View Full Version : Slugs vs. Shot for Home Defense...

September 4, 1999, 07:41 AM
I'm interested in your opinions on the pros and cons of using either slugs or regular shot for home defense. Do any of you mix the two types in your magazine tubes? Just wondering...

Harley Nolden
September 4, 1999, 09:17 AM
As a home defense shell, I would prefer the 00 buck or #4's. Even at close range there is a larger pattern than with a slug. Should a "skip" shot be required, the Shot Load will pick up more ash and trash to increase the projectiles.


Jeff Thomas
September 4, 1999, 02:58 PM
jwong, I think you'll want to use shot for home defense, according to everything I've been taught. Slugs will penetrate like crazy for one thing. They're great for just that - penetration against a fairly hard target. And, for distance shots - in our tactical shotgun class we we taking 50, 75 and even 100 yard shots with slugs.

However, shot gives you a good pattern at medium range, and a large hole at very short range (you still have to aim - it isn't a 'scattergun' at short range, as some think). Seems like most folks use #00 buck, and there is also a low-recoil #00 buck as well. Some argue that #1 buck is an even better choice because the shot is nearly as large, but there is a greater number of pellets - see http://www.firearmstactical.com/briefs10.htm . I've also seen recommendations for #4 buck, as well as using a couple of rounds of bird shot as the first out of the tube.

Based upon everything I've read, seen here on TFL and been taught in class, I decided on 2 rounds of #6 birdshot (first to load - I've got a couple of kids, so I'm pretty sensitive to the penetration issue), then 4 rounds of #00 buck. I have 3 more rounds of #00 on the sidesaddle, along with 3 slugs. I'd like to try the #1 buck, but it is a real pain to find. I've tried to special order it, but my supplier doesn't seem very motivated.

If you haven't done it yet, try to take a Tactical Shotgun course. Helps a lot with technique, and you get to pepper them with questions. ;)

Take care. Regards from AZ

[This message has been edited by Jeff Thomas (edited September 04, 1999).]

September 4, 1999, 03:57 PM
Gotta agree with using smaller shot (size 6-12) for home defense. At the ranges you'll be firing 0-25 FEET or so, the pattern will be still close enough together that you'll get almost all, if not all, of your pellets on the target. There will be more than enough energy to do the job. And the chances of overpenetration or what happens if you miss (re: where will the pellets go)will be greatly reduced. *If* for some reason your worried about the target wearing body armor you could always load a slug or two as a last shot stopper. As for buckshot as a home defense load (This is not a slam on those that use it)I would avoid it, as I believe that the potential for overpenetration far outweighs the benefit of using it. If overpenetration is of no concern then I would use #4 Buckshot, again with a slug or two as a last shot.

It's amazing what a large group of stupid people can accomplish.

Art Eatman
September 4, 1999, 05:25 PM
I'll rave and babbble in support of Rob62, go one step further--#9 skeet as the first load, and maybe the second.

I'm assuming you're thinking solely of inside the house. There may be other folks in other rooms, and the light load is less of a hazard to them.

A clear shot of over 30 feet inside a house means a helluva big house! And even squib loads in a shotgun are nasty at ten to fifteen yards.

There's also the legal talking point that you were deliberately using an extra light load in order NOT to kill! Might just make a difference if there is civil action in retaliation for your honest efforts...


Long Path
September 4, 1999, 09:38 PM
Some good points, though I just can't see purposely loading down so as to avoid legal action from the guy you shot. This would, to me, be an excellent arguement to load up.

I live in an apartment now, with only sheetrock walls between me and neighbors above and to either side, and my daughter in the next bedroom. Penetration is of HUGE concern to me. The main reason that I don't go ahead and use light trap #9's that I want absolute certainty that the shells will function my poorly-maintained and much-used M-1100 auto shotgun.

I keep the chamber empty, safety off, action uncocked.

I use #8 dove loads in my shotgun for the first 2 shots, and 7.5 high-brass for the 3rd shot (one must consider why in world we're firing a 3rd shot. A bit more oomph is thus called for and justified.).

My fourth and final shot in the house 1100, is a Brenneke Slug. Although there are now some slightly more accurate slugs out there, this one has the meanest meplat of any slug marketed today. Think .73 caliber full wadcutter! This is the last shot before reload, and is the one that NEEDS to penetrate. Should the bizzare occasion arise that I need to stop a car and/or chase 'em down, this one would be the best candidate.

