View Full Version : Defensive Shotgun Load Choice for Home Defense..

March 6, 2007, 09:58 AM
The Shotgun has been an important player in the protection of one's property here in the US since it's very beginning. Of course designs have changed over the years but the Shotgun remains till this day a very popular choice for home owners around the world. The same qualities that makes it such an asset in a bird hunt make the Shotgun such a prime choice for home defense, that is, if loaded with the right type of ammunition.

Many people believe that the only round suitable for the home is 00 Buck. I disagree. 00 Buck is an extremely lethal round especially at in-home distances but its rounds also carry enough kinetic energy to pass right through thin wood and drywall hurting or possibly killing innocent bystanders in the process. The MAIN concern here it distance. Shotgun ammunition isn't known for it's ability to cover vast areas, instead it has become famous for its achievements at close to medium range. Also called a "Scattergun" the shotgun fires not one, but many different and seperate projectiles all at once. Depending on the barrel shape and length these 'shots' or lead pellets will either still relatively close to each other, or fan out wide bettering the odds of scoring a hit on a lone target. These different sized shots are given a number according to size, the higher the number the smaller the pellet size. A #4 shot then is way larger than #8 'Birdshot' for instance.

The shots fired from a Scattergun tend to spread apart wider and wider the further away they go. But at 'in house' distances even the smallest of shot size tends to group tightly, not having the time/distance to spread away from each other. This concentrated shot can cause a surprising amount of damage to flesh and bone.

This is why for me, regular old #6 shot will do for Home Defense. They are too small to carry themselves through walls and are probably the least prone to cause collateral damage while still being able to handle home defense duties. 00 Buck on the other hand DO have the potential of passing through walls and through doors. The 00 Buck is an EXCELLENT field round for a Scattergun and perfect for outdoor use, but for in-home purposes they're simply overkill.

So the question arises: Is the #6 shot capable of outright killing an intruder? Maybe. Perhaps the question should be "Is the #6 capable of STOPPING an intruder in your home?" and to that I say: Absolutely. You see the psychological effect getting shot with a Scattergun has on a person when you see police using non-lethal rounds on criminals on TV. The perps don't KNOW they are being shot with beanbags. The reactions are almost textbook. The first reaction is surprise but that doesn't last more than an instant till the pain registers. You can almost see the energy drain right out of them. They think they were shot dead and give up, at least all the video's I've seen.
The #6 shot has lethal potential at CQB distance, will stop an adversary but NOT at the risk of endangering neighbors and family members in other rooms.

Shotguns have a wide range of available types of Ammunition to choose from, an you could also use a "staggered load" for home defense as another option as well.

Non-Lethal Beanbag as shot one followed by two rounds of #6 shot and capped off with #4 or 00 Buck.

Or 1/2 #6 1/2 00 Buck.

Or whatever combo as you choose. Point being, you don't have to load your Shotgun with only one type of shell.

March 6, 2007, 08:43 PM
I'll stick with #1 buck ->00 buck thanks.

SHooting some one that broke into your house with a bean bag round? hitting them in the head with a baseball bat would be much more effective. How can you say #6 shot or any small shot, might not kill someone, yet still stop them? when people are on drugs, of many different types...THEY DO NOT FEEL PAIN. So relying on pain, and a psychological effect of being shot to stop the attacker is rediculous. It may work...but if it dosent? what happens then? you get killed b/c you wanted to play some game shooting a 200lb person with bird shot ment for 2lb critters? if you pull the trigger on a shotgun you might as well shoot the most deadly round out of it.

I'd rather take the chance of having the ammo i am shooting injur an innocent, than having doubts it will stop the attack from an attacker that will DEFINITLY injur or kill that innocent.

March 6, 2007, 09:11 PM
My fusil de boudoir contains a 3" mag #000 up the spout with 7 rds of 2 3/4" #00 (S&B with 12 in each one) in the magazine. I sleep with at least 2 handguns. We don't live in an apartment so if I have to go for the 12 ga I want the nastiest loads available for use at short range. This gives me the ability to launch about 90 projectiles in 5-7 seconds, which comes out about even with an smg for the 1st magazine. I don't sit around hoping for the "chance" to shoot somebody, but if I have to shoot I want it to make whatever I'm shooting at want to fall down or leave.

