Home Defense Shotgun Ammo

Home Defense Shotgun Ammo

Last week, I sang the praises of the Ithaca Model 37 as my all-time personal favorite defense shotgun.  But space limitations prevented me from discussing various loads to use in it, or other home defense tactical pump-guns.

While a pump shotgun will generally function well with any load appropriate for it, the same is not true of the various semi-automatic shotguns available.  Here I am only considering loads for the pump. While these loads may function in your auto-loading shotgun, they shouldn’t be used in an autoloader without thorough testing for cycling reliability.

The shotgun is perhaps the most destructive close range conventional weapon available to civilians.  While the ability to cause damage to two or four-legged predators is critical to surviving an assault from them, this ability is something to be considered in terms of what damage unintentionally missed shots or stray pellets can cause.

The defensive shotgun, loaded with modern ammo, is actually a close to intermediate range PRECISION firearm, and not an “alley sweeper.”  Even when equipped with Cylinder Bore or Improved Cylinder bore shotguns and 18-inch barrels, most shot spreads from the barrel of the gun at a rate of about one inch for each yard of distance traveled.  Many loads pattern more tightly, others less tightly, which is why it is important to test prospective defensive loads. It is important to use loads that keep shot patterns as tight as possible to avoid having stray pellets strike innocent persons, family members, or even important property.

Proper ammo selection is critical from a number of aspects for effective and safe use.  Unless you are going to use your shotgun for large animal defense, do not use 3 or 3.5-inch Magnum shells.  The recoil is downright unpleasant due to larger amount of shot being thrown, compared to 2 ¾ inch shells.

For home defense, there are several specific loads that I recommend.  For interior defensive use, loads like Winchester’s AA Trap and Skeet™ are an excellent choice. Loaded with approximately an ounce of #7 ½, #8 or #9 shot, patterns are tight with less potential for serious damage from missed shots.  When I wrote the book Tactical Shotguns, I used fresh, whole ten-pound chickens as a ballistic test medium for select defensive loads.  The damage from AA Trap and Skeet ammo was significant and convincing.

If your shotgun will be used for defense both inside your home and on your property, you can consider the use of 00 buckshot.  The buckshot load I prefer is Remington’s Managed Recoil™ 8 pellet 00 load.  This is, bar none, the tightest patterning buckshot load I have ever used, spreading at no more than a half inch per yard.  It does this because of the even count of pellets (most 00 loads use 9 pellets), and the slightly reduced velocity, which makes it very easy on the shoulder.  Recoil is similar to AA trap and skeet rounds.  This load blew its test chicken in half!  Recoil levels and accuracy for the Remington Managed Recoil rifled slugs make these an excellent choice for exterior defensive use at extended ranges out to 100 yards, or for larger animal defense or control.

Some manufacturers offer specialized shotgun loads for home defense.  Among them is Remington’s HD Ultimate Home Defense™ line. Two HD versions in 12-gauge are available. One is a duplex load with a 1 ¼ ounce mixed payload of #4 and #2 shot ¾ similar to loads used for hunting turkey.  I found this load to be unacceptable for defensive use, even at distances as close as seven yards because it spreads WAY too much.  You can hit your target square on and still have pellets off target ¾ pellets that could strike the family member you are trying to defend.  Remington’s other load is a 1¼-ounce load of tungsten-bronze-iron BB size shot.  This load patterns much more acceptably, but not as tight as Remington’s 8-pellet 00 buck. It is fine for interior and short-range exterior defense.  It also makes a great load for dispatching smaller nuisance animals, and won’t carry as far as 00 buck.

There are many other loads out there that are excellent for defensive use in a shotgun. Whichever load you decide to use, make sure you test the patterning in the shotgun you will use it in, and always, always be aware of your backstop and what is beyond it when you deploy it.

Winchester Ammunition: www.winchester.com

Remington Ammunition: www.remington.com

77 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. A good article. But on a side note I have found that the loads that pattern good in one shotgun do not pattern well in anothe gun. Each gun should be patterned to see which load patterns best for that gun.

    1. Shuks is absolutely correct. Shotguns do pattern differently and should be tested extensively with different loads. The fact is, I would never use a weapon for self defense until I have tested that weapon myself for function and performance. Never, never depend on an untested weapon to save your life.

  2. Thanks for the interesting article, Tim. Unfortunately, if you don’t already have your supply of home defense ammo, you may have a very difficult time finding any at your local gun store, or even online. If you have checked lately, you know what I mean. Stay safe everyone.

