"00" or #4?

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I never see anything other than 00 in local stores either. But I would be good with 00 through #4.
If I get to pick, 00. I actually keep #4 loaded in my house gun. #4 is less than optimum, but adequate. Penetration tests lead me to believe that #4 would be unlikely to penetrate a human, a wall, and then an unintended human to a lethal extent.

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I use 00 and keep some Brenneke Tactical Home Defense slugs handy. Both shoot really well out of my Mossberg 500A.
Must reject the premise... I'm not confronting anyone with my popper. I'm withdrawing to a position where I have a better tactical situation - then, if needed I'll start the party on my own terms.

For that sort of stuff ordinary 00buck (full power - no "reduced load" anything) and it will be without the slightest warning if I know that my family or myself are in a real life threatening situation. Done properly, you're on target number two before target number one has hit the ground....

None of this is anything fun or desirable -in the real world I carried a shotgun on the street for many years as a young (then not-so-young) cop and that's what forms my remarks. I'd do almost anything to avoid having to ever use a firearm again... What's going to happen afterwards won't be pleasant at all (that's if you survive since the "good guys" aren't always winners in a gunfight...).
So when is the last time the US military bought any #4 Buck?

I believe that most of the #4 Buck PD departments and other LEAs that went ga-ga over #4 Buck in the 1970s have ditched it.

Also about the only thing that might work in the OP's scenario IF those guys really wanted him might be the mythical muzzle actuated sub-kiloton nuclear one time shotgun round.

More holes better? Perhaps, but more shot means more possibilities for shot going to unexpected places with a miss. One of the reasons many departments have gone patrol rifle is to limit the number of projectiles providing possible unintended circumstances.

Any buckshot load in your gun is better than nothing. Myself, I prefer the higher pellet count of #4 buckshot, not that I would feel under-armed with 00. BTW my gun is a 18" 590A1, 3 dot rifle sights.
I keep #4 buck loaded in a shotgun at home. Have 00, that I bought a number of years ago. I don't shoot shotguns for fun any more.
"I don't shoot shotguns for fun any more".... That's been the way it's been for me ever since 1971 (after coming back from my senior trip). Any urge to hunt was ended for me over there as well... All of my shotgun skill and use was developed for work purposes after 1973 so I probably have a bit different perspective than most.
Most people that shoot a shotgun for fun, clay games etc. use birdshot.

99% of my shotgun shooting is 00 Buckshot and Slugs, so I guess I don't shoot one for fun either :).

Just my .02,
I do use #4 buck (as distinguished from #4 lead/bird shot) in my SD shot loads, so that's my answer. Even if the threat is wearing a Carhartt jacket, I feel reasonably confident that it would work. In any event, I would tend to hold low in a confrontation, say around pelvis level. If I have to shoot, several #4 pellets in the pelvis area will likely immobilize, and a grizzled Gunny in the Corps taught a class of us that many people (men) are far more reluctant to have their jewels shot off than to take the chance of getting shot in the chest or face. Go figure. Hope I never have to put it to the test.
OO Buck, specifically Federal Flite Control. One hole at 45 feet from my Mossberg 590.
To the two posters advocating skipping or shin shots, why?

While one and two are lying and crying, you still have 3 (or if your supremely lucky, two) assailants to combat. While you might get one more before they wise up... What's to stop the two guys on the ground from shooting at you while you're focused on number 4 and/or 5? Come on, Josey Wales would even catch one in that scenario...but he'd put all the rounds higher up from the get go. I'm in agreement with lemaymiami; don't get into that situation.
I like skip shooting -but only as a means to reach a target behind (or alongside) cover. In the hands of someone who knows how... skip shooting (also called bounce shooting or ricochet shooting) makes for a very nasty surprise against a target that thinks (foolishly) that they are working from a protected position...
I would go with #4 for the scenario described in the OP. Either #4 buck or 00 will work at that distance and #4 buck has better pattern density and less danger radius.

I would also, as someone else has done, question the scenario. Is the showdown described really the best way to handle the situation? An ensconced position would suit me better.

