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Old August 14, 2011, 08:45 PM   #1
Dave McCracken
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Defensive Ammunition 101

The dog gave enough warning for you to get the kids into your bedroom and the shotgun out. Behind you, your spouse is calling 911 on the cell phone and holding a revolver. You're covering the top of the stairs as heavy boots clump towards the top floor.....

What your shotgun is loaded with will be of less importance than skills, training, and tactics, but ammo does count. I field a couple queries each week, so this is of great interest to a large number of people.

Here's my opinions and advice based on fact, not movies or wishful thinking....

First,some stuff to avoid.

Less lethal stuff like rubber buckshot or tear gas loads. It's regarded as Use of Deadly Force even when the police do it, and they do it when backed up by cops with real ammo in their firearms. That's in case L/L doesn't work.

There's a clue there. Use something more likely to STOP someone when that is desperately needed.

Also, avoid anything with a name like "Ultimate Deathmaster" or skulls on the box.

Don't laugh,it happens and PT Barnum was right, one IS born every minute.

Anything exotic like Dragon's Breath, bird bombs, buckshot strung together on a wire,etc.10 thin dimes would also be a bad idea. So would be reloads.

Any shooting, justified or not, will be scrutinized under a microscope by LE folks who are not necessarily your friends.

There is a case for and against using birdshot. Sometimes it works well. Usually that's at extremely close range where the wad still contains the shot,acting like a giant Glaser Safety Slug.

Sometimes it creates ghastly but shallow wounds. Since STOPPING the threat usually involves disrupting the Central Nervous System grossly, these shallow wounds do not suffice.

Bigger pellets penetrate farther. The common name for big pellets is buckshot, from its use in deer hunting. Common US sizes are 000 ( about .36 caliber), 00 (.33), 1 (.30), and so on.

4 buck(.24) is the smallest. The largest buckshot that fits in a 20 gauge is 2 buck, but 3 is more available. 1 buck is the biggest for 16 gauge.

00 is the choice for most police agencies and lots of us civilians. 8 or 9 00 pellets at a reasonable muzzle velocity has plenty of energy to transfer and a lot of frontal surface to help that happen. Even three to five 00 or 000 pellets can make the miniscule 410 into an effective close range tool.

00 also patterns tighter than the smaller stuff, all else equal. And that brings up another point.

Some folks like spread, thinking it can make up for bad aim under stressful conditions.

Others, including me, prefer a small pattern putting ALL that energy into the right place.

Forensic experts tell me that the most effective load will have all the pellets in 5-8 inches.

Of course, the biggest pellet is one bore sized chunk of lead, usually called a "Slug".

These have some use for defense but not inside. If they are designed to penetrate a deer broadside and exit, they can pose a threat of overpenetration inside a building. Few of us are that rural that an errant slug poses no threat to anyone.

Buckshot will also penetrate drywall and similar materials, but less so. It behooves us to become adept wiith our defensive tools until we can place that load where it needs to be in a very short time frame and do so without endangering innocents.

Questions, comments, rants?
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Old August 14, 2011, 09:08 PM   #2
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Please don't take this as an attack Dave...

But isn't the objective of "stopping the threat" simply to stop aggression?

If one makes their objective to "disrupt the CNS", then that is defacto killing. IE you are admitting pre-shoot that your default goal is specifically to kill your aggressor regardless of situation.

If you actually look at the numbers, a huge percentage of attacks are stopped by shooting the attacker with anything at all. Unless the attacker is hopped up on strong drugs, then they usually give up.

Perhaps this is me being an ignorant 'noob', but shouldn't our goal be to stop aggression, and simply choose the tool that we think best to accomplish that on an individual basis?

Yes, there will always be situations where the attacker will continue until dead, as well as cases where weaker weapons will not suffice ... but I have a hard time believing that we should all make the killing of a potential attacker the defacto reaction.
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Old August 14, 2011, 11:08 PM   #3
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Woodsman,

The aim is to stop the attack, period. Nothing else matters. Some people insist that this distinction is mere semantics, but it certainly is not. We cannot appoint ourselves as judge, jury and executioner, nor should we seek to do so. We shoot only when fully justified in doing so, and then only in order to stop the attack, not to deliberately kill the attacker. Unfortunately stopping an attack forthwith may well lead to the death of the attacker, especially where a shotgun is concerned. Suppose we wanted to be merciful to the attacker and use, say, a tranquilizer gun. Even in that case, a dose of tranquilizer sufficient to quickly shut down a person would almost certainly be lethal.