  3. I have always like the #1 buck loads from various manufactors. You loose very little in pellet mass (.31 cal vrs .33 cal) and gain 3 to 6 pellets.
    I have stayed away from lighter shot like #5 thru #7 because I expect a lack of penetration. I may have to reconsider.
    For 20 Gauge I keep Federal #2 Buck on hand and pick the 3inch mag which is 18 pellets.

  4. We live in a very rural area and we use a Mossberg 930 SPX. The reason is that my wife has very bad arthritis and has trouble using a pump shotgun. You can ghost load this gun and it will have 9 rounds. We alternate with (2) 00 buck rounds and (1) slug until we make the 9 rounds. We never have had an issue with a person fortunately but with rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bobcats.

    1. Harvey I have a mossberg spx on order for almost a year
      I dream about this gun. I hope they still make this shotgun,
      Already paid for got my receipt $700.00. First saw this gun
      On YouTube. Bad ass gun

  5. How can you have a discussion about defensive shotgun loads without mentioning something like PDX? Do you own stock in Remington?

    1. billpeoples

      I agree I use PDX1 in all three of my tactical shotguns and have found it to be effective at typical ranges of 7-12 yards or less that I would be shooting at in my home.

  6. Great artical, exactly what I was looking for. Would you do the same for a 410 gauge shotgun?

    1. Don’t use a .410 for home defense.
      20 ga is minimum I recommend, 12 is better.

      1. I’d like to see a similar article with the .410 shot/handguns included. Guns like the Bond Arms Derringer and the Taurus Judge are becoming more and more popular. Obviously an 18″ barrel even with a 410 shell will have a tighter pattern and higher velocity than the 4.25 or 3 inch handguns, but are these handguns more than range novelties?

    2. if you are going to use .410 than use slugs only. and only if you are using a standard length barrel shotgun. the 3″ shells with 1/4 oz slugs. 109 grain lead projectile going at 1775 fps is actually quite devastating. more power than a .357 mag with way less chance of over penetration. in some states is legal (and effective) for deer hunting. winchester or federal are good choices.

  7. Aloha Mr. Wagner.
    Glad to see someone who tests ammo on practical things, such as a frozen turkey, that have real meat and bones and catilage. For home defense, distances are the key. Distance from you to intruder. Distance and obstructions between you and places you don’t want that shotgun load to travel. You see, a shotgun load that is effective at 100 yards is fine if your backyard is Alaskan wilderness, and the intruding predator is a Kodiak bear. But for typical home defense, anything 100 yards away is not even close to being on your property, let alone in your home. So quickly I can rule out any ammo that is lethally effective at those ranges, I am defending myself in my home…..not endangering my entire neighborhood.

    What are the distances within my home? I have a large ranch style home. Most hallways are 7 yards or less long. The longest clear path of fire in my home is 15 yards, across a large family room, thru a short connecting hallway, across the kitchen and dining area. It reveals itself within a 5 foot wide field of view. So I need effective stopping power within a range not exceeding 15 yards. Anything farther away is not a threat to me, and is likely to be someone or something that belongs in my neighborhood.

    What is the ‘box of containment’ in my home? What are the boundaries in which my shots must be contained? Basically, the exterior wall envelope is the ‘box of containment’. Are there smaller interior ‘boxes of containment’? Yes. It is not acceptable to have shot travel beyond the target, thru a wall, across a hallway, thru another wall, and carry into another room with enough lethal force to injure or kill the innocent occupants of that room. So look at your home. Grab a floor plan. Identify and mark the wall thicknesses and types of construction, interior and exterior. Choose your home defense ammo based on tests simulating the ranges and materials that match your home. Go as strong a load as you can within your limited ‘box of containment’, but if you have any doubt, lean towards the loads safer to your neighbors. Remember, even so-called ‘snake-shot’ loads from CCI are more than lethal at close range. Test what ever you decide on. If you don’t have the ability to test the loads and materials yourself, spend a lil time surfing the internet. Someone is more than likely to have tested the ammo you are interested in, at the distances you need, against the materials you have.

    Stay safe, be prepared, practice and plan ahead.

    1. This is what every defensive person should be thinking about !

    2. Bravo, seriously. It is always good to hear/see sensible discussion tempering the Dirty Harry bravado that is often seen in forums like this.

