#1 Buckshot For Defense


January 4, 2008, 09:37 PM
Greetings People,

I am in the process of researching a new shotgun for myself and during my web browsing I happened upon a very informative article about defensive shotgun loads.

The full article is found here:

I found it interesting that the best defensive ballistics were found to be with #1 Buckshot instead of the 00 with which I am more familiar.

If this info is already common knowledge here, I apologize. I didn't have time to do a proper search before posting tonight.

Be well,

Here are a few paragraphs from the article...

"12 Gauge Shotshell Ammunition
For personal defense and law enforcement applications, the International Wound Ballistics Association advocates number 1 buckshot as being superior to all other buckshot sizes.

Number 1 buck is the smallest diameter shot that reliably and consistently penetrates more than 12 inches of standard ordnance gelatin when fired at typical shotgun engagement distances. A standard 2 -inch 12 gauge shotshell contains 16 pellets of #1 buck. The total combined cross sectional area of the 16 pellets is 1.13 square inches. Compared to the total combined cross sectional area of the nine pellets in a standard #00 (double-aught) buck shotshell (0.77 square inches), the # 1 buck shotshell has the capacity to produce over 30 percent more potentially effective wound trauma.

In all shotshell loads, number 1 buckshot produces more potentially effective wound trauma than either #00 or #000 buck. In addition, number 1 buck is less likely to over-penetrate and exit an attacker's body.

For home defense applications a standard velocity 2 -inch #1 buck shotshell (16 pellet payload) from Federal, Remington or Winchester is your best choice. We feel the Federal Classic 2 -inch #1 buck load (F127) is slightly better than the same loads offered by Remington and Winchester. The Federal shotshell uses both a plastic shot cup and granulated plastic shot buffer to minimize post-ignition pellet deformation, whereas the Remington and Winchester loads do not.

Second best choice is Winchester's 2 -inch Magnum #1 buck shotshell, which is loaded with 20 pieces of copper-plated, buffered, hardened lead #1 buckshot. For those of you who are concerned about a tight shot pattern, this shotshell will probably give you the best patterning results in number 1 buck. This load may not be a good choice for those who are recoil sensitive.

Third choice is any standard or reduced recoil 2 -inch #00 lead buckshot load from Winchester, Remington or Federal.

If you choose a reduced recoil load or any load containing hardened Magnum #00 buckshot you increase the risk of over-penetration because these innovations assist in maintaining pellet shape integrity. Round pellets have better sectional density for deeper penetration than deformed pellets.

Fourth choice is any 2 -inch Magnum shotshell that is loaded with hardened, plated and buffered #4 buckshot. The Magnum cartridge has the lowest velocity, and the lower velocity will help to minimize pellet deformation on impact. The hardened buckshot and buffering granules also help to minimize pellet deformation too. These three innovations help to maximize pellet penetration. Number 4 hardened buckshot is a marginal performer. Some of the hardened buckshot will penetrate at least 12 inches deep and some will not.

20 Gauge Shotshell Ammunition Recommendations
We're unaware of any ammunition company who offers a 20 gauge shotshell that is loaded with #1 buckshot. The largest shot size commercially available that we know of is number 2 buck.

From a strict wound ballistics standpoint, we feel the Federal Classic 3-inch 20 gauge Magnum number 2 buckshot cartridge is the best choice. It contains 18 pellets of number 2 buckshot in a plastic shotcup with granulated plastic shot buffer.

However, the Federal Classic load might produce too much recoil for some people. Given this consideration, Remington's Premier Buckshot 2 -inch 20 gauge number 3 buckshot cartridge is the next best choice. This load contains 20 pieces of nickel-plated, hardened lead shot that is buffered to reduce pellet deformation from post ignition acceleration and terminal impact. The Remington buckshot load will probably produce the tightest shot patterns in 20 gauge shotguns.

Third place is Winchester's 3-inch 20 gauge Magnum number 3 buckshot cartridge, which contains 24 pieces of buffered, copper-plated, hardened lead shot."

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January 4, 2008, 09:40 PM
I always heard that #4 was better as it didn't tend to over-penetrate in a home defense situation yet was big enough to have the needed stopping power. Interesting.

January 4, 2008, 10:03 PM
In my experience #1 buckshot spreads much faster than 00 (and that's bad IMO). 00 seems to be a very good size for 12 guage shotguns.

January 4, 2008, 10:06 PM
Just today, my local gunshop told me: "Use birdshot. It'll turn anyone into hamburger and won't go thru walls in your house." This dude wears a white cowboy hat and has other "image" issues.

