For many reasons, shotguns are considered the ideal home defense weapon. However, at short range, they are extremely deadly.
For home defense, this is an ideal situation. If someone were to break into your home, a shotgun should be the first weapon you reach for.
You probably have considered using it for home defense if you are a shotgun owner. However, shotgun shells can be a little confusing.
Using a shotgun for home defense may have asked yourself or your friends what type of shell to use. The common answer has probably been buckshot vs. birdshot. But which is better?
When they say buckshot, most people are referring to 00, which is nine .33 caliber balls in the shell. However, the common type for birdshot is number 6 or 7.5.
Well, this article is going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each one and try to help you come to an answer to which one is best for home defense.
Should You Use Birdshot Or Buckshot Shells For Home Defense?
Most experts recommend using buckshot or slug rounds for defensive purposes rather than birdshot. The design of birdshot is based on the fact that birds have much less dense bone structure and less muscle mass than humans.
Occasionally, you may want to consider using larger birdshot. For example, if you live close to another home or apartment. You should take extra precautions to prevent stray pellets from passing through multiple walls.
A well-informed defensive instructor will most often advise students to use buckshot or slugs instead. This is because external muscle tissue may be damaged by birdshot.
Although the smaller birdshot pellets can penetrate vital organs and reliably stop a threat, their mass may be insufficient according to the target, distance, choke, and ammunition selected.
Pros And Cons of Buckshot and Birdshot
In most cases, people who work with guns have their preferences based on their experience and studies. However, a comparison of the pros and cons of buckshot and birdshot is given below.
So, buckshot is usually used for taking down larger animals, such as deer, from where it gets its name. The rounds are bigger and do more damage.
They also come out much faster and maintain their speed longer. Generally, 00 buckshot comes out at 1250fps (feet per second).
This gives it plenty of penetration power and stopping power. Due to this extra power, you don’t have to be as close to your target to do the same amount of damage.
Another advantage to buckshot is that since fewer rounds come out of the shell, the spread of each ball is less. This means you are more likely to hit what you are aiming at. Also, the closer you are to the target, the less spread there will be.
Also, for a home defense shotgun, you can have a custom choke made. The choke helps narrow the barrel, which keeps the spread down.
This can be used for any round you are using. So less spread and more power are the main advantages of using buckshot.
The disadvantages of buckshot tie into the advantages. Since it comes out faster and has more penetrating power, you can run into over-penetration issues. This is when the buckshot goes through the wall and into another room.
This could put other bystanders in danger. The family you are trying to protect might accidentally get hit with a stray round. Even worse is if the over-penetration takes the round outside and you hit a neighbor.
Also, with the increased power comes more recoil. This means that if you need to fire multiple rounds, it might be harder to re-aim, or if you are a smaller person, it might knock you back.
If you get knocked back, this could put you in harm’s way and put you at a disadvantage against the intruder. The recoil can be compensated for some with the type of shotgun you are using, and the main issue with buckshot is the over-penetration.
Advantages to Birdshot
So, the advantages of birdshot are going to counter the disadvantages of buckshot. Birdshot pellets are much smaller and come out slower.
They have decent force at closer ranges and can penetrate a person even through some clothing, but they will not go through walls.
They still have the issue of going through windows, but since they slow down slower, they will not hurt someone outside as bad as buckshot would.
Also, since it comes out slower, there is much less recoil. This means a smaller person can fire birdshot with much more accuracy, which is important because since the pellets are smaller, you need more to hit the target and stop power.
Birdshot can also be fired faster because you are using less time to re-aim.
Disadvantages To Birdshot
The main disadvantage to birdshot is it might not have enough stopping power to stop the intruder. If the intruder is on drugs, drunk, or out of their mind in some way, then some small damage may not phase them.
This means you either need to be closed when you shoot them with the birdshot to have more penetration or hit them with more.
Also, birdshot may have a hard time getting through thick clothing. For example, if the intruder has a heavy coat or leather coat, the birdshot may not make it deep enough to cause real damage to stop the intruder.
Which Should You Choose Between, Buckshot Vs. Birdshot?
So, which one should you use for home defense now that you know the advantages and disadvantages?
If you are a smaller person and can’t handle the recoil of buckshot, then you should use birdshot because you want to ensure you hit your target.
If you live in a really busy area, you may also consider using birdshot. However, in most situations, you should probably use buckshot as long as you can be sure to hit what you are aiming at.
This is because the stopping power it provides is important. You want to make sure you can stop the target as quickly as possible if you are trying to protect yourself and your family.
