxing rig. A smallholding owner, adjacent to my fox land had been in touch with the pheasant shoot and asked if anyone could help him out with a rat infestation that had suddenly occurred. He was put in touch with me, and after agreeing terms that I would be also able to take any rabbits also present, I set up in a position where I could easily scan the fields for Charlie, and take care of the rats that were running wild over the very late, spilled harvest grain. There were even rats in the trees, lighting the thermal up like Christmas lights.

The Wildcat still had the Sightmark Wraith 4K mounted that was on loan from Scott Country International, and I need to point out again that this is another very impressive piece of kit; even with the standard IR, it picks out the rats at 35 yards easily, but I mounted the Wicked Lights A51IR, which gave me even more usable coverage. The light was just enough to work without the IR at first, but it faded quickly before I slipped on the Wicked Lights IR. I actually took a fox early in the session and then decided to turn my attention fully to the rats.

After checking my zero at 35 yards on an inch-square piece of adhesive silver tape, I set about the rat fest. There were plenty about and they were feeding confidently on the spilled grain. This very late harvest has worked a treat for me this year, and I had racked up double figures before my foxing mate turned up, and a run of seven shots in a couple of minutes resulted in seven rats, followed an impressive two-for-one shot, but he was more interested in the fox. I let him go his own way and returned to Rattus norvegicus. The Wildman slugs were taking no prisoners and the pile was growing quickly. I had no idea what the tally was, but I guessed around 20, with some lost in the rat holes.

PERMANENT FIXTURES

A final scan with the scope had me jumping out of my skin when a fox passed by the gate. I knew exactly where it was heading and quickly texted my mate to watch for it coming. Ten minutes later, I heard the shot and the immediate thud of a well-placed shot. Shortly after, I received a ‘thank you’ text from him - nice to be of assistance. The final rat count was 23, with a few lost, and a bonus rabbit that had made its way up the track to me. It didn’t stand a chance against the Wildmans at 45 yards, and on closer inspection, I could see that the slug had passed straight through the skull and given an instant kill. Some may say ‘overkill’ for rats, but if your intention is to go out to kill your chosen pest, then there’s no such thing as overkill.

I have returned a couple of times since and taken seven, then a single – they are obviously getting the message. I have to say, the Wildman slugs will be a permanent part of my armoury from now on, and I think they will come into their own on long-range bunnies in the Lake District. Next time, I’ll be checking out the 21s in the sub-12 Tac and we’ll see how they work on the skinnies. I have been asked about the expansion at sub-12, but I’m reliably informed that the expansion is not a problem. I’ll be excavating a slug or two to find out for you all, though.