"You confront this group in an open area at about 10-20 yards, you demonstrate that you have a shotgun..." That would not be my preferred way of going about it.
If the deadly threat is real, 00 to the head, one per customer, while they were still stationary. Whebn they charged I'd go for center chest. Plan on it being up front and personal because they can close 10-20 yards in nothing flat. Mr. Zimmerman let us know that some hoodlums are athletes in training and the daily news teaches up that some perps plan on dying today.

1 buck if I ever got round to ordering online again.
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"Mr. Zimmerman let us know that some hoodlums are athletes in training..."

Ummm... what??
My HD gun is loaded with Hornady #4 buck, which is exactly what I'd pick in that scenario.
It patterns very well in my Mossberg 500.
Many people think that criminals and rioters are lazy bums. Some are, some aren't. In Zimmerman's case the hoodlum was on a football team until he recently got kicked out of school.

If in the hypothetical case you are confronted by 5 people with felonious intent within 10 to 20 yards you are in bad shape, even if you are armed.

Hopefully bluff works, but if these guys are motivated you have at best a 50% chance of coming out unharmed.
Okay gents, here's a hypothetical. I seek your input:

Suppose a scenario where you are confronted by multiple people, angry, excited, and ready to do you, your loved ones and neighbors physical harm. Let's suppose 5 hostile persons. You confront this group in an open area at about 10-20 yards, you demonstrate that you have a shotgun (12 gauge), you firmly, but respectfully ask that they disburse, warn them that the police are coming, and that you will use your firearm to protect yourself and the lives and safety of others if pushed. They do not heed your warning, but instead they advance on you with hostile intentions.

Question: what would you rather have in said shotgun, 00 or #4? Thanks.

Sorry, but I can't get past the scenario long enough to consider the question. In this hypothetical, making different choices would amount to much more net gain than choosing the most effective load.

If you're confronting 5 guys solo: you've failed. Doesn't matter what you're carrying.

If you're meeting 5 guys in an open lot, as opposed to perhaps covering them from your bedroom window: you've failed. Carbine FTW.

If you're confronting 5 guys armed - when you had the choice to call the cops from the safety of your home: you've failed. Better hope for the best-case scenario if that trigger gets pulled: huge financial debt. But since you inserted yourself into the situation, you'll likely be denied legal protections based on self-defense, which means a murder rap for you.

Personally, I can't envision a scenario playing out where I'm surprised by a gang of 5 bad eggs during an otherwise peaceful stroll with my shotgun. Perhaps during a hunting trip?

Either way, you should never use deadly force to threaten or intimidate. You / your loved ones are either in immediate threat or they're not. If they are you don't have time for words. If they're not then bringing a firearm into the mix will only get you put in jail (or worse).
JBJ - "OP, with the scenario you're describing, I'd be tempted to skip a load off the ground a bit in front of two or three of them (assuming there's a safe firing background). Nasty wounds, but likely non-life threatening. A .22 will work for this as well. IIRC the angle is deflection is roughly 1/2 the angle of attack, but due to many, many factors, your mileage may vary.

Nothing says "Go away!" like a few people rolling on the ground, screaming and bleeding." ...

I strongly disagree with that tactic. What you'd have after your "just wounding a couple of guys" would then be leaving them all to testify against you in court, five-against-one, either criminally or civilly. "Your Honor, we wuz just walkin' down the street (or past that guy's house) mindin' our own business when he just opened up on us with that big gun of his." So swears one; so swear all.

IF you are justified in shooting another person, you are justified shooting that person COM to stop his actions. You are not justified in just wounding people to scare them.

My opinion.

00 without a doubt. #4 shouldn't even enter the conversation unless there's a hypothetical extreme risk to people in other rooms. Even then, I don't think I would ever use #4 for self defense. If overpenetration is a risk, then there are better options than a shotgun.
In the embassies, we loaded #4 Buck in our 870s. We also had 1 oz slugs on hand.

Although I prefer 00 Buck when I'm buying the ammo, I wouldn't discount #4 Buck. 27 pellets of .24 caliber in the 2 3/4" load we used.
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