View Full Version : Proper shotgun shell selection

Blue Jays
June 23, 1999, 12:37 AM
Hi All-

Can anyone provide the basic rule of thumb(or link) in regard to shotgun shell selection for home defense with a maximum range of 20 meters?

When is #00 buck appropriate?
When is #04 buck appropriate?
When is #08 birdshot appropriate?
How 'bout rifled slugs?

Are there any feelings on the reduced-recoil L.E./Tactical loads? Thanks for your help.

~ Blue Jays ~

June 23, 1999, 01:08 AM
The only real way to determine the effectiveness of your load is to pattern it at 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 25 yards. You are looking for a uniform density across the whole target area - NO pellets flying off to Fort Mudge! ALL pellets must be on the target. You will need to experiment with a variety of loads at each distance. The goal is to find the tightest load for your shotgun over the distance.

Generally, and I do mean generally, most shotgun patterns open up pretty good at about 12 - 15 yards.

In my 870, I find that Federal H-132 tends to group the tightest. RWS Brenneke are the most accurate out to about 100 yards.

Use what is the MOST effective in YOUR gun regardless of make, model, weight of shot, size of buck etc.

Watch yer 6!
Dave Renn

Al Thompson
June 23, 1999, 06:49 AM
Hi Blue Jays, the key to your question is penetration. The choice is very dependant on what you want your shotgun to do for you.

As a general rule, the backstop for your engagement area will dictate your load selection. Here in the 'burbs I find some comfort in # 2 duck loads as I think they will be effective at the 3 to 10 yard probable engagement range I have in my home. The walls of my house should contain any stray pellets.

A note of caution - try to select a load based on the weakest part of your backstop, not the strongest. One of my buddies plans to shoot the bad guy in front of his fireplace - wonder who's going to brief the bad guy on where to stand....

Hope this helps,


"Shoot low boys, they're riding Shetland ponies..." LG, RIP

Blue Jays
June 27, 1999, 10:54 PM
Hi DRenn & Gizmo99-

Thanks much for your input. It's a question that I'm sure all of us have considered for quite some time. I'm going to play around with patterns to see what works best.

I'll likely put a slug or two down the magazine tube first so those will be the last two shots on the way out...should the need arise, God forbid.

What does everyone feel about keeping the magazine tubes "short 1 shell" to preserve spring life? The other side of me says that magazine springs are probably so inexpensive for shotguns it's better to keep them topped-off? What does everyone think?

Thanks again for your help...

~ Blue Jays ~

June 28, 1999, 04:39 AM
As I understand it, the consensus is that repeated compression and decompression of the spring is what causes it to lose tension. There are more than a few stories of pistol magazines kept fully loaded for decades and functioning without a problem when eventually used.

I've kept the seven shot magazine of my Mossberg 500 fully loaded for four years, except for practice and cleaning. When I practice, I usually only load two or three shells at a time, so the spring is pretty well extended and exerting the least amount of force on the shells. I've never had a misfeed, or any other malfunction in over 1000 rounds fired in this way.


Blue Jays
June 29, 1999, 11:37 PM
Hi boing & everyone-

Yes, I've heard the same accounts about really ancient pistol magazines operating without any problems at all...even years and years since they were last serviced.

So far, I've opted to load the magazine to capacity (4) and leave the chamber empty as an extra measure of safety. Is this tactically the way to go, or should I pop one in the chamber as well? There are no children in this household.

Some folks will tell you the unique sound of a shotgun being "racked" is the ultimate way to tell uninvited houseguests that you mean business. Unfortunately, this method of communication leaves you with one less shell. I'm open to suggestions.

Thanks everyone...

~ Blue Jays ~

July 2, 1999, 04:43 AM
I leave the chamber empty, too, but I still have 7 rounds in the magazine, as well as six more on the receiver in a Side Saddle shell carrier. It's a safety measure, but not for kids (I don't have any). Before I built a rack next to the bed, I just propped the shotgun up in the corner, and I was worried about an accidental discharge from dropping it, or having one of the dogs knock it over.

An empty chamber also reduces the risk of pointing a loaded gun at someone who may not be a threat, like when you investigate a suspicious noise that turns out to be your wife or one of the cats. This is even more of a problem if you have a dedicated light on your home defense gun, like I do, and point the gun/light around to see what's there, like I don't. I point the gun at the ceiling or floor, and that lights up the whole room without endangering non-threat type people.

