Birdshot for home defense--Another look


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frayluisfan
December 21, 2006, 06:06 PM
Hi, All.

A while ago, there was a thread that dealt with birdshot for home defense. A lot of ink was spilled on that thread, and I thought I'd throw out the results of some experiments that I have run as a result of reading it. One point that some people raised was the concern that birdshot would not penetrate. One poster even went so far as to say that he'd feel more comfortable with a .22 pistol than with a shotgun with birdshot. So I have done a few experiments--with what materials I have on hand, obviously, since I don't have access to ballistic gelatin.

***PROVISO*** The following is referring to birdshot ONLY at across-the-living-room distances, i.e., 10 yards or less. This is an effort to answer the question of whether birdshot would be useful as a last-ditch home defense tool, specifically against people IN THE HOUSE. If that's all you have, should you use it or just flee?

1. milk jugs filled with water. Since tissue is around 75-80% water, water can serve as a useful approximation. Obviously not as close as ballistic gelatin, but a lot cheaper. :) Anyway, I lined up a series of milk jugs filled with water, and shot them at a range of 5 yards with a variety of self defense loads. Hollow points from 9mm, .357, 10mm, and .44 magnum were used. Then I tried a 12 gauge with birdshot. Result-->Birdshot penetrated slightly less than other rounds: 2 milk jugs with bird shot as opposed to 3-4 with others. However, the damage to the first milk jug was dramatically different. The most powerful pistol HPs split the first jug and sometimes even the second, while birdshot shredded the first one, penetrated the second.

2. 1/2 inch plywood. Plywood was shot with birdshot at about 5 yards. Birdshot penetrated the plywood and sent chunks of plywood flying backwards. (I think the human sternum is about this thick. Can anyone correct me?)

3. Sopping wet phonebooks. Again, a crude attempt to approximate tissue. Similar to the milk jugs, birdshot penetrated about 2/3 of what pistol rounds did, but did far more damage.

Observations: Seems that *at very close range* we could expect penetration to be a bit less than some pistol HPs, but the plywood test especially ought to lay to rest the concern about whether birdshot across the living room would just create a flesh wound.

My conclusion: If I know someone is breaking down the door and I have a minute or so to get ready to repel boarders, I would feel much better starting the festivities with my semi-auto 12 gauge with 3 rounds of birdshot than any pistol. There is no question in my mind that _at that range_ birdshot does more damage than any pistol round I've seen, regardless of the test medium. The semi auto and the controllability of a shotgun mean that I can deliver more lead, more accurately and faster than with any pistol I own.

What do you think?

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bogie
December 21, 2006, 06:08 PM
At social distances, the "birdshot" hasn't begun to spread out yet. You're looking at something that's more like a 1 ounce glaser...

Anyone who recommends jacketed ammo for that sort of thing lives by themselves, and has never lived in an apartment.

Vern Humphrey
December 21, 2006, 06:14 PM
It depends -- I.ve done similar experiments. With the 20" cylinder Deerslayer barrel (smoothbore) my Ithaca Model 37 is not capable of producing effective patterns at even across-the-room ranges. Birdshot in this gun, even at very short ranges, would not be the optimum choice.

If I mount the 26" barrel and the full choke, number 8 shot will produce the "bloody rat hole" at as much as 30 feet.

To those who want to use birdshot, I advise, test the gun first.

Franco2shoot
December 21, 2006, 06:29 PM
For years, when I would have to be out of town and leave self defense to my wife, I would tell her, that if awakened by an intruder, lock the bedroom door turn on the lights & call the Police on her cell. Drop 2 into the 12 Guage (I keep #8's in the night stand and the shotgun is easy to pull out from under the bed.) And yell out "The cops are on the way". My feeling was that even the untrained would be able to pull the trigger if the door was knocked down and that at 10 feet, any bad guy would be stopped dead in his tracks.

I can replace anything they would want to steal, but her welfare and safety would be reliant on heavy duty lead..

The only problem I see with leaving such a fortification is that carrying a 26" barrel down the hall would not be sensible since it could be easily pulled away from her. I have read that the best hand gun for a woman is a snub nose for the very same reason and it makes sense to me.


KKKKFL

Jim K
December 21, 2006, 06:35 PM
There are two claims connected with use of birdshot in home defense.

One claim made for birdshot is that it cannot over-penetrate and injure family members in another room. My tests with birdshot and two "walls" of 1/2" drywall show that this is not true.