Slugs are a consideration if you can conceive of a situation where a high-powered rifle would be optimal. I can, but recognize that this function is secondary in my shotgun's intended role. If distance is the reason, then there is some space to change loads. Ideally, you would have a slug or two where you knew it was on the buttcuff (Another advantage of Brennekes: they feel different, and look very different from other shotshells, with their clear hulls. ). If you're just trying to get through to an adversary using good armor or cover, you may just want it for your "last shot."

I DO NOT reccommend using slugs for your first couple of shots. Better you should use a .223! Better you should use a M-94 Trapper carbine with .44 or .45 LC! Better you should use an SKS!!! Slugs just go and go and go through typical modern-day building materials, including exterior walls.

September 6, 1999, 12:24 PM
Long Path brings up an excellent point that some will disagree with. That being the use of a butt cuff. I'm pro on the use of a butt cuff to hold extra shells. (I personally don't like the side saddles though). While I have heard legitimate arguements against butt cuffs/side saddles, in that; are you really gonna need to re-load a shotgun used in home defense. To me the re-loading issue is a non issue. I don't believe that one will need to re-load a shotgun in a close interpersonal home encounter of the bad kind. Heck, if it ain't gonna get done with 4-5+ shotgun shells you're probably in bad doo doo that you're not gonna get out of.

The real value in having a butt cuff on the home defense shotgun is that it allows you to keep slugs, buckshot, what ever type of shell handy just in case. Now some one reading this is thinking what the heck did he just say.....he said that you probably wouldn't need to re-load a shotgun in a home defense shooting situation......then he says have extra/differnet ammo handy just in case. Well to me it makes sense. I could probably explain my point better to someone in person, but this forum doesn't allow me to (I'm a hunt and peck typeist)talk about all the nuances (sic)of my thought process. There I go rambling again....sorry....better go for now.



It's amazing what a large group of stupid people can accomplish.

Jeff Thomas
September 7, 1999, 11:33 PM
No disrespect intended, but I've never understood the logic of 'if you can't get it done in XX shots, then you're probably dead already ...'. I have a business friend who gives me the same story.

I figure it is a question of what I give up to carry extra ammunition. If I give up essentially nothing, then I'd rather have the flexibility of a few more rounds of ammunition. I sincerely doubt I'll ever need my shotgun to stop armed intruders. But, if I do, I have no idea what that situation might entail. Sure, it's unlikely I'll need more than 3 or 4 rounds. But, I also think it is foolish to limit my options unnecessarily.

For example, it really grinds me to see a pistol with a hollow grip because of the 10 round limit. More foolishness.

It just seems prudent to have plenty of rounds 'just in case', as long as it doesn't otherwise damage my performance or the gun's.

September 8, 1999, 10:49 AM
Amen Jeff


September 9, 1999, 12:35 PM
Jeff Thomas,

I agree with you in context. If by carrying extra ammo you give up nothing then do it (I'll caveat later). However the point(s) that I was trying to make are as follows. First off, how many shots are fired in an actual defensive "street shooting", (I believe that these statistics are also representative of home defensive shootings.) Last I heard it was under 3. So "statisticaly" one does not need a lot of ammo (I know that there are tons of exceptions to this). Also by carrying extra ammo (and this is my *main* point) is someone more likely to get himself/herself into a situation they shouldn't be in?!?!?

Some members of this forum are no doubt "armed and body armored to the teeth". Are these individuals more likely to lock themselfs and families up in their safe room, wait for local LE to arrive, or are they gonna try to go head to head with a home intruder or 2?

IMHO no matter how prepared, armed, trained, etc. the safest and smartest thing is to retreat (Oh..Oh....I said retreat..[in own home no less].....sure to get flamed over this one ;-)to your safe room (hope everyone knows what I mean by that) and wait for the police to arrive, which you should have called as your going for your gun/body armor and family. As I said some will disagree with me on this one.

However it is my understanding that *some* states have ruled that even if you are in your own residence that you must try to retreat if possible from burglars if they enter your residence.