      I know of an apartment dweller with a 454 Cassul pistol that was mentioned by someone who chimed in on a pistol discussion I was having in a gun store. I do hope the apartment dweller’s friend had a long chat when he went home.

      1. A 454 Cassul is not as outrageous as 9mm Luger if you load it with 44 Specials. Hornady Critical Defense is 165 gr at 900 fps. That will probably penetrate less than most 380 ACP rounds.

    3. Very well-written, Kawika. Thank you.

  8. Excellent commentary. I agree 100%. The only problem and this not the author fault is the scarcity of ammo at the present moment.

  9. Sir,
    I am in Law Enforcement and have been for over 30 years. I would love to hear what you think of the MKA 1919. It has become my go to Shotgun for tactical as well as home defense. I replaced the top rail carry handle sight ala AR-15, with a combo optics set up. EOTech red dot with a complementing green laser and attached flash light. I have a compliment of 10 round magazines with different loads in them. I run it with 00 Buck Magnum, duplex defense loads, Rifled Slugs and even 3” Magnum #2 steel shot which in my experience is a devastating tactical load in combination with a restrictive or full choke. I anticipate you response. Regards, TJ.

    1. TJ. sorry i can’t speak about the MKA 1919 i have tried many shot loads trying to find what works good in my slide action and auto shotguns for defense . I tried steel shot size BB , BBB it patterned well , in a wood or sheet rock building penetration with angled hits were not excessive , straight on hits at short CQB distance were excessive , also be very careful with hits on hard and metal surfaces at short ranges , it does fly back at you . Also as stated by others all ammo is hard to come by at present especially defensive ammo . Someone asked if Scott had stock in Remington , as he didn’t mention the shot shells that cost , 2.00-3.00 per bang , i tried that shot it patterned well , it still had a large muzzle flash at night , as i all ways fire my defensive ammo at night to find out how bright it flashes . Ill stick to the Rem. and Fed. they work fine and don’t break my bank book .
      Just my penny’s worth . R C

    2. Great tactical setup! BUT for most folks, it’s a bit heavy on both loads and recoil. Home defense, aka up close with little over penetration of surroundings still calls for smaller pellet loads, shorter rounds, since long range and barricades are not the norm. Don’t want to scare a home defender with too much unneeded power.

    3. Remember the best witness against you is a dead one. Keep it legal and have proof. Dial 911 drop phone. Pump because it is hard for a young child to load it. Never one in the chamber. Mixed loads and spare belt fully loaded close by. If they are holding your child you want slug not OO. You load it and if they are the police or a friend they let you know right away. You don’t have to say any thing. Criminal is running or yelling don’t shot. After the light comes on you see they are a criminal and not your child. They are on the floor with their arms and feet spread or they are dead. Get a lawyer before you say any thing.

  10. I own a Winchester model 1300 pump. My defensive load is
    Estate tactical #4 buckshot. It’s low recoil and even using the shorter slug barrel has a fairly tight pattern. Good for inside or outside the home. I like to use only one load. That way no decisions on which shells to load. But good advise all the same.

  11. 00 Buckshot will easily penetrate three hollow sheet-rock covered walls (six layers of 1/2″ thick sheet-rock). Too much risk of “collateral damage”

    The new Ithaca 37 slug barrel is rifled. When buckshot is fired through a rifled barrel, it will spin it, causing the individual pellets to diverge faster with centripetal force. This effect is more pronounced when shot cups are used. Use a shotgun with a smooth bore barrel for any shot for tighter patterns.

    Besides lead shot, consider rubber 00 buck shot loads in your pump gun. Besides low recoil, low penetration, the shot is lethal at close range. Usually most pumps, besides tactical ones, only have a five round capacity. Reserve the last two rounds for the more lethal loads.

    For those two loads, or all, nine pellets of 00 are normal because three 00 pellets, about 0.32″ diameter, will fit flat inside a 12 ga hull. Then, additional layers can be added offset by 1/2 pellet diameter, easily stacking three layers for a 1-1/8 oz load. With wad cups, or petals, between the sidewall of the hull and shot, then only 8 pellets can be used since three will not lay flat due thickness of the cup or petals.

    For maximum effect, 12 pellet 00 buckshot can be used. This is a 1-1/2 oz load.

    Using hard lead 00 buckshot keeps the pattern tighter. The shot does not deform as much. I don’t know if commercial loads use hard shot, but the harder the better, especially when the dram equiv. of powder is high. This could explain why the managed recoil loads kept a tighter pattern.