March 6, 2007, 09:19 PM
After more years thinking about it than I care to admit, I've settled on #4 buckshot. Good coverage for HD, but not overpenetration. I've got some #000 magnum buck, but I can't imagine what I'd ever use them for. Maybe shooting at a vehicle, but certainly not in the house. Those things scare me. :eek:

March 6, 2007, 11:07 PM
I go along with FS2K on this, my preference is smaller shot, though i prefer #4's. Now before you guys that prefer the big buckshot jump all over this, consider: the distance in the average household you may have to face an intruder is short, 20 or 30 feet perhaps, and even with an imp. cyl. choke, its going to be almost like shooting a slug. yet the pellets will disperse energy fast enough not to be a danger to colateral targets. and with around 135 pellets per ounce for #4's thats going to make one big nasty wound.
I used to think in terms of big shot for home defence, until about 3 years ago, while out turkey hunting, i was "confronted" by 3 dogs in a pack that had been running deer. They're attitude left no room for doubt they were in the mood to kill and at about 30 yards with them facing me directly, heads lowered, growling and teeth bared, 2 shots had dropped 2 of them and we found the 3rd about 100 yards away. He'd tried to run when i shot the first two, and i hit him at probably 50 yards square in the tailpipe with 1 1/2 copper plated 4's.
Now granted, man sized targets wouldnt be the same, but at the close ranges in a household, ive got confidence birdshot would be every bit as effective as the big balls. If i would happen to have intruders outside the home, around the autos, barn, shop etc, the few seconds it takes to reload to buckshot or a slug really isnt an issue, and in that case, i'll have time to grab my .45 also.
For the four legged varmints, thats usually at a longer range, and on the occasion i see them sniffing around the livestock, i find the old '06 to be the best medicine for them
While no two cases will be the same, and God forbid any of us have to confront an intruder, we can only hope that big 12 bore is intimidating enough to make them think.

I also think about having to respond to a judge, when he asks "you shot him with WHAT?"

March 7, 2007, 01:18 AM
2 3/4 inch, 12 ga, #4 buckshot

March 7, 2007, 06:01 AM
I'll stick to 00 buckshot.

March 7, 2007, 10:00 AM
#1 buck, #4 buck, 00 buck in that order.

March 7, 2007, 01:03 PM
I am a big fan of #1 buck.I got the old 870 loaded up with 3 inch #1 which I believe to be about as good as it gets for caliber to pellet ratio.In a 2 3/4 shell you get 16 pellets of .30 call pellets to only 9 in 00.you only loose .3 caliber for almost twice the pellets.My set up is 3 inch #1 in the pipe safety on 5 more rounds of 3 inch #1 with the last being a 3 inch 000.I go with the 000 on the last round for 2 reasons.1.It will kick alot more and let me know Im empty.2.If the other 6 rounds of #1 didnt put him down then I want the biggest damn thing I can find for my last shot.I also keep 6 rounds of 2 3/4 #1 on the stock and 2 rounds of low recoil slugs,2 rounds of full power slugs,and 2 more 3 inch 000 on the side saddle.slugs IMHO arent really a good self defense round for the house.I keep 4 slugs on the 870 for the weight and also if I ever need to shoot through a car or a fleeing car.I dont think its ever really a good Idea to shoot at a fleeing car and it will probably land you in jail but I believe in having the option just in case.I do not think any bird shot is good for self defense,just not enough penetration.I dont even like #4 for self defense but I would take that over birdshot anyday.one of the first things I did when I moved into my current house was play out how it would go down if someone was in my house that wasnt invited and most angles at which it could happen put the rounds that would have missed into places where there wasnt likely to be any people even if it did go through a wall.I think over penetraion is overblown when talking about inside the house.Please keep in mind that I am not talking about a drive by scenerio where there are often innocents killed by over penetraion.

March 7, 2007, 01:54 PM
I don't know what your house is made of but normal walls are like butter to buckshots hot knife. Even reduced recoil 00 goes through multiple walls.

The guys at boxotruth tested it out.


Mike Irwin
March 7, 2007, 02:01 PM
I have 5 rounds of No. 4 buck in mine, and 5 rounds of 00 buck on the butt cuff.