January 4, 2008, 10:40 PM
double tap

January 4, 2008, 10:41 PM
ummm...... how about this.

Buy (or make) an bunch of different types. Pattern them at your range at the max shooting distance you woudl expect to encouter in your home + a yard or so for good measure.

Pick the flavor that 1) patterns best 2) allows you to control the shotugn to give you the quickest follow up shots 3) fits whatever other critiera you have (e.g. overpenetration issues, able to used effectively by other memebers of the house in your absence, etc. etc.)

Then go with the one brand of flavor that gets a big check mark in all the boxes of your rating sheet.

Buy a bunch of that flavor and then BA/UU/R periodically, not just you but everyone else in the home that you expect might have to defend hearth and home in your absence.

January 4, 2008, 10:45 PM
One final thought.

Mrs Scout and my daughter have 20ga Mossberg Bantam 500's. Their load of choice is a reloaded 20ga Federal Top Gun hull with 18 - #4 shot over a SP-20 wad pushed by 25.0 grains of Blue Dot ignited by a Fed 209 primer.

No one has yet to volunteer to prove that these loads are less/ineffective then 00 or #1 buck.

Owen Sparks
January 4, 2008, 11:42 PM
I have done rather extensive testing and find #1 is indeed superior. Select the 2 3/4" 16 pellet load though, with buckshot "magnum" means more shot, not more velocity.

January 5, 2008, 12:07 AM
Just to add to the discussion: Whatever everyone chooses for themselves, I am always amused to read people mention 'tighter choke'. You gotta ask yourself... what is the longest distance that you can even shoot inside your house.

In the case of a moving target that can harm you back, I prefer a pattern that is a little large rather than 10yard birdshot small. If I hit him that would cause harm, but I first want to be sure that the target is hit.

I don't know how many of you have ever tried to shoot a moving target in near darkness under high stress, but it ain't like shooting fish in a barrel.

January 5, 2008, 12:38 AM
It seems the only reason people recommend #1 Buck is because you can get 16 pellets in a 2 3/4 shell. I stick with 3" 00 buck shells and I have 15 pellets about the size of a 9mm shell.

Both rounds are going to be effective, but for penetration, wound size, and pellet amount, I'll take my 3" 00 buck over 2 3/4" #1 buck.

I didn't see that they even tested the 3" 00 buck shells in the 12 gauge.

January 5, 2008, 01:10 AM
2 3/4 00 = 9 pellets
2 3/4 #1 = 16 pellets

2 3/4 baby magnum 00 = 12 pellets
2 3/4 baby magnum #1 = 20 pellets

3" magnum 00 = 15 pellets
3" magnum #1 = 24 pellets

It all depends on what your gun likes and patterns best. So try different loads with different choke combinations and let your gun tell you the one with the best patern.

In my experience on deer, a tight patern of either is devestating to the animal.

Another observation, a tight patern of buckshot is most consistantly centered using rife sights on the shotgun, instead of just the bead.

If you insist on using bird shot, then step up to the old lead BB goose load (they call it a turkey load now). This way you will have some range to your gun, but buckshot gives you more versatility in killing your enemy.

Dont play with reduced loads, more shot is better than less. If recoil is a problem step back to a CAR-15 with 30 round clip.

January 5, 2008, 01:15 AM
Actually up close "birdshot" especially the larger sizes bb, 2 & 4 are outstanding home defence loads.

January 5, 2008, 02:29 AM
I use a 2 3/4" shell in my shotgun for HD and the rounds are either 00 Buck or 0 Buck. The only reason I have single 0 Buckshot is someone gave me 10 boxes of the stuff and I figured there really isn't much of a difference between the two. 00 Buck has .33 Cal projectiles whereas 0 Buck has .32 Cal projectiles. Not a big difference at all. Now, considering #1 Buck uses .30 Cal projectiles I highly doubt there would be much difference there either but I would rather a .33/.32 Cal projectile. I wouldn't go out of my way to find #1 Buckshot to use at home. I'm not comfortable with the .24 Cal size balls used in #4 Buckshot though but I live in a single family home with very old and thick walls, not wall boards.

Anything below BB size Birdshot is smaller that a .17 Cal bullet and I would not be comfortable at all using it against a person size target. IMO that's way too small for HD especially if the BG is wearing a Leather coat. I don't think the projectiles have enough kinetic energy to penetrate deep enough to do any internal damage.

January 5, 2008, 11:35 AM
Actually up close "birdshot" especially the larger sizes bb, 2 & 4 are outstanding home defence loads.