    One good option is to make your own buckshot using a hard alloy lead, then loading your own loads, testing their spread on a large paper target. More pellets at a given distance, give better density too, so consider 1-1/2 oz loads.

    Most modern shot hulls contain a cushion base that:
    1. manages recoil a little
    2. lessens deformation of shot

    Commercial buckshot loads might not use cushioned wads. Reloading your own shells with them, as well as using hard alloy shot will alleviate those issue somewhat.

  12. I have a toy, that many in cowboy action shooting; would love to have. It’s a model 97 Winchester riot gun, which is loaded with OO Buck magnum loads; and one slug. I have played with this weapon, and it keeps a good enough tight pattern; for my needs. As I live alone, I really don’t have to worry about harming anyone else; and if I have guests, I will adjust for that. I also live in a rural area, so my neighbors; are not that close. Also, have a couple of signs close to the door; that warn any predators, of possible actions. One is from front sight, that has a silhouette of a torso with two holes in the head; and five holes, in the upper body. It simply states, that there is nothing inside worth dying for. The other states that the property is protected by GOD, and a gun. Enter uninvited, and you’ll meet both. If they are stupid enough to come inside, they evidently have a death wish; as I’ve lived a full life, and basically have nothing to lose.

  13. Hello Mr Wagner, .. for in home defense, I keep an 18 inch Mossberg 500 with adjustable Tapco stock and pistol grip in the safe room with Magnum Steel F load…and back up rounds of #8 target… I’m really not expecting more than a 5 yard shot. The test patterns for both a produce a devastating 4 inch hole … I’m sure if the gun-grabers knew anything about guns, they would be trying to ban these too… thanks for the good article and information.

  14. I agree with most everything that is stated, but want to bring the picture above this article into the conversation. These slugs (which I use for deer hunting in IL) will also do the trick. If you see what they do to a deer then you can imagine what they will do to an intruder. They will STOP him. Regular lead slugs are about a buck a piece and are still readily available in 12 and 20 gauge.

    1. I respectfully submit that slugs are bad news for home defense. They are indeed lethal and will deal with the intruder nicely, but they overpenterate something fierce. Shotgun slugs will generally penetrate more structural materials than even high-powered rifle rounds.
      So unless you live in a rural area where the possibility of the projectile leaving the structure is not a factor, don’t use slugs. They’re likely to go through your walls and several of the neighbor’s walls.

      1. You are right! 12 gauge slugs are 1 full oz & are like a bulldozer on interior as well as exterior walls. They will go through half a dozen walls made of drywall or even plaster. Great if you are in bear territory or half a mile from your nearest neighbor. I would go with # 7 or 7 1/2 for interior self defense, especially with a 18 to 22″ barrel length. The shot would never reach my neighbors, but a slug very well might.

  15. Can anyone tell me what a ‘shot cup’ is? Never heard of one before. Can anyone tell me what the best ‘Rifled Slug’ is for home defense? I have been doing a lot of research on these. I have a 12 gauge Maverick 88 smooth bore barrel right now. I would like to have several ‘options’ on what loads to use for several situations that are present in our ‘Unsafe’ Neighborhood right now. Please advise. Thanks.

    1. This is a hand loaders word.

      Shot cup is the top of the wad that the shot sits in.
      Years ago, before one piece wads, the wad column was assembled and then the shot cup sat on top of the wad column and the shot was poured in it then the shell was crimped shut.

  16. 16 gauge Model 37 Featherlight with slugs is sufficient

  17. Good advice from everyone about using a shotgun for home defense. But first and foremost I strongly advise anyone who is going to use any firearm for home defense to develop the “Mind-Set” needed to realize that you are willing to kill the intruder with all the blood, and body parts that it may entail.
    You must set your mind to use deadly force to protect yourself, your family and any guests inside your home.

  18. Years ago when shooting competitively on a regular basis, I was frequently asked my opinion for a pistol for the wife. My question was always,”Will she go to the range regularly and fire about 500 rounds and become really proficient?” The answer was usually a resounding no. I then advised crawling the the pawn shops and finding a double barreled 20 gauge. Cut to 18 1/2 inch barrel, big ivory sight on end, automatic safety, easy to load when rattled, and loaded with 1 oz of 71/2 shot, a far more effective arm for defending the home. It can be kept unloaded under the bed, loaded in an instant and is deadly at close range producing “rat hole” wounds. Short barrels at 20 feet produce patterns measured in single digets, in inches. You do have to aim. But that is much easier than with any pistol. When orienting the little lady, have her shoot 3/4 or 7/8 oz low velocity loads and then give her some full loads for defense. With adrenlin flowing she will never know the difference. I called these guns, Ladies home companions!

