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Effective Range of 12 & 20 Gauge Shotguns?

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by D-Man, May 9, 2007.

  1. D-Man

    D-Man Well-Known Member

    What is the effective range of a 12 gauge and 20 gauge shotgun? Figure with both buckshot and regular shells.

    I know that the shotgun is great for close defense, but at what range do you start to lose it's effectiveness? Could I use a standard slug out to 50 yards?
  2. TrapperReady

    TrapperReady Well-Known Member

    Some of it depends upon the skill of the user. I took a running deer at a little over 50 yards last year, using a 12ga 870 and rifled slugs. A stationary deer at 75 yards would be doable... maybe even out to 100 yards if the conditions were right. In order to do that, you need to find the right ammo for your gun and practice. Personally, although I can make 100 yard shots at the range, in the field I won't go over about 75.

    As far as buckshot, I've not done a lot of work with it. Personally, I consider it more of an "inside the house" load, and it's quite effective at those ranges. Much beyond 25 yards, and I'd really prefer slugs.

    With birdshot (at actual birds), I like to keep my shots within 50 yards or so. However, on clay targets at tournaments, it's not too unusual to see them out to 60 yards and be entirely hittable.

    There's not a huge difference between 12ga and 20ga, but I'd consider the optimal range for birdshot and a 12ga to be around 50 yards and under, while 20ga would be a little less (maybe 40-45). Bob Brister mentions some of this in "Shotgunning: The Art and Science", but I can't remember exactly.

    Like I said, it depends upon your skill. It also depends upon what your intended target happens to be.
  3. ZeSpectre

    ZeSpectre Well-Known Member

    From what (little) I know about shotgunning, slug accuracy tends to top out at between 50-70 yards. If you are talking "00" buckshot there would be a lot of variation with choke and barrel length but I would think that it's probably around 20-25 yards tops.

    I know some turkey loads (and turkey chokes) are insanely tight but not too sure how far they "reach".
  4. TrapperReady

    TrapperReady Well-Known Member

    I was talking with professional turkey guide a couple weeks ago, and he said that 60 yards was about the furthest he saw good shots made... although he preferred not to have clients shoot at much past 45.
  5. sansone

    sansone Well-Known Member

    my buddy loves to hunt turkey with his 12ga. / he likes a long barrel(26?) & uses 00buck, full choke. 50yds is the furthest he'll shoot.
  6. JohnBT

    JohnBT Well-Known Member

    Then there're the not so usual shells:

    Users of HeviShot Dead Coyote are killing them at 100+ yards.



    Tungsten Super Shot www.tungstensupershot.com is hugely expensive and appears to have nearly doubled the killing range of a shotgun and they only make #5 and #7. They're getting good patterns, minimal stringing, etc., etc., etc.

    "TSS #7 is lethal on large ducks to 60+ yards. TSS #5 is lethal on large geese to 65+ yards."
  7. unrealtrip

    unrealtrip Well-Known Member

    The choke will drastically impact effective range. A 30" spread is more or less at the limit of truly effective range.

    A cylinder choke, ie no choke, puts you at about 20yds while a full choke puts you at 35yds. With a rifled slug and only the nob on the end of my 20" smooth barrel, I can consistently hit a basketball sized target at 50yds no problem. With iron sights even better I'm sure.

  8. JohnBT

    JohnBT Well-Known Member

    Thanks, now compare lead patterns to #7 TSS - CYL @ 40 yards. 81%. (Full choke scored 97%.)


    And #7 at 60 yards with a Briley turkey choke. 83%.


    It's a shame it's so expensive. John
  9. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Well-Known Member

    A lot has to do with the ammo. I found in a cylinder bore (no choke) full power 00 buck is limited to about 20-25 yds for defensive situations. At that range the pattern tends to "donut" leaving a hole in the middle of the pattern. At 20-25yds you're lucky to hit your target with 2-4 pieces of shot. There are times nothing hit a B27 target at 25 yds. The reduced recoil 00 buck keeps a much tighter pattern out to 35-40 yds.

