View Full Version : Birdshot and home defense notes..

Al Thompson
September 14, 2002, 07:31 AM
Got finished with a home project and had some scraps of 3/4 plywood left over. Got to thinking about our recommendations for HD and my personal "first up" loads of #2 birdshot (12 ga).

I read somewhere (wasn't Hatcher's notebook - I checked) that the Army considers any projectile that can penetrate a given thickness of plywood (can't recall if 1/2 or 3/4) is also capable of a fatal wound. As I had the gun/range/ammo and 3/4 plywood onhand, the rest is revealed here...

Gun - 870 with a 20 inch cylinder choke. My thought was that the cyl bore would give the worst results - probably get better results as the choke increases.

Range - the longest shot reasonably available in my house is 34 feet down a hallway. Adding the patented Dave McC one yard put my peformance range at 12 yards.

Ammo - just to keep the brands together, I ran one round of Remington # 8s (3 1/4 dram, 1 oz.) promoloads, one round of Remington # 4 shot (probably 3 1/4 drams, 1 1/4 oz), one round of Winchester Turkey load # 6 shot (max drams, 1 5/8 oz) and one round of my hoarded Winchester # 2 shot, load data unknown.

I propped up my 4 ft x 10 inch piece of 3/4 plywood on a target stand as I wanted to make this a tough test. I figured if I secured it, the lack of give would increase the effectiveness. The first shot was with the load of number 2s - figured if they didn't penetrate, the rest of the test was unneeded.

First shot revealed a 8 inch pattern and complete passthrough of the number two shot. Given the collander appearance of the plywood, I'll stick to this as a suitable round for my use in my house.

Next up was the # 8 dove load. No passthroughs, same 8 inch pattern and some of the pellets were stuck in the surface of the plywood. I am aware that some prisons use this load or # 9s inside a cellblock. Frankly, unless your engagement range is five yards or less (rathole peformance), I'd pay another couple of bucks and get a better load.

The Remington number 4 Duck and Pheasant load did almost as well as the #2s. Seemed to have less but adequate penetration.

Last load tested was the Turkey load. The 1 5/8s ounces of #6 shot simply smashed what was left of the board and broke it in two pieces. I actually could not tell if true penetration took place as the splinters made it difficult. The impact of this load was impressive and bears additional testing.

There were a couple of other things I wanted to test - one was finding the line/distance where the number 8 shot started to exibit the rathole performance. My mistake was not realizing that my scrap plywood was going to be reduced to splinters quite so fast. In the near future, I plan to cut some 10 x 10 pieces of 3/4 plywood and run this portion of the test.


September 14, 2002, 08:39 AM
Thanks for the info Giz. Let us know how future tests turn out, please.


September 14, 2002, 08:49 AM
Gizmo, very interesting stuff. Here is a related post discussing a similar topic:


The key in my mind is that you can't always count on having a clean shot. You may have to shoot through a wall, house door, or car door. If in that situation, you need to worry about penetration.

September 14, 2002, 10:43 AM
Bird Shot for close range SD.....

Regardless of what some say about 00, at close range, even if you don't get the penitration - it is like a meat grinder.

Al Thompson
September 14, 2002, 12:25 PM
Mo_Zam, I agree. I am curious about what "close" actually is. I've killed several critters with birdshot, but you do have to be "close". I'll try to figure out where"close enough" is in a couple of days. :)

Dave McC
September 15, 2002, 09:29 AM
Thanks for those real world results, Giz. Awaiting Step II....

September 15, 2002, 10:49 AM
thanks for the info. i've always loaded 7 1/2 in my hd cause i live in an apt. should i go to a larger pellet?

hopefully i'll be in a house next year and will go to something larger then.

Al Thompson
September 15, 2002, 12:07 PM
Eap, what's your max range? So far, it looks like 5 yards and under is rat hole range.

September 15, 2002, 10:08 PM
Another question. I am strongly considering a rifled 12 gauge loaded with Fed Barnes sabot expander for a Trunk gun, but was wondering how birdshot (No 2 or 4 lead or steel) would perform at 7 yards or less from the rifled barrel. Or would shooting limited amounts of birshot in the rifled barrel cause problems?