So here we go, its late at night we hear a noise, two male voices downstairs whispering about rape, pillage, plunder. You've prepared for this; Mossberg 590 Vang Comped side saddle and butt cuff, memorised the house layout in the dark, Level IIIA Second Chance body armor, Wolf's Ears hearing protection, etc. Now your ready, your armed to the teeth, your gonna show these Bas***ds who's home not to break into. You go downstairs, and surprise them with a few blasts of OO Buck shot. Two dead crooks and you got a huge mess to clean up. (Simple Green works good on blood stains). After the smoke (pun intended) settles you are facing 2 civil lawsuits for wrongfull death. Brought on by the crack head widow(s) and bas***d children of the robbers. (You should be ashamed, now these poor disadvantaged people have no more bread winner in the family. How will they ever survive..........Oh for the LOVE.......for the CHILDREN) Now I'm not a lawyer but I'm gonna ask some questions of you when you testify. Why were you using a MILITARY shotgun, why soooo much ammo (dont know exactly but its probably around 16 or so rounds in my scenario) Body Armor, only crooks and police NEED that. Why didn't you give them a chance to surrender. And so and so.....

I know I'm rambling...forgive me. But its a boring lunch, and I got time. I know that there are too many exceptions to the above scenario. I just don't want folks to forget that too much of a good thing (ammo) can sometimes lead to bad things. Intentional or unintentional. Other views??

Interesting thread,

Ramblin Rob


It's amazing what a large group of stupid people can accomplish.

September 9, 1999, 02:46 PM
Here it is plain and simple. Set a barrier in your house, i.e. stairwell or long hallway leading to bedrooms. Let that be your line. "RETREAT" behind that line, i.e. to your safe room. Yell, scream and cuss at the intruders that you have contacted Law Enforcement and are awaiting their arrival. If they reply they have cut your phone lines or if the phone is dead, tell them you used your cellular even if you don't have one. Keep your line in mind, and if they cross it, COMMENCE FIRING! I live in a 2 story apartment, my line is the landing to the stairs. I can assume a relatively safe position with a good field of fire there. My stairway doubles back with the lower and upper stairways perpendicular to each other. Therefore there is only 1 way upstairs. I have intentionally left nothing of value upstairs, i.e. nothing but guns&family upstairs. (exception a circa 1980 VHS player and a 13 inch TV) This will be my defense in court. The only thing upstairs is alot of blazing hot lead. I did however recently make a change to my defense ammunition. I was using 3" #4 buck in my MOSSBERG 500, and Winchester Silvertips in my Govt. 1911. After reading several articles, (G&A, firearmstactical.com, American Rifleman, & many others) I switched to 2 3/4" shells with #6 shot, and to the Federal 230 gr. Hydra-Shok.
I still am a firm advocate of using only shotguns inside the home and the pistol as the last line of defense. NEVER USE A RIFLE INSIDE! Defense of your home should be a priority, but it should be done smartly.
Plan your home's defense to perfection. Put it on paper anything you can do to prove to a judge you had drawn the line and that nothing was arbitrotal (I slaughtered that word)in the defense of your home and family. Simple questions to ask yourself:
1. Have I done everything to prevent someone from getting in my home in the first place?
a. Deadbolts
b. Broom handles on sliding doors with the opposite side screwed shut.
c. Alarms (if possible)
d. Exterior lighting
e. Door chains
f. All windows verified locked with dowel rods in place.

2. Do I have an alternate escape route?
a. Back Door
b. Window

3. Phone in every room?
a. A cheap phone is $9.99 @ Wal-Mart

4. Do I have a plan?
a. The barrier
b. Written down for court

5. Do I have the tools?
a. Shotgun in good working order
b. Handgun for last line of defense
c. Rifle..... NEVER!!!!!!!!!
d. Flashlight with good batteries

6. Will I be able to take the shot?
a. All you can do is the 3 P's
p1. prepare
p2. practice
p3. pray

"Walk softly and carry a big stick, perferably one of the 12 guage variety!"

Jeff Thomas
September 9, 1999, 06:30 PM
DOCSpanky, check back a little ways in the rifle area. You'll note some references re: research on .223 rounds, and the risk of their penetration. It seems that 55gr .223 HP rounds don't penetrate as much as most folks think, and apparently they probably penetrate less than your 230gr Federal Hydra-Shoks. Sometimes the obvious is not correct.

Regarding ammunition quantity influencing my or anyone else's decision to perform a sweep of a home, I suppose I'll just have to disagree. I can't see someone saying 'golly ... I've got 13 rounds of ammo ... might as well take them on'. Doesn't make sense to me that this would or should be a significant factor in that bad decision. The smart thing is certainly to avoid conflict if possible, but if those guys come up the stairs, I'm no longer interested in conversation. And, I don't care to be hoping I can find more ammunition when it was just as easy to be prepared with more before the problem ever arose.