Another claim is that birdshot "fills the room with a cloud of shot" so that the shooter can't miss and has no need to aim and can just point the gun in the general direction of the target. Another myth. True, the shot spread is larger than any single bullet, but it is far from "a cloud of shot."

Another thing to consider in using a shotgun for home defense is that the cleanup will be a lot tougher; the disruption will be greater and the residue of a shooting will be more extensive. The up side is that using a sporting shotgun looks much better to the police than stitching the guy up with and MP5 or blowing him away with an AR-15.

Jim

Vern Humphrey
December 21, 2006, 06:45 PM
There are two claims connected with use of birdshot in home defense.

One claim made for birdshot is that it cannot over-penetrate and injure family members in another room. My tests with birdshot and two "walls" of 1/2" drywall show that this is not true.

Another claim is that birdshot "fills the room with a cloud of shot" so that the shooter can't miss and has no need to aim and can just point the gun in the general direction of the target. Another myth. True, the shot spread is larger than any single bullet, but it is far from "a cloud of shot."

you are absolutely right on both counts. As I said above, test your gun. And test it with a false wall as you suggested. Know what your gun will do, and plan your defense accordingly.

The advantage of a shotgun in such situations is not that "the shot spreads" but that it was designed for point shooting. If you hold the gun properly, you have three points -- your two hands (which are separated) and your eye with a good cheek weld. Shotguns are designed to shoot where you look -- and handguns are definitely not designed that way.

I also point out that if it comes to it, and you have to hold an intruder at gunpoint, your teeth will be chattering and your knees knocking. If you are holding a small handgun, you are sending a message "You might be able to take this gun away from me."

If you are holding a shotgun, the message is, "One wrong move and this damn' thing will go off.";)

Odd Job
December 21, 2006, 06:47 PM
Close range birdshot is no joke.
But here is the problem: it has to be really close. I would say rat-hole close.

ArmedBear
December 21, 2006, 06:52 PM
One claim made for birdshot is that it cannot over-penetrate and injure family members in another room. My tests with birdshot and two "walls" of 1/2" drywall show that this is not true.

True. It won't have nearly as much energy or lethality after going through a wall or two as a .357 round will, however. And if Dick Cheney's hunting buddy had been hit with a .357 at that distance, he wouldn't have a head any more.

Another claim is that birdshot "fills the room with a cloud of shot"

We're assuming that people here actually know some tiny little thing about guns, so that's not a claim we need to discuss, except to note that it's not true, and that if it were true, trapshooting wouldn't be a sport.:)

Another thing to consider in using a shotgun for home defense is that the cleanup will be a lot tougher;

There's already a lot of birdshot under my furniture and in the corners of my house. So I guess reloaders can disregard this warning.:D Except for the blood and guts... Of course, if there are guts everywhere, I think we would assume that birdshot IS, indeed, effective anti-murderer medicine. If my wife and kid are alive and well when they otherwise wouldn't be, cleanup is the least of my worries.

The up side is that using a sporting shotgun looks much better to the police than stitching the guy up with and MP5 or blowing him away with an AR-15.

...especially here in California.

Here's what I'd be more concerned with. An old couple shot a couple of thugs who broke into their home and threatened them a few years ago. I think it's here somewhere. One thug had a gun, and I think he died at the scene. The other thug did not die, but the old couple thought he had, so they told 911 that there was no rush.

The live thug's family sued, because he might not have been as messed up if he'd have gotten to the hospital earlier. "Who cares?" I say, since he was a thug who was going to take part in killing old people in their own home. Well, while that may count in criminal court, that doens't count for much in civil court.

The dead thug was shot by the woman, with a 9mm pistol. The live thug was hit a couple times with the old man's favorite goose load, since he had a shotgun.

Either way, I wouldn't refrain from using birdshot to defend my family from a killer. However, I would expect it to have limitations. And I do live in a condo, so I am concerned about the neighbors, too.

Vern Humphrey
December 21, 2006, 06:56 PM
But here is the problem: it has to be really close. I would say rat-hole close.

True. But I have a pretty good-sized house (around 4,400 square feet.) And while I can find places where I could shoot more than 15 feet, I really have to try to get my self in such a position -- and the intruder has to cooperate with me.