  19. I prefer a Remington 870 loaded with 7 rounds of #2 shot. I may go through a wall or 2, but since there are only the 2 of us, this is not a concern. If the dirt bag has my wife, I have a 1911 loaded with 8 Hornady JHP’s. Hope I never have to use either, but I practice at least once a week with both in up close and personal scenarios.

  20. Pellet loaded shotgun shells are still relatively available at a reasonable price, cheaper than purchasing slug shells.
    There is an alternative if you should want to use a slug in your shotgun, but not available at you local stores. There is a “lost art” known as a cut shell.
    To produce such a shell, you have to take the shell in your hand, and in the other hand, use a sharp knife (make sure that you don’t cut yourself). Place the sharp edge of the knife against the shell, above a generous space from the bottom of the shell. Cut deep along around the shell, leaving enough of a bit so that the cut will not separate the two halves. You now have a slug, ready for operation. The whole top half of the shell will now become the projectile, namely the slug. This was used in the early days when slugs were not yet commercially available.
    It is not important the size of the pellets in the shell, considering that the whole shot casing will be holding the entire payload together as it becomes the projectile.

  21. lf you’re close enough for # 7 1/2 pellets to be effective, you’re close enough to use your gun as a club.

    1. Rob makes a good point. NOT!! 71/2, 8 and 9 shot are all fairly devastating at typical home defense distances- say 10 to 20 yards. I have seen the effect that these rounds have on chiken, turkey and pig carcasses. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be shot with one of them! They lessen the danger of over penetration that you have with slugs or buckshot, and the recoil from many slug and buckshot loads can be pretty stout. You don’t need that kind of pounding on your shoulder when defending your home turf.

      1. I agree with you, as most home encounters would be less than than ten yards & probably closer to 5 yards. At these distances # 7 or # 8 shot is a 3″ semi-solid projectile. It will knock down any intruder, regardless of size & even with a ballistic vest would probably knock him unconscious. If you don’t think it would be effective, have you wife or girlfriend throw a billiard ball at you as hard as she can & let it bounce off of your chest.

    2. Rob makes a good point. NOT!! 71/2, 8 and 9 shot are all fairly devastating at typical home defense distances- say 10 to 20 yards. I have seen the effect that these rounds have on chiken, turkey and pig carcasses. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be shot with one of them! They lessen the danger of over penetration that you have with slugs or buckshot, and the recoil from many slug and buckshot loads can be pretty stout. You don’t need that kind of pounding on your shoulder when defending your home turf. And let’s not forget that most self defense shootings occure at a distance of 7 yards or less.

      1. Really? You are worried about your shoulder in a defense situation! Then you clearly are not ready to take a life if needed.

        There is a lot of opinions about which shot etc. I will not trust my life to 71/2 BIRD shot. You are welcome to if you choose.

        What settled all of this for me was a talk given by a doctor that used real life examples of surgeries. The summary of the talk;
        1) You have to hit a vital structure to stop the threat!
        2) Small rounds often miss vital structures by just a hair.
        3) Penetration is key! He saw a guy shot with 0.40 twice. One passed through and hit nothing stopping in the muscles of the back. The other hit the sternum and missed the aorta by about 1-2 mm. The guy had no real damage and lived. Slightly more penetration and the guy is dead with no chance of saving.

        You can somewhat compensate for small size with more pellets IF you have enough penetration. Heavy clothes and a little further away then you expected and you will have nearly zero chance of stopping an intruder with 7 1/2 unless they turn and run.

        Rubber bullets are a bad idea! Any defense attorney is going to claim that you did not fear enough for your life to use real bullets and therefore were not justified in shooting. You may end up in jail and paying the intruder or family.
        Self defense is not a halfway proposition. Either you are justified and ready to take a life if needed or you are not. Don’t kid yourself!

  22. Very educational. There is only one or two problems with your premise.

    The fact that 00 buckshot is the best overall loading for the shotgun. You don’t get recoil from the shot being expelled. You get it from the gunpowder coming out.

