Which shotgun loads for home defense - birdshot?


Active Member
Thought I would start a new thread to discuss birdshot vs buckshot for home defense, so as not to hijack another thread. Arguements for birdshot: less wall penetration, effective clump-o-lead at short (indoor) distances.

To tell you the truth, I like to stack 'em: bird, bird, bird, turkey, turkey, buck, buck.


Back when I owned a gun shop I purchased some 20 ga shotshells that have rubber buckshot and rubber slugs. I loaded the pistol grip Mossy with 1 rubber buck then a rubber slug then two real buckshot. Bear in mind that the order out of the bbl is real buckshot last. The rubber buck won't penetrate two layers of Sheetrock and will prompt family to drop to the floor for safety and it will knock normal perps down. The rubber slug can be lethal but with minimal carpet staining blood and the real buck will defiantly end the situation.
Old_Painless said:
Birdshot as a Defense Load
I have had a lot of questions, summed up as follows: How effective is birdshot (#4, #6, #8, etc.) as a defense load?

We have done tests with various birdshot loads. Birdshot penetrated through two pieces of drywall (representing one wall) and was stopped in the paper on the front of the second wall. The problem with birdshot is that it does not penetrate enough to be effective as a defense round. Birdshot is designed to bring down little birds.

A policeman told of seeing a guy shot at close range with a load of 12 gauge birdshot, and was not even knocked down. He was still walking around when the EMTs got there. It was an ugly, shallow wound, but did not STOP the guy. And that is what we want... to STOP the bad guy from whatever he is doing. To do this, you must have a load that will reach the vitals of the bad guy. Birdshot will not do this.

In fact, tests have shown that even #4 Buckshot lacks the necessary penetration to reach the vital organs. Only 0 Buck, 00 Buck, and 000 Buck penetrate enough to reach the vital organs.

Unless you expect to be attacked by little birds, do not use birdshot. Use 00 Buck. It will do the job.

But doesn't 00 Buck penetrate too much in interior walls to be a "safe" load in a home?
Yes, it does penetrate a lot. But any load that is going to be effective will need to penetrate walls to have enough power to penetrate bad guys. If our only concern was to be sure we didn't penetrate walls, we would use BB guns. However, BB guns will not stop bad guys.

Therefore, we must use loads that will STOP bad guys, and this means that they will also penetrate walls. So, be sure you hit the bad guy and do not shoot into walls where loved ones are on the other side.

When To Use Birdshot
A friend of AR15.com sends this:

"I saw a gunshot victim, about 5' 10" and 200 lbs, taken to the operating room with a shotgun wound to the chest. He was shot at a range of six feet at a distance of just over the pectoralis muscle. He was sitting on his front porch and walked to the ambulance. We explored the chest after x-rays were taken. The ER doc had said 'buckshot' wound, but this was obviously not accurate.

It was # 6 shot. There was a crater in the skin over an inch in diameter. When the shot hit the level of the ribs, it spread out about five inches. There was ONE pellet that had passed between the ribs and entered the pericardium, but not damaged the heart at all. As you say, 'use birdshot for little birds.'"
Birdshot is designed to stop birds.

Buckshot is designed to stop bucks.

Which of these two groups of animals does the average adult human approximate more with in terms of size and weight?

I have known hundreds of individuals that have suffered gunshot wounds. Most of them were with birdshot and other smaller, "mouse-gun", calibers (.22, .25, et al).

I know of a cop that shot a bad guy 9 times with birdshot from a Mossberg 590 (he took his gun hunting the previous weekend and never changed back to 00 Buckshot). The guy eventually bled to death but not before he ran away and hid in the woods for half an hour. It took a search dog to find his body.

Birdshot is beyond ludicrous as a deliberate choice for personal defense. There is zero justification for it outside of emotionally nonsensical, anti-factual indifference to the reality that birdshot, like the name says, is for shooting birds.

If you want to shoot someone, but clearly don't want them to die, since you selected an ammunition that might as well be classified as "less-than-lethal", then why use a firearm at all? Get a TASER or Pepperspray, since all you'll be doing with birdshot is "pain compliance" anyways.
biganimal said:
Back when I owned a gun shop I purchased some 20 ga shotshells that have rubber buckshot and rubber slugs. I loaded the pistol grip Mossy with 1 rubber buck then a rubber slug then two real buckshot. Bear in mind that the order out of the bbl is real buckshot last. The rubber buck won't penetrate two layers of Sheetrock and will prompt family to drop to the floor for safety and it will knock normal perps down. The rubber slug can be lethal but with minimal carpet staining blood and the real buck will defiantly end the situation.

If firing the gun doesn't knock you down then the person receiving the blast will not be knocked down. Newton's Law of Motion.
bigfutz said:
From Tom Gresham's GunTalk:

I like the suggestion to have a side-saddle for extra ammo on the gun. I would have liked if he said adding a light would be prudent.