If I have my 26-inch barrel and full choke, there is literally no way, including diagonally across the 2-car garage, that I get so far I can't produce a bloody rathole.

AK-74me
December 21, 2006, 07:06 PM
Any of you ever test birdshot on an object, any object covered with say a heavy coat to see what difference it makes? Just a question I am interested in hearing the results of.

ArmedBear
December 21, 2006, 07:07 PM
What's a heavy coat?

AK-74me
December 21, 2006, 07:10 PM
I guess you wouldn't know that huh?

I guess there are a few good things about CA.

Jim K
December 21, 2006, 07:11 PM
The "fills the room with a cloud of shot" claim was made, in print, in - of all places - Gun Tests Magazine. Obviously, they didn't test that, just got carried away by their own rhetoric.

Jim

ArmedBear
December 21, 2006, 07:14 PM
The "fills the room with a cloud of shot" claim was made, in print, in - of all places - Gun Tests Magazine.

What issue? I'd like to read that when I get home!

The only thing that has filled my living room with a cloud of shot was when I bumped into an old and brittle shot bottle on my Mec Sizemaster and dumped a half-pound of 7.5 on a hardwood floor.

Months later, we're STILL finding pellets. I don't know where the hell they hide!:D

Vern Humphrey
December 21, 2006, 07:17 PM
Any of you ever test birdshot on an object, any object covered with say a heavy coat to see what difference it makes? Just a question I am interested in hearing the results of.

With the full choke and number 8 shot, my Ithaca will penetrate an old blanket and two 1/4" layers of plywood at 15 feet. I would definitely not want to put my trust in a blanket if someone were shooting at me at that range.

AK-74me
December 21, 2006, 07:20 PM
With the full choke and number 8 shot, my Ithaca will penetrate an old blanket and two 1/4" layers of plywood at 15 feet. I would definitely not want to put my trust in a blanket if someone were shooting at me at that range.

Nor would I but I would be intrested in finding out if it would turn an otherwise lethal shot into just a flesh wound.

bogie
December 21, 2006, 07:20 PM
Campers, if the first shot outta Mr. Twelve doesn't do the trick, there's this concept called "escalation of ammunition."

In our test, a "wall sample" stopped darn near 100% of a #8 light trap load at 5-7 paces. There were a coupla little holes, but nothing major. There was a 6-8" ragged hole going in. I would NOT want to be standing in front of it.

From #6 shot up, you had a LOT of shot going all the way through.

My first round is a AA featherweight, and after that it's #4 buck...

If I need a deer slug on a home intruder, I'm just gonna start lookin' for crosses and stakes...

ArfinGreebly
December 21, 2006, 07:25 PM
Thanks for the review and test.

In my own situation, I have too much open space, with distances of well over 30 feet, for certain (most?) kinds of birdshot.

For my own reasons, I'll probably stick with the carbine.

That said, I can certainly see the viability of birdshot up close.

One would note, of course, that the BG, seeing a shotgun, won't know it's not 00-buck until it's fired. If you don't actually have to fire, as far as he's concerned, it's a cannon.

Nothing quite like looking down the barrel of a cavern large enough to park your VW.

rustymaggot
December 21, 2006, 07:29 PM
not this argument again. we love our dead horses dont we.

bird shot is only acceptable for hd use when you want to limit penetration for whatever reason. IF you chose birdshot you have to accept that it may not do the job as effectively as buckshot.

as far as the .22 over birdshot comment, i figure a clip of .22lr is better than a single shot of bird. but id take 5 shots of bird over a clip of .22lr (indoor distances only, .22lr all the way if the bad guys farther than 15 feet).

JohnBT
December 21, 2006, 07:44 PM
That's a magazine, not a clip. And yes, we do love our dead horses. ;)

Number 12 shot might produce a cloud in a room with around 2400 pellets to the ounce.

John

ArmedBear
December 21, 2006, 07:45 PM
Whatever happened to "one shell with rock salt, two goose loads, two buckshot?"

griz
December 21, 2006, 08:02 PM
Iím still not convinced that bird shot is effective at anything but very close range, but I applaud anybody who goes to the trouble of doing their own tests. We just have come to different conclusions from the same sort of results. Then again, my closest neighbor is probably safe from anything I can fire, so please donít take my comments as overly critical.

bogie
December 21, 2006, 08:09 PM
If they're in my house, it's close range. Furthest distance away on any sightline would be about 30' or so... Birdshot is more than adequate, as I cower in my bedroom with 911 on the line, telling the operator to relay to the cops who are pulling up that they really shouldn't shoot the naked fat guy with the beard and the shotgun...