Yeah if you are 3 or 4 feet away. Otherwise, not really a man stopper.

We had a few people in our neck of the woods that were shot with birdshot at point blank range in the Trolley Square shootings, and 4 of them lived. One guy had 70+ pellets in him and he still was able to walk to a restaurant and tell people to call the cops and barricade the door.

I wouldn't bank on birdshot unless I was very, very, very close. Kind of defeats the purpose if you can't get them from a bit of a distance, don't you think.

January 5, 2008, 11:54 AM
I patterned #000, #00 and #1 shot from my Mossberg 590A1 and found that the spreads for #00 were consistently the best for work inside of 25 yards. Interestingly enough, the #1 and #000 spreads were both far to large for what I wanted.

Jorg Nysgerrig
January 5, 2008, 11:57 AM
Actually up close "birdshot" especially the larger sizes bb, 2 & 4 are outstanding home defence loads.

The longest shot in my house of 46 feet. Close, but not too close. Likewise, I live in a climate where people tend to wear heavy winter jackets with sweaters underneath more than a couple months of the year. While I have no doubt that #6 shot will stop a guy across the room wearing a hoodie, I don't know what it will do at 46 feet against heavy winter clothes, particularly a heavy leather jacket. If it comes down to the unlikely event I have to defend myself in my home, I don't think I'm going be able to pick the interloper's wardrobe or where he chooses to stand. If someone can show me some data on birdshot at the 40-50 feet range against thickly clothed bad guys, I'd welcome it. Unfortunately, almost all the recommendations for birdshot seem to think I'm going up against a man in a t-shirt in the same room as me. While I would love to think I have that much control over circumstances, I just don't think that'll happen.

January 5, 2008, 12:03 PM
Just to add to the discussion: Whatever everyone chooses for themselves, I am always amused to read people mention 'tighter choke'. You gotta ask yourself... what is the longest distance that you can even shoot inside your house.

Glad I'm good for some amusement. The longest shot inside the house is an honest 15 yards. However, I use a buckshot pattern that will easily keep all 9 00 pellets on a chest size target at 25 yards (my max range before switching to slugs). Sometimes bad things happen outside and a reduced penetration solution (compared to a serious rifle) is desirable in a residential neighborhood.

An extra couples inches of spread up close limit the useful range. Also, if 2 inches of additional spread make the difference between a hit or miss then they are likely marginal hits anyway. Those are unlikely to stop the intruder immediately and really don't count IMO.

I have some wolf 12 pellet 00 buckshot if I ever need a "spreader" buckshot load. Those pellets are soft lead, unbuffered, spread fast, and have 12 vs. 9 pellets. I bought those mainly to loan to other people (along with a shotgun) should the need arise.

January 5, 2008, 12:14 PM
For what its worth, when I worked a road camp in the North Carolina Dept. of Corrections back in the 70's, the shotgun load for both towers & armed escort of work crews was #4 buck ...


January 5, 2008, 03:41 PM
Actually up close "birdshot" especially the larger sizes bb, 2 & 4 are outstanding home defence loads.

The irony of birdshot is that people pick it precisely because of it's poor penetration. It generally won't pass through 2 sheets of drywall, so what effect will it really have on a determined attacker? I guess if one lives in a thin-walled apartment, birdshot or BB is about the best you can do. Now, I'm sure that the wound birdshot creates is pretty gruesome and highly lethal, but I'm not so certain it would incapacitate someone quickly enough. I'm no expert by any means, but from most of what I've gleamed, the effectiveness of birdshot is heavily dependent on the mindset of the BG. If the intruder in your home is already jumpy/nervous/frightened, birdshot will most likely have a decisive result. However, if he's dedicated and/or hopped up on drugs or painkillers, there is a good chance birdshot won't work quickly enough.

I personally choose to stick with buckshot, particularly the load which produces the tightest, most consistent pattern. Federal Tacticle 2 3/4" 00 buck seems to be a good choice for many shotguns. The make a similar reduced recoil load in #4. I don't think any reduced recoil #1 load exists.

#1 buck may well be fine, but it is darned near impossible to find it locally.

Fred Fuller
January 5, 2008, 04:05 PM
Welcome aboard, DLibrizzi. I hope you won't let a little good-natured ribbing get you down. All most of us want to do is help out a little, really. So here we go-

Ahhh, theory strikes again, in search of the ever-elusive "best".