    The problem with a # 8 shot missing is a problem. You said that the damage is minimal. Now by the same idea, the odds of getting a sufficient hit with #8 shot (or similar) is even slimer.

    Get a pump shotgun, load with either one oz of shot lead or 00 buck.

    Have a nice day.

    1. Swabjocky – you make the same tired argument that
      Rob made. Agian, #71/2, 8 or 9 shot is very effective out to about 20 yards or so. I’ve seen the results on chicken, turkey and pig carcasses!! Again – overpenetration is a real concern with slug and buckshot rounds. Most self defense shootings occure at 7yards or less. So, from point blank range out to about 20 yards, #71/2, 8 or 9 shot would be very effective. Beyond 20 or so yards, one would probably want to use a slug or buckshot round. But at that point we most likely aren’t talking about “home” or self defense anymore, as none of the hallways in my home or the homes of friends or relatives even come close to 20 yards in length.

      1. I would be willing to wager that with a 12 gauge, #8 shot at a range of 5 or 6 yds, a center mass impact will leave you not standing & probably render you unconscious. Ask any officer than has been hit in his body armor with a .380 cal, 9mm, or .45 cal at close range & they will tell you it hurts & will probably knock you out. The shotgun shell at 6 yards would have more impact energy than pistol ammo at the same distance. Far more powder behind it & more mass hitting you. You want to stop the intruder, not wound a neighbor or blow a hole in his home.

  23. Interesting article. I own an anchient Mod. 37 Full choke. I use this gun for Pheasant,Dove,and Pesky critters. I also own several side by sides in .12ga.,and a .16 ga.and some .410’s I load my own ammo for rifle,handgun, and shotgun. I use #6 shot almost exclusively in all my scatterguns.I keep a .410 “snakecharmer” by my bed. Sure,it’s only one shot,but my backup is a security six in .357 Mag loaded with .38 Spl.hollow points. My home defence loads are not my compitition loads. They are loaded down to do the job without over penitration.By the way,yeah I love my Mod.37.

  24. This truly was a thought provoking article! I agree that you must prove your own home defense plan before you need it. I would suggest however that you actually experience what your given loads would do inside a house and how much unintended damage could be done to the areas other than the actual confrontation area. Shooting chickens or ducks or turkeys is perfect to add realism to your tests.

    This does lead to a problem, you obviously do not want to shoot up the inside of your home or a friends or a relatives residence. Therefore, isn’t it great that certain states are happy to have armed people be able to invade their citizens’ homes? I would suggest you pick a state which does not recognize how important gun rights are for their populace and find a home which is uninhabited and go in and perform your scientific test to perfect your plan. No one will be harmed, insurance will pay for the damage and even though these states have already shown that people being shot is not important, perhaps property damage in mass may wake them up. In the long run these tests would be doing these states a favor. No one would be harmed, your plan would be perfected and even though people do not matter to these states maybe property loss will matter to the bozo’s who run these states and the bozo’s who over and over again elect scum to govern against our Constitution.

  25. I use a Wichester pump gun for home defense. It has an 18 inch cylinder bore barrel. My choice of ammo is 12 gauge Centurian Multi Defense. They have muzzle velocity of 1300 fps and are loaded with six number 1 buckshot pellets and ome .65 round pellet. It gives me a readsonable tight pattern at 25 feet. I would like to know what you think of this load for home defense and if you have any other comments.

    1. I too use a Winchester 1300 221n barrel with 7 round extended mag. I also have tested and use Centurion ball and buck alternated with milspec 9 pellet 00 buck. Both pattern very tight and deliver devastating terminal performance on what ever medium you are firing at from 0 to 25 yards and acceptable performance out to 50 yds. Thus the caveat, I do not recommend these loads in built up areas since they cut drywall and vinyl siding like hot butter. I live in the country and it is just me and the wife, our house is brick and have a concrete block workshop/garage close to our dwelling, nearest neighbor is well over 200yds away. Police are minimum 15-20 mins away if lucky so after they are called self defense is the order of the day around here, not to mention the occasional coyote, badger, snake, etc.. 6 through 8 shot is preferred, IMO, when in populace areas where collateral damage is to be expected exponentially with heavier loads. It really all comes down to the envisioned firing environment and likely target/targets to be engaged till the Cavalry arrives and makes it their problem.

