View Full Version : HD Shells, Penetration or Spread

January 18, 2011, 01:02 PM
It seems that most discussions of HD ammo are all about penetration and little about pattern spread. I was looking at the sticky data and again most all of it measured the spread for buckshot, except for Al Thomposon's post in which he patterns birdshot from 1 to 5 yards from cylinder bore 20" 870.

1 y...........1.5
2 y...........3.3
3 y............5.5
4 y............7
5 y.............9

The spread for bird is slighly less than three times that of buck at 5 yards. (9inches vs. 3.25 inches)

So is it a smart idea for a homeowner to have the first round chambered for HD birdshot so as to make it more likely that the homeowner's first shot is a hit, even if it may not be fatal or is it going to do not more than just **** the bad guy off, assuming the homeowner may not be able to accurately place his shot under HD stress.

I am thinking that bird is too light since at 15 feet you are not likely going to have time to get off a second shot if the first doesn't stop your nocturnal visitor and he comes at you. if your first shot doesn't at least stop him for a quick count.

Al Thompson was patterning Remington's Heavy Field, 1 1/4 ozs #8s.

January 18, 2011, 01:53 PM
Think of your own home situation and how far is the longest possible shot and where would it most likely take place? If, for example, a hallway, versus a large "Great" room you might have an issue with spread. Personally, I use a handgun first with a shotgun second - either way, I am looking for penetration primarily - the objective is to stop the action.

January 18, 2011, 05:27 PM
Use slugs, no spread to worry about. Birdshot has taken guys down but most that are shot with it survive so if you choose to use it make it a large size like number 2.

January 18, 2011, 05:36 PM
I see several issues with slugs -

The main being cost - they're expensive - and if something is expensive, many people won't practice enough to become proficient with them

Added in is recoil - if they are not practicing because of the cost, then they are also not practicing and able to handle the recoil - something important when under duress from stress - and so they may, I repeat MAY, not be able to get on target for a second shot

If someone is willing to spend the time and money - go for it..............for most folks, practice with the low-recoil buck or even some really heavy bird - like goose loads- might be a more viable option IF they'll practice with it

January 18, 2011, 08:16 PM
Just returned from my second day on the range. A LEO recruit gave me some Remington buck and ball for HD. I call it that. I don't know if us ideal for my home but it was sure nice of him and I will try it out.

Any confrontation in my home is likely to be at 6 yards with the longest possible about 12 yards. I don't see spread as a problem but a benefit unless it is so great that you end up shooting around the target. I don't want slugs or heavy buck hitting the guy next door. I have thought about and rejected less lethal because I want the first hit to end the threat. I think I am talking about reduced recoil heavy birdshot. As I shoot a pump I don't have to worry about sufficient gas pressure to operate the action of a semi-auto.

January 18, 2011, 08:58 PM
I've got a 12gauge 870 loaded with Remington 20636 3" magnum 00 Buck. 15 x 8.4mm balls x 1225fps.

Sure it'll kick and be loud, but I'll be so jacked up on adrenaline I won't even care. Even if I miss the concussion and resulting chaos will be terrifying. :p Check out this article and choose for yourself. http://theboxotruth.com/docs/bot3_2.htm

btw, shooting 3" mags at the range are a BLAST!!! HAH!

Double Naught Spy
January 19, 2011, 02:45 AM
I am thinking that bird is too light since at 15 feet you are not likely going to have time to get off a second shot if the first doesn't stop your nocturnal visitor and he comes at you. if your first shot doesn't at least stop him for a quick count.

I don't think birdshot is a great idea either, but at 15 feet you should still have time to get off at least one more shot. Assuming he charges after the shot, then you would have about a second to deliver the next shots. If you are proficient with a pump gun, you can get off two more aimed shots in that time (yes, I know some of the professionals can do more, but we are talking about regular folks and not professionals, I am assuming).

With a semi-auto, you should be able to get off three shots in the second followng your first shot.

If the guy is already running at you and you shoot with he is 15 feet away, with a pump shotgun, you should still be able to get of a second shot before he reaches you and at least 2 with a semi-auto.

I don't want slugs or heavy buck hitting the guy next door.

I have a feeling that the structure of your home and that of your neighbor's home as well as distance away form yours are going to be a very relevant issue in determining what you think is safe enough to not harm your neighbor. I am assuming you won't be shooting your intruder where he is standing in front of a window through which you can see your neighbor's window.

I have thought about and rejected less lethal because I want the first hit to end the threat.