Why is it necessary to stop an attack quickly? Because failing to do so could well result in the death or injury of innocents at the hands of the attacker. Are you familiar with the Tueller Drill? See http://www.theppsc.org/Staff_Views/T.../How.Close.htm if you aren't. Suppose the attacker is armed with a gun and not a knife? How long does it take to pull a trigger?

Gunfighting is not a nice subject, and that's what were talking about here. The reluctance of a normal human being to consider taking the life of another human being is understandable and natural. But there are times when the choice really is to take an action that might well result in the death of an attacker, or be killed. Anyone who is a genuine pacifist might well choose to allow themselves to be killed rather than risk taking a life by defending themselves or their loved ones with a deadly weapon, and that's their choice. But there are those of us out here who, while we are genuinely peace-loving individuals, are not pure pacifists to the degree that we would allow ourselves or our families to be abused, injured or killed rather than risk the life of an attacker.

Thus, if pushed to that extreme in order to defend ourselves and our loved ones, we will shoot to stop.

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Old August 15, 2011, 12:47 AM   #4
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I've always considered a pistol as what you use when you can't find anything better. The basic 12ga. shotgun with an 18" barrel, simple bead sight, is that far better tool when everything (you and your family) are on the line. Load it with ordinary 2 3/4" OO Buck rounds and you're in business. Simple, brutal, and utterly reliable - it's what I was taught to use in police work and I relied on it for some years. Just remember to aim a bit low...

I had occasion to point a loaded pistol at many, many folks in 22 years on the job. I can't remember what percentage of those weren't impressed at all by that, but more than a few simply ignored it.... I never found anyone who didn't pay attention to the business end of an old Wingmaster when it was pointed their way. Over all those years I rarely ever had the safety off, but those downrange didn't know that.... At ranges under 25 yards, nothing beats a defensive shotgun with the proper ammo.
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Old August 15, 2011, 01:36 AM   #5
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Quote:
The dog gave enough warning for you to get the kids into your bedroom and the shotgun out. Behind you, your spouse is calling 911 on the cell phone and holding a revolver. You're covering the top of the stairs as heavy boots clump towards the top floor.....
Dave,

This "What if" scenario sounds like you are dealing with Drug Gangsters who are exceptionally hellbent on killing you, or Cops. I mean, who the hell storms up stairs with "Boots" in an all-out rampage?

I mean...can't you avoid the Drug Gangsters while giving the Cops no reason to make a suicide run against you? This sounds like Waco!

Bill
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Old August 15, 2011, 02:19 AM   #6
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Shotgun ammo for HD in my house is 00 Buckshot. No more, no less. Cause it will work if you hit the target.
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Old August 15, 2011, 02:55 AM   #7
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OO Buck for me, well, and of course Desert Dawg is primary.

No place to run and no place to hide at in home distances.



Bob
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Old August 15, 2011, 04:33 PM   #8
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Thanks for the responses.

Like Lee said,Woodsman.

Lemay, you're correct. Nothing is as effective as a shotgun in trained hands loaded with proper ammo.

Bill, I was setting the stage with one possible scenario. There are MANY more.

Fred and 2z, Amen. 00 works very well.

This thread will be stickied at the top of the forum for reference, should save us all some typing...
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Old August 15, 2011, 05:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
who the hell storms up stairs with "Boots"
I know two ladies that the sound of footsteps on the stairs was their clue that bad guys were coming.

Back on topic, IMHO, the further the bad guy, the larger your shot size needs to be. I've loaded #2 birdshot for a house gun before as my max engagement range from that part of my house would be 18 feet. From the other end of the house, buckshot gets the nod as I would have a possible shot of 15 yards.

Yes, I have two HD shotguns.