March 7, 2007, 03:38 PM
I have to agree with FS2K and spottedpony here. At the distances you might encounter in a home defense situation, shooting smaller bird shot will deliver the same results as any buckshot loads. Under thirty feet the spread you're delivering will be so minute that all of the energy will be retained and transferred to a relatively small area. This will be more than sufficient, trust me, I know. Even #8 would do at this distance with a good center mass shot. The energy transferred would drop any BG due to shock and interruption to the nervous system, no matter what drugs they may have in their system at the time.

Since penetration through the walls is not a big concern in my house, I keep #4 steel shot in the Winchester 1300 at all times. Why? Because I'm a duck hunter and believe in these magnum loads moving at 1250 fps. This is my secondary HD gun, though. My primary sleeps in the nightstand next to my side of the bed, a Taurus 4410 loaded with the first three cyliders as #4 lead and the last two loaded with 45's. Best of both worlds.

March 7, 2007, 04:07 PM
Thanks FS2K, and others...I think you are pretty much thinking like I do about a HD shotgun and load choices.

I am rethinking that it would be preferrable to start with say, BB's for the first round and then go to #4 for the next two then up to 00 for the last two. reloads would be 00, by that time you may really want the penetration abilities of 00, because you would be in one serious gunfight at that point :D

I used to think that 00 was the best for every application but the overpenetration issue in homes has me concerned.

March 7, 2007, 05:30 PM
Kickshot...(I'm following you around:)) Thats the "Judge" right? ( Great name for a gun... gunblast.com did a review on it)

I was wondering what the FPS would be for shot out of the pistol barrel. any ideas? Winchester makes some 3 inch 000 .410s with 5 pellets in it going at 1135 out of a shotgun.

That would be pretty interesting/fun to play around with and see what it could do.

March 7, 2007, 08:44 PM



Like hitting the bad guy with 10 rounds of .32 auto at the same time, per shot.

David Armstrong
March 9, 2007, 12:52 PM
Birdshot frequently has a hard time stopping birds, much less a BG. Counting on a psychological stop is about the same as counting on the BG to quit because you yell at him. Go with any good buckshot that patterns well in your gun.

The energy transferred would drop any BG due to shock and interruption to the nervous system, no matter what drugs they may have in their system at the time.
That simply is not true. Way to many verified instances of BGs getting hit with shotguns at fairly close range who did not drop right away.

March 9, 2007, 10:09 PM
3" 000 buckshot, bigger than 00:D

March 10, 2007, 07:03 PM
The first two rounds loaded in my slug-barreled Nova with extended magazine are 2 3/4" No. 4 Buck (27 pellets each). The last five are 3" 00 Buck (15 pellets each). Five 2 3/4" slugs ride in a "Side-Saddle". The "Judge" is too courtly a name for this set-up. I call it "The Grim Reaper."

March 18, 2007, 12:17 AM
Hmm, before I bought my shotgun, I did a fair amount of research on this topic... Box o Truth was the easy place, with nice pictures:


#8 - penetrated 1 sheet of drywall (inside 1 wall)
#6 - shock value but little stopping power
(http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot3_2.htm - note at bottom of page)
#4 (27 pellets) @ 12ft (3 1/2" pattern)
penetrated 6 sheets of drywall (3 walls)
#1 (18 pellets) @ 12ft (3 1/2" pattern)
penetrated 6 sheets of drywall (3 walls)
#00 (9 pellets) @ 12ft (2 1/2" pattern)
6 penetrated 7 sheets of drywall (4 walls)
2 penetrated 8 sheets of drywall (4 walls)
1 dented the 9th sheet of drywall (5 walls)

"... 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. ..."

So hmm....

#6 will scare someone.

#4, #1 may not stop the bad guy at all... but still penetrate 3 walls... 3 1/2" pattern at 1 room distance.

#00 WILL stop the bad guy but I'll penetrate 4 walls and perhaps damage wall 5... 2 1/2" pattern at 1 room distance.

Looking at my house, I live in a older style 38' x 50' single story home. Penetrating 3 walls from any point in any direction in my home, will end up asking the question of - will my exterior stucco walls stop the shot, or will my property line redwood fence have to do it... Therefore for me comparing 3 walls vs. 4 walls - is rather academic.

So let's see... assuming the bad guy, doesn't get a clue when my 120lb Great Dane jumps the bad guy at any door or window... I think I'll stay with #00 buck. Anyone foolish enough to get attacked by the dog, and keep coming wont be very impressed with #6...