  26. Make sure you use shot shells at 25 yards or less for defense. If you have to got beyond 25 yards they recommend that you switch to slug ammo after you shoot your shot shells put two slug shells in the magazine pump one in and be ready.

  27. #OO buck is going to go through walls…not a good idea with family members in another room. #8 bird shot might be a better choice

  28. Hello there great info, I have a question for anyone that can help talking about the shot gun made me think about where the best place to keep your home defence shotgun at I know that all firearms need to be locked and away from everyone, so where does one keep his go to 12guage that u might need quickly??????????? Thx for reading….

    1. If it is just you & your wife, keep it in your bedroom where you can get it in just a few seconds time. If you have children at home, keep it in a lockable gun cabinet in your bedroom or bedroom closet. Keep the key where you can get to it at a moment’s notice. Also keep the gun loaded but the chamber empty of it is a pump or semi-auto. It only takes a second to load a round & that noise may scare off an intruder before you have to face them, as they don’t want to get shot. Since racking a load in the chamber is known to most criminals, they will usually leave rather than confront you.

  29. my shot gun is a riot type 12 gauge i use any type i can get, but never thought about using it in the home .Now i will train for that angle so to be paired.

  30. my shot gun is a riot type 12 gauge i use any type i can get, but never thought about using it in the home ..thank you.

    1. A shotgun is one of the best all around defense weapons, especially in 12 or even 20g. But, it is not perfect. You may want to consider some other weapons in addition to your shotgun. Say, a carbine and/or a handgun. Shop around – there are lots of different brands and configurations on the market. The point is, find something you like and are comfortable with, then practice. If ammunition cost is a problem, you can augment your practice time with dry-fire practice. Some people have a problem with dry-fire, but it can be done safely and can be very effective. Observe the safety rules, and make sure you seperate ALL of the amunition from the firearm while doing any dry-fire practice. You can also use snap caps while doing this. Have fun!

  31. I am surprised no one talks about 20 gauge for self defense I have mossberg sa 20…. A lot lighter 1/2 the recoil quick follow up shots and 000 buck or no 1 shot carves my pumpkin targets up nocely

  32. I always get a kick out of people that say a #7 or smaller shot isn’t efficient, I can’t imagine how it would feel getting hit by say 50 #7 pellets all at once, possible in the face or eyes, i’d say that would put an end to the situation very quickly!

  33. Thanks for the article and everyone who’s commented on it. It couldn’t have been posted at a better time as I will be purchasing my first home defense shotgun this weekend and now I have quite a bit more knowledge going into the store. Thanks so much everyone!

  34. I’m sorry but bird shot is for birds. I have spent thousands of hard earned dollars on training, handgun, carbine and no less then six times out with the shotgun with some of the best trainers out there and not one condones the use of bird shot for HD use.

  35. you do not want a load that will penetrate interior walls. while 8 shot is fine, keep the velocity down. unless its a grizzley in your lounge room. if you shoot outside, be prepared to answer a lot of questions & demonstrate that your load does not threaten neighbours & passersby. it is still illegal to discharge a firearm in most urban areas. a pump is fine, but get one that can take a 20 inch barrel, too clumsy in tight spaces otherwise. a laser is a better choice for close range work. i prefer a 20 inch side by side with a laser under the barrel. the side by side is faster to reload than an o/u. it gets off a second shot faster than a pump. if you haven’t done the job with 2 shots at close range, you’re not going to have a chance to reload anyway.

    1. Ian, you make a lot of sense. I like the double barrel 20 gauge, loaded with stainless steel water foul shot. The more dense steel shot will have a better energy impact than lead shot, more knock down effect, with limited penetration of interior walls. But, I would deploy that if the lights go out, and 911 is just the reason you have to remove your shoes at the airport. I wonder where these guys keep their shotguns when they leave home. I would never leave my house, thinking I could come home and face my own shotgun, so I don’t have it where anyone could get it quicky. The hand gun and flashlight are easy to vault, electronic entry, by my bed, in my car, werever. I keep magsafe ammo in the first two chambers, and hot stuff in the rest. The reload are all hot. Tactical preperation, real locks/alarms/lights/dogs is the key to home defense. Without the prep, will you have time to get a gun, no matter what the type or load? Good luck Citizens.

  36. I don’t know why they don’t make this ammo any longer, but I keep my tactical Remington 870 loaded with Winchester WinLite Low Recoil 00 buck. It patterns great at close range, and the recoil is very light. Great stuff.