I see no use for any shot size less than #2 birdshot and now that Remington has BB (.20 caliber) Tungsten-Bronze-Iron Home Defense loads available, I've switch to that in my short range applications.
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Old August 15, 2011, 06:20 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maple City Woodsman
But isn't the objective of "stopping the threat" simply to stop aggression?

If one makes their objective to "disrupt the CNS", then that is defacto killing. IE you are admitting pre-shoot that your default goal is specifically to kill your aggressor regardless of situation.
To elaborate on what Lee already said, there are two ways to stop a threat:

1. Psychological - The attacker changes their mind and flees/surrenders. This type of response is totally dependent on the attacker's state of mind - so it can vary widely even in the same person and while it is something we can influence, there isn't much we can do to dictate someone else's state of mind.

2. Physiological - the body is physically unable to continue the assault regardless of what the attacker wants to do. Assuming our training is good, this is a factor we can control.

When it comes to forcing the body to physically shut down with a firearm, you do it by:

A. Causing such a significant drop in blood pressure that the brain shuts down and the attacker becomes unconscious

B. Directly damaging the central nervous system to shut it down.

The problem with A) is that even if you totally destroy the heart, a human being is still capable of physically acting for as long as 10-15 seconds. That can be a really long time in a gunfight at close range inside your own house.

Either A or B is likely to result in serious injury or death to your attacker, this is one of the reasons that the use of lethal force is highly regulated by law and usually limited to specific circumstances where you are seeking to prevent your own immediate serious injury or death. However, the intent is still to stop the threat as quickly as possible, not to kill the attacker. If the attacker flees/surrenders before you are forced to that level, all the better.
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Old August 15, 2011, 06:38 PM   #11
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For general home/self-defense, what is everyone's thoughts on "Tactical" aka "SWAT" aka "Home Defense" (reduced recoil) slugs? How about reduced recoil 00 buck? Are these two effective or not effective?
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Old August 15, 2011, 08:27 PM   #12
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Lee Lapin / Dave / Bart:

Don't make the mistake of thinking that I care one bit about the feelings of violent criminals, nor that I wish to be "merciful" to them. I don't - I would like to believe those who work evil deeds will one day be served their just deserts. If that means a burglar / home invader meets a terrible death, then justice has likely been served IMO.

Never the less, I still have many qualms with the common rote advice to stoke a shotgun with 000 Buck and aim for the brain/spine/CNS/whatever as the default method for dealing with an attacker.

This is one of those times I wish we could have a collective conversation in person. I have several things I wish to say, but feel that I can not adequately represent my thoughts on this subject in print.

Instead, let me ask an open question: Do you believe a legal justification for deadly force necessitate its use?
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Old August 15, 2011, 08:33 PM   #13
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I fail to see where killing was mentioned or suggested. Stopping the attack, and what it takes, was discussed.

The idea is always to stop the threat. Sometimes times this involves killing. If one is not comfortable with the idea of possibly killing somebody in the act of defending themselves or loved ones, they should not have a gun for protection.

We are not playing hopscotch here.
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Old August 15, 2011, 09:12 PM   #14
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Uhg. Did you read any of the above?

Quote:
Originally Posted by walkalong
The idea is always to stop the threat. Sometimes times this involves killing. If one is not comfortable with the idea of possibly killing somebody in the act of defending themselves or loved ones, they should not have a gun for protection.
I wish we were playing hopscotch. It would be easier to communicate the subject matter.

I am not hugging trees here. I am not concerned with the criminals feelings. I am not gun shy. I have no qualms with shooting an attacker.

This is what I said in post #2:

Quote:
Originally Posted by MCWoodsman
Yes, there will always be situations where the attacker will continue until dead, as well as cases where weaker weapons will not suffice ...
This is my logic walkalong: IF the default reaction to a threat is to aim 000 buckshot at the CNS, then defacto, you are saying your default reaction to a threat should be to kill regardless of stop.

I am simply questioning the logic of using the heaviest possible load to target the CNS, and then trying to fit that in with a civilians goal to stop threatening behavior.

It is illogical to say that ALL cases where shooting is justified should have the express goal of killing the individual. There are libraries of first hand accounts right here on THR that make such clear.