I too have done extensive testing with a number of 12 gauge shotguns and loads. And I have discovered I don't own a single shotgun that will pattern worth a darn with theoretically superior #1 buckshot. It seems that 00 works better out of my guns. And so I use 00 when buckshot is called for. Perhaps someday I will own a barrel that likes #1 and can take advantage of all its inherent superiority. Until then I will use what my guns shoot best- 00.

When I took my first hunter safety class in high school waaaaaaay back in the late 1960s or so, the instructor talked about the very same advantages possessed by #1 buck. But I couldn't get it to pattern well then either. 00 just did better. I'd rather go with what works on patterning paper than trust in the thoretical advantages of something else because some internet expert says I should.

YMMV of course.

BA/UU/R... 8^)


(Buy Ammo/Use Up/Repeat, is what that means. In other words, the truth is in the shooting. The learning is in the shooting. The skill is in the shooting. SO GO SHOOT!)

January 5, 2008, 07:27 PM
I start with #4 to warm it up for the first three and then move up to slugs if needed but I am carrying six. Normal police load that I am familiar with is alternated 00 and slug. #1 buck and #4 are good. Birdshot is known for underpenetration so think about the third round being at least 00 buck.

Average Joe
January 5, 2008, 07:57 PM
I always used #1 buck, 16 pellets of .30 cal. are more to my liking.

January 5, 2008, 08:10 PM
+1 for learning what works best in your particular tool.

ALSO, when you start to experiment, keep in mind that longer-barrel and tighter choke does not always equal tighter patterns, especially with the larger sized shot.

I patterned my Browning BPS (26 inch barrel) with each of the 5 chokes I had available and the "cylinder bore" (aka zero choke) tube ended up with the best pattern with 00.

In my 18 inch Benelli, I had no choice but to go with what the barrel had (no threads for tubes yet) and its "Improved Cylinder". The bizzare thing is at 25 yards, the Benelli ended up with a more consistent pattern and tighter density of hits in the center mass areas.

So, as several have already mentioned, experiment with different loads, and any of the variations you have available to you until you find the "best" for your particular tool. (That's the fun part any way!)

January 5, 2008, 08:25 PM
The largest amount of wounded tissue will be with the smallest shot that penetrates deep enough.

#1 buck is the smallest shot that penetrates 12 inches in ballistic gelatic(not bone and muscle) and therefore would wound the most tissue while reaching vitals. That is because 12 inches of balistic gel has become a standard.

Think of it in terms of area. If 16 .30 pellets spread out they would total 4.8 inches. Penetrating 12" they would total 57.6 inches of tissue damage.

Since the human torso is only so deep, and you really only need to go half way through the torso to reach vitals additional unnecessary penetration would be at the expense of less potential damage to the most important targets.
They may say 12" of ballistic gel, but that equates to about 8" or so with ribs and muscle tissue.
That still is going to be 38.4 inches of destruction.

Now take 00 buck.
9 .33 caliber balls. That gives you a surface area of 2.97 inches (compared to the 4.8 of #1) The 00 buck will penetrate deeper, but most of that additional penetration is wasted and unnecessary, meaning it will in fact result in less total tissue damage of the important organs.

However if there is a greater distance, or barriers such as thick clothing, thin wall, household items, car door etc in the way then some of the energy of the round will be used by the time it reaches the target meaning it will have less penetration. While #1 buck would no longer perform adequately in that situation 00 buck would still be reasonably effective.

Larger pellets also retain energy longer in flight, and are less effected by the wind and other factors. This means at medium ranges (for a shotgun) 00 buck will perform better.

All of these factors play a role. Do you intend lightly clothed intruders at close range with no cover? Or do you want something more general purpose?
00 buck is the standard police load because it is a better general purpose round that will be effective in a larger number of scenarios.

By default many others have adopted what the police use because they figure if "they use it" then it must be the best load for them. While that may or may not be true, it still leaves them with a versatile and effective load.
These factors have made 00 buck the most common and therefore affordable load as well.

Either choice is fine. They each have trade-offs.

January 5, 2008, 08:39 PM
Me, I prefer a 20 gauge and number 3 buck. I figure if 8 shot from a 28 gauge can penetrate to the heart on a fat lawyer (see Dick Cheney) from 30 yards, hell, 3 buck should be positively devastating! LOL!

In my experience #1 buckshot spreads much faster than 00 (and that's bad IMO). 00 seems to be a very good size for 12 guage shotguns.

Isn't that why they make different choke tubes???

January 5, 2008, 10:41 PM
In my experience #1 buckshot spreads much faster than 00 (and that's bad IMO). 00 seems to be a very good size for 12 guage shotguns.
Isn't that why they make different choke tubes???