Vern Humphrey
December 21, 2006, 08:23 PM
Nor would I but I would be intrested in finding out if it would turn an otherwise lethal shot into just a flesh wound.

My tests indicate that there is a wide range of performance from shotguns. With the 20" cylinder bore, a thick blanket might well protect you. With the 26" full choke, no.

So I think each of us should make his own tests with his own gun, and make his decision in the light of the results. For myself, I use 00 buck in the chamber, followed by slugs.

marksman13
December 21, 2006, 08:41 PM
I have no doubt that my Mossberg 835 with the extra full turkey choke and 3 or 3 1/2 inch turkey loads in #4 shot will make any one entering my house have a very bad day. That said, I would probably reach for my SA-XD 45 first.;)

hockeybum
December 21, 2006, 08:46 PM
if you shot me with anything from 10 yards or less, i assure you i would go down. now as to you supermen...

mpmarty
December 21, 2006, 08:46 PM
My six rounds in the twelve are always 3 inch #4 buck magnums. Around here, bird shot won't even drop birds reliably from an 18" open bore barrel unless the bird perches on the muzzle.

Hardtarget
December 21, 2006, 08:57 PM
For several years I loaded my shotgun in the "it gets meaner and nastier" as it goes method.
The first two were #8 light loads.
1.5 oz #4/BB duplex heavy turkey load.
#4 buck.
00 buck.
00 buck.
slug.
slug.
I changed a few years ago to first two #4 buck, then six of 00 buck.
I've never had to use it. Its just there.
Mark.

AK-74me
December 21, 2006, 09:00 PM
if you shot me with anything from 10 yards or less, i assure you i would go down. now as to you supermen...

You obviously have never seen that video of the cop pulling over a former boxer, the ex-boxer takes two shots point blank through the belly from the cops service pistol then procedes to whip the crap out of the cop for the next 5 mins until back-up arrives. After being shot, yes everyone will eventually go down. The question is how long do they have to do damage after they are shot.

CWL
December 21, 2006, 09:34 PM
Right this minute, most of the USA is colder than a witch's t--.

I wouldn't rely on birdshot to penetrate any winter garment.

Shifty
December 21, 2006, 10:18 PM
a shot cloud NEVER acts as a solid mass. even by the time it reaches the end of the barrel it has spread apart ever so slightly. granted a point blank blast will be very devestating, but at 10 feet much less so.

those dozens or hundreds of miniscule lightweight pellets all carry their own individual inertial force. they will all react independently of each other when it comes to penetration. the ones that hit an area already occupied by another portion of shot will be deflected.

basic physics.

think about a situation where you have to use a shotgun for self defense. do you really want to add another what-if to that scenario?? why gamble with the primary task at hand? prioritize.

Alexfubar
December 21, 2006, 11:17 PM
This is way too complicated. My Mossburg 500 with improved cylinder choke has 5 rounds of 00B. An elastic buttstock sleeve holds 5 more. It has slept under the mattress for years , I only shoot it every once in a great while. I play with a Rem870 for fun shooting.

If that doesn't do enough , it'll get me to my AR15.

I live in a house , not an apartment building , horsehair plaster , oak slat , insulation , 1-1/4 sheathing and clapboards for exterior walls. if I wreck both sides of the wall , it's me who has to fix it , but somehow I doubt that'll be my biggest worry by then.

Soybomb
December 21, 2006, 11:29 PM
I don't want to suggest that we reinvent the wheel, but it seems like this wet phone books and plywood shooting may well be fun but we know that properly calibrated ballistics gel is a better simulant of a bullet's performance in tissue. There are alot of these tests already out there from birdshot. Most of the birdshot I see kicking around is the cheap stuff and usually pretty small. Even #4 birdshot only penetrated 6.5 inches http://www.tacticalshotgun.ca/ballistics_shotgun.html

Number 1 birdshot wouldn't be my first choice but I'd choose it before a sharp stick. I think the better question would be why use birdshot if you have other options that are assured to penetrate to vital organs?

Dionysusigma
December 21, 2006, 11:30 PM
Or we could just write the whole argument off as silly, and get Kevlar wallpaper. :)


:evil:

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