Last edited by Maple_City_Woodsman; August 15, 2011 at 09:18 PM.
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Old August 15, 2011, 09:34 PM   #15
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Quote:
This thread will be stickied at the top of the forum for reference, should save us all some typing...
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Is that tongue in cheek? This thread is similar to alot of threads about shotguns and 00 and being trained. Entertaining and informative but not ground breaking.
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Old August 15, 2011, 09:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Instead, let me ask an open question: Do you believe a legal justification for deadly force necessitate its use?
No, I do not. In life, there will often be cases where something can be legal; but not necessarily the right thing to do or even a good, practical idea. On the flip side, our society is very restrictive on the use of lethal force. If you are in a situation where lethal force is legal, that is a very big clue about the potential danger that would be foolish to ignore.

Quote:
This is my logic walkalong: IF the default reaction to a threat is to aim 000 buckshot at the CNS, then defacto, you are saying your default reaction to a threat should be to kill regardless of stop.
In a lethal force situation in your own home, you are facing an immediate threat of death or serious injury at close range. It may take less than 3 seconds to charge from 21' and plunge a knife into you. It takes less than a second to pull a trigger and every pull means that you or someone else in your household may get shot. The quickest way to end that threat is to directly damage the CNS. Is it likely to kill? Yes. That is why it is called lethal force; but the goal is not to kill. It is still to stop the threat. Nobody is saying you should kill your attacker, they are just pointing out the reality that the best way to limit damage is to stop the fight as quickly as possible.
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Old August 15, 2011, 10:41 PM   #17
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Look at it this way.
Someone is breaking into your house at night when they know you are mostlikely home. Why couldn't they wait till the day when the house is empty? They're desperate or have a set mission that not much is going to stop them from compleating. Either way they aren't going to back down easy. Its not a pleasant thought but when it comes down to it you have two choices, the possible harm of your loved ones or the probable harm of the intuder. Less lethal may take him down but he will still be able to retaliate, and chances are he won't have less lethal ammo is his gun. So I'm going to do all I can to remove my family from immediate harm and if the tool best suited for the job poses a high risk of death then that's life. I won't degrade my defence to suit his offence and save him. As stated earlier if the use of lethal force is legal then its probably one of the only things that will save you.
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Old August 15, 2011, 10:47 PM   #18
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Oh n in IMHO some form of buck is best. Decent spread with adequate stopping power and penatration with not to much over penatration. I like the concept of winchesters PDX in the 410 but in the 12gauge I don't like the slug n just three buck shot pellets. I think they could have used more buck or swapped out the slug for say smaller buck/large bird shot for a mixed pattern at all ranges?
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Old August 16, 2011, 01:27 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bart
In a lethal force situation in your own home, you are facing an immediate threat of death or serious injury at close range. It may take less than 3 seconds to charge from 21' and plunge a knife into you. It takes less than a second to pull a trigger and every pull means that you or someone else in your household may get shot. The quickest way to end that threat is to directly damage the CNS. Is it likely to kill? Yes. That is why it is called lethal force; but the goal is not to kill. It is still to stop the threat. Nobody is saying you should kill your attacker, they are just pointing out the reality that the best way to limit damage is to stop the fight as quickly as possible.
Again, I am not posting in regard to some moral dilemma, nor am I confused about generic defense scenarios.

Let me try asking this way: Why not use something like #4 Buck, and aim for center mass?

Wouldn't that result in:
A) More hits on target
B) Easier hits under stress
C) More wounds of sufficient depth
D) Greater total wound volume
E) Show less premeditation

And thus a greater chance that shooting would actually stop the attack?

I am questioning the logic of choosing to fire at a smaller target using a load with less pellets, and creating a situation that can OBVIOUSLY be construed as intent to kill rather than stop.

I am not wrestling with the morality of defensive shooting. I am questioning the ammo/target selection being proffered as rote solution.
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Old August 16, 2011, 09:02 AM   #20
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The central nervous system consists of the upper spine as well as the head area. If you'll note Dave McCracken's original point, it wasn't to target the head - it was that small shot doesn't penetrate deeply enough to reach/disrupt the CNS and you should use shot that does.