  37. I have a Judge 410 works real good in close quarters

  38. a lot of good info here.
    two not so good.
    Every legal opinion I have seen says using hand loads for defense is not a good idea. it makes the prosecutors job too easy.
    And a cutshell? (prosecutor) So mr self defense, can you explain why the cost of a $1 slug is too high? or was your real reason to cause as much pain and suffering as possible? So you intentiionally made this custom modification, illegal to even use on a dear, that would took a surgeon 3 hours to remove all the pellets?

  39. I don’t know where the people decrying the scarcity of ammo live but here in SE Michigan, shotgun ammo is plentiful. Handgun and rifle ammo are scarce but shotgun ammo can be had just about anywhere.

  40. 3″ slugs may have a lot of recoil, but sure would not want to be hit by one. The noise alone is enough to scare an intruder away!

  41. I tested my Remington 700, 18 inch barrel with the target load with 7 1/2 pellets. The pattern at 25 feet was only about 1 1/2 feet wide, and it hit the silhouette target with full force. The buckshot pattern was throughout the target, with 98% in the black. AWESOME LOAD for use in my home. With this load I also do not have to worry so much about going through a wall and hitting what I cannot see.

  42. I am surprised that so few responders to the article use semi-automatic shotguns such as the dependable and venerable Remington 1200. My preference is a Benelli M4 (like is issued to Marines) with 0000 buck in the first three shells followed by 00 buck in the next three shells and followed up with a one ounce slug and it awaits ghost loading any of several loads with those shells next to it to be used as the first shot as circumstance requires that hopefully never comes. None of the shells are reduced recoil. I get the feeling that users of pump shotguns feel that there is a lack of dependability in auto-loaders but IMHO (and I am betting my life on it) the Benelli M4 is as trustworthy as the best pistol including my Sigs. YMMV

  43. This has got to be one of the most irresponsible articles I’ve ever read for choosing defensive shotgun ammo. Bird shot has no place in a defensive shotgun, regardless of distance. It simply does not penetrate consistently to the depth needed to stop a human being. And that is the goal, to stop a human being.

    The best shot size for defensive use against human, and similar sized, targets is #1 buckshot, followed closely by the much easier to find 00 buckshot. This has been shown over and over in studies and in real life encounters.

  44. I agree to the fact that 00 buck is the best at close range..if you want to kill.. The greatest, and most effective load for in house burglary that I have heard about, if you want them to remain alive, is Number 4 heavy or maximum load. Ive tried some experiments with Number 4, and tho the penetration is just below the skin, into the muscles, its seldom fatal. Close up, it would be one big hot charge of lead tho. In my Ithica shotgun, it litterally tore a milk jug full of water all to pieces. Indeed, I would hate to get shot with that one, but it is less lethal So my suggestion is to load the first and second with Number 4, and if they still come on strong, then use either 00 buck as your third round, or perhaps a rifle slug. That would do the trick !

  45. I’m glad I read this, I’ve got a box of rubber buckshot, 15 pellets 5,7 mm. I had been depending on them in an emergency. guess I will change my stratigy now, use the rubber for vermin.

  46. own 37 police special….is there a problem with using #4 shot for home defense.? also advise on tent camping..37 in tent..for men or BEAR..–slugs? — 00? man / BEAR–since my model holds 7 in mag tube–fill with all 7?..and maybe and order? shot/slug–2 to 1–vise versa–been in upper North West States..told by business owners–be careful–BANDITS and BEARS..i do not want ATE or the thing that ate me dies.. after.. i’ve passed thru him..

  47. i am 75 years old and my home defence weponen is a 12 gage shotgun.i have never used it yet and hope i never half to, but i would if i needed to, i have never tested it yet maybe someone can tell me what kind of ammo i should use. my shotgun is a 12 gage with a 18and a quarter inch barrel and the total lenth of it is 27 and a half inches long.

  48. Thanks’ Scott for another Awesome Article I do agree with you it is very important when chosing your Home Defense Ammo and the Shotgun is my weapon of choice I will be changing things’ up a bit on my Ammo after reading this Thanks’ again Jeff Hayden

  49. So glad others realise the effects of a trap shell in home defence. At the close ranges involved inside a normal home, it’s simply going to put a big freaking hole in any Perp. They are still cheap, buy a box and test it at your normal max home shooting distance. I have no clue about the folks useing slugs/buck shot for home defence…longer range, sure. But inside?

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