Of the various pellet sizes for shotguns, common/typical bird shot (6 or 8 size) is probably the least likely to get the desired result you seek. Bird shot in that size range only gets about 5" of penetration (http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.brassfetcher.com/Shotguns/Bird%25201%2520Side%2520View.JPG&imgrefurl=http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php%3Ft%3D381023&usg=__hEFA8nRhGR3TeUn1rM-J8yNtP-0=&h=1170&w=1479&sz=594&hl=en&start=0&sig2=8cehHxeJMUDo2G3geN3xfw&zoom=1&tbnid=Ta8pXOUfKzur1M:&tbnh=124&tbnw=166&ei=vZE2TfSQDMP_lgfEot3zAg&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dbird%2Bshot%2Bsize%2Bcomparison%2Bgel%2Btest%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox%26rlz%3D1I7TSNA_en___US361%26biw%3D1468%26bih%3D670%26tbs%3Disch:1&um=1&itbs=1&iact=rc&dur=431&oei=vZE2TfSQDMP_lgfEot3zAg&esq=1&page=1&ndsp=29&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0&tx=84&ty=67).

Size 4 bird shot gives about 7" (http://www.shadonet.com/?p=14).

markj suggested a compromise between bird and buck by going with size 2 bird shot. It will get you about 10" (http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://papercut.mercenariesguild.net/Wound/shot_2_rem_express_a.jpg&imgrefurl=http://thetruthaboutguns.com/2010/02/robert-farago/shotgun-penetration-with-various-rounds/&usg=__6PQnhh4epFZ70uT21VxVNj-LKOQ=&h=296&w=444&sz=32&hl=en&start=21&sig2=updx7uSW-AaYoxPG-Ly6sg&zoom=1&tbnid=2adWx60H-g_ZaM:&tbnh=172&tbnw=222&ei=XZI2TcfPCNLUgAfv_5yHBA&prev=/images%3Fq%3D%25232%2Bbird%2Bshot%2Bcomparison%2Bgel%2Btest%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox%26rlz%3D1I7TSNA_en___US361%26biw%3D1468%26bih%3D670%26tbs%3Disch:10%2C556&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=137&vpy=131&dur=4490&hovh=183&hovw=275&tx=81&ty=78&oei=VpI2TfvaE4KKlweX4JzKAg&esq=2&page=2&ndsp=19&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:21&biw=1468&bih=670).

BB shot (0.18" diameter) will get you out to about 11-13" and so fit fairly well with FBI 12" penetration criteria. So if you were wanting to put the guy down with your first shot, then you are a lot better off with using a shot size that will give you sufficient penetration to get the job done.

From there, the next step up might be #4 buckshot(0.24" diameter). It runs about 12-15" of penetration.

So you don't want to shoot your neighbor because of buckshot or slug overpenetratin. Do you envision having the same concern with .22 lr ammo? If not, the you might consider using BB or #4 buckshot as the pellets individually will be performing in the approximate same realm as .22 lr.


Dave McC
January 19, 2011, 08:01 AM
Birdshot is hardly ever the best option, rarely even a good one. So are maggie numb loads of buck.

Bird shot lacks penetration and smaller pellets spread too much at anything past contact range. Howitzer loads are costly, people do not practice enough with them to become proficient and the kick takes longer to overcome if subsequent shots are needed.

The experts tell me the most effective 12 gauge shotgun loads are reduced recoil 00, placed in the CNS with a spread of about 5". WE have to attain proficiency to make that happen.

Round counts make that happen, not the newest whizbang scattergun with all the gizmos bolted on it.

Double Naught Spy
January 19, 2011, 11:35 AM
The experts tell me the most effective 12 gauge shotgun loads are reduced recoil 00, placed in the CNS with a spread of about 5". WE have to attain proficiency to make that happen.

A lot of rounds placed in the CNS will give you good results, if they get into the CNS.

As for the 5" spread, that will likely take some nifty proficiency to attain in a self defense situation. That is going to mean being at the correct distance from the bad guy before shooting or adjusting the choke to give you a 5" spread for whatever distance the threat is from the muzzle.

I am just assuming here, but is the reduced recoil load considered best because it produces a better/more consistent pattern?

January 19, 2011, 11:44 AM
In the basic Winchester Super X I buy, the slugs are roughly the same price as 00 Buck so cost isn't really a factor.


January 19, 2011, 07:16 PM
why reduced recoil? If you actually have to shoot someone your adrenaline will be JACKED UP and you probably won't even notice it kick. Heck you very well may not even remember what happened!

January 19, 2011, 08:40 PM
For now I am will be using reduced recoil at the skeet range, because my shoulder is sore as hell having just begun shooting and likely not doing it right. That is for antother thread.

I want reduced recoil for HD to hopefully reduce hitting someone on the other side of the wall and to reduce time for getting off the next shot.

As I have yet to pick up some reduced recoil 00, but I suspect Dave McC knows of what he speaks. As is my HD load is the first 5 out of the tube is regular 00 buck and the 6th, should it ever be needed, is one of the Remington PDX1 shells a guy gave me, which IS reduced recoil. http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2009/12/03/winchester-pdx1-self-defense-shotshell-ammo/

As for adjusting the choke, there aint no stinking choke. I have an 18" cyllinder bore barrel.

