When it comes to home defense, there is a never-ending debate about which caliber of handgun is most suitable. Many people will even say that a rifle is the best tool for the job. But one firearm that stands out above the rest with a majority consensus as the best weapon for home defense is the shotgun. While some may have valid differences of opinion over gauge size (12 or 20), or prefer an automatic instead of a pump, without question the pump action short-barreled 12-gauge is the most popular weapon for defending one’s home.
However, just because there is widespread agreement that a 12-gauge pump is the superior tool, the debate does not end there. Within this agreement rages an ongoing argument about what type of ammo is the best to use. There are a number of different types of ammunition for shotguns, each with their own pros and cons. Let us look at a few of them.
A slug is a 1 oz. hunk of lead. It is quite possibly the most devastating type of ammo for a shotgun. Since most shotgun barrels are smoothbore, a majority of slugs have rifling along the sides, which act to grip the barrel and give the slug some spin as it is fired. This mimics a rifle round, and gives slugs tremendous power and accuracy up to about 100 yards. A slug will bring down nearly any target it hits at close range, even if they are behind cover, while ripping a hole through them as it does so. Bear in mind, the slug will also keep going through multiple walls or doors if it hits one. If using slugs inside of a home, one must be aware of everything behind the intended target, especially children, family or pets in other rooms, and even neighbors next door or across the street.
Buckshot is arguably the most popular ammo load for home defense. It comes in various sizes, such as 0, 00, 000 and #4 or 5. The 0, 00, and 000 sizes contain anywhere from 8-12 pellets that are approximately the same size as .32 caliber handgun rounds. There are around 20 pellets, give or take, in #4 and 5 buckshot shells that are similar in size to .22 caliber rounds. They offer incredible knockdown power and can create significant damage in the intended target. Because of the slight spread of the shot and the number of pellets, buckshot can somewhat compensate for imperfect aim by covering a wider area than a single bullet and by inflicting multiple wounds on the target. That doesn’t mean one can just randomly point and shoot though, as buckshot can also travel through walls like slugs, and precautions should be taken that errant pellets do not hit innocents.
Birdshot, also known as small-game or target loads, are similar to buckshot, except that the size of the pellets is much smaller and there are many, many more of them. Some people recommend birdshot for home defense, since the small pellets are much less likely to travel through walls and endanger innocent family members or neighbors. However, the small pellets also lack the stopping power of a slug or buckshot. A determined attacker may be able to shake off a hit of birdshot, unless it is a well-placed shot at close range. Multiple hits of birdshot may be required to repel or stop an intruder.
For those who are extremely averse to taking a life, even of someone who is threatening your own or your family’s life, there are a number of less than lethal rounds for shotguns. These include things such as beanbags, hard rubber pellets, soft spiky balls, or pepper-spray loaded pellets. Police often use these rounds for crowd control during riots. They will most likely not kill the target (except in rare circumstances), but can cause severe injury, pain or discomfort. These types of rounds are not typically recommended for home defense, as they are not nearly as effective at stopping a threat as the previously mentioned ones. About the only practical use of these deterrent rounds would be inside of a small apartment, where there can be no acceptable risk of any pellets traveling through walls and endangering innocent neighbors.
Now that we have covered some of the various types of shotgun ammo for home defense, I ask you, what is your preferred load? Please share what type of ammo you use and why. My preferred load is Winchester PDX1-12 Defender. They have a 1 oz slug along with three 00 pellets in each shell.
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