March 18, 2007, 12:45 AM

Always been partial to slugs, and spend time with training to take a shot to stop an immediate threat to replicate BG has hostage and need to stop immediately.

I do head shots, hands with guns, knee caps - whatever the largest exposed target is of BG using Fridge, furniture, walls and whatever else.
Includes shooting through car windows , one way mirrors, glass interior doors...

Just me you understand , has to do with how raised.

Smokin Joe
March 18, 2007, 01:19 AM
well, All this less lethal bean bag, warnings, and etc sounds good.

sure the bean bag would work 85 % of the time,

and the #6 would make 98% of intruders stop in the their tracks.

but when it comes to MY life, anything less than 100% just wont do.

I load, 2 3/4 low recoil slugs (remington), all of it, even in the side saddle.

and also, these arent quite ball, they are hollow in the back.

March 18, 2007, 02:02 AM
Dixie Slugs Dixie Tri-Ball II! The load consists of three (.600’) hard cast round balls (buckshot) in heavy duty plastic wad.

Nuff Said

March 18, 2007, 02:41 AM
I've been shooting handguns for a very long time, but recently purchased my first shotgun. I realize shotguns are much more powerful than handguns but should we always expect to get a one shot stop with our HD ammo? While #1 shot doesn't penetrate as much as 000 or 00, wouldn't the lower recoil of the #1 allow for faster follow up shots? It seems to me, a couple of rounds of #1 buck would stop just about anyone. Maybe I still have the handgun mentality, but I always practice multiple shots.

Smokin Joe
March 18, 2007, 06:52 AM
Maybe I still have the handgun mentality,

with a handgun you can fire off 10 rounds in 2 seconds,
with a pump gun, figure 3 shots per 2 seconds ?

figure 3 shots of 00 buck and you can pretty much be on the safe side... if you do whole mag of 8 oo buck, that would be 5 seconds of shooting. thats plenty of shootin...

March 18, 2007, 10:40 AM
The Mossberg is fully loaded with 00 buck, and the side saddle the same. Would not depend on #6 shot to stop or deter the BG from causing bodily harm to my family or myself. I have total confidence that 00 buck will do the job.

March 25, 2007, 07:17 AM
Remember the first thing you learn when firing a weapon. Know what is beyond your target! This is exemplified by an OIS that occurred here in Austin a couple of weeks ago. The officer discharged his weapon at a (unarmed and fleeing) suspect in the direction of a busy grocery store parking lot. A round struck a bystanders vehicle only stopping when it hit a metal plate in the seat where a young child was sitting.
Remember too, criminals are cowards. Burglars do not want a confrontation. They will strike when you are not at home and are usually not armed. If you are however, or happen to come home, they most likely will not want to confront you, armed or not. Home invasion is another story. These guys are the drunk or "dusted" individuals, usally gang members, and are not going to be alone. They WILL be armed, and most likely have the drop on you. If you do decide to fight, be prepared for one hell of a battle. Short answer- Federal 00 tactical. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

March 25, 2007, 02:36 PM
It's pure folly to think or hope that either the intimadation factor or being shot with a bean bag, birdshot or whatever is going to stop a dedicated attacker if it's come down to a have to shoot situation. For one thng the "less leathal" rounds do not ALWAYS work, heck 00 buck does not ALWAYS work.

In additon all those videos you have seen on TV are entierly diffirent than John Q public defending himslef in the middle of the night. You have what 5 to 10 cops with a non-complying suspect and one officer shoots a less lethal round to end it while the rest are ready to shoot for "real" if instead of surrender the suspect escalates or engages. Very diffirent than jsut lonely old me and one bad guy. Sorry but that it the truth, and while less lethal alternative are great mainly for the fact they save cops lives and injuries from haivng to go "hands on" with non-complying suspects, I don't think you will find too many reccomending less leathal as the first line in a life or death situation.

I'd never put a buch of "less lethal" rounds up the pipe of my shotgun only to have the "real" stuff a few rounds back, I can see the afteraction report now... man he only had more than one round to go before he got to the real stuff.

Just like some are critical of light weight, fast moving JHP rounds in handguns for inadequate penetration, Less than 00 buck and you are riskign inadequate penetration of the agressor. I have frankly seen things (a labrador) shot point blank in teh thorax with birshot that lived so sorry I simply can not put much stock in this.