I think I am perhaps hypersensitive to this issue because of the absurd laws we now have in this regard. This doesn't apply in our current conversation, but I'm real tired of having ignorant business associates tell me 'no one needs more than 10 rounds of ammo ... if you can't get it done in 10 rounds, then you're probably dead already'. Yada, yada, yada. I only wish these geniuses could tell me where the stock market will end up tomorrow - that kind of fortune telling could be really useful. ;)

Also, while I agree it makes sense to consider the legal implications of our decisions, it remains better to be 'judged by twelve, rather than carried by six'. I prefer to have a high quality, capable firearm, coupled with training and practice. I'll worry later about trying to help a jury understand that I felt it was my duty as a husband and father to protect my wife and children. My family is my first priority ... not the jury.

Regards from AZ

[This message has been edited by Jeff Thomas (edited September 09, 1999).]

September 10, 1999, 06:00 PM
I've really enjoyed this thread. Interesting comments by some folks who have obviously studied the 'shotgun for home defense' issue and carefully formulated a plan. Opinions aside, having any loaded gun is infinitely better than having no gun when you need one.

For whatever it's worth, I've struggled with this question for years. I keep a Mossburg 500 (20" barrel, extended magazine) stoked with four #6 shot game loads, followed by one 00Buck followed by 2 slugs. I keep the chamber empty with the thumb safety on. I have additional 00Buck and slugs nearby. I have several loaded & large handguns nearby.

[Although not sensitive to handgun recoil, I don't like rifles larger than 30-06 and 12 gauge slugs kick the dog out of me (when shooting at paper targets). However, I don't recall ever feeling any recoil when shooting elk, deer, etc. or when qualifiying at the police range. So I'm not sure the tactical low-recoil loads are necessary].

I too, am concerned about penetrating drywall (sheetrock), thus the #6 shot. I also keep electronic hearing protectors by the gun 'cause I'd like to preserve my eardrum when the gun goes 'boom' in the house.

I don't think we are ever going to resolve what's the best load for H.D. shotguns.

My $.02 :)

September 10, 1999, 08:02 PM
Very helpful thread! :)

September 15, 1999, 04:33 PM
Yes very helpfull, and I'd like someone to show me where to find any info that says a rifle is good for inside the house. I shoot M-16A2's on a regular basis (active duty), have fired everything from military ball to 55 and 67 and other assorted loads, and I (this is an opinion that I will hold till proven wrong, and I am entitled to MY opinion)refuse to believe that a .223 at 2000+ fps. will penetrate less than any .45 at 800 fps. I've seen a .223 go through 2 car doors at mid range 100 yards or so, I have seen the 230 gr hydra shok stopped by auto glass and having questionable penetration on a car door. SOMEBODY prove it to me. I am not trying to insult anyone, but I FEEL a rifle in the house has the greatest potential to harm bystanders and or family members. What good is killing a badguy if you kill your spouse or child in a panic stricken barrage of 40 rounds from an AR-15?
Yes you can do the same with a handgun or shotgun, but figure the odds! I love rifles and have a much beloved MINI-30 in the gun safe, I feel a rifles place is there, at the range, or in the woods.

"Walk softly and carry a big stick, perferably one of the 12 guage variety!"

Big Bunny
September 15, 1999, 06:19 PM
A good discussion. Great reading! A wireless remote home alarm or "panic button" is inexpensive, as is a cellular phone. If the invader proceeds after all these and verbal warnings and threatens you with anything like a weapon(even a threat or possibility of one)then you could perhaps air your combat skills without censure.

May I add a thought at this stage...the use of your least powerful firearm in HD( EG a pump .410 shottie is very suitable for use inside a home and also fires a wicked little slug with surprisingly good ballistics, little noise and less penetration) may get you brownie points with the judge and jury at your trial, but what beats a criminal looking down a 12GA ?
The big hole is ideal for 'lambing down' such a hoon(or hoons) or home invader/agressors!

[...OK..OK - a M1911 or other 44cal pistol or carbine are also probably as good!]

Hey. another thought..dead people don't bleed so much when shot with #6(British size)....

***Big Bunny***