My house shotgun has a fixed IC choke. IC seems to be the best choice for tighter patterns with a variety of buckshot and an IC (or Cylinder) choke is better for slugs.

January 5, 2008, 10:59 PM
I use 00 buck and don't plan to change. (And no, I will NOT volunteer to stand in front of even a skeet gun shooting #9s!)

I say this because a couple of African PH's I hunted with became disenchanted with smaller sizes of buckshot (including the famous English SSG) when following up wounded cats in dense brush.

Forget about lions - they're WAY bigger than people - and think about leopards. Their skin isn't very thick and the animals themselves aren't very large; adult tom leopards will average around 160 or so, and rarely get above 200. People sized, right?

Though leopards are faster and stronger than a human of the same size (not to mention having claws and teeth) if smaller buckshot can't be depended on to stop them, then what about the 6'4" steroid-enhanced biker dude with a fistful of PCP up his nose that's about to start carving you? Especially if he's wearing a leather jacket?

If I knew that I'd be engaging a skinny T-shirt clad bad guy at off-the-muzzle range, even birdshot would do the trick . . . but since a real scenario may be very different, I'll stick to something that will work under any reasonable circumstance.

January 6, 2008, 12:07 AM
I found #1 buck easily held its own with 00 as far as penetration goes in my unscientific media testing, while providing fuller {and not necessarily larger} patterns and quite a bit more raw lead. Of course it's not all gravy as you're getting damn close to the same level of recoil as a 2.75" 00 Magnum load, #1 buck seems to be a lot harder to find at hand in quantity in many locales also.

January 6, 2008, 10:32 AM
Shooting a leopard at 25 yards is a lot different than defending myself in my bedroom at 10 feet. I ain't shootin' at ANYone outside my home with a shotgun and I have a small home. Really, I ain't shootin' at anyone outside my bedroom with a shotgun. So, for my purposes, 8 shot would work, but I load with 3 buck anyway and just think of it as a prefragmented slug for the ranges I'm lookin' at and that's with cylinder bore.

Smoke Rizen
January 6, 2008, 01:55 PM
What's the image issue involved in wearing a white hat?

January 6, 2008, 02:39 PM
Shooting a leopard at 25 yards is a lot different than defending myself in my bedroom at 10 feet.25 yards would be a very LONG shot at a wounded leopard . . . when following up a wounded cat - which heads for the densest bush it can find - your encounter will likely be at 1/10 that distance.

If the BG is so close he's going to be singed by one's muzzle blast, just about anything out of a 12 gauge will work . . . but if distance opens up (in my house, it could potentially be as much as 20 yards) or the BG is in leathers, I want bigger pellets.

the naked prophet
January 6, 2008, 02:46 PM
My Mossberg 500 (18.5 inch barrel, cylinder) won't group well with any 00 buck that I could find (I spent about $70 on 5-shot boxes of various loads) but does fairly well with Remington Express #1 buck.

January 6, 2008, 05:15 PM
In my experience #1 buckshot spreads much faster than 00 (and that's bad IMO). 00 seems to be a very good size for 12 guage shotguns.
Isn't that why they make different choke tubes???

And why is that bad when shooting distance is likely a maximum of 10 yards or less? And most SD shotguns by far do not come with choke tubes.

January 6, 2008, 11:25 PM

A comparison of the performance of various buck and birdshot loads in ballistic gelatin:


Warning: quite a few images at this link, so it may take a while to load.

-- Michael

Jorg Nysgerrig
January 7, 2008, 12:21 AM
Thanks for the link, elSquid. I missed that one over at Shotgun World.

January 7, 2008, 12:21 AM
I've seen several people that have been shot with birdshot, looks like a bad case of acne, little pimples all over (back and chest). This one person was shot more than once, and it didn't stop him from shooting another person.:what:

January 7, 2008, 04:43 AM
Here is a forum that posted about gel tests on different shot.

January 7, 2008, 06:06 PM
That was the most thorough, well conceieved and well presented work I have ever read about SD SHotgun alternatives, in any format. Well done!

January 7, 2008, 08:05 PM
If the BG is so close he's going to be singed by one's muzzle blast, just about anything out of a 12 gauge will work . . . but if distance opens up (in my house, it could potentially be as much as 20 yards) or the BG is in leathers, I want bigger pellets.

My whole house would fit in that room. ROFL! I could probably fit a football stadium in a room of John Edwards' house, but that really doesn't relate to me. I reckon in his house, you'd need a 7mm STW to make a cross room shot. LOL

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