4 rounds in your shotgun? I don't like to think about how fast I run out of 4 rounds when I do my half-assed tactical drills in the backyard, and that's while making 4 good hits on different targets (yes, I am an expert shot ;)) Of course, We are talking about a shotgun here, but factor in multiple threats, missed shots :o, and Murphy's Law, and four rounds starts to look a little less adequate.

If you want more rounds on hand, without spending a lot of money, get the Side Saddle. It's about 25 dollars or so, and gives you six extra rounds. It also allows you to have different types of ammo (slugs, buckshot, Dragon's Breath!) from which to choose moment to moment. When you alternate rounds in the magazine, you're committed to using whatever you loaded for your first shot, even if it's not right for the situation.

Or, if you can afford it, get an extended replacement barrel/spring/follower for your M500.

Or get both!

I just read your original post about shot selection. Do a search in the "Shotguns" forum for things like "low recoil", "home defense", and such. Plenty of good threads about what works best for what situation.


[This message has been edited by boing (edited July 02, 1999).]

July 2, 1999, 10:30 AM
Normally, I'll take the psychological advantage of the pump-action sound over another shell (11 instead of 12). If I'm in a situation where i *know* bad things are going to happen, then I'll load the final shell.

At home, the chamber is empty. If the Fifth Dismounted Looters and Sackers decide to target my neighborhood on New Year's Eve, though, it's time to load to max.

[This message has been edited by Coinneach (edited July 02, 1999).]

Blue Jays
July 5, 1999, 02:57 PM
Hi Everyone-

Thanks for the good ideas out there from everyone as far as increasing amount of ammo that is handy.

The first (really inexpensive) trick might be to attach one of those "butt cuffs" or whatever they're called. No screwing or drilling required, just velcro the carrier onto the stock. Hmmmm, more research to do.

I did go with Federal 00 Buck Tactical Load 9-pellet shot and Rottweil Brenneke rifled slugs.

Hope everyone has an excellent July 4th Holiday...

~ Blue Jays ~

July 6, 1999, 03:35 PM
Get the side saddle and receiver holder. Also invest in one of those sure-fire tactical lights. They are great in low light scenarios, especially when locating goodguys and badguys in your home!

Joe 543
July 9, 1999, 09:06 AM
I'm getting into this a little late but, when I carry my extended mag shotgun(870) this is what I do. I keep four Federal Tac 00 buck in the tube. In my sidesaddle I keep three more tac buck along with three Tac slugs. Havng only 4 shells in the tube allows you to instantly insert two slugs if the situation requires it. I also have the Choate orange follower. It keeps the spring uniform and allows for immediate recognition of an empty tube.

Joe 543

July 9, 1999, 09:47 AM
Joe543, put a "Speedfeed" stock on that 870. It holds 4 rounds *in* the stock that can be removed with a flick of a finger. It's a great feature to add. With this on my 870 I have 1 round in the pipe, 5 in the tube and 4 in the stock - that's 10 rounds all *within* the gun itself. I personally don't like those Sidesaddles as to me they are cumbersome and could interfere with a quick shouldering of the weapon. My .02...

Tell me about this "Choate follower" on your 870.


[This message has been edited by CMOS (edited July 09, 1999).]

July 9, 1999, 01:18 PM
I like the BMF 2 Barrel, myself... no racking sound but an awesome view from the business end. Loaded with OO Buck, of course.

Yankee Doodle

Blue Jays
July 10, 1999, 01:11 AM
Hi CMOS & Joe 543-

Yes, it looks like everyone is in agreement that "supplementary" ammunition needs to be carried on the shotgun to complement proper shell selection.

CMOS, I think we're on the same page as far as the sidesaddles are concerned. Speed and ease of shouldering are compromised.

What more can you tell us about the Speedfeed stock? Is it available in a shorter length of pull, like maybe 13.00"? Better yet, familiar with a web site?

Everyone have a good weekend.....

~ Blue Jays ~

July 10, 1999, 01:25 AM
FWIW, I've never had a problem shouldering my M500 with the Side Saddle, and I mostly practice snapshots at multiple close range targets, which requires a lot of movement, both of the gun and myself.