I don't, yet have a rifled SG myself to test. The Barnes expander is supposed to expand to around 1.5" and has about the least penetration of any slug. With rifled barrel should be good enough for head shots at 100 yards or less.

My thoughts were that most LE rifle shootings are at 100 yards or less...I would think most non LEO defensive shootings would be even closer on average. Using slugs in rifled shotgun would give very good precision at realistic ranges, plus limted range vs a rifle. But would like to be able to load couple of rounds of birdshot if staying overnight in hotel or such. Engagement range with birdshot would be VERY close.

September 19, 2002, 04:50 AM
I've seen a man shot with birdshot. #6 if I remember, out of a Winchester 1300, 28".

Yes, he went down, mostly from surprise and shock (arm and leg hit).

Use buckshot. If the guy is coming at you seriously, you want penetration,and birdshot makes a big shallow messy wound from what I saw. Know a SWAT cop who did use an 870 for social purposes, and he had to hit a nondrugged-up or drunk guy twice with #4 buck. Now he uses 00 Buck when he uses a shotgun (normal CQB gun is an M4 with 5.56mm frangible rounds).

September 19, 2002, 05:44 PM
When living in an apartment what is best to use? I always thought 6 or 7 1/2 birdshot to prevent over penetration and also to prevent taking out your neighbors :rolleyes:


Al Thompson
September 19, 2002, 06:22 PM
Scott, it's a matter of distance. I've cut down trees with 8 shot at close (!!) range. Check your probable engagement distances and as range increases, shot diameter should increase.

Next time I get a range day in, I'll try to get some concrete data on how close is close enough.

September 19, 2002, 07:33 PM
The longest distance in my apartment would be 35Ft almost 12yds. At the present time Im using Fiocchi 7 1/2 shot velocity is 1250.


Al Thompson
September 20, 2002, 06:53 PM
S.F.S. - one, I would not want to get shot with that load. Two, in the post above, I've pretty much disqualified shot sizes over #6s in HD roles at that distance for my use with my back stops.

The reason we talk about shot size with the shotguns is the ability to select a load based on individual situations. If you have reasonably tough walls, an upgrade to # 4s seems wise. If you have nothing but 2x4 walls with sheetrock between you and the neighbors, you may well have the magic load.

I'm out of town doing some chores for family, so access is spotty. I'm planning to build a "rock soup" of tactical terms, conditions and examples.

The key in this post is to select your load on both reasonable engagement distances and what your backstop/background is in your engagement areas.


September 20, 2002, 08:23 PM
Well Gizmo if all else fails and the birdshot dont stop them I have my .357 Mag. loaded up with Federal 158 Gr. SJSP's.

Also while Im reloading if need be, my German Shepard can be earning a Happy Meal :D


September 22, 2002, 06:12 PM
MrMurphy: I agree with you in general. I don't have any faith in birdshot. My home defense 12 gauge has low recoil OO buck in the mag tube with slugs on the butt cuff.

But I am looking at a very specific situation were over penetration would be a major concern. Plus I would only have one or two rounds of birdshot in the gun, followed by slugs. I figure one round of No.4's to the head/neck region would be useful in degrading opponents performance when delivered at less than 10 FEET, not to mention what the muzzle blast would do at that range. :D

BTW I think Remington's New Hevi Shot turkey loads would be about perfect for most HD SG use. Hevi shot is denser than lead and at harder as well. I would guess that it would perform more like No. 4 Buck but with higher pellet count and more uniform pattern (from smooth bore).

Denny Hansen
September 22, 2002, 06:45 PM
I've conducted quite a few tests of the above type, the last appearing in the December 2001 of S.W.A.T.. Making mock-ups of interior walls using 1/2-inch sheetrock with 2X4 studs, there is almost always complete penetration. Even had #6 birdshot penetrate masonite covered 3/4-inch particle board at 21 feet with the proverial "bloody rat hole."

Hence, I've decided to stick with 00, because the "use birdshot, it won't over-penetate" is a myth, but I may need deep pentration. Rule four is paramount even with birdshot.

Just my .02.