    The choke is the only factor in the gun effecting the spread of the shot. The length of the barrel has nothing to do with the spread of the shot. Shot spreads about an inch a yard with no choke regardless of the barrel length. Longer barrels are easier to aim at longer distances.
  10. unrealtrip

    unrealtrip Well-Known Member

    JohnBT: Man those are patterning nice for that range! :)

    Federal recently came out with a 00 buck load with a "flight control" wad. From what I gather it is nice and tight even open cyl at 25yds.
  11. AmbulanceDriver

    AmbulanceDriver Well-Known Member


    Actually, the FliteControl Wad has been around for a while. Anytime someone asks what loads for a HD shotgun, that's the load I recommend first. At 15 yards, I get 5-6" patterns out of my 18.5" 870 w/ IC barrel... Compared to standard buckshot giving 10-12" patterns at that range. At close home/self defense ranges (7yards or less), the shot has barely left the shot cup and is still in a pretty tight column. By far my choice for HD/SD in a shotgun.
  12. unrealtrip

    unrealtrip Well-Known Member

    AmbulanceDriver: Oh didn't know that, I thought it was new, I saw it mentioned in a mag recently I forget which one. The annual gun list one, had a thing on building up an 870 with a Knoxx stock. I've been looking around for it since but no shops seem to have it. :(
  13. ZeSpectre

    ZeSpectre Well-Known Member

    Hey I just learned something today :)
  14. redneck2

    redneck2 Well-Known Member

    That's kinda like asking how much a car costs

    I killed a turkey last weekend at 54 yards with a 10 gauge with Hevi-Shot. No matter what someone tells you about Hevi-Shot, it's better. My friend killed his bird at 62 yards with a 12 gauge, 3" Hevi-Shot 6's.

    Slugs...older Foster style depend almost entirely on the gun. With the right smoothbore and rifle type sights, 100 yards or more is quite possible for deer for the right shooter. With sabots in a rifled barrel and a 2x7 scope, I shoot tennis sized groups at 125 regularly.

    Buckshot is not a long range proposition.
  15. DougW

    DougW Well-Known Member

    Maybe I am just lucky, but my Benelli with the mod choke will group the Winchester Reduced Recoil slugs 4" at 100 yards easily. I have shot targets with positive hits at 150 yards in 3 gun matches. The same choke gives the reduced Recoil 00 Buck a decent pattern out to 40 yards. By decent I mean something close to a 36" hit radius. I would consider this shotgun an excellant close range weapon.
  16. uk roe hunter

    uk roe hunter Well-Known Member

    shot gun range

    there has been a lot said on this thread. I can't comment on the slugs side of thing but i shoot a shotgun a lot in the winter to shoot ducks and other small game. The maximum range i shoot with a full choke gun is 40 yards. Once you go above this not only do you get big holes in your pattern but your lead shot does not retain the energy very well to give any sort of penetration.

    Tungsten shot is used here as we can't use lead over water :uhoh: it is not as dense and as such sheds its energy quicker.

  17. JohnBT

    JohnBT Well-Known Member

    For the typical tungsten shells, I agree. The density of Kent Tungsten-Matrix is 10.8. Lead is 11.

    TungstenSuperShot is 18. :what:

    From the TSS site:

    What is the density of TSS, and how does it compare to other materials? Here is a quick comparison of TSS to other materials.
    Material Density (g/cc)
    Steel 7.8
    Lead 11
    Hevi-Shot™ 12
    Remington Wingmaster HD™ 12
    TSS™ 18
  18. D-Man

    D-Man Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all the responses here - it's been an interesting read.

    The reason I asked about this was I was intrigued at the Saiga converted semi-auto models, but started to think if maybe that was a bit much for a gun that doesn't have much effective range past a certain distance. Sure, it will wreck havoc up close, but you could pretty much do the same thing with a pump action too and save some $$ doing it.

    In my case I don't have an interest in hunting - it would be for self-defense and range fun (targets and clays).
  19. blitzen

    blitzen Well-Known Member

    Just this past weekend I did some testing with the Federal reduced recoil 8 pellet buckshot load. Using my Benelli M2 and a modified choke I was getting 5 to 7 pellet hits on an IDPA target at 50 yards. At 75 yards I gave the target a 3 shot volley and scored 7 pellet hits out of the 24. I wouldn't have wanted to be standing there. You'll just have to test your own gun/choke/load.

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