Shotguns and home defense
SHOTGUN AMMUNITION BY CALIBER
The shotgun is the ne plus ultra of manstoppers. No other weapon
will put a man down as reliably as a shotgun, and no other weapon is as
likely to hit your opponent as a shotgun filled with buckshot. No doubt
you have heard a lot of nonsense about the lethality of "assault rifles"
and "Uzi sub-machine guns" and the like. The fact is that the shotgun is
by far the deadliest and most effective firearm for short-range personal
defense. For example: an Uzi or Heckler & Koch sub-machine gun has about
340 ft-lbs. of impact energy - a 12 gauge shotgun has 2500 to 3100
ft-lbs. of impact energy, and it is a heck of a lot easier to hit your
target with a shotgun than a sub-machine gun.
The shotgun is not a magic weapon that will slay all foes, but it
is simply the most effective man-stopping firearm yet devised. I invoke
the Ascended Master, Massad Ayoob: "It is perhaps the most efficient
close-range killing machine in the world's arsenal of small arms." For a
discussion of the shotgun's strengths and weaknesses I refer all
interested parties to Ayoob's excellent and comprehensive book 'The
Truth About Self-Protection' (truly the best $8.95 investment you'll ever
make), which discusses every element of self-defense from locks, chemical
sprays and alarms to defensive driving, firearms and defending yourself
against dogs. A more in-depth treatment of the issue may be found in
Ayoob's book-length volume on shotgun technique, 'Stressfire II: Advanced
A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY
Shotgun ammunition falls into three general categories:
BUCKSHOT - shell loaded with large-diameter lead balls (.24" and up) used
for big game hunting and self-defense. The number of pellets in 12 gauge
buck-shot varies from eight .36" balls in "000 buck" to 27 .24" pellets
in "#4 buck". Buckshot ratings are archaic and hard to understand (as are
shotgun specifications and ammunition in general), but thankfully there
isn't much you need to learn. Simply write down the recommended loads,
walk into your local gunshop and announce your desired ammunition (note
that "00" is pronounced "double ought" and "000" is pronounced "triple
ought." Don't say "zero zero" or "oh-oh-oh buckshot" in front of gunshop
employees - they will snicker and mock you cruelly behind your back).
Then practice with both your selected defense load and low-cost birdshot
to fully familiarize yourself with the operation of your gun and its
terminal performance (e.g. patterns at various distances, the startling
effects of buckshot on ballistic melons).
BIRDSHOT- small-diameter pellets used for bird hunting. Its stopping
power is poor, except when used at very close range - out to 20-30 feet.
For that reason it is not generally recommended, except for home defense
SLUGS are solid lead bullets for shotgun use. These are big, heavy, fat
hunks of soft lead that have enormous stopping power (e.g. a typical 12
gauge slug is .73" caliber and weighs 438 grains - a 9mm bullet is .355"
and 115 grains). Use of slugs ruins the shotgun's main advantage -
superior hit probability - as slugs must be carefully aimed to be
effective. It is important to remember, however, that shotguns must be
aimed with shot, too - do not for a minute think that you can simply
point your shot-loaded shotgun at the foe and let loose. Shotguns must be
skillfully aimed and fired just like hand-guns and rifles. The shotgun is
simply much more likely to hit the attacker.
None of the above really applies in this weak caliber. The .410
is only a half-way decent manstopper with slugs. Choose the Federal
Classic (F412RS) or Winchester Super-X (X41RS5) 1/5 ounce (88 grain)
hollowpoint slug. Never use birdshot. American Derringer Corp. has
produced an odd buckshot load for the .410 (withthree 000 pellets), and I
advise you to ignore it. Lose the .410 and buy a 20 gauge pump shotgun.
The 20 is an excellent self-defense caliber, particularly for
those who dislike the recoil of the 12 gauge. I recommend the 20 gauge
over the more popular 12 for home defense. Choose the 20 gauge 3" shell
Federal "Classic" #2 buckshot (F207-2-5PK) with 18 pellets, or the
Winchester "Double XX" Magnum #3 with 24 pellets (X203C3B). If your gun
cannot accept 3" shells choose the Remington #3 with 20 pellets
(SP20BK5PK-3). All of these loads provide definitive short-range stopping
power. I specifically recommend the 20 gauge for women and
recoil-sensitive men who dislike the blast and recoil of the 12 gauge.
"Delivering roughly the ballistic force of two .44 Magnum rounds at
once," comments the knowledgeable Ayoob, the 20 "delivers 75% of the lead
for only 50-60% of the recoil". Many police departments have found their
officers shoot much more accurately in realistic training exercises with
the lighter-kicking but still potent 20 gauge. If you are new to
shotgunning and considering getting one for self-defense I strongly urge
you to buy the reliable and reasonably-priced "Mossberg 500 Special
Purpose" 18.5" barrel 20 gauge pump shotgun (catalog #50451). This
tried-and-true workhorse is the standard shotgun of the U.S. Armed Forces
and costs a little over $200. You'll be much happier with the
lighter-kicking 20 gauge than the 12 gauge version used by the military,
and - most importantly - you'll shoot the 20 more accurately and rapidly.
For an in-depth look at the 20-versus-12 gauge issue I recommend all
shotgun owners (and potential shotgun owners) read 'Stressfire II:
Advanced Combat Shotgun' by Massad Ayoob. Perhaps I am beginning to
sound like a broken record on the theme of Ayoob's books, but once you've
read them you'll understand why I recommend them so highly (and
repeatedly). Note: Ayoob dislikes the 20 gauge Remington 870 pump shotgun
and recommends you choose the Mossberg 500 in 20 gauge for general
self-defense and home-defense use. So do I.