This radio personality doesn't have anything factual or relevant to add to the debate. His suggestion that birdshot is acceptable is based upon observation that birdshot mutilates small animals and other objects superficially but has no experience with humans that have been shot with birdshot or buckshot.

I don't know why you included this guy's perspective in this conversation. He has no information relevant.
bigfutz said:
bigfutz said:
From Tom Gresham's GunTalk:

So it sounds like birdshot is also effective on thin-skinned milk jugs inside seven yards.
Note amended post. I think I'm gonna go shoot some stuff and reload the tube accordingly.

Make sure you shoot stuff that actually has stuff behind it so you can observe the lack of penetration. I had a firearms instructor at the police academy pull out birdshot and pepper some paper B-21 targets and try and show that it was an effective man-stopper because it covered a larger area than buckshot. After demonstrating that if you stick four pieces of cardboard backing behind the target, and the birdshot doesn't penetrate, he had a confused look on his face but still refused to believe the reality that birdshot is insane.


00 Buckshot all the way for HD. No questions about it if you do some research...


"The single biggest mistake people make is to assume that the power of the shotgun is such that it negates having to select proper ammo. Through no experience or research they might come to the conclusion that birdshot is a perfectly acceptable choice for self defense? Why? Because they "feel" it's adequate for the most part.

Nothing is further from the truth. Once again, the shotgun ammunition needs to perform the same function as rifle and pistol ammo, which is to penetrate about 12" into ballistic gelatin.
Fragmentation/expansion are usually not an issue in shotgun ammo, so that factor can be ignored for the most part.

For an excellent article which explains it better than I could, please read "Shotgun Home Defense Ammunition" on firearmstactical.com.

The summary from that article states:
Number 1 buck is the smallest diameter shot that reliably and consistently penetrates more than 12 inches of standard ordnance gelatin when fired at typical shotgun engagement distances. A standard 2 ?-inch 12 gauge shotshell contains 16 pellets of #1 buck. The total combined cross sectional area of the 16 pellets is 1.13 square inches. Compared to the total combined cross sectional area of the nine pellets in a standard #00 (double-aught) buck shotshell (0.77 square inches), the # 1 buck shotshell has the capacity to produce over 30 percent more potentially effective wound trauma.

In all shotshell loads, number 1 buckshot produces more potentially effective wound trauma than either #00 or #000 buck. In addition, number 1 buck is less likely to over-penetrate and exit an attacker's body.

For home defense applications a standard velocity 2 ?-inch #1 buck shotshell (16 pellet payload) from Federal, Remington or Winchester is your best choice. We feel the Federal Classic 2 ?-inch #1 buck load (F127) is slightly better than the same loads offered by Remington and Winchester. The Federal shotshell uses both a plastic shot cup and granulated plastic shot buffer to minimize post-ignition pellet deformation, whereas the Remington and Winchester loads do not.

Second best choice is Winchester's 2 ?-inch Magnum #1 buck shotshell, which is loaded with 20 pieces of copper-plated, buffered, hardened lead #1 buckshot. For those of you who are concerned about a tight shot pattern, this shotshell will probably give you the best patterning results in number 1 buck. This load may not be a good choice for those who are recoil sensitive.

While #1 buck might be ideal IF the the shot is hardened, the reality is that these loads might be hard to find. If finding hardened #1 proves elusive, 00 buck is a great choice instead."


Active Member
for my home its Federal 3 inch 000 buck. SBS, 223 SBR, or which ever handgun is closest.

i dont worry about walls, no kids behind them. the big screen is kinda close to the door but that is the biggest worry.


New Member
94formulabird said:
if your life is in danger the scum deserves nothing but the best...buckshot,buckshot,buckshot,buckshot,buckshot,buckshot,buckshot
For the very best in home invaders (the stopping thereof): http://ddupleks.com/index.php/en/1270-cal/hexolit-32.html

I really don't know how to say "F You" to someone more powerfully than that without going belt-fed.

/Also for full disclosure, my HD long arm is an AR and not a shotgun. Why? Muscle memory.


Active Member
I almost hate to mention it, for fear this discussion will go on indefinitely... Go on YouTube and search "wax slug."


Active Member
rat shot is about usless except i use it in a 9 shot H&R to hunt hornets. they gather at the sap on the roots of the white oaks in the yard. you need to be within about 2 feet.


In a shotgun I would go with buckshot, in fact for years that's what I did. Luckily I never had to use it. These days after seeing a lot more information, if I was to use a long gun for home defense it would be an AR with lighter 52gr bullets. They actually work well on initial targets while actually overpenetrating less than buckshot, larger rifle bullets (even AR-15) and pistol calibers. That being said if I was going to use birdshot for this purpose I might go with somethign like these http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfbrP7ujerE


New Member
An AR would be better. You have more rounds, less recoil, and due to the high velocity of the 5.56 NATO round it should disintegrate on impact of sheet-rock. At least that's what I'm told. I want to test it at the range sometime just to get an idea of how much penetration to expect...