January 20, 2011, 09:24 PM
If someone is so worried about spread and hitting the target, maybe they should just get some more practice or training instead of hoping for glancing shot with birdshot.

January 21, 2011, 09:33 AM
truth ;)

January 21, 2011, 09:42 AM
There was a rather poorly written article in this months Field and Stream about home defense loads for shotguns. The author made a point of stating that shotguns reduce the need to aim, and he seemed to favor a larger pattern at close ranges over a tighter one.

January 21, 2011, 11:34 AM
Kozak6. Training is paramount, but doesn't mean that one shouldn't optimize the likelihood of a hit under stressful circumstances by their choice of ammunition.

Rob228. That is my somehat my thought; ther utilizion of a load delivering the greatest spread commensurate with adequate stopping power; not to say that bird shot delivers adequate stopping power.

Isn't the needs for maximal aiming (pointing) skills is reduced to a degree by spread; not to neglect the need to achieve sufficient stopping power along with avoiding over penetration. Moreover, many do not have the time or resources to devote to maximizing their firearm skills, especially in a limited amount of time. Some are unable to achieve a high degree of targeting proficiency due to factors such as physical limitations. What are they to do to increase their ability to hit the bad guy until they can acquire maximum skill shooting skill and should a threat present itself a few days after their purchase of a weapon, they still need to put the threat down even if they only had the opportunity to put a modest amount of shot down range.

Also keep in mind the fact that, mistakenly or not, some only acquire a weapon upon learning of the existence of a real threat and the inability of law enforcement to do a great deal until the threat is acted upon, which may be too late. Under such a scenario, the individual may have to deal with a BG before they have the most minimal target time. (Especially given my state's 10 day waiting period from the time of purchase until the weapon is released to you.)

This is not to say that I am advocating bird shot and I am leaning to something not much smaller, if smaller, than 00 buck.

January 21, 2011, 03:09 PM
Birdshot is for birds. If you're worried that much about hitting with a scattergun you should probably be training A LOT more.

January 21, 2011, 07:24 PM
Winchester PDX

Scattergun Bob
January 21, 2011, 08:31 PM
Isn't the needs for maximal aiming (pointing) skills is reduced to a degree by spread;

This is a difficult subject. For many years I had the task of teaching shotgun tactics. It was very difficult to impress the point the the closer the threat is to you the greater the chance to miss. Simple patterning of one's scattergun will enlighten you to this fact. Unless you have a atypical house floor plan, 2 to 5 inches of pattern is the common. IMO with those patterns aiming the scattergun is IMPORTANT.

The only way I know of adding pattern dispersal to this equation is to use square shot, and then a whole new set of variables occur.

Good Luck & Be Safe

January 22, 2011, 08:57 AM
No birdshot in my HD shotgun.

Six rounds of reduced recoil 00 buck in my scattergun gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Dave McC
January 22, 2011, 09:01 AM
A couple things.....

Greater spread means a greater chance of SOME shot missing the target. This not only can endanger innocents, but reduces the energy transferred to the target. While close range buck loads have energy to spare, it makes sense to get the max amount of energy where it counts.

R/R loads trade a slight loss of energy for generally tighter patterns and faster subsequent shots.An acceptable trade off, IMO.

1 buck may be where the lines for pellet count and size cross on the graph. However, so far in my limited tests I've not found a load that patterns as well as several loads here of 00.

One shotgun here is stoked with 4 buck. The rest kept loaded have a proven load of R/R 00. The exception is at ground level and the use environment has a max distance of 30 feet. Had I not been given a mess of it that shotgun would be full of 00 also. If things go south generally and I may need to militia up and help protect the 'hood, it'll get swapped to 00 PDQ.

And that last is definitely a factor, or should be. We cannot predict the time, place or distance of our next firefight. So, we should prepare for the worst case.

Every Home Defense shotgun is also a Community Defense shotgun.

Finally, measure the width of your torso where it is broadest. Chance are, it will be somewhere around 15". Don't you think that whatever gun, choke and load you use, it should pattern within that width at least inside your house?

January 23, 2011, 12:05 AM
Some people, rightly or wrongly, advocate the use of AR-15's or pistol caliber carbines for home defense.

How do they possibly deal with a distinct lack of spread?

January 23, 2011, 12:24 AM
I don't depend on my 870 for HD because it shoots in a spread pattern. At the range I would be using it, it would be like shooting a pistol or something. I use it because it brings DEVASTATING firepower to the table, the shot has a greater chance of staying inside the house structure, being up against shotguns terrify perps, and if I run out of ammo I can still knock someones head off with the buttstock. :p