For ultra-close range home defense birdshot will do the trick.
Choose any #4, BB or larger high brass lead hunting load, and have the
balance of the magazine filled with #3 buck in case the birdshot doesn't
put them down fast enough.
Avoid slug use in 20 gauge; you are better off defending yourself
with buckshot. If you must use slugs, pick the Dynamit/Nobel or Federal
"Classic" (F203-RS) rifled slugs. Using slugs requires careful aiming and
rifle sights: few 20 gauge shotguns have the latter.
The 16 has never caught on with Americans. As a result, no
shotguns made specifically for defense are available in 16. If you have a
sporting 16, however, it can do double duty as a great defense gun.
Choose the Federal "Classic" #1 (F164-1) or the Remington #1 (SP16BK-5PK)
If you have a 12 gauge shotgun you own the most effective and
devastating short-range firearm ever created. If you simply want to know
the best defense load, go out and buy: 12 gauge 2 3/4" shell 00 buckshot.
You shall live happily ever after, as this is the most effective
man-stopping firearm cartridge yet devised by man. I recommend the
Federal "Classic" (F127-00), Winchester Super-X (X12RB5) or Remington
Buckshot (SP12BK-5PK00) as the best double-ought buckshot defense rounds.
One of these rounds is virtually equal to a nine-round burst from a
submachine gun, with every round hitting. Effective shotgun technique,
of course, requires that one hits with each shot. Don't think that you
can merely point the shotgun in the general direction of your attacker
and let fly. Read Ayoob's book 'Stressfire II: Advanced Combat Shotgun'
for the low-down on good shotgun skills and then practice, practice,
Many experienced shooters prefer #4 or #1 buckshot to 00. I
really cannot argue, but Lt. Marshall is on record as stating that 00 is
superior, both in penetration and stopping power. Good enough for me, but
if you have a #4 or #1 buckshot jones, go ahead (Ayoob favors #1). Stay
away from 2 3/4" Magnum or 3" Magnum loads, however - the brutal kick of
these rounds makes them a bad choice, and you gain nothing in stopping
power over the 2 3/4" standard loads. Controllability is important, and
standard 12 gauge shells have quite enough kick as it is.
A note on shotgun spread: firing your shotgun does not create a
diabolical cone of doom destroying all in its path. If you have a typical
defense or "riot" gun with an 18"-20" open-choked "cylinder" barrel, the
pellets will spread out about 1" for every yard of range. This means that
the spread of pellets fired across a large room (18') will be 6" or so, a
circle the size of a coffee cup saucer. At 50 feet, the spread will be
the size of a large pizza (16"). Test-fire your shotgun at various
ranges, using big white butcher paper targets to get an idea of the
pattern you can expect. It is a common misconception that blasting at
foes ten feet away will take out two or three of them. The spread at that
range is just three inches, so you can see that I meant it when I said
that the shotgun must be skillfully aimed and fired just like handguns
and rifles. The shotgun is simply much more likely to hit - and stop -
Slugs are potent manstoppers, but have limited application for
self-defense. Slug use loses the one big advantage of the shotgun - its
high hit probability. Slugs have ferocious recoil and often
over-penetrate. There are special situations where slugs might be
preferred over buckshot (e.g. road-blocks, barricaded foes), but if you
are interested in such esoterica I again direct you to Ayoob's masterful
tome 'Stressfire II: Advanced Combat Shotgun'. This guide is for general
civilian readers; policemen, soldiers, and gun enthusiasts should rely on
Ayoob's in-depth expertise.
Don't be a knucklehead. Stay away from weirdo rounds like rubber
buckshot or neoprene slugs. These are riot-control rounds designed for
massed police use against violent mobs. Don't rely on such marginalia to
save your life.
Two things to keep in mind about birdshot. The first is that
birdshot is as lethal as buckshot at close range. Don't believe for a
second that you can just wound someone with birdshot and he'll go on to
live another day. If you aren't justified in killing a man, you aren't
justified in wounding him, either. Never "shoot to wound." I once again
direct you to read Ayoob's 'In the Gravest Extreme' and learn the truth.
The second thing is that birdshot makes a lot of sense for home
defense. I keep my home-defense 12 gauge loaded with two #4 birdshot
rounds followed by 00 buck. Birdshot is much less likely to penetrate
thin interior walls and kill innocent people on the other side, and has
lower recoil than buckshot for faster follow-up shots (I live in a
thin-walled apartment house, however - if I lived in a solid house with a
lot of land around, I would definitely choose buckshot instead). The
stopping power of birdshot should not be under-estimated: at ranges out
to thirty feet or so, birdshot is virtually a solid column of lead
(imagine an angry swarm of bees chasing Elmer Fudd and you'll get the
idea). Choose any #4 or BB high brass lead hunting load. I like the
Federal "Classic Lead Hi-Brass" #4 birdshot (HI26-4) and Winchester
"Super-X" #4 high brass birdshot (X12-4), but there is little difference
between the various choices. Buy whichever you please. If you're a bird
hunter, use your favorite hunting shells as long as they are #6 or larger.
Yow. Load your 10 gauge with whatever the hell you want.
Brian (F.K.A. Crazy)
“You can’t escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
“Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.”