While I think it's great that we are all worrying about over penetratio and collateral damage, since all too offten people simply compleatly discount this it's certainly a matter of degree. I mean unless you live in an apartment, the combination of range and mutiple layers of material to penetrate makes the shotgun even with 00 relitivly safe, esp when compared with the alternatives, which even with JHP ammo have a greater absolute range and ability to penetrate.

March 25, 2007, 11:23 PM
I must say that about a month ago i would have agreed with people who chose to put birdshot as their main defence round, But that was a month ago. I went shooting a few times since then and got to try out my TPS on one such outing. Got some #1 buck just for the occassion. Started out with #4 bird shot high velocity loads, and shooting at a old dishwasher( yah I know redneck) all it would do is dent the out side thin metal sheeting. When firing at a two by six and some old phones(would you believe that i live in nebraska, more like tennessee)the birdshot would pentrate only 1/4 inch in. Totally put me in shock. This was all at what i would consider normal defense ranges(10 to 20 ft) and with cylinder and modified chokes.I would have expected a little more, especially for a round that people are considering for HD. If someone broke into my house there not getting the 2nd chance that birdshot would give them.

P.S. the buck grouped nicely at the same range while the birdshot was patterned sporatically. And #1 totally ripped through the dishwasher and left a exit wound the size of my fist.......sa-weet

my humble redneck opinion

March 26, 2007, 05:14 PM
If the rounds go through the interior walls, I'll fix them. I don't see anything penetrating the brick exterior walls. As long as I'm not shooting out the window, I'm not too worried about penetration. Right now I've got 3" 00 buck. I'll probably change my mind again later, and then again ... and then maybe again. Such is life.

Blue Duck
March 28, 2007, 05:22 PM
Well, I don't know, it would seem that at normal house ranges, the shot would still be in shot cup on lots of loads, so It is hard to fathom #6 shot or espacally #4 buck not getting the job done, but I guess I could see a siduation where a bad guy might have taken cover behind a wall or door, and one might need to shoot through that cover: this is were 00 buck would shine, or maybe even slugs.

Someone like me, who lives in a rural area, often grabs a rifle instead, I keep a pre 64 Winchester 30/30 loaded, and a Browning BLR .308, but I also have a couple of 1911's 45ACP's and an old A5 with high base #6s but the shotgun is mostly for nusance varmits after dark. However, I am cosidering loading another A5 with rifle sights with #4 buck for coyotes after dark, around the place. I shot a skunk the other night with #6 and I got to admit, I wasn't that impressed with the highbase 6s, even for the skunk.

March 28, 2007, 11:24 PM
I was involved with a case where a Labrador dog (he lived, got a new home) was shot point blank, with small shot to the lateral thorax. He thankfuly lived, we recovered the shot cup form the wound chanel and the X-rays are very intresting and something I use for teaching to this day for the shot spread out and all lodged in the muscle of the chest wall. Very intresting to look at and a good lesson on why we always take 2 view x-rays.

Anyway if a point blank shot at a relitivly thin walled animal fails to do much damage I sure as heck am never going to trust it when I'm hopefully going to be further away and may be facing some one with garment layers and or fat to further impead the projectiles.

Remember if you are shooting it's a last resort and you are shooting to stop the threat, a large majority of people on having a verbal threat will flee / retreat, some it will take having a weapon leveled against them to give up, the rest take the application of force, while the shock of a wound may do it it's not considred reliable if it has come to that, they may be high on drugs or psycologically comitted to mayhem so that leaves us with CNS incapacitation or exsangunation through trama to the circulatory system. Those are the unpleasant facts of using deadly force to stop an agressor.

For anyone that is curious yes the SOB who did it got prosecuted and the dog ended up with one of the investigating officers.

March 29, 2007, 12:07 AM
I love the "Box O' Truth" and his tests do destroy many myths and misconceptions but I’m not overly worried about over-penetration. If he built his “walls” with a layer of insulation and 14-20ft apart I’d give the small pellet penetration tests more credence. 00 buck, slugs where I can reach them and my .40 S&W ugly plastic gun with a couple extra magazines for backup is my vote.

March 29, 2007, 01:34 PM
Another vote for #1 Buck inside the house.