As for speed, I've never used a Speedfeed stock, but it would seem to me that having to stick your finger in the little hole would more difficult, and time consuming, than pulling a shell out of a Side Saddle, especially when under stress and in low light conditions.

Either way, tactical reloads are a pain in the @ss, so practice, practice, practice!


July 12, 1999, 08:53 AM
BlueJays, the Speedfeed stock is exactly the sam size as the original 870 stock - it's a short pull. It holds 2 shells "in" each side of the stock. There are 2 hollow "tubes" in and along the stock length that has a spring loaded follower. Just insert the shells and you can remove them with one finger by depressing the top of the shell and releasing it "outward" - away from a small "catch" thet holds the top of the shell. The shell will pop out right in your hand. And no, they will not fall out at all unless you remove them. A great feature on a shotgun for about $55.

I do know that Brownells sells them.

www.brownells.com (http://www.brownells.com)


[This message has been edited by CMOS (edited July 12, 1999).]

Joe 543
July 12, 1999, 03:23 PM
CMOS, I like the speedfeed idea and plan on some day getting one. I just never have got around to doing so(yet). But, when I do I will still keep the sidesaddle on my 870(that sucker is really going to be heavy).

The Choate magazine follower was the first accessory I purchased back in 1988. It is hi vis orange and made out of plastic or synthetic something or another and is tapered a little(approx. 3"-4"). It keeps the spring coils from getting tangled when depressed. Back then I heard stories of the mag spring punching through the plastic factory follower(I have never seen or heard of this happing, but, it sounded reasonable). The follower is easily seen when the magazine tube is empty. I know you can get them from Choate or Scattergun Tech. for cheap. I wouldn't carry a shotgun without one!


Blue Jays
July 16, 1999, 12:35 AM

Visited the Brownells site and couldn't find the Speedfeed stock you mentioned.

Noticed one thing though....damn is that Choate adjustable length-of-pull stock U-G-L-Y or what?

If you happen to know of another URL that has a picture, it would be greatly, greatly appreciated! This Remington 14"00 length-of-pull factory stock catches on my shoulder each and every time.

You guys think a decent smithy could just remove an inch or so of synthetic stock, or would that just be a messy proposition?

Thanks as always...

~ Blue Jays ~

July 16, 1999, 02:37 AM
Blue Jays- That exact topic was discussed in the Smithy forum awhile ago. Do a search for "length of pull" in that forum.

It mostly had to do with doing the job yourself, so I don't see why a competent gunsmith couldn't do it.


EDIT- Nevermind. I got bored and did the search myself. Wrong thread. Try posting the question in the Smithy forum.

[This message has been edited by boing (edited July 16, 1999).]

July 16, 1999, 10:14 AM
Hi Blue Jays,

One caveat to the use low penetration loads for home defense. Remember that everything is relative. If a given load will not penetrate a sheatrock wall, something easily achieved with the human fist, how deeply will it penetrate a large male who might be wearing several outer garments? Will it penetrate deeply enough to do the necessary damage? Further, if the assailant dives behind a piece of furniture or television for cover, your shotgun will be rendered useless...at least until he decides to poke his head out. Walk through your house and look for specific points of cover that you could use if necessary. Pick prospective firing angles carefully. Do your homework ahead of time and you will have the best chance of survival in the end.

My Benelli Super 90 is loaded with Winchester Premium #1 Magnum buckshot (20 copper plated 0.30 pellets). This buffered load shoots very well in all of my shotguns.

For street us, I keep some Winchester Premium 00 Magnum buckshot on hand. For long range shots Winchester one ounce Forester slugs.

This is not a blanket recommendation for Winchester. These are the loads that shoot best in my gun. Winchester is also very plentiful in my area...so that makes it a win-win situation for me. I'd stick with Winchester and Federal though as they seem to have the best quality control.

With respect to spring compression, the problem is most common with autoloading shotguns which rely on perfet spring and ammo performance for proper functioning. Pump guns are far less sensitive. Case in point, I have an old Winchester 1300 Defender in my trunk that has been loaded to full capacity with the same spring for nine years and it has yet to miss a beat at the range.Springs are cheap enough to buy several so you can install a new one from time to time.