Quote:
Let me try asking this way: Why not use something like #4 Buck, and aim for center mass?
Assuming #4 buck will penetrate deeply enough in the scenario you actually face (and I think that could be iffy in some scenarios given that 4 buck is already on the low end of acceptable penetration), I think that is a perfectly valid strategy. A cloud of pellets in a 5"-8" pattern centered on the upper torso (assuming a facing shot) is still likely to disrupt the CNS if it penetrates deeply enough and even if it doesn't penetrate deeply enough to reach trhe CNS, it will certainly start the timer running on the end of the fight.

Quote:
E) Show less premeditation
I'm having trouble thinking of a legal scenario where a load of #4 buck to the upper torso at close range is going to be OK; but a load of #4 buck to the head at close range is going to get you in trouble. Maybe you could elaborate on why you feel this is a distinction that helps you?
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Old August 16, 2011, 01:23 PM   #21
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Most will never, repeat never, fire a shot at another person (many that do so will be under arms for their country.... a tiny percentage will be in civilian life). In a "civilized" country all are taught from an early age that doing so is bad stuff. Military and police training to some extent overcomes this (in police work, particularly, the prohibition still remains very strong in my experience). I think that's a good thing. I wouldn't want to live in a world where killing was a routine matter.

The result of this exhibits itself in every rational discussion about use of force, deadly force, and related topics. As a result many will do their best not to look squarely at the fact that in some situations, you're not only justified in shooting, but you'd better be quick about it and not miss.

In my case I'd been a cop for more than five years when I found myself in a shooting situation on the street in uniform. I had a clear shot at the armed individual and I couldn't shoot. A minute or so later, I had another clear shot and still didn't take it. The sound of gunfire finally did the trick... the third opportunity was taken, and there's nothing to be proud of there.

Most cops that I've known are very hesitant to actually shoot until they've passed that first milestone. As a result there's was usually the second shot, not the first. In the real world actions have consequences. If an opponent in an armed encounter survives you can bet their account of what happened will be very different from yours. Stopping your opponent from actually doing damage after being wounded (even a killing wound may not stop a response, the FBI shootout some years ago in Miami is a textbook case, and good men died as a result). That's the reason I always relied on that 12ga. police shotgun. Discussing this sort of stuff is one thing, being there (and scared to death if you're normal) is another matter entirely. Just being able to hit the mark when in that state takes some concentration and skill. Not the sort of stuff we see every day in movies and the television...
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Old August 16, 2011, 02:44 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maple_City_Woodsman View Post
Please don't take this as an attack Dave...

But isn't the objective of "stopping the threat" simply to stop aggression?

If one makes their objective to "disrupt the CNS", then that is defacto killing. IE you are admitting pre-shoot that your default goal is specifically to kill your aggressor regardless of situation.

If you actually look at the numbers, a huge percentage of attacks are stopped by shooting the attacker with anything at all. Unless the attacker is hopped up on strong drugs, then they usually give up.

Perhaps this is me being an ignorant 'noob', but shouldn't our goal be to stop aggression, and simply choose the tool that we think best to accomplish that on an individual basis?

Yes, there will always be situations where the attacker will continue until dead, as well as cases where weaker weapons will not suffice ... but I have a hard time believing that we should all make the killing of a potential attacker the defacto reaction.
Okay, you are rushing at me from 10m bringing a firearm to bear. I can shoot you and stop you by severing you femoral artery. I can deny you assistance save the 911 call, and if they don't get here fast enough, you will die. But you will still be a threat to me as you lay there bleeding out, thus the need for another shot, a finishing shot you might say, but that is how to stop the threat here.

In a second scenario, just like the first but you have a knife, I can hit the femoral artery and get satisfactory results --provided you don't reach or make sudden movements that scare me.

You do aim to kill. In fact, it is illegal in some places to aim for anything less. Lethal force is lethal force and it is protected as such here. You can use deathdealers in .75calibre semi-auto belt fed cannons (make believe) and deadly force is deadly force. It doesn't matter what you use here, but in some places it does --Arizona, I think, recently changed this because a man was convicted over using a 10mm. They cut him loose and changed the law.