Also, over-penetration shouldn’t be much of an issue because the intruder is probably near the door and not between you and your family.
Stray rounds should not go into rooms where your family is, and neighbors’ houses should be far enough away that rounds should not go in. Especially if the homes are brick, it will keep the rounds from going too far.
Do Shotgun Slugs Work Well For Home Defense?
The answer is yes, if significant penetration isn’t a concern, and penetration through several house walls isn’t a problem. A shotgun slug can prove to be one of the most effective “man stoppers” on the market.
The most important thing to remember is that shotguns loaded with slugs should be aimed, not just pointed, as they are intended for defensive purposes. Likewise, the shotgun should be aimed, not just pointed.
At home-defense distances, “flight control-type” buckshot rounds might keep their pellets within a pattern the size of a fist. However, a slug, which is a single projectile, is capable of going through multiple sheets of drywall and retaining lethal effects.
Slugs typically have a very high trajectory when they come into contact with your shotgun compared to how your shotgun tends to pattern with birdshot.
In other words, (again), you must pattern your shotgun with the loads you have selected so that you know exactly where your shots will land. It is very easy to miss your shot if you don’t aim your shotgun properly.
You Should Pattern Your Shotgun According To The Type Of Ammunition You Choose To Use
Due to the different design of shotgun rounds, their components, and how they are used with each shotgun, it is not uncommon for round-shaped shotgun ammunition to produce very different patterns from one shotgun to another.
That is caused by the fundamental differences between the round’s design, its components, and how it interacts with your shotgun.
Most premium buckshot loads are comprised of copper-plated pellets, pellets that have been hardened and/or copper-plated, and synthetic buffering material commonly used to protect pellets from deterioration.
Due to the violent acceleration forces caused by the ignition of a cartridge and the forced downward motion of the pellets through the barrel and/or the choke, softer/unbuffered lead pellets are likely to be deformed.
They may no longer remain round due to such violent acceleration forces. They will likely fly erratically, making them inconsistent in their patterns and poor accuracy.
Additionally, since (contrary to what you may have been told) you must aim a defensive shotgun, a tighter pattern is more desirable, both for effectiveness against a threat and to prevent stray pellets from harming others, if you wish to avoid harm to innocents.
Some buckshot loads made for defense include the “flight control” type wad, which keeps the pellets in a tighter pattern for a longer distance and is designed to ensure that these loads perform more effectively.
If your chosen shotgun produces acceptable accuracy and the round produced by it is reliable, then these are generally a very good choice for a home defense round.
When It Comes To Defense, Which Loads Of Buckshot Work Best?
It is difficult to make an accurate conclusion as to which buckshot is the best choice for home defense because there are as many types of guns and buckshot as there are situations, and no one answer fits all of them.
From the tightness of the pattern to barrier penetration to terminal ballistic effects on human-sized targets, the size of the buckshot pellet you use can significantly impact defensive shotgun use.
However, any commonly available size of buckshot will probably function reliably and pattern well in your shotgun, as long as it is accurate and can be fired accurately as a home defense cartridge.
Typical US buckshot sizes vary from #4 buckshot with a diameter of .24″ to 3, 2, 1, and then 0 with a diameter of .32″, 00 with a diameter of .33″, and “triple-aught with a diameter of .36”.
A larger pellet will, of course, result in fewer pellets per cartridge. In most cases, 2 3/4″ 00 buckshot loads hold 8 or 9 pellets. It has been proven very effective against man-sized threats for the military and police agencies to use “00” or “double-aught” buckshot.
This, coupled with the availability of 00 buckshot loads in America, means that 00 buckshot loads are popular defensive loads. However, the most popular does not necessarily mean “the best,” as with many subjects.
Handguns Over Shotguns For Home Defense
The average shotgun is an excellent weapon for home defense, but the handgun is a better choice for most homeowners. In addition, handguns are more convenient than shotguns because they are easier to store and conceal.
A handgun is also easier to use in tight quarters, such as a hallway or stairwell. If you are like me and prefer handguns, I would suggest you keep them inside a secure biometric safe for handguns.
The Bottom Line
There is a reason the police use 00 buckshot in their shotguns. It is because it works to stop the person needing to be stopped, and the reward for using it weighs the risk of it being used.
The last thing you want is to shoot the intruder and not stop them, so for home defense, in most situations, 00 buckshot is the way to go.
Larry, who is a family man and a gun enthusiast, enjoys keeping his collection in pristine condition. He also likes to take his kids shooting as often as possible.