As others have said, try some different loads and see what your gun likes.

Get the Sidesaddle and Speedfeed stock. The more rounds on the gun the better as it is probably all you will have time to grab in an emergency. I like to keep my Benelli with the chamber empty, #1 buckshot in the magazine, and slugs on the Sidesaddle. If the BG is still running around after a few blasts of #1 buck, it's time for a slug to dig him out.

Good luck.

- Anthony

Blue Jays
July 20, 1999, 11:30 PM
Hi Anthony-

Yes, thought about the ability of an uninvited houseguest being able to find suitable cover if things ever got to the "gravest extreme."

Fortunately for me, the distances involved are rather modest and cover (for the intruder) is limited. Anything decent, such as the heavy, 1940's-era sofa and wooden entertainment center are up against walls.

His/Her only bet would be to seek concealment behind the fake ficus (spelling?) tree or an upturned glass coffee table.....

I have conducted experiements such as negotiating the house with limited ambient light to select the best areas to hold a defensive position with either a shotgun or handgun. Yes, it's an interesting exercise.

I'm TOTALLY on the same page with you as far as having slugs being the last rounds to exit the shotgun. God forbid it gets to that point, I want each round to hit HARD.

Boing...thanks for the length-of-pull help. From first glance, it practically looks like you could reduce the length with a file and then graduate to very fine sandpaper. The recoil pad would then be reinstalled and we would be as good as new.

There's no way that Murphy's Law will allow something to be this simple!

Speak with you guys again soon.


~ Blue Jays ~

July 21, 1999, 11:53 AM
Anyone try some of the 12g mini slugs from Coles
12 Gauge Mini-Slugs -.9 oz. Lead - 1 1/2" long.
Light load-light recoil-great for training novices and kids!
- 1265 FPS
- All Non-corrosive.
- Your typical Police-type shottgun can hold 33-50% more rounds and lighter recoil.
- Any single or double can use without any modifications.
- Works well in Remington 870's and Mossberg 570 series- won't work in
- Great for HOME DEFENSE, because of low penetration to other rooms.

Havn't tried them, just found the concept interesting ?

October 9, 1999, 03:25 AM
The rotwiel slugs are great for accuracy and penetration, they (BG) will find little that will slow one down, I have tested on cast iron wash basin with brenneke 3" 600grain and it went through one side and put 3" crack on other, better than FED, REM, OR WIN could do. Due to lead alloy slug instead of pure lead. (harder)

As to mag spring it is true some old auto pistols worked 40 years after storing with full mag (1911) but mag was made with extra room in base, look at current 8 rounder a lot less room. For good read about this go to gunspring site "WOLF SPRINGS"

Rosco P. Coltrain
October 9, 1999, 08:22 AM
I use 0 buck for my home shotgun. I keep my shotgun fully loaded because, quite frankly the psycological deterant factor is a non-factor. I would rather have the extra round on tap than some mythical advantage of keeping the chamber empty.

October 11, 1999, 11:41 AM
If you have a shotgun with an extended mag with, oh, let's say six to eight rounds, you can go with the "hole in the mag" technique. This is simply loading one round less in your magazine which can give you the option of loading a slug or some other round into the weapon without having to fire or cycle out a fresh shell. Back to your question, go with 00 Buckshot with slug lined up on a buttstock shell holder or sidesaddle.

October 14, 1999, 11:33 AM
BlueJays, sorry this took so long - hope you see this post. You can get a "Speed Feed" stock for that 870 here:


Others, what choke should I use on my Benelli M1 for firing slugs (or should I say what choke should I NOT use?)?


[This message has been edited by CMOS (edited October 14, 1999).]

Dave McC
October 16, 1999, 06:43 AM
CMOS, if a rifled tube is made for that, try that first. Otherwise,USUALLY an open choke works best for slugs,tho I recall an old 16 ga 97 Winchester that had a full choke and a long string of successes.

What may be more crucial to accuracy is slug selection,and that requires benching. Buy a messa those 5 round packs of divers brands, swallow a dose of your anti-inflammatory of choice,and fire some groups at say, 25 yards.
Test the best of those at 50, then buy a bunch of those,with matching lot number. This'll hurt some but it's worth it.