The shot that stops the threat fastest is the safest for you and your family. Unfortunately, that means kill. But that shouldn't weigh on your soul. The reason you would need to do this in the first place is if someone were trying to do it to you. People don't break into houses and approach the occupants to say thank you before leaving.

I taught combat anatomy and terminal ballistics at the SDM course at Ft. Lewis. A shot to the nose with a round that will make it all the way through the head is called the ragdoll shot. You can do the same behind the ear or just above the neck (or obliquely). The subject will fall like a marrionette with the strings cut. Lights out. The next best shot is the area a bowling pin covers from the bridge of the nose to the bottom of the sternum. Secondary to that is just to the left and right, and upper abdominal shots.

An area that supposed to be a good shooting point for stopping an aggressor is the pelvic region. Especially if they are armored. There is a lot of blood there, the guts hurt BAD when aggravated (and shooting them definitely would aggravate them) and the bones there are easy to hit. If you hit the bone, and you probably will, it will anchor the target. If he is still a threat, well, you know what to do next.

Bottom line is if you aim to shoot another man, you aim to kill him. We are THE alpha predator in case anyone forgot. When an alpha predator comes for you, you don't play around. You wouldn't shoot to wound a lion if it were attacking. Why would you do differently to that lion's top predator?

I agree with the OP about buckshot. Definitely buckshot. I like the 00 Hornady TAP FPD. 8 pellets at 1600fps. But I have shoulder problems now, I wake up with it burning, so I don't know if I can manage a shotgun when I might need to. So I use an M4. At HD distances, the M4 is the ultra weapon in my mind. I am very skilled with it, I have a LOT of practice clearing buildings with it and engaging surprise targets at various distance. It will punch right through soft armor, and it is lethal enough. I like to use 55gr. M193 ball. It fragments well, doesn't penetrate too much hard material, but causes grievous wounds in flesh.
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Old August 16, 2011, 02:57 PM   #23
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Lobo, not tongue in cheek at all. When people in the future want to find out stuff about this, we can point them to the top instead of using up more bandwidth.

MCW, 00 spreads less than smaller pellets, all else equal. And, if I need to shoot through my refrigerator,00's the better choice. Go ask your local police what they use. Chances are it's 00.

Lemay, even the military admits maybe 20% of the troops are doing 90% of the threat management.
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Old August 16, 2011, 03:36 PM   #24
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I am simply questioning the logic of using the heaviest possible load to target the CNS, and then trying to fit that in with a civilians goal to stop threatening behavior.

Woodsman,

Thing is, a 2 3/4" load of 00 buckshot IS NOT the "heaviest possible load." There are heavier shotgun loads available, that will fit most shotguns in use these days. A 3" magnum load of 000 buck is arguably heavier (larger pellets and more of them) than most of the 9 pellet loads of 00 buck used by the military, in law enforcement and for self defense by many armed citizens. Yet few recommend using 3" magnum loads for defense.

And the target isn't the CNS necessarily. It's whatever might be intersected in the midline of the body, where anatomical features critical to continued function lie. The object is to shut down the function of the attacker as efficiently as possible. Why the emphasis on efficiency? Because the faster the attacker is stopped, the less shot he will be, for one thing. Even with a shotgun it's possible not to induce instant incapacitation with one hit, and any shotgunner who has had good training in the defensive use of a shotgun will have been drilled in following up with another shot or even more shots if necessary. Therefore the faster the attacker is stopped, the less shot he is going to be.

Also, there is no guarantee there will only be one assailant. I read of a home invasion in the news a couple of days ago where five thugs were involved. It's not always one on one... http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/08/15...home-invasion/ , see http://www.homeinvasionnews.com/ for more news stories.

fwiw,

lpl
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Old August 16, 2011, 04:43 PM   #25
Kiln
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Join Date: March 3, 2011
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I've got a question, the article condemns using "exotic" types of ammunition. For those of you that are more experienced than me, would you recommend using Winchester PDX-1 .410 shells (link below) for personal defense? It is not my primary defensive firearm but I do have a .410 derringer that accepts 2 1/2 inch shells, what I'm wondering is if this is a decent loading for the gun in question or not?

http://www.winchester.com/Products/s.../S410PDX1.aspx
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